IoT and HVAC Technology: Should I Buy a Smart Thermostat?
Your home’s HVAC system relies on various components to keep the home feeling comfortable throughout the year, and one of the most important is the thermostat. Without a proper thermostat, your air conditioner would run and run, and never know when to turn off.
That’s what the thermostat helps to do; it regulates your HVAC system. But how does it do that?
In the simplest terms, a thermostat for home heating and cooling works like a thermometer. It gauges the interior temperature of your home. Yet, the thermostat also serves the function of telling your heating or cooling system when to turn off. Thermostats are hardwired to the HVAC unit’s airhandling system or furnace. Therefore, you select a temperature, and when the air conditioning system has lowered temperatures to that point, the HVAC system cycles off.
Thermostats have come a long way in the last decade. Today, smart thermostats have become the norm, replacing standard programmable thermostats. Smart thermostats offer a number of benefits for homeowners, including web and mobile integration, sensor technology and mobile programming, and by optimizing your home’s heating and cooling, smart thermostats have the ability to help reduce your HVAC costs.
Smart Thermostats vs Programmable Thermostats
In the last decade, programmable thermostats have become commonplace in modern HVAC systems. Essentially, a programmable thermostat allows homeowners to set perimeters for the unit. For instance, you might program in different settings during the evening or while you’re away from work.
You can also add in preset preferences for the thermostat, i.e. an away setting. Smart thermostats, on the other hand, are like programmable thermostats on steroids; they add in a range of advanced capabilities.
Most importantly, a smart thermostat, like many home automation technologies, can be accessed via the web. A smart thermostat connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and homeowners can then access the thermostat via a mobile app or desktop app, which has been connected to the device. Therefore, you could be on vacation in Fuji, but you’d still have the ability to turn off, raise or lower your thermostat settings. Yet, in addition to remote connectivity, smart thermostats offer a range of additional features.
Key Benefits of Smart Thermostats
A smart thermostat for home heating and cooling actually “learns” about the environment around it. Therefore, it can automate setting changes, which can help you lower your home HVAC costs. A few beneficial features include:
- Algorithmic learning: Smart thermostats “learn” about your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjust settings. For example, a smart thermostat might learn you’ve changed your schedule, heading into work an hour later, and revise its away-mode scheduling accordingly.
- Reporting: With smart thermostats, you can access real-time and historical data about your system. For example, a smart thermostat allows you to view real-time energy consumption estimates, as well as monthly, yearly or quarterly data. Want to see how much energy you used last winter? That data is readily available from your thermostat’s dashboard.
- Remote Sensing + Geofencing: Most smart thermostats have advanced sensors that can detect when you’re in the home. If you get home early from work or stay home sick, the thermostat will adjust accordingly. Additionally, the smart thermostat offers geo-fencing capabilities, meaning it can sense how close your smartphone is to the home. Therefore, you might set a preference to switch from home to away mode if your phone was more than 7 miles from the thermostat. That way, if you’ll be away for longer (signalled by being 7 miles or more from home), your thermostat can adjust.
- Auto Environmental Adjustments: Is today a little more humid than usual? Are you in the middle of a winter cold snap? In these types of situations, you’d likely adjust your thermostat settings manually. Smart thermostats, though, have the ability to detect these variations and adjust settings automatically. This can help you avoid having to crank the thermostat in any of these situations, which can increase run costs.
- Home Automation Integration: Many of today’s smart thermostats can be integrated with other home automation systems, like automated lighting or appliance systems. Therefore, all of your home automation tools can be accessed from the same dashboard.
Is a Smart Thermostat Worth It?
Standard thermostat units are usually reasonably priced. Smart thermostats, on the other hand, do increase upfront costs. That certainly might discourage some homeowners, but remember, they can help you save on heating and cooling costs.
How exactly do they cut costs? By learning about your preferences, Nest thermostats can limit the run time of your HVAC systems. For example, the makers of the Nest thermostat estimate that heating savings are about 10-12% and cooling savings are about 15% compared to a standard programmable unit.
Additionally, you receive more control, with the ability to the access the system from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection. And you can completely customize your preferences. Therefore, the customizability and the cost savings are the two biggest reasons why you might consider a smart thermostat.