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9 Smart Devices That Will Save You Some Cash

Global technology wallpaper on a smartphone, lying on top of a printout of an energy efficiency graph.

You’ve probably heard that smarthome devices can save you money. It’s true that some reduce electricity bills, but others cost more than they’ll save you. Some devices also require time-consuming (and expensive) installation processes.

To actually save some cash, you have to choose your devices carefully and implement them correctly. Luckily, some smart devices are easy to use, easy to install, and follow through on their energy-saving promises.

Smart Plugs

Two Wyze smart plugs.
Josh Hendrickson

Between TVs, game consoles, stereo systems, computers, lamps, and more, it doesn’t take long to fill up every outlet in your home. Power strips increase the problem by letting you stack even more devices on a single outlet.

If you live in a multi-person home, it can be hard to make sure things get turned off when no one is using them. It can be infuriating to walk into an empty living room with a TV, stereo, and lights all running.

Smart plugs can help! You can set schedules to turn things off every night and morning. If you know everyone is in bed after 10 p.m., and everyone leaves for work or school by 8 a.m., you can set your smart plugs to turn everything off after those times. Then, you’ll never again come home to an entertainment system blasting Netflix in an empty room.

It might be worth it to measure your electricity usage, even when power is off. Not all electronics suck energy, but some use just enough to allow a smart plug to pay for itself, and more.

We’ve recommended smart plugs in the past, but a new entry from Wyze is undoubtedly worth considering. At $15 (plus shipping) for a two-pack, it’s hard to find another option for less. Despite its low price, the plug works exceptionally well. We like them so much, they earned a perfect score in our review.

Best Wi-Fi Smart Plugs

If you want Z-Wave- or ZigBee-powered plugs, GE offers plugs for both, and they’re nearly identical. The only significant difference is, while both plugs feature two outlets, the Z-Wave plug’s second outlet is smart, and the ZigBee plug is “always on.”

Best Z-Wave Smart Plug

Best ZigBee Smart Plug

Smart Lights

Two Wyze Smart Bulbs on a wooden table.
Michael Crider

If you frequently deal with the annoying problem of lights burning in empty rooms, smart lights can help.

You can purchase smart lights in a variety of formats. The most economical option—smart switches— is also the most difficult to install. To do so, you have to turn off the power in your home, remove the existing light switch, and then wire in the new smart switch. If you’re uncomfortable working with electrical wiring, you can pay an electrician to install it. However, that increases the overall cost and decreases how much you save in the end. Smart switches are worth the effort, though, because you can then control multiple bulbs from one switch.

If you prefer Wi-Fi smart switches, Eufy’s is affordable and compatible with voice assistants, like Alexa and Google Assistant. Just make sure you have a neutral wire in your switch box before you buy.

The Best Wi-Fi Smart Switch

eufy Smart Light Switch By Anker, Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant Compatible, Wi-Fi, Control from Everywhere, No Hub Required, Easy Installation, Single Pole, Requires Neutral Wire, 100~120V AC, 15A

Simple, and affordable, the Eufy Smart Switch is a no-frills option. Because it works via Wi-Fi, you don’t need a hub, and it pairs with Alexa and Google Assistant.

For Z-wave, GE offers a great option that isn’t much more expensive than our Wi-Fi pick. Depending on your hub, you get Alexa or Google Assistant integration, and this switch also doubles as a dimmer. This means you’ll want dimmer-compatible bulbs, though. Keep in mind your switch box will have to have a neutral wire to power the GE smart switch.

The Best Z-Wave Smart Switch

GE Enbrighten, White & Light Almond, Z-Wave Plus Smart Light Dimmer, Works with Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Wink, Zwave Hub Required, Repeater/Range Extender, 3-Way Compatible, 14294

GE’s smart switch doubles as a dimmer and integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant. Just make sure you have a neutral wire in your switch box.

If messing with electricity is outside your comfort zone, smart bulbs are a great alternative. If you can screw in a traditional light bulb, you can install a smart bulb—the only difference is you also pair it with an app. You might spend a little more in the beginning, too, since you have to replace each bulb you want to make smart, but you also get color options with some bulbs.

After you install your smart bulbs, you can create timers (or use sensors) to turn off the lights at the appropriate times.

Wyze smart bulbs are an inexpensive option. The company also sells color bulbs, but you won’t find a better white smart bulb at a lower price, which is pretty much Wyze’s entire business model. These bulbs communicate over Wi-Fi, and they’re standard A19 bulbs. They work with Wyze sensors for automation, so the lights turn off automatically after everyone leaves a room.

The Cheapest Wi-Fi Bulb

If you prefer something with more color and don’t mind spending more, Philips Hue smart bulbs are among the prettiest you can buy. They do require a Philips Hue hub, but that also means you get local control that works even when the internet is down. The Philips app (for Android and iOS) is comprehensive, too, including scene support for a variety of situations.

The Best Color Bulbs

Smart Thermostats

An installed Nest Learning Thermostat set to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Josh Hendrickson

Programmable thermostats have been around for a long time. However, they can be so complicated, people don’t bother setting up a schedule. If that’s you, you’ve probably come home to find the A/C or heat on full-blast. Which is great for that moment you first walk in, but terrible for saving energy when you’re gone all day.

Most smart thermostats are easier to program. Some even learn your habits through general use; this means you only have to know how to turn the temperature up or down.

If you want your home to be comfortable the minute you arrive, you can change the temperature remotely. Yes, this might waste a bit of money, but it’s better than running your HVAC system all day.

If you want something incredibly easy to use, consider the Nest Learning Thermostat. If you can turn a dial, you can use the Nest. You turn it one direction to raise the temperature, and the other to lower it. As you use it, the Nest learns your habits and adjusts to match. You can also program it yourself with the Nest app (for iOS or Android).

Easiest Thermostat

The Ecobee SmartThermostat, on the other hand, takes a little longer to learn to use. It doesn’t learn on its own, so you do have to schedule it. However, its interface and app (available for Android or iOS) match nearly perfectly, so once you learn one, you’ve learned the other.

Unlike the Nest, the Ecobee also includes a remote temperature sensor. If you have a particular room that runs cooler or hotter than the rest of your home, you can tune your thermostat to it.

Now that Google is ending its Works with Nest program, you might find more smart devices are compatible with Ecobee. The Ecobee can also double as an Alexa speaker, which gives you voice control in another area of your home.

Thermostat with a Temperature Sensor

ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control, Black

The Ecobee SmartThermostat is compatible with plenty of smarthome devices and has Alexa built-in. The included remote temperature sensor is a great bonus to get better readings of other rooms in your home.

No matter which smart gadgets you want to buy, you have to weigh all the costs to determine if they’re actually worth the money. In addition to the purchase cost, smart gadgets do use electricity.

However, if you choose carefully, smart home devices can save you money—even enough to pay for themselves.