7 high-tech home hacks to help save on utility bills

Choose EnergyEnergy Efficiency7 high-tech home hacks to help save on utility bills

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The fast-paced advance of technology has made it easier than ever to optimize home energy efficiency and save on energy bills. From an array of app-controllable devices to online marketplaces that make comparing energy plans a breeze in deregulated markets like Illinois, here are some high-tech hacks that can help you create a truly smart home.

Smarten up your thermostat.

NestThermostat

Wi-Fi or “smart” thermostats can boost your home’s energy efficiency and be conveniently controlled from mobile devices. While basic models start below $100, the $250 Nest Learning Thermostat is really smart — it’s capable of tracking and learning from your habits and preferences without manual programming. (The only functions to worry about are “turn up” and “turn down.”) Its Auto-Away feature even detects when you’re gone and automatically switches to a more energy-efficient mode.

Compare and save with online marketplaces.

CEinLaptop (1)

Since Illinois deregulated its energy market in the late 1990s, homeowners and renters alike have been able to choose their electricity provider. Shopping around for energy plans can be equally empowering and confusing, so a number of convenient online marketplaces such as Choose Energy have been developed specifically to make comparing, choosing and changing plans simpler and less stressful. A few straightforward online steps can result in significant ongoing savings.

Control your home with a Wink.

WinkApp

The Wink App manages over 100 smart products from manufacturers including Honeywell, GE, Philips and Schlage. With a Wink, lights, power and security can all be monitored and controlled through a single, simple app, which is available for iOS, Android and Android Wear. Even better, in-app “robots” allow Wink users to customize how products talk to each other. So, for example, you could program your deadbolt to tell the A/C and lights to turn on every time you unlock the front door.

Switch to WeMo Insight Switches.

WeMo

At just $60, the clever little WeMo Insight Switch could pay for itself in months. Effectively an extension to a regular wall outlet, the WeMo connects any devices plugged into it to your Wi-Fi network, allowing them to be turned on or off remotely using the WeMo app. WeMo can also monitor your electronics, transmitting information about energy usage directly to your smartphone. In today’s appliance-filled homes, the savings will soon add up.

Take advantage of your smart meter.

Electric utility meter
Electric utility meter

More than a million smart meters have already been installed across northern Illinois, and Commonweath Edison plans to add four times that number by the end of 2018. As well as reducing estimated bills and meter-reader visits, these devices, which constantly communicate with your power provider, allow access to money-saving online energy management tools. For instance, consumers can log in through ComEd’s website and sign up for programs that allow them to keep tabs on electricity prices and time-of-use rates and to manage their costs.

Invest in LED lighting.

LED white light bulb
LED white light bulb

The simple fact that light-emitting diode bulbs are cool to the touch when lit suggests that they’re using less energy than the competition. Indeed, LEDs use only 15% to 20% of the energy burned by incandescent light bulbs and can survive three times as long as compact fluorescent light equivalents. With LEDs getting ever cheaper, replacing incandescent bulbs throughout a 30-bulb household would currently cost less than $100 and should show a return on that investment within months.

Get wise about air conditioning.

ArosSmartAC

Retailing below $200, the 8,000-BTU GE-made Aros Smart Window Air Conditioner is energy-efficient A/C made easy. This sleek, relatively discreet unit can be monitored, programmed and controlled from any mobile device. It not only tracks usage, allowing energy-saving adjustments to be made, but actually learns from usage patterns to cool only when needed, and it will even turn on and off based on your smartphone’s location.

—Paul Rogers, Tribune Content Solutions