Ask the Expert: What’s so smart about smart thermostats?
Smart technology is a hot topic today and it has already made its way into our homes. “Smart Homes” are trending and smart thermostats are a big part of the trend. But what is so smart about smart thermostats? To find out, we asked Pat Agnew, FPL Program Manager for In-home Technology.
Basically, smart homes allow owners to monitor and control things like security cameras, smart lights, smart locks and – you guessed it – smart thermostats over the internet. In fact, smart thermostats are one of the leading smart home applications and some of the newer models offer built-in Alexa Voice Service that can listen to your voice commands and respond. Ask it to order groceries, read the news, and more.
A smart thermostat replaces a home’s existing thermostat, connects to Wi-Fi and can be controlled by a smart phone app. They range in price from about $100 to $250. Many are designed to be Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects, and we have a few words on that below.
Smart thermostat benefits include:
- Energy savings of about $50 a year. FPL tested both simple and sophisticated smart thermostats in South Florida single family homes and found the A/C savings for both to be the same. In South Florida, all the savings measured came from reduced cooling. Homes saved on average, 450 kWh per year or about $50. If you live in an area that uses heating, you might save more.
- Convenience. Being able to control your home’s A/C from your smart phone makes it easy to come home to comfort.
- Peace of mind. The ability to remotely monitor your homes’ A/C means you can know what’s going on at home from anywhere, anytime. This can be a great benefit for parents, frequent travelers and those who own a seasonal home.
Who are they for?
- Energy Savers. Those looking for the latest, greatest ways to save on their energy bills.
- Snowbirds. Folks who are farthest from their Florida home and who depend the most on the home’s A/C to keep their home cool and dry during their absence. These folks benefit from the ability to monitor their Florida homes’ temperature, and be sure their A/C is working.
- Gadget Geeks. For those who spend their time obsessing with the latest high-tech gizmos and trying to convince their spouses why “we” can’t live without it. Maybe saving energy, money and keeping an eye on the house from afar will help win the day?
- Busy Homeowners. For those whose hectic lifestyle causes them to leave the house wondering “did I forget to close the garage” or better yet, “did I forget to raise the thermostat”– a smart thermostat can help provide convenience and peace of mind. And even for those who want to enjoy a comfortable setting when they get home after a day at work or a day running errands, smart thermostats allow for temperature adjustments while on their way home.
What’s the latest?
Smart thermostats have been around for about five years, and they keep getting smarter. For example, the new ecobee4 thermostat has Amazon’s voice-assistant Alexa built in. Users can ask Alexa to change thermostat settings, as well as get updates on current traffic and weather – and even “Ask FPL for energy savings tips.”
A few words about installing smart thermostats
Some smart thermostats are carefully designed for DIYers. While all tools are included and installation videos help, recent research indicates that half of consumers who try to install a smart thermostat on their own end up calling a professional. A/C control wiring is unfamiliar to most of us – and we cringe at the thought of getting it wrong. Our advice to the unsure: Get smart and ask your A/C maintenance company to Do-It-For-You (DIFY).
More helpful tools for you
You can always see how adjusting your A/C affects your bill and find new ways to save by taking our Online Home Energy Survey. It works together with your personal Energy Dashboard to show you how much energy you use, down to the hour.