Smart homes: the future of energy efficiency?

Imagine a future where your entire home and all your appliances are connected to the Internet. Simply by opening an app on your smartphone, you can adjust your air conditioning and turn off your lights. You can login to a single website where you can manage your home’s climate control, check how much power each appliance is consuming, and compare that to the amount of energy your rooftop solar array is generating. Not only would such a system be highly convenient, it would also enable homeowners to closely track and reduce their electric consumption.    

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Such a future is not far away. New technologies that fit into the smart-home puzzle are already under development. We already have home solar power, with web-based monitoring. Smart-thermostats are enabling increased energy efficiency and increased awareness of energy use. And other internet-ready home appliances are starting to hit the market, ranging from automated LED lighting to smart-TVs and Wi-Fi enabled coffeemakers. 

Nest is one player in this smart-home tech shift. The company makes smart-thermostats that automatically manage a user’s climate control to maximize efficiency, and save money on electric bills, by integrating a sophisticated learning algorithm into a simple to use thermostat device. The Nest thermostat also features web-based monitoring capabilities and smartphone apps that let customers track and adjust their temperature settings remotely. Now, the company is also introducing programs that will enable consumers to save even more money by opting into what it terms Seasonal Savings programs. In partnership with utility companies, Nest is offering customers additional savings of 5-10% off their summer air conditioning electric use.   

By offering a financial incentive to customers, Nest hopes to draw customers with the promise of saving money over time. This is much the same as the benefit offered by a solar power system - pay an upfront investment now, but save substantially more money than your initial investment over the long term. And both help to reduce carbon emissions, leading us to a cleaner future.

The question is, what other technologies will emerge to further enable increased home efficiency? If households could become more aware of their electric consumption by closely monitoring what appliances use the most power, they could take action to reduce their consumption further.

Thinking more broadly, the concept of a smart home could drive more innovation to make appliances more feature-rich and high-tech. Your plumbing system could be connected to sensors to help you monitor water usage and conserve water. Your fridge could keep track of your food supply, remind you when to buy groceries, and tie into a nutrition app to recommend healthy meals based on the fridge’s contents.  

In any case, increasing energy efficiency is the main goal of most of today’s smart-home applications, and will almost certainly remain so in the future.