Smart ways to save on your energy

A woman wrapped in a blanket on a laptop
Don't be a mug when it comes to energy-saving
"They're smart in that they learn your home heating habits - they learn and know when you want your heating on or off, and how high or low you want it"
  • | by Emily Bater

If you haven't heard of the 'internet of things' before, 2016 is the year you won't be able to get away from it.

The idea aims to create a home where everything is connected and everything is smart – from your lights to your fridge to your bins, they'll all know what the other is doing and how to work efficiently within your home.

The benefits of a smart home are arguably equalled by the cost, but can these investments help you save money on your gas and electricity?

Make the smart leap

Smart thermometer

Smart thermostats have been around some time now but don't confuse them with smart meters, which are being rolled out across the UK by energy companies.

While smart meters automatically send your meter readings to your energy providers, smart thermostats, such as Nest and Hive, monitor and set your home's temperature.

They're smart in that they learn your home heating habits – they learn and know when you want your heating on or off, and how high or low you want it.

A recent software bug, however, caused Nests to stop working recently, leaving homeowners without their heating after the thermostat's battery died and its system deactivated.

Covered mag's own Derri Dunn got her Nest when it was thrown in with her new boiler, and after a few months of using it thinks it offers a few pros and cons.

"I use the Nest app to control it from my phone – it's a godsend if you go out and realise you've left the heating on, but admittedly it also allows for some extreme laziness – such as turning the temperature up while lounging on the sofa rather than taking three paces across the room to the thermostat.

"It hasn't been without its problems though. My house is thick-walled, high-ceilinged and 19th century, which means the 'stat really struggles with connection sometimes, leading to lots of waving the unit around a chilly house in the general direction of the boiler, trying to get it to reconnect."

Control room to room

A woman using the Honeywell Evohome system

If you live in a large house or an old house which lets out heat, controlling the temperature of your home room by room can be a clever way to manage your energy costs.

Products such as Honeywell's Evohome let you control everything via one panel which lets you set the temperature in each room.

You can turn on or turn up certain rooms on the move via an app on your phone. Evohome can also control your boiler and can tell when you need hot water. 

While the cost of this system starts at £249, in time you could see a drop in your bills.

Get more from your boiler

Flowenergy boiler

Fed up of your boiler not pulling its weight? Then a new electricity-generating boiler could be exactly what you're looking for.

The boiler from small energy company Flowenergy works like any other boiler, except it has its own generator which it uses it make electricity.

You can then use the electricity instead of buying it from a supplier, potentially lowering your bills over a number of years while also being kind to the planet.

While the Flow boiler isn't necessarily a 'smart' innovation, it's certainly clever and green to boot.

To buy the boiler you have to switch to Flowenergy for five years – a long time when energy tariffs change frequently and prices rise and fall.

According to Flowenergy, the boiler could reduce your bills by as much as £960 a year.

Chief executive of Flowgroup Tony Stiff calls the boiler a "genuine revolution in the heating and energy industries" and while there currently isn't a competing boiler on the market, it's only a matter of time before innovations like this become more popular.

There's an app for that

Someone using a smart home app on the go

You don't need to spend a load of cash to improve your home's energy efficiency.

Energy-saving apps come in all shapes and sizes – every energy company worth its salt has one, allowing you to check your usage and input meter readings quickly and easily.

They range from the practical to the fun, but they all help you become more energy efficient.

If you scoff when your dad tells you off for leaving things on stand-by then the Power Cost Calculator app will embarrass you into changing your habits.

This app tells you how much energy your appliances – TVs, microwaves, phone chargers – are wasting with 'vampire energy', sucking the life out your wallet and your home's green credentials. 

If you're the competitive type, the AlertMe Energy Map compares your energy-saving efforts to your neighbours, so you'll know who's going bonkers with the electric blankets.

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