One of the main concerns these days is the consumption of electric energy. People are looking for different ways to reduce their energy usage and hence a cut off in their electricity bills. However, just switching off the lights and appliances is just a drop in the bucket. Heating accounts to control half the electricity bill. Thus, if one plans to cut down on the energy usage, one needs to be smart. In this digital era where people tend to prefer smart gadgets, investing in a smart thermostat seems a good idea. However, does it really save energy as much it claims to save?
Here in this article, we shall discuss the same. How much do these smart thermostats save and what all are the factors that govern the same?
First thing, let’s clarify what a smart thermostat is. Aren’t all programmable thermostats smart? Well, no! A typical programmable digital thermostat needs to be set/reset by us, according to your schedule. This makes most of us reluctant to change it for every situation and we end up using the pre-programmed schedule, which in turn does not help in cutting off the energy usage. What if a thermostat could learn from your daily routine or gives you the control to change the settings remotely from phone or web app and even adjust the temperatures themselves according to the ambient conditions? This is what a smart thermostat offers. So basically, it is a programmable thermostat but a bit “smarter” that helps in better energy efficiency without compromising on the comfort.
Thermostats are available in different models for different uses. Most commonly used type is programmable thermostats where a schedule can be programmed. Technically, thermostats are of two types generally; low voltage thermostats – which operate on a low voltage level say 24 volts or less and there are line voltage thermostats that are apt for baseboard electric heaters, fan forced and floor heaters. This means line voltage thermostats are used commonly for high voltage heating. A controlled smart heating would thus reduce the energy consumption.
Nowadays smart line voltage thermostats are available in markets that help in maximizing the energy savings.
It all started in 2001 when Nest Labs introduced the first “smart” thermostat to the world. After its launch Nest conducted various studies to prove its point that these thermostats indeed helped in reducing the energy costs.
The findings were published and revealed a 10-12% savings on heating and 15% savings on cooling, or about $131-145 in savings a year.
However, these studies were based on government and other survey data, to give a general idea about the savings one could incur using a “smart thermostat”.
Many new models and technologies are now used for the latest “smart” thermostats. The savings a person incurs, however, depends on various factors.
Conditions that govern the savings from a smart thermostat
PROPER TEMPERATURE SETTINGS:
Optimal and smart use of thermostats can give you at least a 10% savings a year on both heating and cooling. Some temperature changes for different time of the day will give you optimum results and prevent unnecessary energy usage. This is where a smart thermostat comes in handy. Here you can tell the thermostat to shut off when you are leaving and tell the time by which you want it to work again that will make your home cozy when you return. Every thermostat takes some minimum amount of time to change to the set temperature, which it will tell you beforehand so that you can set the temperature and time accordingly.
THE UNPREDICTABLE SEASONAL VARIATIONS
One of the factors that affect the savings is the year to year seasonal variation. If this year was one of the coldest ones, the next year may not be the same. Since even a smart thermostat works well on proper assumptions, if your area has unpredictable seasonal changes, it may not be able to generate much savings.
THE SIZE OF YOUR HOME
Yes, the size matters! If you have a large home then heating or cooling that large area will take up more power than that of a smaller house. Thus savings for people living in larger houses will be less compared to those living in smaller houses using smart thermostats.
TYPES OF SMART THERMOSTATS
Like any appliance, smart thermostats come in various models and design. Broadly speaking, these fall into two categories: one that learns automatically from your behavior and adjusts the temperature and the second one being the one that offers internet connectivity and remote programming.
If you are reluctant to program yourselves and want it to be done by the thermostat itself, the first type is a good choice. However, if you are comfortable with programming your thermostat, the second one is preferable.
The first smart thermostat to hit the market was that introduced by Nest. It belongs to the first category. This “learning thermostat” has a bright LCD and has many tools and remote management feature that help in saving the energy.
Is it worth the purchase?
Smart thermostats are quite on the expensive side. Their retail price varies from $200 to $500 depending on the models you choose. Their installation costs also on the higher side. Hence to even out the investment you make on these thermostats with the savings you make may take some time. However, savings as already mentioned depend on region to region and home to home.
Not only savings, these thermostats offer you some other alluring features as well, such as better control over scheduling, ease of use, alerts and temperature updates.
Smart thermostats not only cut down your bills but also offer some great and useful features. It takes out the hassle of adjusting the temperature in your home and gives you both comfort and efficient energy.