How Are Smart Thermostats Making Homes Greener?

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When people look at green home options to make their abodes more sustainable, they often explore smart thermostat options. They’re accessible, reasonably priced, and can usually help households save money.

According to one source, they can reduce heating bills by up to 12% and cooling expenses by as much as 15%, although the figures vary. That’s one reason why smart thermostats are particularly appealing to cost-conscious consumers.

However, they’re also extremely convenient. A person might be relaxing on the couch and realize they want to change the temperature in their home. A smart thermostat lets them do that without getting up. Instead, they can use an app to adjust the settings. Similarly, having these types of temperature controls allows homeowners to specify the exact temperature they want.

A smart thermostat could also be helpful for people with disabilities. Most of the leading brands have accompanying voice assistant skills. Then, a person could say a command to alter the thermostat rather than using an app or making manual adjustments.

Cutting Emissions and Wasted Heat

Many people want to have a green home, but they’re unsure where to start. Installing a smart thermostat could be a great starting point.

A study in the United Kingdom market by Heating Wise indicated that smart thermostats could reduce household emissions and excessive energy use. They concluded that part of the energy savings come from how smart thermostats keep temperatures consistent in a home. They eliminate the need for the heating system to continually run throughout the day.

Additionally, the study found that having a smart thermostat helps people avoid heating empty homes, which wastes unnecessary energy. Some smart thermostats even have occupancy sensors, so they can detect if people are home or in particular rooms.

Many homes in the United Kingdom use natural gas for heating. However, the study showed that when people have smart thermostats, those devices can help minimize the so-called fugitive greenhouse gases caused by leaks and irregular natural gas emissions. Those reportedly account for approximately 4% of the world’s greenhouse gases.

A person may find that one of the reasons they get good results from a smart thermostat is that it helps them break bad habits they didn’t realize they had. Perhaps that individual frequently leaves the house for hours and doesn’t think about whether the heat’s left on while they’re away. Having a smart thermostat can help them only heat or cool the residence when they’re home. That’s better for the planet and will reduce bills.

Appealing to People Looking for New Places to Live

People consider a wide range of aspects before moving to new places. They often research things like hospitals, schools, crime rates, cultural offerings, and job markets before taking the plunge. However, many individuals are also thinking about the impact that homes have on the environment.

According to one survey about millennials’ home preferences, 83% of respondents felt concerned about the impact of home construction on the environment. However, only 16% of those polled said they’d be willing to pay more for eco-friendly residences. Fortunately, having a smart thermostat is a practical way to promote sustainability without making major investments in green technology. The advertisements for many newly built apartment complexes often mention smart tech as a selling point.

Florida’s iApartments is a Tampa-based company specializing in adding smart thermostats and other connected technologies to multifamily housing complexes. More specifically, people from the business work with property owners  to determine the most appropriate additions for the residences. The company provided data showing that only 2% of apartment buildings have smart home technology. That suggests there’s plenty of room for growth.

However, another study found that Florida is among the U.S. states with the most homes for sale that feature smart technology. Researchers analyzed Zillow listings to gauge the popularity of such amenities. Florida had 2,242 listings mentioning smart home technology. Conversely, there were only eight in Alaska.

However, smart home technology appeals to young renters, too. Research indicated that 62% of the Gen Z segment surveyed considered it a factor in deciding where to live. It’s important to clarify that having a smart thermostat does not necessarily equal having a green home. However, it’s a good starting gadget that can encourage people to start making their homes more sustainable.

Reducing Resource Usage

Reducing resource dependence is a significant part of living in a green home. It’s not feasible for most people to live off the grid or take other massive steps to cut their usage. However, installing a smart thermostat is a much more accessible option that most people find they’re willing to do.

At the utility provider level, decision-makers support investments in renewable energy sources. Solar power is one of the most popular options. It has had an annual growth rate of more than 42% since 2000. Efforts are even underway to turn roadways into solar power generators.

However, smart thermostats can help people reduce how much electricity they use, even if the power sources are non-renewable. One study investigated the benefits of using a smart thermostat with zone-based occupancy sensors to minimize electricity usage. In such cases, a household could keep certain parts of the home warmer or cooler to maximize comfort without wasting energy.

More specifically, the investigation concluded that the setup enabled energy savings of 37.9%, equalling 496 kilowatt-hours during the study period. Researchers also calculated the estimated annual kilowatt-hours saved as 5,208 kilowatt-hours, or 43.6% better than before having the smart thermostat.

Some smart thermostats learn households’ energy habits. The gadgets then recommend an energy-efficient temperature setting based on those trends. That way, people can save energy without guesswork.

Increasing Energy Usage Consciousness

Many people can probably recall having their parents remind them to turn off the lights before leaving a room. However, without that ongoing feedback, it’s often difficult for adults to get in the habit of doing things to curb their energy usage.

A handy feature of many smart thermostats is a graph or dashboard showing how someone’s energy usage changes over time. Some models also give people helpful recommendations for sparking positive trends.

Fannie Mae conducted a two-year study of people with very-low, low, and moderate incomes who had received mortgages. Some of the participants received smart thermostats since the goal of the investigation was to see what changes, if any, those gadgets caused in people’s behaviors.

One of the questions posed to people who installed smart thermostats was whether doing so made them more aware of their energy usage. Approximately one-quarter of the respondents reported that they were previously only aware of it occasionally, but the smart thermostat made them always pay attention to their energy consumption.

The research also showed that nearly 70% of those polled changed their habits to save more energy. It’s often hard to know which behaviors will have the biggest impact on energy savings without data. Fortunately, smart thermostats often provide the details needed to help people make actionable and beneficial shifts in how they live.

Offering a Potential Decarbonization Strategy

Government leaders worldwide have released ambitious decarbonization plans, and they have various ideas about how to reach the proposed goals. Smart thermostats alone won’t enable approaching the milestones, but a study suggests they could help.

It examined how the gadgets could contribute to the European Union’s goal of getting a 55% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. The research took data from more than 1 million smart thermostats in European homes. The results indicated they caused an average of 22% in energy savings per residence.

The study also indicated that, if all homes in Europe had smart thermostats, the gadgets would collectively cause a 4.75% reduction in total carbon emissions. Another takeaway from the research was that this approach would cost €40 billion, or 6.67% of the budget for the European Green Deal to help reach the climate targets. However, it would cost substantially more to get comparable emissions reductions through other infrastructure improvements.

The next most economical change was to install heat pumps, but that would cost €432 billion. The researchers confirmed that smart thermostats were unique among all the options studied in that they provided people with consistent money-saving returns while reducing their carbon footprints.

Of course, there would need to be a significant and coordinated effort to encourage all property owners in the European Union to switch to smart thermostats. Offering discounts or similar perks could be enough to convince some people who are still on the fence.

Making Smart Thermostats More Attractive to Europeans

A different study surveyed people from five European nations to determine which factors would make them more willing to switch to smart thermostats. One of the study observations showed that public or private subsidies would compel people to adopt them. However, another finding was that people have privacy concerns, including how their data gets processed and what happens to it.

The researchers admitted that the data privacy fear was an irrational barrier to adoption, given how readily people download smartphone apps that collect and use data about them. Nonetheless, they suggested that manufacturers increase transparency about why their smart thermostats collect data.

Another finding was that smart thermostat credibility rises among the public when energy experts and purchasing advisors recommend using them. That suggests the previous trust in an entity about other matters could influence people to buy smart thermostats, too.

These conclusions are reminders that even when an individual is eager to live in a green home, some hesitations may remain. When decision-makers know more about those, it’s easier to dispel those obstacles and provide helpful clarifications.

Showing the Possible Payoffs of Other Energy-Saving Methods

Researchers also learned that studying smart thermostat data could help homeowners see how much money they could save by upgrading their insulation. They created a graph to track how well a house held heat and the rate at which it cooled down when the heat was off.

They used data from a smart thermostat’s accompanying sensors in particular rooms of the home. The information associated with how quickly a house cools with the heat off and how substantially it warms up with the heater running allows calculating a metric for the home’s acceptable heat loss rate. Cooling down too quickly due to colder outdoor temperatures could indicate there’s insufficient insulation or weak seals on windows and doors.

The research team clarified that people would get the most valuable results if they compared the data from their homes with how well those residences should hold heat based on things like their sizes and the local climate. Homeowners could also use the data to learn how quickly a home will cool based on every one-degree difference between its interior and outside temperature.

Bringing Energy-Efficient Enhancements to Older Homes

The results of a German study focusing on older residences indicated that smart thermostat usage could bring gains in those cases, too. The team explored the effects of smart thermostats in single-family homes of approximately 1,367 square feet built between 1949 and 1978. The data indicated that if those abodes got energy savings of  5.7%, they would recoup the thermostat investment within a decade.

The payback timeframe was similar for 688-square-foot apartments built in the same period. However, those units could achieve energy savings of 7.7%.

The research also showed other circumstances that helped people in older homes maximize their energy savings. More specifically, in poorly insulated residences, the energy-saving potential was higher than in locations with better insulation.

Additionally, anyone away from home for large parts of the day could get the best energy savings. They can lower the temperature when leaving and set up an automation to raise it when they return home.

A Smart Thermostat Is a Practical Part of a Green Home

There’s no guaranteed path to a greener lifestyle. However, these examples show why a smart thermostat could be a fantastic starting point for business leaders and eco-conscious homeowners.

Emily Newton

Emily Newton is a technical and industrial journalist. She regularly covers stories about how technology is changing the industrial sector.

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