When you hear the term “smart home,” you might think of gimmicky gadgets and unnecessary, yet expensive, upgrades. However, there are many home innovations available today that make your home smarter and more environmentally friendly. If you are considering a smart home upgrade, these products can save you time, reduce your carbon footprint and even save some money on energy costs.

Nest Thermostat

The Nest thermostat system always seems to come up in conversations about smart home devices. It is one of the most innovative home thermostat devices you can buy that saves you time and money in the long run. The system learns from you and your preferred temperatures at certain times of day, and it builds a schedule around your preferences. Nest is designed to save energy, and as you change your settings, the device shows a leaf if it is saving energy and money. According to Nest, the system can save an average of 10 to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs every month.

Occupancy Sensors

The lighting in your home probably accounts for a pretty large portion of your electricity costs, so it can be frustrating when lights are accidentally left on when no one is home or when there is enough natural light. Occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on when they sense motion in a room and turn off when someone leaves. According to the Huffington Post, you also can use sensor-based technology to control light use. They detect the amount of natural sunlight during the day to make sure you only use what you need.

Smart Sensor Dishwasher

Upgrading your appliances to Energy Star-compliant machines is a sure way to save energy, but some devices go even further to conserve. Many new dishwashers and some laundry machines now have smart sensor technology that conserves the amount of water and energy it uses to perform tasks. For example, some Kenmore dishwashers have a built-in SmartWash HE cycle that uses the minimum amount of resources for the particular load it is washing.

Neurio Home Energy Monitor

If you want to find a way to completely monitor all of the energy use in your home, the Neurio Home Energy Monitor is the tool for you. The Neurio sensor is installed in your energy panel and sends data to your smartphone to show you exactly where energy is being used around your house. The application shows you in real time where power is going and your total energy use for the day, week and month. It also suggests saving tips and compares your home to similar households.

Smart Solar Panels

Installing solar panels is undoubtedly a big investment, but the return can be astronomical. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, solar panel installations can save you more than $1,000 every year and increase the value of your home by thousands of dollars. In addition, most people get a federal tax credit for installing solar that goes up to 30 percent of the cost. Solar technology is becoming more user friendly and smarter, too. According to UpNest, many newer installations include smart junction boxes that enable you to monitor the performance of individual panels as well as turn them on and off in case of an emergency.