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Tech tips to keep you toasty this winter

Winter is coming: keep your energy bill in check with these tech solutions. 

Be smart: track power consumption

Before we get started with the tech, the most basic way to manage your winter power habits is to check your energy usage.

Some energy providers have online services that let you sign in and compare your own previous bills month over month.

This will give you a basic idea of your usage patterns, but connectivity will hopefully soon bring us all better solutions.

Smart meters, already common in Victoria, have the ability to report your usage back to your provider on an hourly, or even half-hourly basis.

With this information (provided online or via an app), you can access detailed reports as to when your energy use is spiking, allowing you to zero in on which of your daily habits in particular might need addressing.

Not everywhere in Australia has access to smart meters just yet; in the short-term this technology will, for many of us, remain another useful connected device that will ‘one day’ be added to our homes.

Even so, it’s a good idea to put in a little research to your provider’s online services, and see just how detailed your usage reports are.

An upcoming alternative to a smart meter has been developed by Aussie startup Wattcost, which uses meter-to-mobile technology in the form of a device that you attach to your basic meter.

It's not out just yet, but you can be an early-adopter and reserve your unit via the website.

Once you have the sensor installed and have downloaded the free app, you can use it to analyse your energy use, help control your costs by setting savings alerts, and even take advantage of their ‘geofence’ tech that sends alerts when you are leaving home and have accidentally left on specific appliances.

Compatible with iOS and Android once shipping commences.

Buy smart

When buying a new appliance, it’s important to take into account how much it will cost to run, rather than just focusing on the up-front price.

You might just find that a more expensive model will be more cost effective in the long term.

Over five or 10 years that difference can add up to a surprising amount.

To tackle this, check out the Energy Rating App, which you can use during your at-home research, or can take shopping to get an idea of the running costs of appliances in the long-term.

Available on iOS and Android.

Smart heating

Connected home tech has been a much-discussed recent development, with tech giants releasing their innovations in North America including Alphabet's (Google's) Nest, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings.

The premise for the smart thermostat is that they allow you to control the climate in your home from anywhere where you have connectivity, show your energy consumption as it happens, learn from your habits, and can even adjust themselves based on ambient conditions, like humidity.

For Australian homeowners, when these solutions reach our shores we’ll be able to see how much we’re spending on heating costs and potentially tweak our settings appropriately to save money.

It also means that you can arrive home, or wake up to a toasty house by either programming or remotely instructing your thermostat to turn on when you want.

While we wait for many of these gadgets to hit Australian shores, there are some homegrown pioneers in this space who offer solutions to compromise between comfort and energy efficiency.

AdvantageAir and Airstream are both Australian innovators in this space, based in WA, offering app-integrated smart air conditioning management with a range of modern, intelligent features to help you manage your home’s airflow from your connected devices, down to the specific room.

Em'power' your winter wardrobe

Integrating tech into your winter wardrobe is a unique way to control your personal climate, and start a few conversations while you’re at it.

USB gloves might sound a little odd, or even funny, but they could be just what you’re looking for.

Made fingerless so you can continue typing away, the USB cable plugs into your desktop or laptop and heats your gloves quickly to give you toasty hands.

The power cord plugs into each hand separately, meaning you can easily pop it free if you need to leave the keyboard for any reason.

A step up from your average winter coat is the heated jacket, perfect for those of us in particularly chilly environments.

Milwaukee Heater Jackets, available for purchase in Australia, contain carbon fibre heating elements and special fabric-layering tech to distribute and maintain heat across the coat.

Simply charge your jacket up via USB and you’re reportedly set for up to eight hours of heat.

The ways to handle heating this winter are varied, with upcoming innovations giving us a look into an optimally efficient future, and new ways to keep warm.

In the meantime, doing your research and making educated choices can make all the difference, no matter what your budget.

Like a splash of tech in your threads? Fashion of the future could see us all sporting a connected style.

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