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Start the new year with a smarter home

Smart homes use automated control—or remote control via smartphone or Bluetooth—of appliances and systems, such as lighting fixtures and heating and cooling systems. 

But don’t assume a product is energy efficient just because it’s smart. Added connectivity, lights and touch screens can actually increase your energy use, so continue looking for the ENERGY STAR logo when shopping—and consider the following smart upgrades. 

Heating and cooling, which account for the most energy use in a home, are the best place to look for energy savings. Smart thermostats offer energy- and money-saving features and functions, including learning your preferences and automatically setting temperatures. 

Smart thermostats also let you control the thermostat from anywhere with an internet connection, and automatic software updates use new algorithms to maximize energy savings. 

Smart window coverings can help save energy both in the winter and summer by operating based on the temperature of the room or a preset schedule, while smart lighting similarly can help you remotely control lights in your home, based on occupancy or a preset schedule. 

You also can use smart outlets and power strips to control devices from outside the home or manage use based on load. 

Smart appliances 

Schedule smart washing machines for off-peak energy times. Smart clothes dryers can shut off automatically when clothes are dry. 

In the kitchen, energy-saving features for refrigerators include notifications when the door is left open and digital screens that show the contents without opening the door. 

Smart ovens let you preheat when you are on your way home or check if you forgot to turn off the oven. Other intelligent gadgets include toasters, range hoods, microwaves and countertop ice makers.

MIRANDA BOUTELLE writes on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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