A Smarter Thermostat To Save Energy

Nov 29, 2012

About half of the energy you use comes from heating and cooling your home. So, what if a smart thermostat could help you use less? An energy innovation can help you change your thermostat even if you’re miles away from home.

The programmable Nest Learning Thermostat connects to wifi so that you can access it remotely from your smartphone or tablet.
Credit Northwest Public Radio

Smartphone applications are quickly changing how some people program their TVs or pay their bills. Now, a new innovation could help you save energy by remotely programming your thermostat.

Susan Gillin is with Chelan County Public Utility District in Central Washington. She says with smart thermostats, people don’t have to think about saving energy.

“So if you’re the kind of person who forgets to turn your heat down when you leave the house, or you don’t like to monkey with settings, then the Nest will do it for you.”

This programmable Nest Learning Thermostat was designed by former Apple executive and iPod designer Tony Fadell. And it’s generating a lot of buzz – from The New York Times to Bloomberg News.

The thermostat figures out your habits. It connects to Wi-Fi so that you can access it remotely from your smartphone or tablet.

“It’s a remote control for your thermostat," says Kari Sorenson. She’s testing out the thermostat for her local utility. Sorenson won the thermostat in a Facebook contest last month.

“The funny thing is when I first got this, when I’d walk by, I would touch it because I would want to see what it was doing. I did that for the first day or so, and then as I would get close to it, it would automatically come on because it’s like, ‘Well, here she comes again. I know she’s gonna want to take a look at it.’”

Through the internet connection, the thermostat responds to weather service data so it knows when a cold front or heat wave is coming. And it uses this information to balance your home’s inside temperature based on what’s happening outside – to keep you comfortable.

“So it’s one of those smart learning things that it does," Sorenson says.

Before, Sorenson had a non-programmable thermostat she kept at a steady temperature. Now she says she has fun comparing each day’s savings on her iPad.

The application shows a bar graph for every day. A detailed image shows what times the furnace turned on and if Sorenson saved energy. That’s when a green leaf pops up.

“It’s just so exciting to see the leaf," Sorenson says. "I know I’m doing something right.”

And now that she knows when she’s saving energy, Sorenson says she is changing the way she thinks about it. Soon she’ll move on to another energy-saving project: new insulation.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio