From smart plugs to managed lighting: how tech could help reduce your energy use

With energy prices set to rise and remain high for the foreseeable future, many are exploring ways to reduce their energy waste as a more sustainable low-carbon economy begins to take shape.

Low energy prices enabled people to have a carefree and arguably wasteful attitude towards their energy consumption. In the UK alone, 117 million tons of UK emissions were created in 2018 by wasted energy.

However, with almost every new appliance coming with an always-online connection, maybe it's time to rethink what a so-called smart home will look like. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps that will enable users to gain control of their consumption and remove energy waste from their homes once and for all. But where should you begin?

Smart Meters and Thermostats

Although the spiraling costs of energy are outside our control, we can leverage energy management technology to be more efficient with our energy consumption. For example, A recent report by Schneider Electric revealed that smart technology could also help lower energy usage and waste levels while also reducing our bills.

Innovative technology allows anyone to remotely control and program the temperature in their home via their smartphone or tablet and have complete control of their heating from any location using smart thermostats. In addition, smart meters eradicate the need for manual readings and come with home display monitors that give you access to your energy usage in near real-time to identify the actual cost of the increasing number of so-called vampire devices in standby mode.

Smart meters and thermostats are widely seen as the perfect starting point for users to monitor their energy use and adjust their energy behavior accordingly. However, only around 50% of homes have switched to smart meters in the UK, and 15% of upgraded meters are not operational. Elsewhere, a YouGov survey revealed only 18% of UK households have a smart thermostat installed. But sadly, these challenges with adoption can be found all around the world.

Embrace Eco Mode

In recent weeks, energy firms suggested that significant savings could be made by simply switching off the vampire devices sucking energy when on standby. But turning smart appliances into zombies and the prospect of resetting clocks and waiting for machines to boot up is wasteful of time and not as economical as many have suggested in saving energy costs.

Alternatively, it would help if we used these uncertain times as a catalyst to acquaint ourselves with the often neglected eco-mode settings on most new TVs, game consoles, washing machines, dishwashers, and smart devices. For example, an eco setting on a BOSCH dishwasher can lengthen the cycle and use a lower temperature, saving around 523 kWh of energy over a year.

Before purchasing a new appliance, it's also worth checking its Energy Star rating. Appliances are rated on how much energy they use during typical use. The rating operated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient and G being the least efficient. So a little due diligence before snapping up a bargain will help you identify the actual cost of your next smart appliance.

Smart plugs and lighting

One of the best ways to monitor and control the energy usage of home appliances is by adding smart plugs to your devices. They put the power back in control of the user by letting them determine when the power can flow through their devices. Even an older dumb appliance can be made smart by scheduling the times you want the appliances to have access to power.

Premium smart plugs come with energy monitoring that tracks how much electricity you're using and allow users to obtain reports that will help identify the most power-hungry devices in your home. When armed with this information, you could create smart schedules and only use them when the energy prices are lower such as during the night, or even scale back your usage.

Managing the lighting in your home can also be made much more efficient with LED bulbs that can be scheduled to switch themselves on remotely. Smart lighting also allows you to ensure that the lights in your home will go off each night and avoid the expensive problem of accidentally leaving something on overnight.

Until recent months, many were guilty of not thinking about energy waste or the costs of heating, lighting, and running an increasing number of devices in their homes. Power was something that was always there and often taken for granted. But the rising costs have changed everything and forced everyone to question their attitudes and behaviors around energy consumption.

Rather than rushing into a knee-jerk reaction of simply switching off every unused device, we all need to have a little more thought and play an active role in managing our energy. Tiny changes such as smart meters, thermostats, energy tracking plugs, LED light bulbs, and embracing eco mode could help us make a difference collectively. The biggest change of all is our mindset and leveraging technology for all the right reasons rather than just lazy convenience.

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