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There’s a lot of hype these days surrounding smart home technology, but how smart are these devices really when it comes to improving your home’s energy efficiency? More to the point, is investing in them essential for achieving a high-performing home?

The answer is “yes” and “no.” On the one hand, the market is saturated with products, not a few of which are overused, misunderstood, poorly designed, or some combination thereof. On the other, some of these devices can drive meaningful improvements in energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ), reduce utility bills, and increase the resale value of your home.

But to protect your pocketbook and prevent you from buying a false bill of goods, here’s what you need to know to make smart purchasing decisions around smart home tech.

Related Post: The 9 Smartest Home Performance Upgrades You Can Make in 2023

The Proven Winners

Forget janky, ad hoc, or hastily brought-to-market products. Instead, let’s narrow our window of focus to the winner’s circle — to smart home tech that truly delivers value. Which devices or technologies on the market right now most reliably yield measurable improvements in home energy performance?

Start with the following three.

1. Smart Thermostats

Are you aware that heating and cooling are the most energy-intensive processes in your home, accounting for roughly 50% of your total energy costs? Purely from a numbers standpoint, therefore, smart thermostats have the potential to dramatically reduce your home’s energy usage, while generating significant savings on your monthly utility bills in turn.

Home performance improvements associated with smart thermostats are threefold:

  • These devices can automatically optimize indoor air temperatures based on a number of factors, including your personal habits, the location of the device, and how long it takes to cool or heat your home.

  • They can be programmed to automatically reduce heating or cooling when they aren’t needed.

  • You can also monitor and adjust the temperature of your home when you aren’t there.

Your best bet when selecting a smart thermostat? Look for the ENERGY STAR® label, which indicates that the product has undergone rigorous testing and will deliver the expected home performance improvements. Bear in mind, however, that functionality varies from one product to the next, so you’ll need to do a little bit of research in order to find the perfect smart thermostat for your home.

2. Smart Plugs and Power Strips

Many laptops, TVs, coffee makers, and other gadgets consume electricity even when they aren’t in use — a phenomenon known as “phantom” or “vampire” energy consumption. In the U.S. alone, that translates to the equivalent of 50 large power plants’ worth of energy squandered annually.

Installing smart plugs or power strips is the most effective workaround. The strips, in particular, can significantly improve the performance of your home, as each outlet can be programmed to power-down completely if the device it supports isn’t actively in use. Over time, expect the resulting energy savings to add up nicely.

Related Post: How to Improve Home Health and Lower Energy Bills with Smart Home Technology

3. Smart Lighting and Appliances

Traditional incandescent light bulbs are increasingly being swapped out in favor of smart bulbs that feature light emitting diodes (LEDs), and for good reason, too: Not only are smart bulbs 75% more efficient than their incandescent counterparts, they’re also extremely affordable, with many models now retailing for $15 or less. And as if that wasn’t enough, most of these bulbs also come with dimming capabilities, which can save another 40% in light-related energy usage. Finally, a smart bulb is incredibly easy to install. The only labor required? Screwing it in.

Again, though, be sure to check for the ENERGY STAR label before you decide to purchase these energy-saving bulbs. This is important, as the label confirms two key performance-related features — that the bulb will consume less energy no matter if it’s being used or in standby mode and that its average life expectancy will be more than 15 times that of a traditional incandescent — both of which will add up to additional savings in your household budget.

Related Post: How Lighting Impacts Your Home's Energy Efficiency

Next Steps

Smart home technology continues to rapidly evolve, as we have seen, with new products and devices entering the marketplace daily, which means that the reliable guidelines provided by ENERGY STAR and others are subject to ongoing updates and revisions in turn. As a result, we’ll be continually monitoring the latest developments and updating you on relevant best practices as they emerge in the field. So stay tuned.

In the interim, you should know that Pearl recognizes and certifies the value of smart home devices and systems that directly or indirectly relate to your home’s:

To start improving your own home’s performance, simply download Green Door. Our free app makes it easy to identify which energy-efficiency performance improvements will deliver the most value for your home. Plus, you can use the app to certify your home’s high-performing features, including efficient HVAC, solar, and smart home installs, toward appraising and selling your home for more.

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