Many new homes are being installed with smart thermostats – ones that connect to your in-home WIFI network, work with your smartphone, and learn your habits to better adjust your thermostat settings and supposedly save you money. And they CAN save you money in many – but not all – instances.
If you are retrofitting your existing home with a smart thermostat, you will want to look at the cost of the thermostat versus the expected savings you can achieve with a smart thermostat. And the expected savings depends on many factors, including your work and living habits, your diligence about programming your existing thermostat, and the cost of energy. If you already program your thermostat to adjust settings based on your lifestyle – changing temperature at night versus the day, or changing when you leave for work and adjusting the temperature again when you return – then you won’t see nearly as much energy savings as say someone who just sets their thermostat at one setting and leaves it there forever.
In our case, Kay and I often work from home. We seldom have a set schedule so I generally program our thermostat for one temperature during the day and another at night. When we leave town I just turn down – or up – the temperature, depending on the season. In our case we probably would not see nearly as much savings as say someone that worked away from the home during the day, or spent days traveling away from home each week.
In addition, we have two HVAC systems in our house, so we would need to purchase and program two smart thermostats, increasing our cost substantially. I am not yet convincing we would save the $400 or so that the thermostats would cost us to purchase in a reasonable time.
What a smart thermostat DOES offer is convenience – the convenience of having an internet connected home with the ability to control systems from a smart phone. It would certainly be nice to see our HVAC system usage on our phone, be able to make changes from our desktop or iPad, and adjust settings while we were away for a day or two. Some smart thermostats even do location-based heating and cooling, so if we were gone for the day our thermostat would know this based on our phone location, and could adjust the temperature when it sensed we were returning home. This would be cool for techies like me, but I am not sure the energy savings would offset the purchase costs.
Of course sometimes we make purchases based on wants and not needs. If you WANT a smart home with an internet-connected heating and cooling system, then by all means get it! There are some really advanced systems out there. But if you are primarily concerned about energy savings, then you should take a look at your current living patterns, your ability to program your existing thermostat, and the savings you can expect from a smart thermostat. In our case, we are going to stick with our digital programmable thermostats for now, at least until the cost drops lower on the smart thermostats.