The difference between a house and a home is how much you love living there. LaunchPad explores the innovative technologies that help you care for your space more effectively.
Creating a home with minimal carbon footprint used to depend heavily on installing new hardware: replacing old light bulbs with more energy-efficient ones, or installing a green showerhead for guilt-free showers. These relatively simple and affordable home touch-ups could make a good dent in energy bills without upending the way you interact with the space around you.
Now, though, a new age of smart home technology is aiming to make our lives more efficient by giving us information. A well-hacked home is about more than simply lessening environmental impact: Smart home technology promises efficiency by way of convenience.
Today, an efficient home usually begins with a smart hub like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant. This is supposed to be the one device to rule all them all, but thanks to a lack of interoperability between systems — say, that Alexa and your Apple TV — that’s not always the case. That lack of compatibility is an issue, since not all consumers have the funds, time, or desire to build a smart home from the ground up.
But new technology is seeking to address that. Homeowners eager to slash energy bills and lower their carbon footprint often turn to a smart thermostat. Nest was the first mainstream name in that space, but newer models from providers like Ecobee are climbing to the top of the market by offering features like device integration, more intuitive controls, and occupancy sensors.
And perhaps the biggest selling point is integration — the ecobee4 isn’t just compatible with Alexa, it is an Alexa. Consumers can tell their thermostat what to add to their Amazon shopping list, and buy those items using the money that their thermostat saves them by cutting down on inefficient energy use.
Smart home sensors are another great way to maximize energy efficiency. Products like the Nest Protect, Wi-Fi Water Sensor from D-Link, and Smappee’s Gas and Water Monitor track what’s going on behind the scenes in a home. With constant reports sent straight to a smartphone, the products let consumers know when they’ve been using more energy than they’d like, and prevent homeowner nightmares like carbon monoxide poisoning, flooding, or gas leaks before they become out of control.
There are also consumers looking for the thrill of a smart home, as opposed to the practicality of going green. They might be tempted to purchase a smart bed. Probably the smartest bed on the market, the HiCan, offers to be your “own personal cocoon” and comes with features including a 70-inch projector, air quality monitoring, and detailed analysis of when you get the best sleep along with a “historical log of time spent in bed and personal habits.”
Energy efficient? Not so much — any connected bed is going to use up more energy than the old-fashioned mattress. Efficient, though? Possibly, depending on whether a consumer uses that sleep tracking data to consistently get better sleep, thus becoming more productive and efficient in their own life.
Revenue in the global smart home market is expected to grow up to $53.45 billion by 2022, and reach 53 percent of U.S. households by then. With so many innovative products in a growing market, it can be a fun time to tinker with creating a smart, connected home. Just try to do so in a way that maximizes efficiency — both energy and otherwise.
Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in publications including TIME Magazine, Jezebel, Popular Mechanics, Esquire, Futurism, and more.