14 smart home devices to save you money


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As fun as it is to switch lights on with your voice, activate your robotic vacuum cleaner and talk to the postman through a video doorbell, smart home technology offers more benefits than just everyday convenience. It can save you money, lower your carbon footprint and even help prevent a flood.

Devices like learning thermostats and smart garden sprinkler systems can lower your utility bills, while leak detectors can shut off the water supply before a dripping pipe turns into a collapsed ceiling.

Here is a selection of smart home products that can save you money.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.


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Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats can save you money by learning how you heat and cool your home, then do precisely that in the most energy-efficient way possible. Smart thermostat manufacturers include Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell and Hive. Tado is an additional option for European readers.

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Nest Learning Thermostat (third generation), $249

Arguably the most well-known smart thermostat, the Nest learns from your interactions with it to create a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home. It begins to work autonomously after watching your temperature-setting habits for a time.

The Nest connects to a wide range of HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, comes in four colors to suit your decor and can be operated remotely via a smartphone or tablet. The thermostat’s geofencing technology (either through the Nest smartphone app or IFTTT) will make it lower the heat when you leave the house and switch off the hot water when you are on holiday.

Because Nest thermostats have an internet connection, they can adjust your heating and cooling based on the local weather forecast. For example, a Nest thermostat won’t turn the heat on during an unseasonably warm day, saving you money. Nest believes that US customers can save anywhere from $131 to $145 per year on their heating bill, meaning that the Nest could theoretically pay for itself in just two years.

Nest’s Temperature Sensor hit shelves just this year and lets the thermostat know the temperature of each room in the house rather than just at the unit’s physical location. Sensors cost $39 each or $99 for a set of three.

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Nest Thermostat E, $169

The Nest Thermostat E is a simpler, cheaper thermostat that has fewer options than the larger Nest, as well as a lower resolution display. It also has a minimalist design that some buyers might prefer.

Instead of starting with a blank slate like the mainline Nest, the Thermostat E comes with a pre-set schedule for you to adjust. Doing so teaches the device to learn just like the regular Nest. Both types of Nest work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri via Apple’s HomeKit platform.

Check out The GearBrain, our smart home compatibility checker, to see the other compatible products that work with Nest.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Honeywell Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat, $179

GearBrain reviewed Honeywell’s Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat in early 2018 and found it to be more attractively priced than the Nest Learning Thermostat. It’s also easy to use — even for those who aren’t particularly tech savvy. The Honeywell’s large touch screen allows you to easily control the climate of up to 12 zones in your home, making it simple to control busier rooms’ temperatures while leaving less-visited areas alone.

Honeywell claims that its system can help you save up to 40 percent on your heating bill. Additionally, the thermostat can be controlled via Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT (If This, Then That).

Read the GearBrain review here.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Ecobee 4, $249

The Ecobee 4 smart thermostat works similarly to the Nest products mentioned above, but features Alexa integration, making in-house temperature control all the easier.

This feature means that you can speak to your thermostat in the same way you’d talk to an Amazon Echo or a Sonos One smart speaker. You can ask it to play music (preferably through a set of wireless speakers connected to the same Wi-Fi network), set timers and alarms, switch on smart lights and add tasks to your to-do list. Basically, it’s everything you already use Alexa for plus heating.

Ecobee’s other big feature is its ability to know when rooms in your home are occupied. One sensor comes with the device, but a further 31 can be added to the network. These sensors tell the thermostat the temperature of each room and if it’s occupied — only the inhabited rooms will be heated. If no one is home, the temperature in every room will automatically be lowered.

Ecobee claims its system can reduce your annual heating and cooling costs by 23 percent.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Smart garden sprinklers

Smart sprinkler systems save you money by only using the water your garden needs, when it needs it. These sprinklers do this by knowing the soil type in each area of your plot and what plants grow in each area. Smart sprinklers also keep an eye on the weather forecast and will hold back on the watering if it’s going to rain.

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Rachio 3, $229.99

First shipped in May 2018, the third-generation sprinkler system from Rachio promises simple installation, extended Wi-Fi coverage and the ability to water in up to 16 zones across your garden.

Rachio sprinklers can be controlled by their own app or via Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, or a Nest thermostat if you have one. The app lets you program a schedule for watering each zone while also making hyper-local schedule adjustments based on the weather forecast. Rachio claims it can pinpoint the weather to within a 36-foot radius of your home.

GearBrain reviewed the Rachio 2 and gave it nine stars out of 10. We particularly liked Rachio’s customer service, the system’s EPA certification and its integration with other devices. However, we found installation wasn’t quite so simple. As for cost savings, a friend of GearBrain who has used a Rachio system for a year says he saved over 29,000 gallons of water in 12 months, or $43 based on average US water prices.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Orbit B-hyve Smart WiFi Sprinkler Timer, from $99

Similar to the Rachio, the Orbit B-hyve is a smart garden watering system with Alexa integration, a scheduling system and a smartphone app for telling the device about your plants and soil types.

The Orbit app takes your garden’s soil type, plants, sprinkler setup, sun exposure and shade into account. Smartphone notifications let you know when watering has finished, when it has been delayed by rain and when temperatures fall below freezing.

Like the Rachio, this system monitors local weather forecasts. It will delay watering if rain is inbound.

Read the GearBrain review here.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Water leak detectors and shut-off systems

Flood detection and prevention technology has the potential to save you a fortune (and even your possessions) if the worst should happen. 

At their simplest, flood detectors sit on the floor and alert you when they get wet. More expensive systems constantly monitor the flow of your water system, alerting you to changes in pressure and letting you shut off the supply if a leak is detected.

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Fibaro Flood Sensor, from $35

This device is designed to be placed anywhere, but putting it close to your water pipes (in the bathroom, under the kitchen sink or under the boiler) is a good start.

The Fibaro can draw power from a battery or wall outlet. The device sounds an alarm when it detects water and alerts you via your smartphone. The Fibaro can also be used to monitor the temperature of your floors — that way, it can communicate with a smart thermostat if you have one and adjust the temperature of any under-floor heating as needed.

Read the GearBrain review here and click here for more on smart flood sensors.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Phyn, $850 plus installation

The Phyn is on the other side of the scale from the Fibaro. This sensor is a newly launched water monitoring system that attaches to your pipes and constantly measures their flow. You will receive a smartphone alert if there is an unexpected change in flow or if a tap has been left running for too long. Like Nest thermostats, the Phyn studies your water flow and learns the difference between regular usage and an unexpected event (such as a leak).

Because the majority of water damage occurs while you aren’t home, Phyn’s most important feature is the ability to remotely switch off your water supply from the smartphone app.

It’s an expensive system, to be sure, but when the cost of repairing water damage can quickly spill into the thousands of dollars — not counting the loss of possessions — it could be a price worth paying for peace of mind.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Smart lights

Timers, motion detectors and geofencing features mean that smart lights can lower your electricity bill by switching themselves off when someone forgets to flip a switch. Being LED bulbs, these lights use less energy than the fluorescent bulbs you might still have in your home.

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Philips Hue, from $40 (motion sensor)

The simplest Philips Hue light kit comes with bulbs and a hub, the latter of which can be attached to your router. You can set schedules for every Hue bulb or light strip in your home through the free Hue app, making it easy to ensure that all of your lights will turn off at night. The app also makes it simple to manually switch any light off with just a tap… From anywhere in the world.

Add a $40 motion sensor to your Hue system and lights can be configured to switch on and off when they detect movement. Put a motion sensor in your child’s bedroom and the light will always switch off after they inevitably forget to hit the switch themselves.

Similarly, users can set up geofencing with If This, Then That (IFFF). That way, you can set some or all lights to switch off when you leave your home. No more upstairs lights being left on by accident.

Read the GearBrain review here.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

LIFX, from $25 (mini white smart bulb)

LIFX smart lights work similarly to Philips Hue bulbs but are controlled directly by Wi-Fi rather than a hub. Although the company does not sell a motion sensor like Philips, an IFTTT applet like this one can be created to control the lights via a D-Link motion sensor.

You can use this applet to make your LIFX lights switch off when you leave the room. IFTTT can also give these lights geofencing features.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Wiz Smart Lights, from $30 (white smart bulb)

When we reviewed a set of Wiz smart lights in February 2018, we were impressed by the range of available IFTTT applets. This setup is key to saving energy, as the applets can be configured to automatically switch the lights off when they aren’t needed — like when you leave your house.

Because these bulbs are also LED, Wiz claims that they save 80 percent more energy than the traditional bulbs you might still be using. One of Wiz’s neatest features is vacation mode, which switches your lights on and off at certain times of the day to make it look like someone is home.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.

Smart plugs

Just like smart lights, smart plugs can save you money by switching devices off on a timer. Alternatively, they can let you switch them off when away from home. All you have to do is fit the smart plug to an outlet, then fit an appliance to the smart plug. You’ll have remote control of that device.

This means that you can ensure that devices like irons and hair straighteners are switched off if you think you forgot to turn them off before leaving home. You can set timers for other devices  (making sure lamps and plug-in heaters don’t stay on all night, for example), or stop your children leaving devices on standby when they could be switched off at the wall to save resources.

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WeMo Mini WiFi, $30

You don’t need a connected hub like a Samsung SmartThings or Harmony device to use the WeMo Mini. Instead, the plug talks directly to your router and smartphone — or to a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or Google Home. This device can even talk to your Nest thermostat if you own one.

Read the GearBrain review here.

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Oittm WiFi Smart Plug, $20

Like the WeMo, you don’t need a smart home hub to get full functionality from the Oittm. It has Alexa and Google Assistant support for voice controls, while its app makes it easy to switch devices on and off exactly when you need to.

Read the GearBrain review here.

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TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug, $23

As with the other smart plugs listed here, no hub is required — however, TP-Link does produce its own hub, which can be used to control other smart home devices like lights and switches. The plug has Alexa and Google Assistant control, plus options for grouping multiple devices together.

Read the GearBrain review here.

This article originally appeared on GearBrain and was syndicated by Mediafeed.org.

Image Credit: depositphotos.com.