Making the most of your smart thermostat

Modern approaches for managing comfort and energy consumption

By George Land, General Manager, Digital Products

Smart thermostats are only the beginning

With today’s technology, consumers have a wide range of options for managing their comfort and optimizing energy consumption. Smart thermostats offer control from virtually anywhere with the use of an app, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Over the years, I’ve heard plenty of energy saving tips: scheduling, keeping the lights off, using your blinds intelligently. What excites me about home comfort today is how technology has merged with other applications both in and out of the home. Let’s take a look at several ways modern smart systems can help you manage comfort and energy consumption. Each approach has particular strengths so you can choose what works best for you.

Scheduling

When programmable thermostats hit the market, they offered the promise of significant energy savings. The reality is that most of them installed in the U.S. have scheduling disabled or permanently overridden. Scheduling a thermostat works great when you have a stable and predictable schedule, but tends to be a bit of a burden when you have to stand in front of the control and try to edit it to be in sync with life patterns, including changing seasons, family schedules, and preferences.

Smart Phone Apps

Having a Wi-Fi connected thermostat with a smart phone app is a major step forward in convenience. Who doesn’t like not having to get up from the couch or dinner table when you need to cool off a bit more? If you leave home and forget to adjust the temperature, no problem, use the app. If you are coming home from vacation and want the house cooled back down when you arrive, no problem, use the app. One of the downsides of apps is that they’re only available when installed and registered on a phone, so it isn’t the best solution for the babysitter, a phone with a dead battery, or one that is in the other room.

Voice Control

Consumers can now pair their Wi-Fi connected thermostat with any of the most popular voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. Even better than using an app is being able to sit on the couch and say, “Alexa, make it warmer,” and the thermostat will go up 2 degrees. One downside is that you may want to adjust the system at a time when using your voice isn’t convenient, perhaps your child is asleep, the family is watching a movie, or you’re in a conference call.

Geofencing

Geofences are virtual boundaries with rules defined based on your location. For example, you might draw a 1-mile radius around your house and tell your smart comfort system to turn down your thermostat when everyone is outside of that ‘fence’ (actually, when every smart phone is outside of it). This works great in homes where the occupants all carry a smart phone, and when the home tends to be unoccupied at unpredictable times. This feature isn’t as useful for homes that have guests when the primary occupants aren’t home. (If Grandma comes over to watch the kids while you go out to dinner but your smart phone turns off the A/C as soon as you leave, she might not be as enthusiastic next time you ask.)

We know that each of these techniques have their place but none solve every need. That’s why our Nexia team works every day to continually make improvements to our full suite of solutions so they can seamlessly integrate with your home and lifestyle. In my next post, I’ll review a few more energy saving applications: learning modes and occupancy detection.

What will work best for you to help manage your comfort and energy consumption? Learn more here.