Can smart home integrations really help reduce your electric bill?
As the holidays approach and 2020 begins to wind down, many people have become accustomed to working from home. Even big businesses are realizing that it doesn’t make sense to pay for a large office space that must be comfortable for employees when the employees are working successfully at home. Thus, the burden of providing a temperate environment to work in has shifted from employer to employee. With cold weather on the horizon for much of the world, the remote worker has made home heating (and heating expenses) take on even greater importance.
During cooler months, local weather data presents a unique money saving opportunity. Knowing what the forecasted high temperature of the day will be, and whether it will be sunny or cloudy, your smart home processor or hub can make an informed decision on how to manage your furnace’s set point. What's the difference between a smart home hub and a processor? Smart home hubs are primarily for the DIY consumer. Two good examples are the SmartThings hub and the Hubitat Elevation Hub. Smart Home processors are sold through professional smart home integrators and require professional installation, such as the popular Crestron series.
CASE STUDY: IFTTT & Amazon Alexa
In the morning our smart home processor changes the thermostat to the daytime set point when the first alarm clock goes off, or at 8 am; whichever comes first. Triggering your smart home processor when your alarm clock goes off is quite easy through IFTTT if you use Amazon Alexa for your alarm clock.
The IFTTT / Alexa service includes a trigger when an Alexa alarm goes off. This can be routed to your smart home processor / hub through an IFTTT web hook, by turning on a virtual switch that is defined in your smart home processor, or any other linkage to IFTTT that is provided by your smart home processor manufacturer.
When the furnace set point is triggered to the daytime setting of 69 degrees, it quickly warms the house so it is comfortable for family members to take showers, eat breakfast, and get ready for their daytime activities. In more normal times everyone would typically leave home after breakfast, the house would become unoccupied, and the smart home processor / hub would sense this and set the furnace back to an away set point. This would save even more money. Unfortunately, times are not normal.
Harnessing the sun
Despit the fact that your home may be full for all or most of the day, if the sun is shining, there's no reason to leave your thermostat set to 69 degrees when it is sunny outside and the temperature is going to climb in the afternoon. Thermal gain from the sun will take over the job of heating your home.
My smart home processor looks at the weather forecast at 9am. If the forecast is for a sunny day with the temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the smart home processor will set the furnace set point back to 67 degrees. Since the house has been warmed up to the normal daytime set point temperature of 69 degrees, I’ve found that it will remain comfortable for the rest of the morning as the temperature outside starts to warm up. Then the warm outside temperature and sunlight will keep the home comfortable throughout the remainder of the day.
At sunset the smart home processor / hub should reset the furnace set point to the normal setting (69 degrees in my case) so the house stays comfortable in the evening after the sun has gone down and can no longer help heat the home.
OTHER TOOLS TO Help Cut Your ELECTRIC Bill
1) Install a CleanAlert on your forced air furnace to monitor how dirty the filter is. It will send text messages to homeowners when it determines that the filter is dirty and needs to be replaced.
2) To find where cold air is leaking into your home a great tool is the Flir One thermal camera. Thermal cameras help identify where windows need to be better caulked, where weatherstripping around doors has become worn and needs to be replaced, and even where walls and ceilings don't have adequate insulation.
3)Replace old single pane windows with modern dual or triple pane models and make sure there is adequate insulation in your attic. (Heat loss through windows are responsible for 25%–30% of residential heating and cooling energy use!)
The results: SMart home integration
Comparing my heating bill with a neighbor’s, I found that the combined effect of all the energy saving techniques I built into my smart home reduced my bill by over 30%. While smart home tech is an investment, it's small in comparison to the energy savings the average homeower will enjoy.