‘Hey Google, dim the lights’: how smart home devices can save money

Time for smarter heating; @tado.com

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘Hey Google, dim the lights’: how smart home devices can save money” was written by Emma Lunn, for The Guardian on Saturday 2nd May 2020 06.00 UTC

Almost everything in your home, from lights and thermostats to door locks and security cameras, can now be connected to the internet. With a few taps on an app or a voice command you can turn down your heating, let visitors into your home or check for leaks.

But while many of these gadgets appear to be simply a way to impress visitors (“Hey Google, dim the lights and play some romantic music”), others can save you money. And at a time when many of us are working from home and running up bills during the day, this is likely to be their biggest selling point.


Smart thermostats can be used to control your heating remotely by a smartphone app. Popular features include building a schedule based on your habits, turning down the heating when no one is home and multi-room control.

Nest learning thermostat review - scheduler app
The Nest smart thermostat is one of the most popular, and can be scheduled via an app. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

There are loads of smart thermostats to choose from. The Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation (from about £160) and Hive Active Heating (from about £129) are among the most popular.

The Tado V3+ Smart Thermostat costs from about £95. The company claims it can reduce your energy bill by 31%. The average annual bill for a medium-sized house is £1,163 (according to Octopus Energy) – so that’s a saving of £360.

Smart thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) can also reduce your heating costs. These allow you to remotely control temperatures on a room-by-room basis – you will need to attach a valve to each radiator. Some smart TRVs work on a standalone basis, while others work with a smart thermostat.

As an example, one Radbot Smart TRV costs from about £35. Radbot estimates payback of your initial outlay in 11 months based on a 30% saving on heating bills.


Households looking to save money on lighting costs should probably look to switch to LED bulbs rather than splashing out on smart lighting. According to SimplyLED, 20,000 hours of lighting costs £25.80 if you use old-style filament bulbs, but just £5.40 if you use an LED bulb.

Philips Hue smart lightbulb kit
Philips Hue smart lightbulb kits start from£ 50 to £60. Photograph: Phiiips

But smart lighting systems are undeniably cool, offering mood lighting, voice control via a smart assistant (such as Google Assistant or Alexa), plus the ability to turn lights on and off remotely.

Philips Hue is widely regarded as one of the best smart lighting systems. You can get a starter kit including the Philips Hue bridge (which you connect to your router) and two bulbs for about £50-£60. Extra bulbs start from about £15.

Safety gadgets

If you spend all day worrying you have left your hair straighteners or the iron on, a smart plug is worth buying, as it means you can turn off the socket from your phone. Smart plugs cost from £15; the popular Hive Active Plug is available for about £31.

Water sensors and leak alarms can stop a minor leak becoming a catastrophe. The idea is to catch burst pipes, leaking showers and so on early to minimise the damage.

Research by leak alarm firm LeakBot found that the average insurance claim for escape of water is more than £2,500 – a significant amount if you have cover, and a huge cost if you don’t.

Smiling retired senior male using smart phone while sitting with dog in room at home
Smart doorbells stream live video to your phone. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images

The usual retail price of a LeakBot is £149, but the company is currently running a promotion on Amazon’s UK site where you can buy one for £29. You can get one for free if you buy a new home insurance policy with iGO4 via Compare The Market. You will also get £56 off the normal iGO4 policy cost by agreeing to install the device. Hiscox buildings insurance customers can also get a LeakBot for free.

More pricey gadgets such as the Grohe Sense Guard (about £400) give you the capability to turn off your mains water supply remotely from your phone if there is a leak.

Security devices

Smart technology has also led to the development of connected security devices such as cameras, alarms, smart locks and doorbells, door and window sensors, motion sensors and smoke alarms.

Any activities detected by the devices are sent to your phone, so if you are alerted to a break-in, you can call the police.

Ring Alarm
The Ring Alarm includes a contact sensor and a motion detector. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

Amazon’s Ring Alarm kit (£249) includes a contact sensor, a motion detector, a keypad, a range extender and the base station, which connects to your wifi and contains a very loud siren. It can be controlled via Alexa, an app or the keypad.

Yale’s Smart System costs £245 and includes a smart hub, a siren, two motion detectors, a keypad and a window or door contact.

Single smart cameras are much cheaper, from about £25 upwards. Brands to look out for include Neos, Google Nest, Motorola and Swann.

Smart doorbells stream live video to your phone and offer two-way communication, meaning you can speak to visitors or let them in if you’re not there. The popular Ring Video Doorbell 2 costs £89.

Most insurers have been slow to offer discounts to households with smart gadgets or bundle devices with insurance policies.

The most notable exception is smart insurer Neos. Its policyholders receive a range of smart home devices such as security cameras, plus smoke and motion sensors, which link to the user’s smartphone and alert them to anything wrong. The idea is to reduce the number and cost of insurance claims.

Start-up Hiro works on a similar premise. It offers a discount on home insurance premiums based on the smart devices you already have installed. Once you have a Hiro policy, you can buy further smart devices at a discount.

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