should-i-buy-smart-thermostat

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.

 

 

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How Does Your Attic’s Ventilation Affect Your Energy Bill?

Attic ventilation plays an important role in maintaining a comfortable environment in the home. In fact, problems like mold and mildew and hot attic temperatures in summer can all be offset by adequate attic ventilation.

In winter, for instance, attic vents help to remove moisture from the home. This ensures problems like mold and mildew are avoided.

Yet, in summer, the attic ventilation helps to keep attic temperatures down. And that can result in real energy cost savings.

Here’s why: The summer sun beats down on the roof of your home, pushing attic temperatures over 120 degrees. This super-hot air eventually radiates into the living space, resulting in warmer interior temperatures. Ultimately, you’ll have to run your air conditioning unit longer to offset this unwanted heat gain.

How Does Attic Ventilation Work?

If you’ve ever had to retrieve something from the attic in August, you know it gets hot up there – very hot. Fortunately, your home’s insulation prevents a lot of this heat from seeping into the home. Yet, on the hottest days of the year, insulation alone isn’t enough.

Proper ventilation helps to offset the stress that’s put on the insulation.  Basically, attic ventilation systems facilitate air circulation in the attic. Air intake and exhaust vents generate a natural flow of air – cooler air in via the intakes, warm air out via the exhaust vents – that helps to push the super-heated air up and out of the attic.

What Types of Attic Vents Are Available?

Attic vents are necessary for creating a circulation flow of air within the attic. In terms of exhaust, there is a range of options available; the most common include:

  • Power Vents: Power vents, sometimes called PAVs, resemble box vents, but they have an electric or solar-powered fan within that help to draw moisture and hot air out of the attic. The most advanced PAVs have thermostats and humidity detectors that trigger them on.
  • Ridge Vents: Ridge vents sit along the length of the roof’s horizontal ridges. An advantage: Ridge vents help to prevent hot and cool spots in the attic; creating a more even cooling effect.

What Role Do Attic Fans Play in Ventilation?

In addition to vents, your attic’s ventilation system can also benefit from fans. Yet, there are a few different types, each offer different benefits. If you want to install an attic fan, the two most common types are:

  • Whole Home Fans: A whole house fan can greatly reduce your cooling costs. Essentially, this type of fan is fitted in the attic, and they’re meant to be operated at night when temperatures have cooled. Most whole home fans are floor-mounted over a central hallway within the home. They require windows on the lower floors to be opened. When turned on, the fan draws cool air through the windows, up and into the attic, helping to push warm air out of the attic. Whole house fans energy requirements are just 10-15 percent of what you could expect from the A/C unit.
  • Attic Ventilation Fans: Attic ventilation fans are typically mounted to an exterior wall in the attic. This type of system blows hot air out of the attic, but it can have a negative effect. If the home is not properly insulated, a ventilator fan can actually draw cool air out of the home, resulting in an increased cooling load.

Improving Attic Ventilation for Cost Savings

Ultimately, improving your attic’s ventilation can have a net positive effect on your cooling bill. But attic ventilation requires a balance. Too many attic vents can cause temperature fluctuations in cold weather months, and too little venting will not do enough to dissipate heat in the summer.

The best advice: Consult with an HVAC specialist. A specialist will help you choose the right type of attic venting system for your roof, they can help you maximize your energy savings, and will ensure that the venting systems are properly placed and installed.

Take a look at some tips on proper attic ventilation from Mr. Roof.