Your smart thermostat can do more than you expect
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If you're well on your way to making your home a smart home, then you've probably looked into setting up a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats are a valuable tool—not only can you alter your home's temperature from afar, but using one can actually save you cash.
While modern thermostats are sleek and easy to use, that wasn't always the case—in fact, the first attempt at a thermostat back in the early 1600s was complicated and clunky. Efforts were made by others as the centuries passed, and dial thermostats, which are still being used in homes, came around in the '50s. Digital programmable thermostats showed up in the '80s, allowing users to set different temperatures depending on the time of the day and the day of the week.
Despite the additional features of programmable thermostats, many people who have these in their homes don't bother messing with the settings. A 2017 study from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, for example, showed that only 18% of people programmed their thermostat during the summer, while 45% simply set it at a single temperature and left it that way. In fact, more people manually adjust their thermostat at night than actually program their thermostats.
This means that aside from a digital display, a programmable thermostat doesn't get used much differently than those old-timey dial thermostats. It also means those who use them without enabling the programming functions save no money at all.
Smart thermostats, on the other hand, make schedule setting a breeze. You don't have to fiddle with the thermostat itself once it's installed, which can remove some of the worry or stress that often accompanies messing around with a wired-in device. Some smart thermostats, like the Nest, actually learn your temperature preferences over time and create a schedule for you.
Since a smart thermostat works the same as a dial or programmable one as far as how it's wired into your home, it doesn't use energy more efficiently nor inherently save you money. Instead, it saves you money by means of a schedule, which can ease heating and cooling costs while keeping your home's environment comfortable.
For example, if your house is empty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday, you can schedule your thermostat temperature up or down (depending on the weather) so your heating and cooling system isn't working hard when nobody is home. An hour or so before people start coming home, your set schedule will return your thermostat to your preferred temperature, ensuring you and your family have a comfortable house to come home to.
While you can do this manually, this means whoever gets home first and adjusts the thermostat will have to wait for the house to heat back up or cool down. Scheduling a smart thermostat makes this process automatic and comfortable—you won't even know the indoor temp wasn't ideal before you got there.
Actual cost savings will vary based on a number of factors, such as home layout and personal preferences, but users can still expect to see something. Ecobee's investigation of energy cost savings found that users of their smart thermostats could save up to 23% on their heating and cooling costs. Google Nest conducted a similar study, finding the range of cost savings was anywhere from 10% to 15%.
Once your new smart thermostat is installed, take plenty of time and get to know its app so you can flex the power of its individual offerings. Often with just a few presses of a button, you'll get what you need out of your new device.
For example, if you have an Ecobee thermostat installed, simply navigate to the schedule tab via the main menu, and days of the week will pop up. You can set and adjust the schedule there based on your daily schedule. If you want your house to begin heating up a half hour before you get out of bed, you may set it to one time Monday through Friday, and a slightly later time on the weekends.
In the long run, you should see the cost savings from only heating or cooling your home when you really need to.
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