THE BLOG
12/19/2013 03:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 18, 2014

Smart Houses Help Reduce Energy Use and Save Money

American homes, by and large, are inefficient when it comes to energy consumption. According to Home Energy Saver, an online government resource that promotes energy efficiency, Americans spend a striking $241 billion on energy each year. That's an annual $2,100 per household.

Clearly, poor household energy use has a direct relationship on energy bills. Though it's obvious using more energy cost more money, what's not obvious is how to correct this matter. Fortunately, with a few smart upgrades, it's possible to make a home more efficient and cost effective.

One way to reduce unnecessary energy costs is to invest in a few home automation upgrades.

"Home automation is a simple way to shave your energy bill, since it cuts out common 'human error' mistakes that inflate energy bills, like leaving the lights on or running the A/C when you're not home," says Adam Justice, founder of ConnectSense, a wireless, cloud-based home automation device.

Here are a few simple upgrades to make a home more efficient and cost effective:

Program your thermostat. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling requires the most energy in a home, accounting for about 54 percent of a household's utility bill. Heating and cooling is essential during the winter and summer months, but running the furnace or air conditioner when you're at work or on vacation causes inflated energy cost.

Products like the Nest thermostat allow users to program and control the temperature of their home remotely via smartphone to ensure correct energy consumption.

"There are some initial costs up front for various devices, but after a few months, you're repaid in savings," says Justice.

Install occupancy sensors. The California Energy Commission reports that lighting accounts for about 25 percent of a home's electrical use, so it's important to use light appropriately and only when needed.

Occupancy sensors or motion sensors are one way to achieve that. Using infrared or ultrasonic technology, occupancy sensors can automatically turn lights on and off based on the motion in a room, which conserves power and increases convenience.

Sensor-based technology, as seen with ConnectSense, is another way to control light use. Light sensors can be used to perform "daylight harvesting" which is the concept of using sensors for monitoring direct sunlight to ensure that you are only utilizing overhead lighting in an office or home when its absolutely needed.

Eliminate phantom energy. Phantom energy -- also known as idle currents, standby power, vampire power or a series of other names -- occurs when electronics, like microwaves or DRVs, are turned off but continue to draw power by being plugged into an outlet.

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, standby power accounts for 10 percent of household electrical use. This may seem trivial, but when the average home (as previously mentioned) uses $2,100 worth of energy each year, that small amount adds up.

Certain electronics use more power than others, including computers, printers and gaming consoles, but there are ways to reduce the output. Either manually unplug major electronics that drain significant power, or invest in an energy-saving surge protector, such as the Smart Strip Power Strip, that automatically senses power use among these draining devices, thus reducing idle currents.

"Little changes can make a big difference in a home's energy consumption. And with modern technology, it's so easy to automate energy use, so you don't even have to think about it," Justice adds.