It’s Your Smartphone, Silly!

March 19, 2012
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Who wouldn't want to control their lights or thermostat remotely through a smartphone, like this app for Alarm.com's emPower system.

The key to saving energy in your home? It’s your smartphone. According to research firm ON World, two-thirds of smartphone users are interested in home energy management services, and 57 percent prefer smartphones as their energy interface device.

This is no big secret, as many home energy monitoring and management services come with free smartphone apps. Home security and automation services that include some basic energy management from big service providers  like ADT, Comcast, Verizon, Vivint and Alarm.com Vivint and others also tout smartphone control—and those who have it seem to love the fact that they can turn the thermostat up or down with their iPhones, BlackBerries or Android-based devices.

This kind of connectivity and ease of use is critical to effectively managing the energy use in our homes.  And we shouldn’t need another in-home display for this, as the ON World findings in its recently published report, Home Energy Management: Early Adopter Views & Preferences,  confirm:

  • 72 percent indicate that automated systems that require minimal time or effort are “important” or “most important.”
  • Compared with the previous survey, 20 percent more respondents today indicate they are likely to use a smart thermostat.
  • Access to real-time energy data is ranked as one of the most important energy savings strategies. Fewer respondents in the current survey indicate that they are likely to purchase a dedicated energy display.

Here’s the Catch

However, putting up the money is another story. ON World found that 44 percent are willing to spend at least $150 upfront on home energy management equipment, if they could save up to 30 percent on their energy bill, a higher percentage than ON World’s last survey in 2010.

Unless you’re extremely wasteful and very willing to change, saving 30 percent on your energy bill with home energy management is unrealistic. This is where our consumer perceptions betray us.  Far too many us expect to save 30 percent or 50 percent on our energy bills with smart systems that can monitor and control our energy, where more modest savings of 5 percent to 20 percent is more reasonable.

That doesn’t mean 30 percent is out of reach. Just don’t expect that kind of return unless you’ve got huge energy sucks like hot tubs and pool pumps running much of time and can shut them off when you don’t need them.

Most of us are holding the key to saving energy in our homes right in our hands—in the form of those smartphones and iPals. Spend a few hundred on some basic energy management, download an app and start controlling your energy spending—and you’ll see a return on that investment. Just don’t expect 30 percent.

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