5 Things You Can Do With a Smart Thermostat

You may have noticed the sleek, high-tech design of a smart thermostat on the wall of a neighbor’s house or on display at a big box retailer. Or you may even have one of these smart home devices yourself. However, you may not be aware of the extent of their energy-saving capabilities.

While smart thermostats can quickly improve the comfort and convenience of a home, they also open the door to a number of new ways to save energy, and many of these opportunities are unknown and underutilized even by people who have had a smart thermostat in their home for years.

Let's look at five things you can do with a smart thermostat:

1. Optimize your home’s heating and cooling.

Space heating and cooling accounts for about half of a home’s energy usage, and according to ENERGY STAR, the smart thermostat might be the single “best candidate to save energy in your home”. By heating and cooling your home at the optimal times, a smart thermostat can save you eight percent or more on your energy bills, depending on the size of your home, the weather in your area and other factors.

Smart thermostats that fall into the “learning” category, which includes higher-end Nest and ecobee models, automatically set heating and cooling schedules based on when you tend to be home and how you’ve used the thermostat over time. While there are lots of things you can do with a smart thermostat, its core functions already make it an ideal energy-saving device.

2. Get useful data about your HVAC’s performance.

Traditional, non-smart thermostats provide little to no information about your HVAC system’s performance and energy usage. But smart thermostats “offer much more sophisticated feedback”, according to How-To Geek. On your thermostat’s app or web portal, you can often see charts and data on your energy usage, recent weather, estimated savings and more.

You can then compare this info with any changes you've made around your home, such as installing new blinds or sealing gaps around your windows and doors. You can also see if higher-than-average usage is due to weather that week or if your HVAC system is on the fritz or needs routine maintenance.

3. Participate in programs to earn some extra cash.

One of the major challenges of the modern power grid is dealing with times of high demand. For example, in the late afternoon when people come home from work or during times of extremely hot weather, electricity usage spikes. This can be costly and, in some instances, can threaten the stability of the grid. To deal these spikes in demand, power companies have been introducing new programs that we can collectively call “demand response”, though they’ll typically have names like “Peak Time Savings” or “Peak Reduction Program”.

This is a wide range of programs, and you don’t need a smart thermostat to participate in all of them. However, some require smart thermostats. By participating, you can do your part to stabilize the grid, and you can usually earn a few bucks as a result. Power companies will sometimes offer significant discounts – or even free smart thermostats – if you agree to enroll in this type of program.

4. Lower your energy usage when you’re away from home.

When you’re not at home, you can adjust the temperature of your home to save energy, and with a smart thermostat, there are a few ways to easily do this. First, some smart thermostats have occupancy sensors, and if they sense that you’re not home, your thermostat will switch to away mode. There’s also geofencing that relies on your phone to know when you’re home, away or even on your way back home.

Additionally, smart thermostats typically include a smart schedule feature that How-To Geek describes as “a programmable thermostat on steroids that programs itself”. With this feature,  your thermostat will monitor how you use your home – including when you come and go, what temperatures you tend to prefer and more – and handle everything for you.

5. Connect it to smart blinds and other smart home devices.

Like smart thermostats, smart blinds can automatically adjust based on your habits and maximize energy savings. As long as you check the compatibility of your smart thermostat and smart blinds, they can also work together to achieve even greater savings and comfort. There are now even smart vent covers that can work with your smart thermostat to direct hot or cool air to the rooms that need it the most.

Smart thermostats can also connect with many smart speakers or smart home hubs (as long as you check compatibility before purchasing). This will allow you to change the temperature or other settings with voice commands. You’ll also have all of your smart home devices in one central portal and can quickly get an overview of your home.

These are just a few of the things that you can do with a smart thermostat. Depending on the specific model you have and the programs available from your power company, there’s likely an array of other energy-saving options for you. If you don’t have one of these devices yet but are now considering it, be sure to check first with your power company – many now offer substantial rebates to help you get one of these powerful devices in your home.

Looking for additional steps you can take to be more energy efficient around your home? Read our Ways to Save on Energy fact sheets here!

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