Smart Home: Bringing Energy Efficiency to Low-Income Households

by Lindsay Gafford | Apr. 17, 2019

As technology moves forward, energy efficiency and “green” solutions—particularly in the residential space—continue to gain prominence. As of Q4 2018, about 25% of US broadband households own at least one smart home device, with smart thermostats leading the way and smart lighting solutions close behind. Still, overall adoption rates for individual energy management device categories remain at 10%, and product manufacturers struggle to push their products beyond high-income households and early adopters into the mass market. Lower income households continue to find these solutions and associated benefits out of reach.

Parks Associates consumer survey data shows that US broadband households with an income of less than $50,000/year are the least likely to own or intend to own smart energy solutions for their homes. This point is unsurprising, given less than one-fifth of consumers surveyed by Parks Associates view smart energy devices in any category as affordable.

However, programs offered through various levels of government and by private companies allows low-to-moderate income households an opportunity to access the latest energy efficient technology while alleviating the higher costs/burden resulting from energy inefficiency.

  1. Department of Energy (DOE). For the past 40 years, the DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program has worked with low-income families to increase the energy efficiency of their homes, lowering their continued energy burden. The department believes weatherization is a key factor in “introducing and deploying technology and facilitating greater industry adoption.” According to the DOE, for every dollar invested in weatherization, $1.72 is generated in energy benefits.
  2. Austin Energy. In addition to being designated by the Environmental Protection Agency and DOE as a 2019 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year, Austin Energy—a city of Austin service—offers a variety of programs to assist low-income residents with their energy costs. These programs include utility discounts (up to $650/year) and significant rebates on energy-efficient appliances and smart thermostats for low-to-moderate income households, among others.
  3. Clayton Homes. In the United States, Clayton—a builder of prefabricated homes—recently partnered with ecobee to sell homes with built-in ecobee smart thermostats, prioritizing energy efficiency for a mostly untapped consumer segment.

As energy efficient homes of all types become the rule rather than the exception and elements of the smart home ecosystem (particularly those related to energy) become more mainstream, a wider cross-section of households will be able to tap into energy saving benefits and the industry will find a new source of growth.

For a more comprehensive look at Parks Associates data regarding energy and the smart home, check out the latest 360 View: Energy Management, Smart Home, & Utilities

Further Reading:

Next: CONNECTIONS™ Addresses Role of Energy in the Smart Home
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