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February 22, 2024

The Environmental and Sustainability Benefits of a 'Fine' Smart Home

Henry David Thoreau asked, “What’s the use of a fine house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on.” As an environmental transcendentalist in 19th-century America, he judged that mankind was damaging the planet. He believed in living a life that disturbed nature as little as possible. In his house known as Walden and the book of the same name, he did this by living a simple life in the woods. Despite his attempt to neutralise humanity’s destruction of the planet, and his later influence running to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, his warning about sacrificing a tolerable planet seems to have gone unheeded. The result of this is that our planet needs more effort to save it than ever.

Fortunately, two hundred years and a lot of sustainable energy generation and smart technologies later, we can do more to bring about change to save the planet than ever before. In fact, smart homes reduce household energy consumption by around 30%, according to Smart Home Week's study on the subject.  So, what exactly can we do to reduce and even reverse the effect of our carbon footprint on the planet?

Smart lighting

Smart light systems can turn bulbs off to save energy at the exact moment they are not in use, or even dim them when full illumination isn’t needed. Honestly, though, it’s not these smart systems in themselves that save the most energy but the efficient bulbs that come with them.

The present iteration of LED light bulbs being installed with modern smart lights gives an efficiency boost of around 75% compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. In contrast, compact fluorescent light bulbs only offer a modest 25-30% improvement.

In both cases, smart LEDs outperform in energy conservation. They generate less heat and utilise less electricity while maintaining comparable light quality. Over their entire lifetimes, they can save around £180 worth of energy. They also last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs. This saves a lot of the considerable carbon cost of replacement, according to a 2021 Shell article. Perhaps more impressive, if the entire US switched to LED lightbulbs, it would save 569 Terawatt hours annually. That’s equal to the output of 92 sizeable powerplants, according to the US Energy Dept.

Smart heating systems

Talking about saving energy, smart heating can help us keep more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere than almost any other smart home system.

It will come as news to no one that heating is among the most energy-intensive parts of our homes. This means that smartening it can save more energy than almost anything else.

Simply using a smart thermostat can reduce your heating’s energy consumption by between 8.4% and 31%. This translates to yearly savings of £40-£110 on average. Combine that with your £180 smart lighting savings and you’re saving enough to afford an extra weekend away per year, and shrinking your energy footprint massively.

Your new, sustainable heating doesn’t have to end there, either. Smart boiler controls, boilers, heat pumps and whole heating systems can slash your home’s energy consumption hugely. Take a look at our page on the topic for more advice.

Smart meters and the Demand Flexibility Service

For those thinking of taking small steps toward smartening their heating, the UK Government is covering the cost of smart meter installations in homes around the country. To get one fitted in your home, simply ring up your energy supplier and ask for a free smart-meter fitting.   This can give live information on how much gas and electric energy you are using as well as keeping records from month to month, which can help you to cut down on your consumption.

What’s more, anyone with an eligible smart meter can take part in the Energy System Operator’s Demand Flexibility Service (DFS). During DFS events, homeowners and businesses are encouraged by their suppliers to shift their energy use from peak times to low-demand times. If you do so, you can gain pounds, points, or prizes. At the time of writing in spring 2024, we are coming to the end of the DFS test period. The head of markets at ESO says

“Last winter’s service was a first of its kind for Great Britain, with millions of consumers and businesses actively participating in demand-side energy system flexibility at scale. The response from industry and the public has been incredibly positive.”


In further good news, the cost of energy has fallen and the width of supply/demand margins has risen since the DFS was put in place. This renders it less urgently needed. However, the service’s trial run is an example of the amazing things that smart home technologies can do for society as a whole, at the hardest of times for the British energy market. No doubt we'll see similarly beneficial smart community efforts in the future.

Blind automation

No, we’re not talking about installing smart home tech without looking at what we’re doing. Automating blinds in coordination with smart heating systems can save heat energy that might otherwise be lost through windows. As well as this, automating your blinds to run in coordination with your lights can save light that might otherwise get wasted in the mornings and evenings.

This is a bit of an extreme approach. It is a change that is worth making for those with the environment and sustainability on their minds though.

Going outdoors – smart gardening and agriculture

Taking smart technology outdoors to create a smart garden may seem like an afterthought, and for most of us today, it is. However, smart gardening and farming could have a greater positive effect on our world than all the above changes put together. You might impress your green-fingered mum and dad by showing them your smart sprinklers, mowers, and plant monitors that cut your water intake while keeping your plants looking healthy. Scale that up to the size of the entire world’s agriculture though and you have some serious savings. The savings can vary massively from 6-92% according to one scholarly meta-study. They average around 40% though, which could be just over a Trillion cubic metres per year.

That’s 40% more water available during droughts, or 40% more to water more crops for the hungry. Smart irrigation and crop management is already taking off in Europe, Africa, and some states of the US. This includes New England where Mr. Thoreau came up with his quote. I’m sure he would have been proud.

Summing up

If you are looking to make your home more environmentally friendly and sustainable, smart technology has a wide and ever-increasing range of solutions. Smart lights are an easy way to slash your day-to-day energy consumption. Meanwhile, the huge amount of energy we spend on heating is ripe for reduction. If you’re looking for a bargain, you can even contact your energy supplier to get a smart meter installed by the Government. Then you can take part in the Demand Flexibility Service, as well as any other schemes that may crop up thanks to smart connection in the future. Automate your blinds to save more heat while enjoying the great outdoors, as we take smart technology there in a world-changing way.

We hope you’ve really taken something from this blog. As Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see.”