Is it smart to invest in smart home technology?

Approximately 80% of Americans have smartphones, but other forms of smart technology — technology that gives users more ways to customize their home — are growing in popularity. These devices offer new levels of control, freedom and security and can benefit the environment, energy use, comfort and safety.

Users can operate smart home appliances and electronics remotely using voice command or an app on their phone, computer or tablet. In turn, they can receive alerts about an action being completed (e.g., the dishwasher cycle being done) or a potential issue (e.g., a water leak).

Examples and Uses of Smart Home Technology

Many technologies are getting smart, including thermostats, lightbulbs, water heaters, refrigerators, washing machines and security systems. Here are a few broader categories you can find in the market today.

  • Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home allow you to perform many tasks through voice command and can connect to other smart home devices to give you additional control.
  • Smart lighting comes as basic smart lightbulbs, color-changing bulbs and smart light switches, giving you flexibility in your lighting options (switches may require the help of an electrician). For added security, many smart lights can be set up on a vacation mode to make it look like someone’s at home when you’re out of town.
  • Smart plugs connect to a traditional outlet and can then be used to power a device. You can use a dedicated app to manage what’s plugged in, set up a schedule or timer or see how much energy is being used.
  • Smart thermostats make it easier to adjust your home’s temperature for different times of day, schedules or occupancy levels.
  • Smart appliances, such as refrigerators, microwaves and ovens, often come with added functionality that allow for operation through an app or voice command.
  • Smart security systems can be found with a variety of setups to meet your needs, allowing you to monitor and control your home’s security from virtually anywhere.

User Benefits

Here are the main benefits you will experience with smart home technologies.

  • Convenience and comfort are a primary advantage thanks to the remote and sometimes hands-free ways you get to control devices and customize actions, from scheduling to automating to occupancy sensing.
  • Related to convenience is accessibility, which is a particularly big perk for an aging population. Being able to shut off lights or change the temperature via voice command can be especially helpful for those with mobility, dexterity, memory or vision issues. Some smart speakers also allow family members to check in with each other to keep in touch.
  • Smart home technologies can produce energy and cost savings with their added control and automation. Avoid wasting electricity by setting up your thermostats and lights to operate only when you need them. Some thermostats can even monitor the health of your heating and cooling system and alert you before a system failure.
  • Advanced security comes from being able to monitor your home remotely via cameras and motion sensors.

Utility Benefits

In addition to making life easier for users, smart home technology can benefit electric utilities. Thanks to two-way communication and open communication standards, utilities can tap into many smart home and related devices, such as smart thermostats, grid-interactive water heaters, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and battery storage, for demand response and load management initiatives. This capability isn’t new — forms of it have been around for decades — but with technological advancements, utilities now have more control and information, and can minimize impacts to their customers.

Here are a few of the benefits utilities can expect:

  • Unlock novel opportunities to support gird optimization through renewable energy integration, demand response and load management that help reduce costs for all
  • Open value streams that benefit utilities and customers
  • Improve customer satisfaction and engage with a new customer segment that wants to help its utility enhance the grid
  • Grow participation in time-of-use programs with easier-to-manage smart home devices

For more information on smart home technologies, check out this webinar from our Exploring North Carolina Smart Grid series.

Smart home technology is changing how users and utilities interact with appliances and the grid, and as new devices arrive, more opportunities will be revealed. It looks like smart is here to stay.