By now you’ve heard of consumers overhauling their homes to include “smart” devices — electronics that autonomously and interactively connect with wireless networks and other devices to perform certain functions around the house.
Everything from robot vacuums to automated motion sensors to smart thermostats can certainly offer an unprecedented level of convenience and comfort. But at the end of the day, are they really worth it financially? Let’s take a look at a few specific examples to help flesh out how smart these devices are for your wallet.
1. Smart Thermostat
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that 42 percent of the average home’s energy is spent heating a space, while cooling accounts for 5 percent of its total energy usage. There are multiple models of smart thermostats available, including the Nest ($249, a little below the average cost of $300 ) which claims to save 10-12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling each year. A conservative estimate from the U.S. Department of Energy reports the average American household spends $3,052 on utilities each year, 48 percent of which goes toward heating and cooling. That puts yearly savings with the Nest at around $219. This means it may take a little over a year for you to see any return on investment, depending on your average utility costs. Deciding if this is worth it may just depend on how long you plan to be in your current home or how big your space is.
2. Smart Plug
Smart plugs come in all kinds of shapes and sizes with varying levels of installation complexity and price points — generally starting at around $12-$15. The hallmark of these devices is that using them can be as simple as just plugging them into an existing outlet. Many connect directly to WiFi networks and can be synced to Google or Amazon home devices, allowing you to use voice control to turn lamps, fans, TVs, appliances, etc. on and off. The convenience here may outweigh actual cost savings, but the peace of mind granted from being able to switch things off remotely (ever forgotten if you turned the curling iron off?) and negligible to non-existent installation fees may just make sense for you and your home.
3. Smart Washers & Dryers
Perhaps the first thing to point out about smart washers and dryers is that they almost always have to be purchased separately, not as a set. Many can cost upwards of $1,500, making them definitely an investment in the future. In terms of savings, a new Energy Star certified washer can save you about $45 a year, while its dryer counterpart saves about $20 a year over its 10-year lifespan. Given the higher upfront price tag and the proportionately low cost savings, these are appliances you may want to think on, wait for a sale, or buy one at a time before committing to a fully smart laundry system.
4. Smart Doorbell
Several brands of smart doorbells start at around $199 and may be — depending on your level of handiness — installed yourself. These devices connect to your WiFi network and allow you to see guests and let them in from a corresponding mobile app without having to physically open the door. The security features afforded by this technology are comparable to those of a surveillance system, but don’t actually do much to reduce utility or other monthly bills. In fact, smart doorbells with built-in cameras will also require a monthly subscription in order to access and play video back, adding to your monthly budget. Keep this in mind when deciding if that money can be better spent or allocated to another savings goal.
Defining what “smart” means to you
There’s little denying that it can be easy to be swayed by the popular lure of smart home devices. But equipping yourself with hard numbers can help inform your decision and weigh the pros and cons of implementing these devices in your own home.