With the cost of living crisis showing no signs of abating, lots of households are searching for simple ways help reduce their energy bills.
For that reason, I was interested to learn about the new SmartThings app from Samsung, which claims to help households cut down the power they use.
The tech giant says the app is designed to ‘bring awareness to your energy consumption, cut down on your bills, and ultimately save you money.’
But does it work? I visited Samsung’s model apartment in Chertsey, Surrey, to find out.
Smart thinking? The new SmartThings app works by combining a home’s smart tech into one place, offering users insight into their energy consumption
A ‘smart home’ is a catch-all phrase for a modern home that has appliances controlled remotely by the owner, often through a mobile app.
For some people, turning a house into a smart home may mean as little as buying a smart speaker.
For others it can involve linking many products, including lighting and heating systems, cameras, computers, locks, TVs, security systems, and even your fridge.
However, these pieces of smart tech often come with their own individual apps, voice commands, or remote controls to operate them, which can get complicated.
SmartThings works by combining all of the smart devices in a home in to one simple app.
No matter the brand, the SmartThings app allows you to connect all of your smart tech, from your Philips Hue light bulbs, to your Ikea plug sockets, and from your Amazon Alexa to your Ring video doorbell.
Samsung’s smart apartment included a variety of home tech, from fridges that know when you’re running low on ingredients, to vacuums that only turn on when you leave the house
The kitchen in Samsung’s smart home was fitted with all manner of tech-enabled devices
Tablets and computers can also be connected to other devices using the SmartThings app
Samsung’s smart home came with a plethora of smart devices installed, from smart fridges that tell you when you’re running out of groceries to motion sensors to stop critical pipes from leaking in emergencies.
But, if you’re like me, you’re now starting to wonder how an app that combines your tech can actually save you money – and I struggled to find a clear answer.
One of the ways you could potentially save money in the long run is through the app’s partnership with the comparison site Uswitch, which allows customers to switch their energy tariff effortlessly when the time comes to renew.
Unfortunately, with the volatile energy market as it stands, switching energy providers is unlikely to get you the best deal, and with Ofgem’s price cap set to rise to £2,800 in October, that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
The app also allows users to set budgets and track energy consumption – but only if they have a smart meter
In theory, once the market reopens and switching energy providers becomes the norm again, users of Samsung’s app could potentially see savings in the hundreds of pounds, without lifting a finger.
In the meantime, the app can offer a central hub for tracking energy consumption, helping raise awareness of what you’re spending and what you’re spending it on. However, this feature only works in homes that have a smart meter.
Users will also receive energy saving tips based on the devices that are connected. This could help them save on everyday energy use, for example by recommending the best wash cycle for clothes, or explaining how to efficiently pack the fridge.
However, the amount of money customers could save seems to correlate with the number of smart devices that they have, as well as how much they are willing to use the app.
Customers who simply want to connect and control their smart tech from one place, are not likely to notice a difference in energy consumption or overall spending.
Those who make the most of Samsung’s energy saving tips and tracking software, and action these recommendations through consistent changes in the way they use their devices, could potentially save a few hundred pounds a year – though that is assuming they are not doing anything to limit their energy use already.
Unfortunately, there is a catch to the app before you can get started, and it’s not a cheap one.
While they could save you money in the long term, buying smart devices in the first place can be very expensive.
I have a few pieces of smart tech in my own home: a handful of smart plugs that are connected to my coffee machine and lamps; Hue lightbulbs that can be turned on and off via Bluetooth and voice controls; a Philips smart tv, and a Sonos speaker with a built in Alexa voice assistant in each room.
Cool trick: Samsung’s smart fridge allows users to view what’s inside remotely on their phone
Overall, I have probably spent around £2,000 on smart tech over the last few years, which is a hefty price tag to start you off with.
Samsung’s apartment showed off its smart washing machine, two freestanding projectors, and a family hub tablet device built into the smart fridge. That’s not even including the robot vacuum cleaner or video doorbell.
In order to get the most of your SmartThings app, you ideally need a lot of smart tech, which could set you back nearly £10,000 for the above Samsung-branded products alone.
Unfortunately, it seems as though Samsung’s ‘money saving’ SmartThings app is not accessible to those who would need to benefit from its money-saving tips the most.
And the app is not as easy to use as Samsung claims. Even though I consider myself quite a tech savvy person, the app wasn’t the most straightforward to connect to when I tried it in my own home – as it refused to acknowledge my hue bulbs, or my smart tv.
Smart tech includes everything from plugs to smart speakers, TVs, and washing machines
For those who’ve already invested a lot in smart tech, the app could be a game-changer. They could set the blinds to open, set the kettle to start boiling, and set the oven to turn on by simply saying ‘good morning’ to their Alexa.
But unless you have a lot of smart tech around your home, I can’t see how the app could help to save you time, or energy.
The SmartThings app shows just how far smart tech can go to help us cut down costs and become more eco-conscious,
For those struggling with the cost of living, it is unrealistic that this technology could save them much in the short term.
That said, I’m excited to see how tech companies like Samsung can become more inclusive to lower and middle income households in the years to come.