Sustainability is one of the biggest buzzwords in the tech industry this year, with just about every gadget maker on the planet making big commitments to saving the environment.
The good news for us, aside from actually protecting our precious planet, is that it’s nothing short of amazing just how much money the latest tech tools can help save on monthly household bills like electricity, water, heating and cooling, and a myriad of other increasingly expensive utilities.
What’s even more surprising, though, is just how much the tech industry’s past evolved smart thermostats, lightbulbs and power plugs in the past few years.
The latest smart gadgets and appliances can help save the planet – and a whole lot of money – on everything from food waste to lawn care, and even drastically lower costs on niche things like swimming pool maintenance and handyman services.
Here are five of the best I’ve tried so far.
Eco-friendly Earth Day:Be eco-friendly with the best Earth Day 2023 sales from Our Place, Avocados and more
How can I save money on my chlorine pool?
If you’re one of the 10.4 million people who own a swimming pool in America, the WaterGuru Sense (normally $325, but on sale at the time of publication at WaterGuru.com for $250) can save you tons of money and hassle.
Stick the smart sensor in your skimmer and know in real-time from an app on your smartphone exactly when to run pumps or add chemicals.
Dallas-based real estate agent Justin Downs said his family cut their electricity bill by $1,500 to $200 in the first year by not running pumps needlessly 24/7.
Downs bought his first home with a pool nearly two years ago. Since adding the Sense, he said he’s cut back on pool chemicals, which he says feels safer for his family, including three young daughters.
“Before, I just was just kind of blindly running my pumps and paying someone to take care of my pool, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, there certainly is something wrong with just hogging a ton of electricity,” Downs said.
The WaterGuru Sense 2 comes out in May, with added functionality for hot tubs too.
WaterGuru Sense Smart Pool Monitoring System at Amazon for $250
Do smart irrigation controllers save water?
The average family in America uses more than 300 gallons of water per day, with at least 30% of this amount going to outdoor lawns and gardens, according to the EPA.
Lawncare is another big area to look for tech to save money and the planet: A brand new technology out of a company called Irrigreen claims to cut back on water use by more than 50% and cut water bills in half, too.
Company co-founder Shane Dyer says Irrigreen uses technology similar to precision inkjet printers that act as the “brains” in each connected sprinkler head. It digitally maps out your lawn, then shoots water precisely – and only – where it needs to go.
By replacing the old sprinkler “guts” with a smarter software “brain,” Dyer says, Irrigreen can send an even layer of water across any shape. That means no more overspray or accidentally watering your sidewalk or the side of your house.
Irrigreen also connects via app to your smartphone and uses live weather data. It won’t water when it’s going to rain, and it knows when it needs to make up for a hot spell, too, and water at night versus during the day when it evaporates. It also shuts down and sends an alert if a pipe or hose spring leaks.
►Automate your in-ground irrigation system: The Best Smart Sprinkle Controllers of 2023
Keep money from going down the drain
Water rates have gone up nearly 50% in the past decade – higher than any other utility bill – so this is another area just about everyone is looking to cut back to save money and the planet.
For inside your house, check out the Kohler H2Wise+ (around $350) and a less expensive DIY version, Kohler H2Wise ($217.95).
►Don’t let your money go down the drain: The Best Smart Water Leak Detectors of 2023
Kohler partnered with water-sensor maker Phyn to create new high-tech tools that connect to your main water line (Wise+) or under any sink (Wise) to detect leaky faucets, running toilets, or close-to-freezing pipes. They even help track how much water’s flowing through each fixture of your house, so you can finally crack down on your teen who’s spending an hour in the shower every day.
According to Phyn’s website, the gadgets work by measuring microscopic water pressure changes in high definition – 240 times a second – to recognize the unique “voice” of each fixture in your home. “So when you run a faucet, (it) knows it’s a faucet. And if that faucet leaks, (H2Wise) lets you know.”
Stop money from flying out your windows
Did you know that up to half of your home’s energy could fly out your closed windows?
Also, a Department of Energy study shows that “75% of residential window coverings remain in the same position every day,” representing way too many missed opportunities to keep warm air in during the winter or hot air out during the summer.
For this problem, smart window shades can save a fortune. Smart shades push window efficiency to the next level by working in sync with the sun to let just the right amount of light (and heat) in or out when needed.
We installed smart shades from Hunter Douglas with the latest PowerView Gen 3 Automation last summer and have steadily saved more than 50% of our heating and cooling costs ever since.
These let you press a single button, use a voice-enabled helper like Alexa, or use an app to set a schedule to stay warmer during the winter – or cooler during the hotter summer months.
►Transform your window coverings: The Best Smart Blinds of 2023
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Bonus: You can claim up to $1,200 on certain types of window coverings (like Hunter Douglas Duette Honeycomb shades) on your 2023 taxes come next tax season as part of the federal credit for installing energy-efficient products. Be sure to check all your eco-friendly gadgets to see if they apply!
Yoolax Motorized Blinds at Amazon for $109 with $30 coupon
Frontdoor App delivers real-time video calls with a pro
I also beta-tested a brand new app just released to the public last week called Frontdoor (basic plans are free, $99 for the premium plan, and $35/month for “premium plus).
Anyone who owns a home knows there’s constant work to be done on it, and problems crop up all the time that might take an expert to fix.
That was the case when I turned our dishwasher off and then couldn’t get it turned back on again earlier this month. I tried all the normal troubleshooting stuff I found by Googling it, to no avail, and that’s when I turned to the Frontdoor app.
You can download from your app store and sign up for free.
Frontdoor gets you face-to-face-ish with one of its 60,000+ vetted experts.
With just a few taps of the screen, we connected with a specialist who had us check various outlets and power sources. He knew from experience and reputation of our particular model that it would take a pro to fix it in real life.
He even offered to connect us with a pro in our area to come by and fix it, and the video call cost nothing.
Frontdoor experts include help for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and tons more issues – including helping to figure out how to save even more money, and the Earth, with even more brilliant smart home gadgets and tech tools.
My favorite part? Most of these newfangled devices pay for themselves in less than a year.
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Reviewed helps you find the best stuff and get the most out of what you already own. Our team of tech experts test everything from smart thermostats to solar panels so you can shop for the best of the best.
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.