One of the great things about the modern smart home is the multitude of energy saving possibilities it affords. Today I explore this truth with a look at smart heating devices for home energy savings—or Smart Thermostats. I’ll consider just what exactly smart thermostats are, discuss several of their key features and benefits, and hopefully help you to consider whether or not a smart heating system might be beneficial to you and your home. With fall now upon us and winter just around the corner, this is the time to consider smart energy savings! Read on for full details.
What Is Smart Heating?
Smart heating is the intersection between home automation and a home’s standard heating and cooling system. It takes the form of the smart thermostat, and it can save you lots of money. We all know what a standard thermostat is and what it does. Smart thermostats are basically the same—only much better! This is because smart thermostats do a variety of useful things that regular thermostats simply can’t do, leading not only to the enjoyment of many great conveniences for users, but also to the potential for significant cost savings on those pesky energy bills.
Since some studies suggest that heating and cooling could account for up to 50% of a home’s annual energy costs, there’s considerable room for savings to add up with the right thermostat in place. And then there are the conveniences of smart thermostats, such as the ability to control your heating and cooling remotely (via app) and compatibility with the major smart voice assistants (like Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa).
Let’s consider a few of these benefits in more detail.
Smart Thermostat Features & Benefits
When it comes to smart thermostats, there’s no shortage of amazing features to look for. The first thing you need to know, however, is that not all thermostats are created equally, and not all thermostats will offer exactly the same features. For this reason, research is your new best friend. In fact, doing some research before making your ultimate decision is an absolute must. With this in mind, a few of the key features to look for in a smart thermostat are as follows:
- Easy Installation – Many smart thermostats today are noted for their ease of installation. In fact, Nest claims that their extremely popular Wi-Fi Smart Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation (shown below, left) is as easy to install as a typical light fixture, taking a mere 30 minutes to get fully up and running.
- Programmability – Smart thermostats are also fully programmable. This includes programming for things like when they will run, what temperatures they will run at, and even under what conditions they will operate. In fact, thermostats such as the Nest unit (mentioned above) are able to program themselves (more on that later)!
- App-Based Control – One of the hallmarks of smart home technology—and smart heating is no exception, is app-based control. This means that if you have a compatible Android or iOS based smart phone, you’re going to be able to control your smart thermostat via a special, dedicated app that you can freely download and use. App control also provides remote monitoring of your system when you’re away from home, the ability to track your thermostat’s energy usage (including providing graphic visualization of your energy consumption in the form of graphs, charts, and other useful information, rather than just raw data), and a whole lot more besides!
- Voice Control – If you have one of the popular smart voice assistants mentioned earlier, you’ll be able to verbally tell your thermostat what to do. For instance, you might say something (to your Google Home unit) along the lines of “Hey Google, set the heat to 66 degrees” (or something similar), and your wish is your voice assistant’s command.
- The “Weather Aware” Feature – Some smart thermostats have the ability to monitor your local weather forecast and conditions via the Internet and adjust the temperature accordingly. Nest calls this feature Weather Aware, and it not only has the potential to save you big bucks on your home heating bill (by automatically adjusting your temperature down when the weather warms up), but it could also help you to avoid disaster. Consider, for instance, a scenario in which your water pipes could freeze and burst while you are away on vacation. A feature like Weather Aware is able to crank your heat to an appropriate temperature to prevent this disaster from happening without you ever even having to know that you narrowly avoided catastrophe. What’s more, if your thermostat is monitoring the weather and temperatures and adjusting itself accordingly, that’s one less thing that you have to worry about!
- Compatibility with Other Smart Products & Ecosystems – A frequent feature of smart thermostats is the ability to work with other smart home products and smart home ecosystems like Apple HomeKit. The implications of such a system are far greater than I can adequately explain in a simple paragraph, but just know that when your smart home devices are capable of talking to each other, the possibilities for how you and your family can benefit are endless. Just one such example is when your Nest Protect Wi-Fi Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm (shown above, right) detects either of the problems it’s looking for and then has the ability to warn you through your other smart devices (for instance, flashing your smart lights) and take action (such as shutting down your smart thermostat in the event of a carbon monoxide leak).
- Smart Learning Capabilities – Remember when I said that there would be more on ‘programmability’ later? Well, this is it. Many of today’s top smart thermostats actually have the ability to learn your home heating and cooling preferences over time simply by monitoring your use of the system and learning your regular usage habits and preferences. These devices actually anticipate your needs, thus creating the huge potential for ongoing energy savings simply by making regular temperature adjustments for you. It is claimed that you can achieve up to 20% cost savings on your home heating bills due to these intuitive systems.
Once again, the features discussed here are not necessarily present in every available smart thermostat, so doing your research is a must. Additionally, the features discussed here do not constitute a complete and comprehensive list of all the excellent features of the modern smart thermostat. Once again, research is your friend!
Choosing Your Brand and Model
When it comes to choosing your own smart thermostat, there’s certainly a lot to consider. For one thing, there are several different products available for you to choose among, including models from some of the biggest brands in the space, like Nest and Honeywell, as well as those from smaller brands like Sinopé and MYSA.
Second, the decision of which smart thermostat is right for you should not be made in a vacuum. After all, you’ve got to think about your broader smart home system and which model(s) might be compatible with your other existing smart home products or planned future acquisitions. Of course, product compatibility is expanding at an incredible rate these days, and it’s therefore not very likely to present much of an issue. But even so, a little bit of research really goes a long way, and you do want to make an optimal decision in the end.
My advice? I cannot overstate this—do lots of research! There are numerous articles that could help you to avoid common mistakes right here on the Best Buy Canada blog, and there’s plenty of other information available on the Smart Home Hub of the Best Buy Canada website. With just a little bit of an effort, you too can enjoy all of the amazing benefits of smart heating and energy savings this fall and winter.