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Apps and devices can help you save energy

New devices and apps that offer help with energy savings are like any other new piece of technology: We have to find out for ourselves if they live up to their hype. 

Some free energy apps stand out for their ease of use and effectiveness and are available for Android and iOS devices. 

The JouleBug app lets you have fun saving energy while learning a thing or two along the way.

JouleBug is designed as a competition among friends and can help you and your family create an energy efficient household together. You collect points for each energy efficient move you make inside the home, on your daily commute and in daily life. The app helps you make changes and build ongoing energy saving habits. The app also includes fun, educational videos and links to helpful articles.

Several energy cost calculator apps help identify where you use the energy most in your home. You can enter how many hours a day you use each appliance or electronic device (some have a dropdown menu of typical household items) and the rate you’re paying for power, which you can find on your energy bill. These apps, while not exact, can let you see what a device is costing you every month and how much you could save by turning it off for, say, an additional hour a day. 

More advanced (and more expensive) smart thermostats like the Ecobee4 can work with sensors that detect when someone is in a room and adjust the temperature accordingly.

Smart thermostats

A smart thermostat connects to the internet and your computer and/or smartphone through your home’s Wi-Fi and could shave $50 off your energy bill every year. Most fall within the $100 to $250 price range. 

A learning thermostat figures out your habits and adapts—this is probably the best way to make the most of a smart thermostat’s energy-saving potential.

A geofencing feature detects when you leave home and return, adjusting the temperature so energy isn’t being wasted.

Other smart thermostat features include remote room sensors and voice control.

Before buying, look at the unit’s functionality and how easy it is to program.  Also consider the installation; some models are more difficult to install and may require rewiring by an electrician. 

Smart power plugs and switches

Keep in mind that smart outlets and light switches are still considered a relatively new technology. Hub-based systems like the Currant Dual Smart Outlet and Philips Hue smart lighting systems cost about $200 or more for eight to 10 smart outlets or light switches. That’s a pretty big investment, so use an energy cost calculator app first to decide if it’s worth the additional cost.

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