Smart Home Upgrades for Winter: Thermostats, Insulation, and More

Everyone knows smart-home upgrades will make your home sleeker, more futuristic, and more customizable. Fewer people are aware that they can save you a lot of money, too. With electricity costs at a two-decade high, a lot of Americans are wrestling with unprecedented utility bills. Some cash-strapped homeowners are even offloading their inefficient homes to sellers for cash and relocating to smaller homes or warmer climates.

But smart home accessories like smart thermostats, automated window treatments, and even WiFi-enabled, smart radiator valves can help you get on top of your energy usage and trim those bills by 20% or more. And if lower utility bills and a smaller carbon footprint aren’t enticing enough, smart homes are more attractive to future buyers. When it’s time to sell, you’ll be set up for a record payout, especially if you shave your costs by using a discount realtor.

Let’s look at some of the most popular smart home upgrades for winter.

Smart thermostat

A smart thermostat is like the brain for a smart home, controlling and monitoring the home’s various climate-related features. It monitors activity in the house, and will turn the heat or cooling off when no one’s there, and crank it up when you get home. (You can also turn on your heating and cooling when you’re on your way home via the smart home app.)

A good smart thermostat will also learn your habits and preferences, whether that means heating up the house a few minutes before you get up in the morning, or shutting down the air conditioning when you go on your weekend camping trips.

Smart window treatments

Window treatments like motorized blinds can vastly improve both your energy efficiency and your quality of life. High-end blinds will automatically open or close based on the time of day, season, and climate you’re in, maximizing natural light in the mornings and during the darker winter months, and shutting out light during hot midsummer days. Smart blinds can significantly reduce your utility bills by using sunlight to heat your home, or blocking the sun to make things easier on your air conditioning.

Most smart blinds are precisely custom-sized to your window, and can include features like solar charging, as well as voice and remote activation.

Smart home energy sensors or monitor

With energy costs on the rise, more smart homeowners are looking for ways to trim their usage. A smart home energy monitor is a vital tool in this pursuit. You can’t cut your energy usage until you know how much energy you use, and for what.

A good smart home energy monitor will tell you exactly how much energy you use, and what’s using it. Many systems come with smart plugs to precisely measure how much power your appliances and lighting systems are consuming. Once you’ve harvested enough data to see the patterns of your usage, you can start cutting down waste. Some experts say a monitor can help homeowners reduce their utility bills by up to 20% or more.

Smart insulation

One big factor in your energy usage is how “leaky” your home’s envelope is — that is, how well or poorly insulated it is. Homes that are poorly insulated lose a lot of heat in the winter and a lot of cool air in the summer, forcing your HVAC to work harder (and use more juice) just to maintain a consistent temperature.

Conventional foam insulation offers limited energy efficiency, but new “smart insulation” systems coming to market can vastly improve your home’s ability to retain heat or cool. This new insulation incorporates cutting-edge materials like airtight vapor barriers, wool material, and advanced wood fiberboard that can expand and contract as it absorbs excess moisture. While it’s easier to build into new structures, it can also be retrofitted for green-minded homeowners.

Smart humidifier

Moist air feels warmer than dry air, and it can significantly improve your quality of life during cough and cold season. Smart humidifiers offer a big upgrade over conventional push-button humidifiers, as they have integrated sensors that can actually tell you when and if your air needs humidifying. Instead of running for hours or nonstop, these devices can bring your air to the desired level of humidification, and then turn off.

Most give you the option of adding scents or essential oils to the mist, can be fully programmed, and are app- or voice-activated. Crucially, they’ll also alert you when they need to be refilled.

Smart radiator valves

If you live in a city with a lot of old housing stock heated by radiators (like New York), you can still smarten up your heating system with smart radiator valves. These devices replace your existing radiator valves and, like the other devices on this list, give you the ability to turn your radiators on and off right through your smart home app.

Most of these valves come with features like child locks (so kids can’t tamper with your settings, or with the valve itself), open window detection (so the valve can turn off your heat if it detects an open window), and frost protection (so it can automatically turn on your heat if your pipes are in danger of freezing).

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