In a digital world full of smart gadgets and tools, it’s hard to know which ones are best for you, your budget, and the environment. But when the cold winter months roll in, you can be sure that a smart thermostat will do the trick. Do smart thermostats save money? Are they sustainable all year round? Can they really enable you to ditch the blankets and the high utilities payments in the winter? Let’s find out.
A traditional thermostat uses a thermometer to measure the air and send feedback to your HVAC system, which then adjusts to be warmer or cooler depending on your set temperature. Some thermostats come with remotes, but many require you to manually adjust the temperature.
A smart thermostat takes this process to the next level. It’s a wirelessly connected gadget that works on a highly customizable set of temperatures you control based on your schedule and other variables. If you won’t be home from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, for example, your smart thermostat can cool the temperature when you’re away and then warm it up right before you get home by responding to a set of wireless temperature sensors. It’s a hands-free tool that doesn’t wait until you’re too frosty—it sends a signal directly to your HVAC system to keep you at the perfect temperature to match your needs and calendar.
Yeah, but are smart thermostats actually smart? Yes, they are.
Unlike traditional programmable thermostats, smart thermostats can be reprogrammed from anywhere and can learn your patterns to anticipate your needs. Many also include geofencing technology, so they can sense your phone within a distance of your home and have your house ready for you when you return.
Models such as the Ecobee, the Emerson Sensi, and the Honeywell Lyric are also compatible with home assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, enabling you to change the temperature with a simple voice command. And when you link your thermostat with other smart devices, such as blinds, lights, and TVs, via your home assistant, you can set the perfect ambience for work or play.
Smart thermostats cut down on the usage of finite resources and reduce the amount of fossil-fuels your house emits by regulating your heating and cooling when you’re not around to enjoy it.
Do your electric and gas bills make you want to cry each month? If so, you can probably thank your HVAC system. The average cost of electricity in the U.S. is 13.08 cents per kilowatt hour, ChooseEnergy notes, but that number gets in the 20+ cents range in some states. The average home uses nearly 11,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
What do all these numbers add up to? Around $1,440 per year in electricity bills.
And in states with harsh winters, those numbers can get even higher. Mass.gov notes that Massachusetts residents can expect to pay upwards of $2,100 in HVAC costs, depending on the heating system.
Here’s where smart thermostats can play a huge role in saving you money. They make sure your home is using only the resources it needs when it needs them, reducing the cost of heating fuel or electricity, as well as wear and tear on your HVAC units and supporting systems. With a smart thermostat, you’ll never leave the furnace running unnecessarily when you’re out of town again.
Nest, one of the most popular brands of smart thermostats, estimates that their products save users around 10 to 12% of heating usage each year—major savings! Many utility companies have embraced these tools, too, making their programs compatible with top home assistant brands, and even offering cash rebates for customers who make the switch.
For the best results and biggest savings, look for an ENERGY STAR-certified model, such as the Ecobee 3, which also doubles as a smart light and offers voice assistant technology.
Smart thermostats aren’t just good for your wallet. They’re also good for the environment. Each year, 70 million homes and buildings generate 560 million tons of carbon dioxide by burning gas, oil, or propane, the Rocky Mountain Institute reports. That’s a massive amount of fossil-fuel usage!
Smart thermostats cut down on the usage of finite resources and reduce the amount of fossil-fuels your house emits by regulating your heating and cooling when you’re not around to enjoy it. Some brands, such as Ecobee, even connect your personal energy savings to community savings through opt-in programs that allow the company to adjust your temperature based on spikes in community electricity use. These programs help communities collectively save money and make an impact on climate change.
When it comes to carbon emissions through your HVAC systems, a few temperature degrees can make a big difference.
While smart thermostats take much of the guesswork out of maintaining a comfortable temperature in your home, they’re only as effective as your weatherproofing. If your home isn’t energy-efficient, turning up or down the thermostat is only going to go so far! To ensure that you aren’t using more heating fuel or electricity than you should, check your home for leaks around windows and doors, and use insulating coverings, if needed.
Will products like Nest and Ecobee make a significant impact on your budget this year? It depends. If you don’t alter your schedule much, you’ll see your utilities bill go down. But those who have the most opportunity to save are those of us with hectic, unpredictable schedules and who need the kind of last-minute remote adjustments that these connected thermostats provide. Regardless of what your weekly calendar looks like, switching to a smart thermostat this winter can make a big impact on your wallet and the planet.