Sustainable Living–Smart Homes Save Energy and Money

Smart living room
Photograph provided by MGE

The touch of a screen, swipe of your finger, and sound of your voice have never been more powerful. In today's smart home, that's all it takes to turn on the lights or adjust the temperature.

Smart home technologies are changing the way we live, allowing us to automate everything from thermostats to electronics to appliances. While smart home devices make life easier, they can also save energy, and the energy experts at Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) are ready to help!

What's a Smart Home?
Smart homes come in all shapes and sizes. They can be studio apartments with a single smart outlet controlling a lamp or large houses with multiple smart devices that are integrated and controlled remotely. What a smart home means to you depends on what you want to get out of it. Whether you start small or opt for the bells and whistles, there are plenty of smart devices on the market to help you achieve your energy-saving goals.

• With heating and cooling being the biggest home energy users, a smart thermostat is a wise investment. These devices use artificial intelligence to learn your routine—when you tend to leave, when you return home, and your preferred temperature in various seasons. Using that information, the thermostat controls your home's temperature. You also can control it remotely via smartphone, tablet, or computer. Some models even tell you when to change a dirty filter or schedule a tune-up before a costly repair is needed.

• Eligible MGE customers can take advantage of a $50 cash-back incentive from Wisconsin's Focus on Energy® program for purchasing a qualified ENERGY STAR® smart thermostat. Focus on Energy is an MGE energy efficiency partner.

• As part of MGE's Energy 2030 framework, new technologies are being advanced to help customers save energy, control costs, and reduce our collective impact. By working with customers, MGE can reach its target of net-zero carbon electricity by 2050. MGE's seasonal smart thermostat program—MGE Connect—rewards participating customers who help MGE better understand the potential for reducing electric peaks using smart technologies.

• Smart power strips are an effective way to prevent phantom energy. This is the energy that many appliances and electronics use when they are plugged in—even if they're turned off. In fact, phantom power accounts for approximately 6 percent of an average household's energy use. Smart power strips detect when a device is in standby mode and cut off power to that device to help you save energy. Smart power strips also are designed to turn off a group of devices. For example, if your television and three other electronics are plugged into a smart power strip and you turn off the television, the smart power strip will turn off the other devices, too. It's affordable and easy to try a smart power strip with a free energy efficiency kit from Focus on Energy.

• Lighting is another major energy user, but smart bulbs can help manage the cost. These LED-based bulbs can be placed in most fixtures and connect to your home's Wi-Fi network, allowing you to control lights from anywhere you have internet access. Smart bulbs also have dimming capabilities that you can use even if you don't have a dimmer on the wall. If you have multiple smart bulbs, some apps allow you to arrange them in groups so you can adjust the brightness of an entire group at one time. Plus, because they are LED bulbs, they are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.

• If you don't want to replace your current lightbulbs with smart bulbs, consider a smart outlet. A smart outlet, or smart plug, is a device that plugs into a regular electrical outlet. It allows you to control lighting or almost anything else you plug in through an app on your smartphone or mobile device. You can also set schedules to turn on lights at sundown or anytime you prefer.

Navigating Smart Technology
There's a lot to learn when it comes to smart home technologies, from adding a few devices to installing an entire command center that can control all your products. MGE can provide tips and answer your questions about home automation and saving energy.

MGE's energy experts are available from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call the MGE Home Energy Line at 608.252.7117 or 800.245.1125 or send an email to . You may also visit and .

Making Other Informed Choices
In addition to using smart home devices, you can take other steps to save energy and money. When it's time for new appliances and other household products, invest in ENERGY STAR models. From dishwashers and refrigerators to lighting and clothes dryers, ENERGY STAR products use less energy, save money, and help protect the environment. Look for the ENERGY STAR label when you shop or visit ENERGY STAR's website for more details.

Photographs provided by MGE.

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