These days, technology is prevalent everywhere. It may be in our pockets, on our wrists, in our cars and—unsurprisingly—may be found throughout our homes. With the right suite of tech accessories, all you have to do is tap a button on your smartphone or tablet to turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, or even unlock the front door. This genre of technology is also paving the way for a new wave of smart homes that are also highly energy efficient—homes that are empowering their owners to control many key energy aspects of the home, regardless of where they are.
Choosing the right accessories is key
The connected home accessory market is saturated with gadgets made for virtually every room in your home. For example, smart thermostats that let you make adjustments straight from your phone, even when you are not home. There are smart shower heads for the bathroom, which can monitor water temperature and usage, to help you save money. For the kitchen, you can even find smart devices that allow you to scan products as you run out of them and automatically add them to your shopping list.
 Select an efficient smart thermostat
Smart thermostats were at the forefront of the smart home revolution, and now there are multiple options on the market. While all of these thermostats share the same basic function of allowing homeowners to control their heating and cooling settings from anywhere, they also offer vary widely on other features and compatibility.
Chief among the differences are varying compatibility with the Amazon Alexa assistant, the Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit and the Siri assistant. Some are fitted with home and away features that can sense when you come and go, and then adjust temperatures accordingly to save energy. When considering the right smart thermostat, think about your budget and how the feature lists of the devices match up with your lifestyle.
 Add natural light and save energy with smart shades
Smart blinds and shades can be a great option for helping you achieve more energy efficiency in your home. These automated window coverings are available in a wide range of styes and configurations, and can be set with your smartphone to open and close based on a certain schedule or when they sense changing outdoor lighting conditions.
During hot summer months, meaningful energy savings can be gleaned by having shades automatically close when bright sun is beaming through them. Conversely, once the sun angle changes later in the day, having shades automatically open invites natural daylight to illuminate the room—thereby avoiding the need to turn the lights on.
 Use home automation software and scenes for energy savings
Another popular aspect of smart homes is the ability to automate many accessories through home automation software. Once one has a reasonable selection of accessories installed, software such as that provided through Samsung SmartThings, the Apple Home app, or the Wink app can be used to create scenes—easy-to-configure, point-and-click applets that can automatically control a group of accessories en masse based on a smartphone tap, a home or away condition, room occupancy, or time of day schedule.
For example, by using the scene scheduling feature you can also set the smart accessories in different areas of your home to turn on and off based on specific schedules. This can lead to helping make your home more energy efficient and lowering your monthly energy bills.
Be aware that smart accessories are not universally compatible with home automation systems or each other. So, be sure to check compatibility with your desired home automation system before you buy.
 Install solar panels to generate your own power
Solar photovoltaic panels can be an excellent way to lower or even eliminate your electric bills by generating power while the sun shines. With more advanced systems, home battery storage systems can be added to store energy for later use when the sun goes down, or to power your home when energy rates are higher during peak consumption times.
These solar systems will typically be supplied with smart apps that enable you to monitor rooftop energy production from your smartphone even if you’re away. But in all solar panel installations, you’ll end up using less grid energy and they will certainly lower your overall carbon footprint over time.
While it makes sense to have the solar installation company deliver a holistic return-on-investment estimate, you will typically begin seeing lower energy bills the first month after the system is activated. Over the long run, the system may indeed pay for itself.
 Lower energy usage with smart plugs
Many existing home appliances, devices, and fixtures are not fitted with smart features, but by using them with one of the popular smart plugs you can take control of their usage and manage energy consumption.
These smart plugs simply plug into any standard wall outlet, then the non-smart device plugs into the provided onboard outlet. The smart plugs typically connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network, then the devices connected through them become immediately controllable from a smartphone app.
Most of the smart plugs available also track or display energy usage for the connected device, enabling you to see just how much energy you can save by switching off the device when it’s not needed. And many of these smart plugs can be connected into the home automation systems and scenes we discussed above, further expanding their energy saving capabilities.
Take measured smart steps toward energy efficiency
Without a doubt, connected homes are the way of the future, with new gadgets and tools constantly coming onto the market. While these gadgets all have up-front costs, in the long run they can create a significant energy savings and lower utility bills for your home.
More about this topic:
10 smart Works with Nest gadgets that go easy on your budget
4 indoor air quality monitors for a healthier smart home
Automating your window shades in the connected home era: Part 1
Automating your window shades in the connected home era: Part 2
Digitized House Magazine