These 6 gadgets make life easier and more energy efficient

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Smart home devices make life more convenient, safer and even a little bit more fun, but when used right, they also make your home more energy and resource efficient.

With no fuss or money, you can install any of these devices and quickly start experiencing the benefits. And when you install multiple, not only can they work together, but your savings can add up.

The efficiency and savings come from the ability of smart devices to do things automatically, e.g. B. setting the thermostat at night or turning off the lights when you are not at home. The following collection is based on the top picks in our various smart home device guides. Our guides are great resources for a deeper understanding of how these devices work, how to use them, and how to take advantage of the features that you might like the most.

Smart plug-in socket

Photo: Michael Murtaugh

How to save: With plug-in smart outlets (or smart plugs), you can easily rein in otherwise inefficient or simply forgotten devices in your home – the desk lamp in a basement workshop, the desk fan that runs 24/7, the white noise machine and much more soon. Connect almost any on/off device to a smart switch and you can schedule when it’s on, use an app to turn it on and off remotely, pair it with other devices like a thermostat or a motion detector to act as a trigger. or activate it through voice commands to a smart speaker.

Where to start: The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Slim EP25 is easy to use and compatible with all major smart home apps and platforms (Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google and more). What makes this model even more useful than some other switches is that it has built-in power tracking that tells you how much power each connected device is using over time. So if you suspect a particular device is an energy guzzler, you can check by connecting the device to the Kasa switch and tracking the energy usage for a few days. The EP25 is intended for indoor use only. So if you have outdoor lighting or other devices you want to automate or control, we recommend the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug EP40, which is weatherproof and includes two outlets that are independently controlled.

Intelligent dimmer switches and motion detectors

A person's finger pressing on the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch Dimmer HS220.
Photo: Rachel Cericola

How to save: Dimming a single light bulb alone doesn’t save much energy or money. However, install smart dimmer switches throughout your home, and you can put a strain on your lighting bill. With smart switches, you can dim entire rows of lights or bulbs at once to reduce energy consumption. You can group them around the house to work simultaneously, and you can add them to automated schedules or activate them when you leave the house.

Where to start: The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Light Switch Dimmer HS220 is one of the most feature-rich — but also one of the most affordable — smart dimmer switches we’ve tested. The HS220 lets you set schedules, and it has a programmable button that you can set to respond in different ways depending on how you press it. And since the HS220 costs about the same as many non-smart dimmer switches (and half the price of some smart models), it makes financial sense to have this dimmer switch installed throughout the home.

Intelligent LED light bulb

A Wyze smart LED lightbulb resting on a light blue surface.
Photo: Michael Hession

How to save: LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy that traditional incandescent bulbs use – about 90% less – and smart LED bulbs offer more versatility while offering other ways to save energy. They’re dimmable, which reduces energy use, and you can set them on automatic schedules or set them to turn off when you leave a room. Nowadays you can find a wide range, as bulbs or in luminaires, for both indoor and outdoor use.

Where to start: You have tons of great options, but the Wyze Bulb Color is ideal. It’s relatively cheap, you can customize its color to suit your tastes and whims, and it’s extra bright but also capable of dimming lower than most incandescent bulbs, making it a good fit for any room in the house.

Smart switch for ceiling fans

The white Lutron Caséta Smart fan controller.
Photo: Lutron

How to save: Ceiling fans are a highly efficient and effective addition to both cooling and heating systems, cooling you directly in summer while circulating warm air trapped on your ceiling in winter. By automating ceiling fans so that they turn on and off automatically, either on a set schedule or based on input from other devices, you don’t have to turn on your HVAC system as often or for as long.

Where to start: You have a few options for getting a smart ceiling fan, including buying a powerful but expensive Smart model (see this blog post for more details), but the most cost-effective way is to automate an existing ceiling fan by installing a dedicated fan. Control wall switch, such as the Lutron Caséta Smart Fan Control. This Lutron model needs to be physically wired to your wall like a regular switch and also requires the optional Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge L-BDG2-WH to connect to the internet. Once you have the switch installed, you can create a daily schedule, pair the ceiling fan with a room sensor so it turns on when a room gets too hot or too cold, and set it to turn off when the room is empty . You can even have it communicate directly with a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostat

The square Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced, set at 70 degrees.
Photo: Michael Hession

How to save: Heating and cooling costs make up a large portion of your electricity bill, typically around a third. While improving insulation and windows is ideal, a smart thermostat can offer near-instant savings by raising and lowering your settings to conserve energy without a noticeable change in your comfort level.

Where to start: The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced works with most air conditioners and in our tests did the best job of keeping a home consistently comfortable. We attribute these results to using the optional remote sensor, which you place in overly cool or hot spots to allow the thermostat to better compensate for temperatures in your home. It also calculates how long it takes for your home to be heated or cooled, factors in relative humidity, and then adjusts the temperature to optimize your savings. According to Ecobee, its North American customers save up to 26%.

Intelligent sprinkler control

The Rachio 3 intelligent sprinkler controller mounted on a brick wall.
Photo: Jennifer Pattison Tuohy

How to save: Courtyard and garden irrigation systems can keep your gardens and vegetation green. But if you don’t monitor them closely, they can waste inordinate amounts of water by watering them when they don’t need to. You can set up intelligent sprinkler control to water your different soil types differently and create an efficient schedule based on the weather so you never over or under water. The EPA says a WaterSense-certified smart controller can save the average home 7,600 gallons of water per year (PDF).

Where to start: The Rachio 3 (available in four, eight, or 16-zone versions, plus a 12-zone version exclusive to Costco) is simple enough to set up for a home user, but also offers advanced settings for professional care. The Weather Intelligence Plus feature uses hyper-local weather forecasts to optimize irrigation and can automatically create a schedule without programming.

This article was edited by Jon Chase and Grant Clauser.

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