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March 2022 EnergyWise SM Tip Smart Thermostats

March 2022 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Smart Thermostats
By: Energy Efficiency Program Manager Cory Fuehrer
When was the last time your home’s thermostat was adjusted to reduce energy costs? A 2018 survey indicated that only half of Nebraskans living outside metropolitan areas were very likely to adjust their thermostat when leaving home. Considering about 50% of home energy consumption is used for heating and cooling, significant savings could be realized. The U.S. Department of Energy states that energy costs can be reduced up to 10% a year by simply turning your thermostat back by 7° to 10°F for eight hours a day. They recommend settings of 68°F in the heating season and 78°F during the cooling season when someone is home and active. When away or during sleeping hours, they suggest turning the thermostat down to 55°F in the winter and up to 85°F or higher in the summer.
Unfortunately, there are countless explanations why more people do not employ this energy-saving strategy. While some are perfectly reasonable, inconvenience no longer has to be one for homes with a smart thermostat. These energy-efficient devices work in much the same way as a traditional thermostat. However, smart thermostats connect to Wi-Fi and can be controlled via smartphone apps. Some types of smart thermostats can even learn repetitive user behaviors to decide when to heat and cool a home.
Though programmable thermostats allow some of the same automated control by entering a fixed routine of setpoints, users often override and even abandon their programs when personal schedules fall outside the norm. On the other hand, smart thermostats can change setpoints in real-time so no one has to come home to an overly cold or stifling place.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR® program concluded that homes with smart thermostats can save up to $180 per year on heating and cooling. With quality units ranging from $60 to a few hundred dollars, they quickly pay for themselves. While installing a smart thermostat may not be the right choice for those who move often, rent or seldom leave their home, most can enjoy this hassle-free way of managing home temperatures and energy use.
When shopping for a smart thermostat, start with the certified models on the ENERGY STAR® website at: https://www.energystar.gov/productfinder/product/certified-connected-thermostats/.
While there are various features to look for when choosing a smart thermostat, the importance of each will vary from buyer to buyer. Regardless of preferences, everyone should keep the following concerns in mind:
Compatibility – It’s vital to choose a thermostat this is compatible with the current HVAC system. Otherwise, homeowners can expect to spend several hundred dollars on complex compatibility work.
Price – The budget often impacts a buyer’s options, and those who do not intend to remain in a particular home for a long time may not want to invest in a more-expensive model. Fortunately, lower-cost smart thermostats are very common, popular and often just as effective as pricey models.
Ease of Use – Most smart thermostats allow users to adjust parameters and settings via a smartphone app. Others track the behaviors and patterns of tenants to formulate software-generated schedules of heating and cooling. These types of software depend on at least some user interface and interaction. That is why it is important to familiarize yourself with your preferred product’s app and system before making a final decision.
Professional Installation – Some HVAC systems cannot be easily connected to certain smart thermostats. Before choosing a product, ensure that your preferred thermostat functions with your heating and cooling system. While professional installation may add significantly to the overall cost of a smart thermostat, it may save tons of frustration and ensures your system operates as expected.
Your local electric utility has information on additional ways to efficiently use the energy they provide while keeping your home comfortable. In partnership with Nebraska Public Power District, they offer smart thermostat and other incentives to reduce the cost for many of these improvements. Visit with your local electric utility or go to www.nppd.com for additional ways you can become more EnergyWiseSM!

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