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All About Energy

Are "Smart" Appliances Worth it?

Caroline Haywood Oct 20, 2016 8:00:00 AM
Caroline Haywood

electricianIn case you haven't heard, the future is now. While we may not have personal robots or automatic kitchens like the Jetsons, we do have “smart home” technology. With today's two-way electric meters and home energy management systems, we can control our appliances remotely. It's not just cool; it can also save you money.


Smart home technologymakes energy efficiency a no-brainer; it automatically shifts power draws to less expensive, off-peak hours. On the other hand, it comes with a hefty price tag. Do the pros of smart appliances outweigh the cons? Are they really worth it?


What do smart appliances do?

You can get smart versions of several home appliances, including: 

  • Dishwashers – Use your smart dishwasher's delayed start feature to run it any time, even when you're not at home. If you set it for off-peak hours, your utility may discount the energy it uses. 

  • Double Ovens – Your cooktop surface will automatically reduce power use by 20% during high-cost periods. The range will also switch to the smaller, more efficient top oven.

  • Refrigerators – Smart fridges disable "quick chill" and "quick defrost" features during peak hours. Some even send you a smartphone notification when your milk's about to spoil.

  • Washer and Dryers – Both appliances will automatically wait for energy rates to dip before powering on. If you need to wash your clothes during peak hours, the washer will know to use a low energy cycle.

  • Thermostats – Remotely control your thermostat through a smartphone app, and adjust your heating and cooling on the go.

  • Smart Plugs – Insert a smart plug into your outlet, then plug a device into it. You'll quickly discover how much energy your lamp, computer, or appliance is using. Monitor and control your device remotely via app. Smart plugs are fairly inexpensive.


Just how smart are smart appliances?

This is the age of data, and smart appliances know how to use it. They don’t just power off during peak demand; they use analytical precision to identify the best time to run, and then shift your energy use to avoid high-load periods. 


They tap into demand response programs to do this. If your utility charges time-based rates, you could save by moving your energy use to slower hours. For example, your refrigerator might delay its defrost cycle until the middle of the night. While you may not even notice the changes, they can add up over time, saving you a bundle.


Smart Tech is cool, but the price isn’t so hot

All of these bleeding-edge, amazing features will cost you. Most smart home devices cost several hundred dollars, and a complete home upgrade may run into the thousands. Even so, the investment can be worth it. The average household will save up to 10%, or $100 per year, according to smart home companies.


Are they really a good buy?

Like anything else, buying a smart device has its advantages and disadvantages. While these appliances can be costly, they can also save you time and money in the long run. Here's a breakdown of the main things you'll want to consider before deciding if a smart appliance is for you.




Does the risk outweigh the reward?  

Not only are the devices expensive to buy, but they're also costly to repair. Upgrading with smart appliances rather than traditional ones can easily double your investment, including upfront costs and any follow up maintenance.


The Bottom Line

Ultimately, whether or not to buy a smart appliance will depend on your lifestyle. If you need to upgrade and you're ready to spend, a "smart home" may be the way to go. Early adopters and technophiles may also want to take the plunge. On the other hand, if you're not ready to shell out for the latest and greatest, you might decide to wait for prices to drop. There are still hundreds of ways you can slash your home's energy use without spending money.


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Topics: Energy, home, Demand Response, Electricity, savings