Smarter Homes, Part 1

New devices allow homeowners to better control their energy use

Posted on May 25 2021 in Energy

By Kevin Carpenter

Wi-Fi enabled devices allow users to stream movies or ask a virtual assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa about the weather. Some homeowners also use Wi-Fi gadgets to better control energy use in their homes.

As technology has improved, more devices that increase homeowners’ comfort have become available. Some new thermostats can be controlled by a smartphone, and a few even use machine learning to better control heating and cooling systems. For those willing to go to the next level, real-time energy monitors will display your home’s energy use and may even show when specific appliances cycle on and off!

Wi-Fi Thermostats

Wi-Fi thermostats are a proven technology. Unlike programmable thermostats that came before them, it is much easier to set up a schedule for Wi-Fi thermostats or adjust them on the fly. Some models utilize machine learning to figure out how deep of a setback your home can handle to maximize energy savings, even for heat pumps.

Traditionally, the recommendation for heat pump thermostat settings is to “set it and forget it.” Setting and forgetting is a tried and true method to minimize expensive auxiliary heat. Newer Wi-Fi thermostats can take advantage of setbacks by learning when the heat pump needs to turn on to reach the desired temperature, while preventing the auxiliary heat from turning on.   

Home Energy Monitors

These devices come in two different types. One kind, such as SiteSage, monitors each circuit of your home’s circuit breaker box to tell you how much electricity is used at each circuit. They do not show more detailed energy use; if multiple appliances or devices are powered on the same circuit, the monitor will not be able to tell how much electricity each appliance is using. 

That’s where the other type of energy monitor, such as the Sense, can come in! It uses electrical harmonics and machine learning to detect appliance patterns to “learn” what devices are using electricity in your home. They have been on the market long enough that they can identify many frequently used appliances fairly quickly. Home energy monitors can inform you about the majority of your home’s energy use and what devices potentially cause energy waste. In fact, some energy advisors have even used these to get greater insight on a home’s energy consumption!

These new devices can allow you to minimize your home’s energy waste and save money. For more information about how your home’s energy use can be improved, contact your local electric co-op’s energy advisor.

KEVIN CARPENTER is the energy advisor at Tipmont REMC in Linden, Indiana.