These smart home upgrades can save you hundreds a year
We don’t call them “smart” devices for nothing. Thanks to the so-called “Internet of things,” in which everything from our refrigerators and pet food bowls to thermostats and deadbolts are Wi-Fi enabled, handling daily tasks like feeding Fido and making sure we locked the back door are more streamlined than ever.
Convenience aside, there’s another reason to go for smart upgrades on home goods: serious savings. With cat food dispensers that eradicate food waste, smartphone-enabled power strips that cut vampire energy (that is, energy consumed by plugged-in, inactive devices and suck $19 billion in energy per year, according to a NRDC report), and more, smart devices not only pay for themselves in savings over the first few months of use, but also yield hundreds, if not thousands, in savings in the years to come. Find nine ways to make the switch and see how the savings stacks up.
MORE: SMART HOME TECH STARTING AT $15
The upgrade: smart thermometer
Estimated savings: $131 to $145 a year
What's one way to shut down the never-ending household battle for thermostat control? Upgrade your in-house panel to one that can be commanded by phone. Better yet, this smart device uses adaptive learning to auto-adjust settings and match temperature preferences. That means over time, the machine will reinforce your stance on 74 degrees being way too warm for an overnight setting. But squabbles over optimal temperature aside, this smart, adaptive thermostat delivers another big win: Because thermostats are typically responsible for gobbling up nearly half of the average household’s energy bill, this one (which automatically rests when you leave the house) clocks major energy savings — which is not just good for the planet; it’s good for your bank account, too.
SHOP: Google Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation (Copper) w/ 2 Pack Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Was $268.99, Now $229, available at BuyDig
The upgrade: smart power strip
Estimated savings: Up to $155 a year
Vampire energy: When talking Edward Cullen, Bill Compton, or Lestat de Lioncourt, we’re all for it. But household vampire energy — the electricity burned by inactive devices left plugged in overnight — can be a total waste, sucking some $19 billion from U.S. households per year, according to a NRDC report. To stop the hemorrhaging on all vampire energy in your household would save you nearly $155 a year. What's one way to plug the drain? Install a smart power strip, equipped to detect when devices are in standby mode and cut power accordingly. This Alexa and Google Assistant-enabled option allows you to monitor how much energy devices on your power strip consumes and individually control all six outlets via a smartphone.
SHOP: TP-Link Kasa Smart 6-Outlet Wi-Fi Smart Power Strip, $53.99, available at BestBuy
The upgrade: smart plug
Estimated savings: Up to $1.40 a day / up to $511 a year
The fastest way to turn old-school devices and electronics into those seemingly wired for the internet of things? Use them with a smart plug, which upgrades energy-eating fans, lights, coffee makers, you name it, to voice-controlled devices. This one not only allows you to flip the switch via Alexa voice control (without a smart home hub), but also built for automatic scheduling, which can be used to power off electronics when you’re away. It’s a move that makes a big difference when controlling output on energy hogs like humidifiers and portable ACs. By cutting power from 24 hours of use to 6 hours of use on these types of electronics, smart scheduling can save up to $1.40 a day, according to some estimates (depending on the appliances).
SHOP: Smart Plug, $24.99, available at Lowe's
The upgrade: smart lock
Estimated savings: Can you put a price on feeling safe?
That sinking feeling you get when you maybe, possibly, probably forgot to lock the door to your home when you’re already miles away? Or the one that comes with having lost your house keys? Liberate yourself from existential dread by installing a tamper-proof, keyless deadbolt lock, which allows you to lock (and unlock) your door from an app and set personalized passcodes for everyone on your all-access list. Thanks to Nest connectivity, this one is also compatible with Google Assistant.
SHOP: Nest x Yale Lock with Nest Connect, Was $399.95, Now $254.65, available at Walmart
The upgrade: smart pet feeder
Estimated savings: Up to $100 in pet food waste per year
Admittedly, we suffered major sticker shock when we first looked at the price of this pet feeder. But those with multi-cat households and owners of always-hungry felines give this smart feeder rave reviews for its ability to register which pet is approaching the bowl (thanks to a sensor that reads chipped animals and the brand’s own RFID collar tags) and dispense a custom diet built for that pet. That means one cat can’t steal from another’s bowl; prescription foods are only served to the appropriate pet; and those on weight-management plans can no longer eat with abandon — something that’s not just great for your animal’s health but for your bottom line, too. (According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association, cat owners spend an average of $228 per year on pet food.) What’s more, this smart feeder dispenses both wet and dry food and helps solve for bugs and pests that come with leaving bowls of food out for hours at a time (something that can particularly harm diabetic or overweight cats).
SHOP: SureFlap Microchip Pet Feeder, $150, available at PetCo
The upgrade: home security system
Estimated savings: $450 in the first year and $600 per year subsequently
Monitored security services can ring in at about $50 per month. But this bundle — which includes a ceiling-mounted HD camera with 360-degree field of view and integrated motion detector; a wireless alarm module; and two sensors — gives you everything you need to do the job yourself at a fraction of the price. Any motion that trips the window and door-mountable sensors triggers a 90 decibel alarm to sound and video recording to begin. What’s more, you’ll be notified of the action in real time via an app on your phone, and thanks to two-way communication, you'll be able to talk to the perp who set the sequence in motion.
SHOP: SimplySmartHome Complete Whole Home Security System, Was $158.99, Now $149, available at BuyDig
The upgrade: restaurant-worthy Sous Vide cooker
Estimated savings: $100 a month or more
Sous vide: the name itself (French for “under vacuum”) sounds fancy — and intimidating enough to make us think the cooking technique (in which plastic-sealed food is cooked in a specific temperature of water) is reserved for seasoned pros only. But this device makes turning out juicy steaks, flaky fish, and perfect veggies unflinchingly simple and relatively mess-free. Use WIFI connectivity and your phone to set the cooking process from anywhere or the built-in buttons to activate faster water heating times and precise temperature control — and just watch your Postmates bill dwindle. With restaurant-worthy results that comes from no-brainer, WIFI-enabled sous vide, we conservatively estimate the average household will order in a couple times less per month.
SHOP: Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi, $199, available at Anova Culinary
The upgrade: omnidirectional Bluetooth speakers
Estimated savings: $500 or more
The idea of true surround sound used to mean obtaining a gaggle of speakers, with grills all pointed to face listeners. But Bose has cut the need for so much hardware, thanks to omnidirectional sound that’s kicked out from a 360 perspective — supplying the best sound to every seat in the house (or at the barbecue), whether left on the kitchen island or mounted to a tripod for outdoor sound. Though Bose doesn’t share how many amps its omnidirectional speakers produce, this pair — available through this deal for $100 off — blasts the kind of balanced, full-circle sound that we estimate would take a team of at least six traditional speakers to produce.
SHOP: Bose SoundLink Revolve+ Bluetooth Speakers (Pair), Was $598, Now $498, available at World Wide Stereo