This piece was originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of electroindustry.
Zijun Tong, Program Manager, NEMA
When it comes to modern consumer digital technologies, the first few things that come to mind might be Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google Home. People rarely think of thermostats, although they are quietly serving everyone in the background. The technology related to thermostats has evolved from manually setting a cooling or heating point with a mechanical lever to a computerized thermostat that improves the user experience.
Two types of thermostats are connected thermostats and smart thermostats, though those terms are often used interchangeably. A smart thermostat is a connected thermostat that can learn an occupant’s behavior over time, while a connected thermostat may not be a smart one. The term “connected” generally means a device is hooked up to the internet and can transmit data or be controlled remotely.
A thermostat is a control system that regulates the air temperature in a room. Since about 48 percent of all energy consumption in American homes is a result of cooling and heating, thermostats play an important role in helping homes become more energy efficient.
A thermostat that is smart and connected can monitor and learn from your daily routine and thus help reduce energy consumption. It is like having a personal assistant that understands your needs and adjusts to your comfort. Although actual energy savings depend on many factors, studies have found that a connected thermostat that is smart can help save 10 to 12 percent on heating and 15 percent on cooling.
Since it is connected, it gives you the ability to remotely control the temperature in your room. For instance, you may be with a friend at a party and with the remote access feature, you are able to adjust the thermostat down. If you adjust the temperature on a particular weekday repeatedly, the thermostat will learn the behavior and adjust accordingly when that weekday comes.
Smart thermostats that learn occupants’ behavior make use of algorithms to optimize HVAC settings for occupants and adapt to their lifestyle. They also have features such as geofencing to improve energy efficiency. Geofencing uses a GPS system to know if an occupant is within the vicinity of his or her home. Once notified that the user is close to home, the thermostat activates the HVAC system.
As thermostats become more connected and intelligent, they will become an integral part of a home automation ecosystem. ei