Are “smart” thermostats really worth it? Or To EcoBee or Not to EcoBee, that is the question!

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I had a bout of eco-gadget envy this summer when I was house sitting for a friend of mine with a Nest smart thermostat.  And though I already own a programmable thermostat, I thought I would a bit of research on the benefits of “smart thermostats.”

Thermostats 101

Old-fashioned thermostats rely 100% on you, the homeowner, to turn them up or down to save energy (and money) using a dial or level. A programmable thermostat is digital and allows you to set the temperature when you are away. Though it relies on you to set it, if you do it to Energy Star recommendations and leave it, you should be good to go (i.e. saving money).  Smart thermostats like Nest eliminate any room for human error and effort altogether by learning your habits at home (watch this video).

My friends’ Nest knows when he’s close to home by the GPS on his phone. It heats up the house before he returns so it’s not freezing (or conversely, overly hot in the summer) when he arrives home from work. He’s saving money every month on his heating and cooling bill.  He also gets a easy-to-read email on his savings and how he compares to other nesters:

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How do “smart” thermostats work?

Smart thermostats:

·      Learn your behaviors

·      Turn off when you’re not at home

·      Allow you to control your heating and cooling remotely

·      Adjust themselves based on ambient or surrounding conditions

EcoBees take it a step further and:

·      Use motion sensors to decide which rooms are occupied and which are not

·      Read the temperature in each room (to increase your comfort)

Is it worth the extra cost?

The short answer is YES! Of course it depends, but  check out your potential dollar savings on this smart thermostat guide we found! 

If I didn’t already own a programmable thermostat, according to the Ecobee and Nest websites I stand to save 10-20% on energy bills with a smart thermostat.  Conservatively, let’s call that $120 a year (since I spend about $1,200/yr on heating and cooling for my 2,000 sq foot townhome).  I’m being conservative, since the EPA’s Energy Star Program concludes that homes using a programmable or smart thermostat stand to save $180 annually.

The cost of a new Ecobee and Nest is around $250.00.  When I subtract the Charlottesville City Gas Customer $100 rebate and my annual energy savings, I’m looking at spending only $30 on this thermostat for the entire first year!  But wait! EcoBee also sells refurbished EcoBees for about $150 bucks! That definitely sweetens the deal!

Stay tuned in future blogs for how this shakes out. 

 

Sources:

“What Can a Smart Thermostat Do that Mine Can’t Already Do?” by Alan Henry, Lifehacker https://lifehacker.com/what-can-a-smart-thermostat-do-that-mine-can-t-already-472975733.  Accessed 2/14/17.

Nest Community Forum https://www.nest-community.com/s/ Accessed 2/8/17.

Website: https://www.ecobee.com/savings/ Accessed 2/8/17.