Thanks to the coronavirus lockdown, many of us have higher electricity and utility bills. There are some tech-savvy ways to lower them.


Now that most of the country is hunkered down at home to quell the spread of COVID-19, chances are you’re spending more on electricity and other utilities.

After all, more lights are on and for a longer period of time. You may be turning up the heat to stay warm (especially for northern states). Appliances – ovens, stoves, dishwashers, and washers and dryers – are getting more use than ever before.

And then there’s laptops and desktops constantly on for doing work or attending virtual classes at school, or perhaps binging TV shows or playing video games.

You get the idea. While all these electronics may be contributing to higher monthly energy bills, the right tech can help you use less and save money.

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LEDs, Smart LEDs

If you haven’t done so already, it’s time to replace your incandescent and florescent bulbs with LED lights, as they sip rather than gulp electricity.

Oh sure, they cost more – so perhaps wait for a sale or seasonal rebates – but you’ll save money in the long run. A 60-watt equivalent, for instance, might only be only 7.5 watts for comparable lumens with an LED light – not to mention they can last considerably longer, which saves you even more money.

For example, a four-pack of dimmable EcoSmart A19 LED bulbs usually costs less than $10, and the company says each Energy Star-certified bulb is rated for up to 15,000 hours, Each light is estimated to run you about 90 cents per year to operate.

Philips also has several LED bulbs, as well as Wi-Fi-enabled Smart LED bulbs (as part of the Hue brand), which might save you even more. Smart LEDs let you use your voice to control them (via Amazon Alexa or Google Home digital assistants) and you can set schedules and timers, remotely access your lights – to turn them off or on with an app –and, when coupled with room sensors, have the lights go off automatically when someone leaves the room. You can also change between millions of colors or preset scenes. 

A Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance LED Starter Kit (currently on sale for $139.99 at Best Buy), which includes three bulbs, wireless bridge (required for Hue to work), and dimmer switch. Philips also has other options including a downlight 5/6-inch light, smart LED bar lights, and decorative light strips.

Turn to a smart thermostat

Programmable Wi-Fi thermostats let you conveniently adjust heating and cooling settings on a phone, tablet or laptop, but they can also learn your schedule and automatically optimize the temperature in your home.

Granted, your schedule may be a bit thrown off these days, but products like the 3rd generation Google Nest Thermostat ($199.99) learns your habits and adjusts to automatically regulate your home’s temperature – whether you’re home or not. Or, in the energy-conscious Nest Leaf mode, it could turn down the home’s temp when everyone is asleep at night, for instance.

Google says Nest Thermostat works with most home heating and cooling systems, including gas, electric, forced air, heat pump, radiant, oil, hot water, solar and geothermal systems.

Water sensors

Think of Flo by Moen Shutoff ($499.99) as a security system for your home’s plumbing system.

It’s a smart valve that proactively identifies problems before they become a headache such as a burst pipe or a tap left running, and automatically turns off the water supply before notifying you on an app.

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This Wi-Fi connected device detects flow rate, temperature and pressure, and also allows you to better understand your home’s water usage – from a toilet running in a spare bathroom to a family member taking excessively long showers – to help reduce costs.

Moen says there are no monthly fees, and home insurance providers may give you a discount if you have it installed.

Smart plugs, strips, and more

Did you know your plugged-in gadgets may still consume electricity, even though they’re switched off? This common (but little-recognized) energy waster is often referred to as “standby power” or “vampire power,” since some appliances continue to “suck” electricity when not in use.

The good news is some switches and power strips can completely cut off electricity, on demand, with a button or app, or through a timer.

Eve Energy smart plugs ($39.95 each or $69.95 for a 2-pack) can switch appliances on and off with a tap on the Eve app or you can use your voice to ask Siri to do it (leveraging Apple’s HomeKit platform). Eve Energy connects directly to your iPhone or iPad via Bluetooth.

Similarly, the Eve Energy Strip ($99.95) lets you individually control three outlets with the app or Siri, connected to your Wi-Fi (no additional bridge needed). You can track total power consumption and see the projected costs.

To safeguard your computer and other electronics, there is surge protection, overcurrent protection, and overvoltage protection.

Another option: Belkin has a line of Conserve-branded switches, strips and plugs (from $9.99) that shut off all power to what’s plugged into it – either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time. Also from Belkin, WeMo-branded switches and plugs (from $29.99) may not completely cut off power on devices plugged into them, but they let you remotely turn electronics on and off, and manage costs and usage from anywhere, via the WeMo app.

Finally, the Sense Home Energy Monitor ($299.00) installs in your home’s electrical panel and provides insight into your energy use and home activity through iOS, Android, and web apps. Sense Solar ($349.00) shows how much energy you produce, use, and sell back to the grid, in real time, if you have solar panels.

Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him or subscribe to his Tech It Out podcast at

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