EarthTalk: Will I really be able to save money
and energy in the long run by shelling out hundreds of dollars
now for a so-called “smart” thermostat? –
Bill Cone, Aptos, CA
Research reports that the number of smart thermostats
in operation around the world will jump from 1.4
million currently installed to some 32 million by
2020. These kinds of numbers will help utilities
meet or exceed energy efficiency goals regardless
of other upgrades on their power plants
credit: The Nest
$200 or more to replace that older, still functioning thermostat
with a new whiz-bang “smart” variety might seem
like a waste of money, but it can be one of the best small
investments a homeowner can make, given the potential for
energy and cost savings down the line.
coolest of the bunch of new smart thermostats, the Nest,
was created by former Apple employees who had been instrumental
in designing the original iPod and iPhone years earlier.
This simple looking round thermostat is reminiscent of old-school
thermostats that one would manually adjust by turning the
temperature dial. But the auto-awake feature that turns
on the bright blue digital display when someone walks nearby
gives the Nest away as an ultra-modern piece of high tech
Nest’s software “learns” the habits in
a given space by logging when inhabitants tend to be home
and awake and noting when they tend to turn up or down the
heat—and then sets a heating/cooling schedule accordingly.
Owners can also program the Nest, which connects to the
Internet via Wi-Fi, to heat up or cool down the house at
a set schedule or go into “away” mode from any
web browser or smart phone.
the Nest is likely the best known smart thermostat available—especially
since Google acquired the company behind it in early 2014—several
other manufacturers (including Honeywell, ecobee, Hunter,
Radio Thermostat, Trane and Lux) have Wi-Fi-enabled smart
thermostats available now as well.
only some of them have the auto-sensing and “learning”
capabilities of the Nest, those without that feature also
cost less. And merely programming in a weekly schedule to
any smart thermostat will be the main source of cost and
energy savings. People who were diligent about turning their
old thermostats up and down throughout the day might not
see any substantial savings with a smart thermostat, but
most of us aren’t so diligent—especially when
it comes to turning the heat down at night when we are sleeping.
smart thermostat owners report savings of between $10 and
$30 per month on their heating/cooling bills—and research
has shown that such an upgrade can save upwards of 10 percent
of the total energy consumed by a given household. Smart
thermostats range in price from $50 to $250, so upgrading
could pay for itself within a year or two at most, with
long-term savings racking up month-by-month after that.
utilities now offer free or discounted smart thermostats
to customers. Getting in on such a program is a great way
to reduce energy costs without the up-front expense of installing
a smart thermostat independently. According to the Database
of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE),
incentives to install smart thermostats are available through
utilities in 45 states. New York’s Con Edison, California’s
PG&E and Texas’ CPS Energy are just a few of the
larger utilities offering such incentives.
that do upgrade certainly won’t be alone. Navigant
Research reports that the number of smart thermostats in
operation around the world will jump from 1.4 million currently
installed to some 32 million by 2020. These kinds of numbers
will help utilities meet or exceed energy efficiency goals
regardless of other upgrades on the power plant side of
their businesses. Likewise, the efficiency boost also can
play a key role in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels
and our emissions of greenhouse gases.
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