Whether we like it or not, the future of our homes is connected. Known as the smart home, we have the opportunity to remotely control a number of gadgets or connected devices — phones, tablets, computers, and voice-controlled assistants. From controlling our HVAC, lighting, and security systems, to indoor and outdoor cameras, smoke detectors, temperature sensors, water leak sensors, and automatic shut-off valves, all of these devices can be programmed to work together.

According to Metova, it was revealed that last year, 90 percent of U.S. consumers own some form of smart home device, with almost 70 percent already having a voice-controlled system. Also, over 30 percent of those without a connected home device had plans to make a purchase within a year. However, perhaps more importantly, the majority of U.S. consumers now believe that connected home technology will change their lives significantly in the next several years.

The benefits of smart integrated solutions, such as convenience, control, and flexibility, are endless, as we can now optimize our home environment to suit our particular lifestyles and needs. All we have to do is set the schedule, and the rest is automated based on our personal preferences. Some devices can actually learn our behaviors and patterns to adjust settings automatically. And thanks to a geo location feature, some will even ensure we never heat an empty home.

However, the smart home system is more than just a gimmick of convenience; it’s actually one of the easiest and most lucrative ways to reduce energy consumption and save money on heating bills. In the typical U.S. household, the biggest share of energy use generally goes to HVAC, with heating accounting for around 50 percent of the total energy bill. However, by replacing a traditional thermostat with a smart thermostat, it’s estimated that homeowners can save between 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling, or about $131 to $145 in savings a year.

In addition to savings from a smart thermostat, a smart home system with multiple rule options will provide even more scope for reducing energy expenditure. For example, a good smart heating system can detect when the user leaves or returns home and will turn the heating off and on automatically. A schedule can be set and, over time, the system will learn the user’s habits and program itself. Regular energy usage reports can even be provided, too.

A superior smart system will also work with other smart integrated solutions, such as smart plugs, door and window sensors, temperature sensors, water leak sensors, cameras, and automatic shut-off valves. They can all be combined to work together, so if the smoke alarm detects a fire, it could turn off the HVAC and turn the camera on to stream video. By linking a smart plug and door sensor to the HVAC, the system can be set so that when the door is opened, it turns the light on nearest the front door and adjusts the HVAC until the door closes. Control scenario setups are unique to every homeowner’s needs, but it could also include adjusting the thermostat if the windows have been left open for more than 10 minutes, or turning on the lights and furnace 20 minutes before arriving home.

Some smart systems enable users to quickly obtain an overview on every smart device in their property. This is ideal for those occasions when the property is unoccupied. Also, if the user has the system installed in multiple properties, they can quickly view what is happening in each. If an alert is triggered in either property, the user will be notified.

Energy management is no longer just about upgrading to a smart thermostat. It’s important that installers work to encourage customers to start integrating other smart devices to their HVAC, too, in order to further improve home efficiency. Installers need to begin doing this now; otherwise, they may find that the learning curve will be too steep in the future.

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