While the number of people working from home has increased dramatically in the past five years, there are still large chunks of time when most are away from our houses, which means we don't have any control over energy efficiency.
According to The Good Human, the North American consumer market has been exceptionally slow to utilize energy management solutions.
“The cost of energy has just been too cheap in North America. This however is changing with the steady rise in energy costs. Homeowners are looking for ever more technological ways to save money on their bills. It’s also forecasted that there will be new regulatory measures taken by federal and local governments to control wasted energy,” says writer Rick Delgado.
Luckily, the future is now. We've got five cool ways to boost your energy efficency. Click through to find out how to keep energy prices down, have your coffee at the ready when you wake up, and make sure your home is warm and well-lit the next time you pull into the driveway.
(Photo: Robert Nicholas/Getty Images)
GE Nucleus Home Manager
The GE Nucleus Home Manager allows you to build a home energy network, wirelessly connecting to a smart meter, appliances, thermostat and other devices. Its goal is to keep consumers informed with real-time data long before they receive their monthly bill.
“In the past, utility companies would simply read an electric meter once a month, then charge the homeowner for the energy consumed. This meant that homeowners had no way of knowing how much energy they were using until after they received their bill. Those days are over,” says the site.
How does it work? The Nucleus Home Manager plugs into any standard electrical outlet, and is designed to wirelessly gather power usage information from your smart meter. Watch the data on your computer or download one of the apps that allows you to view it via smartphone. See where you use energy the most and get ready to make some lifestyle changes.
(Photo: Tiga/Getty Images)
Superfunded well beyond what they were asking for on their Kickstarter page, SmartThings helps consumers make their home electronics smarter with a range of low-powered, smartphone-controlled sensors. Check to see if you left your windows open, turn your lights off, or close your garage door all from a remote location.
How does it work? According to FastCompany, each SmartThings system is “based around a hub that you connect to the cloud via your router...as well as a slew of sensors that monitor things like motion, moisture, and temperature and smart plugs that can regulate power to lamps, blenders, and other appliances.” There’s also a host of mini-applications, also called SmartApps, which let you monitor your home while away.
SmartThings recently partnered with Instacube to integrate the SmartThings technology for more visual notifications in the manner of Instagram.
(Photo: Alexander Hafeman/Getty Images)
The Nest Learning Thermostat
It looks a lot prettier than a traditional rectangular thermostat and has a way bigger brain. Plus The Nest Learning Thermostat is pretty straight up to install and use. Just put it where your current thermostat is and let it remember the times of day you need the heat to be higher or lower.
>How does it work? The Nest thermostat turns itself down when you are away or sleeping and gets your home ready for when you come out from under the covers or home after a long day.
The Nest site says: “Only 11% of programmable thermostats are programmed to save energy, but Nest remembers the temperatures you like and builds a schedule for you.”
You can also use the Nest Mobile app to connect to your thermostat from a smartphone.
(Photo: Nest Thermostat)
Plotwatt says they take the “nerdy, real time energy data” that many home energy monitoring devices offer and make it useful to everyone (even the technologically challenged). The device offers real-time energy consumption and plots out how your energy use changes over time, allowing you to see where unecessary waste is happening. Click around to see how much more or less energy you use monthly, weekly or daily, or even monitor specific appliances to see which might be in need of replacement or repair.
How does it work?All you need is an always-on Internet connection, a Plotwatt energy moniter and if you’re handy, 30 minutes to assemble. If it sounds daunting, you can always contact an electrician. Sign into plotwatt.com and you’re ready to start micromanaging your life more than you ever thought you possibly could.
(Photo: David Sacks/Getty Images)
The Flukso is an open-source, web-based community metering application that allows you to accurately monitor and reduce your household electricity consumption via the Flukso website. Definitely marketed less sexily and based on the site’s information—engaging information addicts more than the everyman or woman—the meter still seems to monitor your home efficiently.
(Read this story about how a dad was able to bust his teen while out to dinner with his own friends thanks to the Flukso.)
How does it work? You must install the Flukso device near the fuse box that determines your total electricity consumption from a current clamp attached to one of the power cables. The Fluksometer also associates with your home ethernet or wifi network and reports the measurements at five minute intervals to the Flukso web server. Their server logs your home's data into a database, which can be seen by visiting the site.
Amy DuFault is a writer and editor whose work has been published in EcoSalon, Huffington Post, Ecouterre, Organic Spa, Coastal Living, Yahoo!, The Frisky and other online and print publications. In addition to being a former co-owner of an eco-boutique, she coaches and connects the sustainable fashion community to feed her soul. She also dreams of singing in an all girl punk band even though she has stage fright. @amytropolis | TakePart.com