(BPT) - Over the course of the last several months, hundreds of millions of people have sheltered in place as governments issue executive orders to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). As a result, many homes are becoming a fortress against the virus, a makeshift school, an office outpost and a daycare facility. As summer approaches and homeowners continue to spend more time at home with the air conditioner and the lights on, they are looking for ways to optimize the efficiency of their homes.
The typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. On average, that’s 7% of a consumer’s annual income. Utilities that used to be considered “optional,” such as Internet and mobile phone service, are now considered essential during the coronavirus era, adding additional expense to a family’s monthly budget.
So where can a homeowner look to cut back?
When thinking of a smart home, some people might just think of cool, connected gadgets that make life easier or more convenient. However, many smart-home solutions are becoming part of sustainable living, and they can save you money along the way.
Here are four ways you can introduce smart-home solutions into your daily life, reducing the monthly strain of high utility bills.
Don’t sacrifice efficiency for comfort — automate your thermostat
Our homes are our source of comfort and the temperature of your home should help you achieve that feeling. However, heating and cooling can account for nearly half of a family’s monthly utility budget. A smart thermostat, like the Honeywell Home T9 thermostat, can reduce this cost by tailoring to your temperature preferences during the day and at night. By adding smart room sensors to your most popular rooms, you can deliver the right temperature to the right room at the right time. And look for trusted brands that are ENERGY STAR certified. You'll be doing your pocketbook and the environment a favor.
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When a sudden heat wave hits a large swath of the country, air conditioning systems in houses, apartments, hospitals and office buildings all crank on at once, and utility companies go into overdrive trying to meet their clients’ increased energy demands.
This kind of short-term increased demand puts a strain on our electric grid and can even become a public safety hazard if overloaded systems crash just when consumers most need to cool their indoor environments. To prevent this from happening, utility companies implement a variety of voluntary energy saving programs (known in the industry as demand response, or DR) that incentivize consumers to reduce their energy use during periods of peak demand.
Light up the room, but only when you’re in it
Parents can often tell the exact path their children have taken based on what lights have been left on throughout the house. Turning off lights is an easy thing to forget, even as adults. We’ve all accidentally left that closet light or bedroom lamp on all day. Consider installing automated and motion-activated lighting solutions. With easy DIY installation, a weekend lighting project can give you long-term energy savings. Interested to know how much energy and cost are associated with running various home appliances? Check out this energy calculator from Energy.gov.
Get to know your water usage
Most of us don’t think twice when turning on the faucet, flushing the toilet or running a warm bath, which takes energy to heat. Water is our planet’s most precious resource, but it’s something we take for granted because it’s available at the turn of a tap. Monitoring and being aware of your water footprint can help reduce your monthly bill, while reducing strain on water supplies. For example, your money goes down the drain when dishes are washed by hand — using up to 27 gallons per load — instead of using an ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher that can use as little as three gallons per load.
Smart washing machines can help you optimize your laundry preferences — and can find the right wash cycle and water-temperature preferences suitable for that load.
Resideo’s Wi-Fi Water Leak and Freeze Detector can alert you and your smartphone if it detects a possible water leak.
Are you feeling like you want to start improving your home's efficiency, but don’t know how to begin? Summer is a great time to start, and HVAC contractors and security dealers are considered essential businesses during the coronavirus in many states. Most credible professionals have adjusted the protocols when interacting with homeowners as well. Contact a professional that can recommend efficient whole-home solutions to help optimize your home's water and energy resources.