The Smart Home: Energy Efficiency Friend or Foe?

The Smart Home: Energy Efficiency Friend or Foe?

I spoke at the ACI conference yesterday on this topic and thought I’d share here what I shared with folks at the conference.

If you’re a regular reader of ours, you know our point of view (shaped by over a decade of polling and 25 years of experience in crafting marketing campaigns): energy efficiency has a perception problem and value proposition problem. Most people aren’t searching for it because they think their homes are already energy efficient or because they just don’t think it’s as smart an investment as cosmetic improvements are. And, besides, most Americans have had an experience of making an energy-efficient improvement to their homes – and they haven’t seen their energy bills go down, so they don’t think efficiency works.

Enter the Smart Home. Forecasters expect smart home device revenues to hit $490 billion by 2019 (that’s 1.8 billion devices shipped). Our Energy Pulse data bears out that 84% of Americans who own a smartphone or tablet expect to be able to control something in their homes from it within the year. And although interest and purchases in the smart home arena to date have largely been driven by a desire for home security/safety, our data indicates that energy efficiency – in the form of comfort, control and convenience – will be the driver very soon. And that has implications for the energy efficiency market.

When we ask, “Which home improvements do you think will have the greatest impact on your monthly utility bill?” traditional improvements like HVAC replacement still win out … but interestingly, 9% of Americans choose insulation … and 9% choose a smart thermostat. And 66% of smart thermostat owners say they’ve seen savings on their utility bills because of the device.

So let’s think this through: I can buy a sexy, shiny, smart thermostat that does my thinking for me and saves me money every month for $250, or I can hire some guys to tromp through my house and blow some stuff in my attic that nobody will ever see for $2,500 and save some money on my energy bill every month. Which one sounds more appealing?

And that’s what smart devices have going for them over “traditional” improvements: the cool factor. It showed up loud and clear in our Energy Pulse study, and you can hear it loud and clear if you talk to anyone who owns a smart thermostat.

So our advice to the home performance industry is this:

  • Note that most decisions about a home are made by women … but women aren’t very excited about smart devices, and many are, frankly, intimidated by them. For most women looking to improve their homes, they want beauty, comfort, health and safety. So folks in home performance should appeal to those care-abouts.
  • And in doing that, we recommend bundling a smart solution or two into your total package. Find a way to marry smart thermostats and lighting with insulation and air sealing. Make it a bundle that all works together and all with messaging about creating a better, more comfortable, healthier home. (Download our free report about bridging the gender gap in the smart home here.)

In other words, don’t try to beat ‘em; join ‘em. Then the Smart Home can definitely be your friend instead of your foe.


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Posted on

April 7, 2016

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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