Want to lower your electric bill? Turn to high-tech solutions - HCTC

Want to lower your electric bill? Turn to high-tech solutions

Smart devices can help you conserve energy and save money by automatically turning off the lights after you’ve left a room, managing heating and cooling throughout the house, and more.

ENERGY AUDIT: Before buying devices, consider learning what is consuming the most power in your home. Heating and cooling usually account for almost half of a home’s energy usage, but there are ways to find out how the rest is being used. Energy monitors, such as those made by Sense, $299, or Neurio, $219, connect to your electrical panel and provide real-time data — through a smartphone app or on the web — about a home’s energy usage. They are great tools for finding out if it’s time to upgrade an old appliance to a more energyefficient model.

THERMOSTATS: There are two big players in the smart thermostat market: Nest and ecobee. Both offer features that can not only cut energy costs but also make your home more comfortable. Smart thermostats, which can be controlled remotely, also learn your routine, warming up the house before you get out of bed or keeping it cool as you come home from work. Which one to choose? Nest is owned by Google, and the thermostat is part of a line of smart devices designed to interact with one another and that are easily controlled through Google Assistant. The ecobee model, which comes with Amazon’s Alexa voice service built in, can double as a digital assistant and control hub for other devices.

LIGHTS AND DEVICES: About 25 percent of the average utility bill comes from lights in the home, so being able to better manage their use is essential to cutting costs. Companies such as TP-Link and Wemo offer several solutions. You can replace a traditional light switch with a smart version or put a smart plug into any outlet. A smartphone app or digital assistant can control the lights. Several models of smart lightbulbs can be programmed or remotely controlled to switch on and off, dim, change color and even report their own energy use.

A range of other energy-saving options are also available. Motion sensors can turn lights off when no one is in the room. And smart power strips offer surge protection while also reporting how much energy a plugged-in device uses. The strips can even turn off the devices using too much power.