When SmartThings pays for itself!

A little over a year ago, I decided to “revolt” against the ever-rising electric bills and vowed that I will do anything I can, to reduce our outrageously high electric bills. For a medium sized home, with five people living under its roof, our electric bill was $220 on average in 2014.

My goal was to cut the expense by at least 30%. Like any good citizen, I began my “project” with the usual “home energy audit”. Have had visits from several inspectors and their unanimous conclusion was, that unless I go solar, I will not be able to achieve my goal. Why? Because my house was built about 5 years ago, it has good insulation, the doors/windows are sealed well and most of my appliances are “energy star” rated.

I was less than impressed by the outcome of these audits, so I researched what the average energy consumption in my state is, for a comparable house. Sure enough, our bill didn’t seem all that “outrageously high” comparing to similar households in our area.

But that didn’t stop me from exploring other ways of reducing the energy consumption. Equipped with an energy meter, I started to check the power consumption of various appliances. The one that really caught my attention was the water heater. It was an electric tank, so I decided to replace it with a gas tank.

Next, I looked at lightning. Even though my wife is one of those “can’t-you-turn-the-light-off-when-you-leave-the-room” kind of mothers, she does have what it seems to be a severe case of nyctophobia. So with her taking care of our two little ones, for the past two years, many lights were constantly on.

Another big time attention grabber was my oldest son’s “power-sucking” room. Like many teenagers, he has every imaginable gaming device. And you could guess, they were all on year round! Xbox, computer, TV, ceiling fan, extra fan to cool the overheating Xbox, ceiling lights, lamps, chargers etc
At first, I thought I can manage the lighting problem by changing behaviors. Yeah right, silly me, what was I thinking? Of course that didn’t work. Then, I became the switch guard. Lights on, here comes the super dad to turn them off. It worked for a while. Yup, my commitment didn’t last but maybe a week or so. Then one day I came across Home Automation.

At first it was Wink, then SmartThings! With a few power outlets, z-wave switches and several sensors, my wife’s dark-rooms phobia was efficiently taken care of, the vampires in my son’s room were effectively eradicated and we all enjoy more quiet nights without the constant “can’t-you-turn-the-light-off-when-you-leave-the-room” reminders.

Oh, almost forgot. About the savings, well, I’ve reduced our electric bill by over 50%. If you don’t believe me, here is this month’s energy audit prepared by my electric company:


Impressive! Its always nice to see the impact that SmartThings has on other folks. I have a fairly new house (6 years) as well. My bill is usually around 180-200 and my efforts are focused on reducing that as well. Im slowly adding to my current system but have run into problems with my kids rooms as the rooms were equipped with ceiling fan/lights with only one wall switch. We tend to leave the fans on for cooling/air circulation purposes, so the wife is always having to pull the chain to turn the light on. Needless to say, the chain doesn’t usually get pulled again to turn the light off. I have yet to find a solution to this hurdle and it is becoming an irritation. Short of running a separate wire from the fan to the single gang box and then switching the single gang box to a double gang box to house two switches, im at a loss. Any ideas? I did swap all my children s fan lights to LEDs but I still would like them to be controlled independently of the fan. Another hurdle is being able to shut my water heater off when its not being used or when we are not home. But im not sure what impact it would have on the water heater and im not sure what kind of switch i would get to accomplish it as it is not a 110 volt device.

you can put an Aeon Micro Smart Switch module in the fan housing on the lights without disabling the fan. It’s not perfect but I haven’t had to touch the module since I put it in 6 months ago. Service would be a hassle but it is do-able.

The easiest way to cut your energy is to swap out all lighting to LED. 5-12 watts vs 60-150 watts per bulb (or even 20 watts for CF) just can’t be beat. Sure, turning them off helps too :smile:


Very true, have been using CFL for years, but I am phasing them out by replacing them with LEDs. But you don’t save as much. I think the biggest buck for the money comes from “forced” behavior change. My son learned quickly that if he wants to preserve his xboxes, he must turn them off before he leaves the room, or else ST will take them down.


This is so great to know! I have 2 kids but they are both too young to leave electronics on like that (they are 2 and 6 months)
I have a 2 year implementation plan for my full home-automation setup… I will add this to my list of things to automate so I can approach your problem but from a preventative stand point. Thanks for sharing!

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This is great data, but did you factor in how much you spent on your home automation investment and whether it was worth it? I ask because I have spent over $10,000 in home automation in the past 3 years and I can pretty much be guarantee that I am not even close to that in savings in electric, heating, a/c, etc :smile:

I have come to accept that this is a hobby of mine, but can appreciate that it will help you save money in certain situations.

I am not looking at ROI with my HA, but is a nice feeling to stick it to the electric company at least! (and those auditors that wanted me to spend even more in solar panels).


I did the same with my hot water boiler by switching it to Gas and what a big saver that was. The 3 biggest electric users for me were the baseboard heaters, hot water boiler and clothing dryer. It’s nice to see a saving like you have. Sure make it much easier with the wife to expand you HA now.

Simplest way to fix the ceiling fan lights would be to just replace the bulbs with connected bulbs. The issue there is that so many ceiling fans require e-15 bulbs and I have yet to find any of those .
I have also gone the route of hiding a Z-wave module under the hat of the fan in those cases.

I know what you mean. My water heater and furnace are both gas powered, but with 5 people living in the house my electricity bill is still well over $200 on average and over $300 during summer. I didn’t even bother with the audits because I know it’s not much more than a sales pitch for the solar panels.

Yes, switching to LED lighting is a low-hanging fruit, but it hardly affects my electric bill. Most of it comes from AC, cooking range, clothes washer and dryer, microwave and dishwasher. With 4 people in the house all day long cooking, washing clothes and AC running, lights don’t matter much.

In fact, with LED bulbs, lights automation only makes sense for the convenience, not for energy saving. Let’s do some math:

A 9W LED bulb, even if left tuned on 24 hour a day will consume about 6.5 kWh of energy every month and will cost you less than a dollar at $0.15 average rate. Automating it will cost you at least $50 for a Z-Wave switch and a Z-Wave motion or door sensor. Needles to say, it’s not going to pay for itself for more than 4 years.


Yea i would do connected bulbs but its a 4 bulb fan… Im thinking a switch in the fan is going to be the way to go. I have a smart dimmer. But I dont think I can use that with non-dimmable bulbs. Should have got the smart energy switch…

SmartThings only saves me a few pennies. The biggest issue was lighting. Switching it ALL to led saved approximately $40/month. Putting a timer on the water heater saved about another $20. Checking the standby usage from my various devices, and eliminating the pigs saved another $40. I had a Samsung TV that used 35W in standby - 24/7!!! Similar issues with printers and some audio gear. Getting yourself a kill-a-watt device and checking all the things you have plugged in, but supposedly are ‘off’, can be a big eye opener.


I know it’s all relative, but you are already off to an excellent start with the extremely low rate of $0.11/kWh total. If you can lock that in for the long term, do it, don’t hesitate, sign that deal before they raise rates. Your total usage is probably in the top 10% most efficient households before you started. Now you’ve moved up to the top 5% or higher. You are now at the point of financial loss for more energy efficiency. Admit it, you’re just a gadget junkie, environmentally clear conscious was already achieved months ago.

You’ll want to compare your return on investment expenditures. One single metered power outlet costs about $35-$50, which is worth about 320 - 455 kWh at your rates for you to break even. A PS3 always on, for example consumes ~ 80 kWh per month. It would take 6 months to a year to break even on just 1 zwave outlet on that PS3. As for light bulbs, the local hardware stores charge $15-$20 for a regular old LED bulb after rebates and around $60-$129 for a single connected bulb. Amazon is cheaper, but still opportunity cost. 1 fan = 3 dumb LED light bulbs $60 (~550kWh) equals ~3,000 hours of incandescent use. OR 3 smart LED bulbs at $180 (~1600kWh) equals ~9,000 hours of incandescent use. From an environmental perspective incandescent is recyclable with no toxic byproducts during manufacture, vs an LED bulb. Weigh the radiation emitted from baseload coal power plants, carry the 2…

All joking aside, I’ve spent way more on my smart things setup than I will ever return from energy bills. My family is impressed, my friends say I need a support group. Oh, and by the way, once your son gets the red ring of death and the culprit is the ST forced power off, he’s going to hate you for a long time! Our PS3 died that way. Newer consoles and smart TV’s are computers, they get corrupted and die when unplugged forcefully too many times.

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Point well made, ROI was never a goal. I don’t expect a return on my hobby. But you have to admit, it’s a good WAF when you could say “honey, the v2 hub was free, see we saved 91 bucks this month”.

It’s funny now when the lights in the basement don’t automatically turn on “it’s broken, fix it” where as a few months ago it was “we don’t need that”


I have installed a full Ted Pro system with 2 MTU/spyders for circuit monitoring both utility and Solar generation. Primarily to validate their billing were accurate. Which they are. Originally I “knew” it wouldn’t save me money. And it really didn’t for the first several months. Just a pretty graph on a web page. Tells you exactly how much each circuit is costing you per hour, day, month, year, etc.

First thing I noticed was that my dehumidifier in the basement was about 40% of my electric bill, and I have an electric car which took less! Now that dehumidifier is energy star, top rated in efficiency. Played around a bit. I learned that a small change in humidity % is worth a big difference in cost to run. 45% vs 50% was about $3 a day. 50%-60% is maybe a few pennies more, so it stays at 50%. The problem with energy star, is that they assume you don’t actually need to run a dehumidifier longer than a couple hours per day, during at most 3 months a year. I can tell you that poor device works 10 months per year, and 10 hours or more total per day. Yes my basement is waterproofed and sump pump/drain tile. Water table has risen in my area over the past few years, so humidity gets worse.

Next, Low and behold after watching that HVAC circuit cost me money during the summer, the HVAC fan locked up. Spent hours on Amazon finding replacement parts, and a few reviewers shared something that I didn’t think about. There are 2 capacitors on most outdoor HVAC unit fans that are maintenance parts (No HVAC technician tells you this). 1 start capacitor and 1 run capacitor. Now these are each $10 user replaceable parts. What they do is improve the power factor of the 2 motors. My older unit had the original capacitors which were burnt out along time ago, still working mediocre, but costing electricity efficiency. After replacing them I noticed the real time power consumption of the whole HVAC drop from 4.1kWh down to 3.5kWh. That was a huge find. I had called the HVAC company and they were trying to sell me a whole new unit! 2 companies said the HVAC was done, have to replace it all inside and out. needless to say, $130 on Amazon later, and some good reviewers I have a working HVAC, and it’s saving me about 6$ per day in mid summer.

Not saying you have these problems, but a good energy meter, and the know how to interpret the results can actually lead to savings. The biggest savings being Amazon replacement part reviews, saved me a whole HVAC install.


In my previous home I had a really musty basement. It was a rental. The owner had this antique dehumidifier down there that ran almost constantly. I connected my kill-o-watt meter to it and almost had a stroke! So, that thing had to immediately go! Needless to say wife was not happy as the started not smelling so fresh down there… So, it was time to shop for a new one. Needless to say, I was not going to pay that much. I was willing to move first.

But, I found an alternative…

I had one of those old kitchen window fans… The small one with two fans in it that were reversible. I put that in a basement window blowing out, on high. Within two days the basement was perfect. I even reconnected ole Bessie and she wouldn’t start sucking watts until it hit 30 on the dial… So she was back out to pasture.

Best thing wss, the fan had an original cost of 5 bucks from the junk store and it ran 24/7 at a cost of literally pennies per day.

Oh, and if you’ve never been to Birmingham, Alabama in August, you have no idea what humidity is!

This may not work for you, but I thought I would put my 2¢ in, just in case!

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you were referring to the basement, right?


I’ve been waiting for that! Glad she’s not on this forum… And yes! The basement… But that is exactly how she came to tell me… “honey, we have to talk. I’ve noticed it’s not smelling so fresh down there”… Needless to say… I was like…umm… Yeah…umm…