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Heating & Air Conditioning: More Comfort, Less Energy

In the US, heating and air conditioning account (on average) for about 40% of the total home energy budget. Careful monitoring and control of these vital home technologies is critical for comfort, energy savings and conservation. Smart home automation can help do this conveniently and economically, while reducing your carbon footprint.

Most homes today have at least a simple thermostat that turns the heat on when the room temperature drops below a pre-set limit, and then off when the desired temperature is reached. With air conditioning, the thermostat does the reverse; it turns it on when a pre-set temperature is exceeded, then off again when the room comes down to the desired temperature.

A time-based thermostat adds additional control. It allows household members to pre-set heating (and air conditioning) temperatures for different times of the day, and to vary this by the day of the week—say 68 degrees for the weekday wake-up time of 6:30 am, re-setting automatically to 62 degrees at 8:30 when everyone has left for school or work, then back to 68 at 5:00 pm for dinner and relaxation, and finally back to 62 for the sleeping hours. Weekend days can each have a different schedule, depending on the family needs and activities.

An internet-enabled, remotely-control thermostat can further increase convenience, comfort, and energy savings, by allowing you to modify the setting as needed while away from home. Example: You decide to spend an extra day or two on the ski slopes, but don’t want to waste energy while you are gone. So you use your smartphone to “call” your thermostat and push back the day and time for the resumption of normal thermostat settings. Another example: you unfortunately break your leg on the last day of skiing, and are now back at home, in traction, in bed. Still, you can use your smartphone to check the room temperature and make any needed adjustments, without leaving the bed.

New learning thermostats can even keep track of when people are in the home (or a zone, a defined area of the home) over a period of time, and then predictively adjust temperatures in future in anticipation of when the space will be occupied. This can save even more on energy bills.

For air conditioning, the principles are the same, just reversed. Example: it’s only noon, but it’s already sweltering at work, and you’re exhausted. Your boss suggests that you go home early for some quality rest, but you can’t face a hot bedroom. So you grab your smartphone and override the normal 5 pm time when your AC thermostat is programmed to step back from 78 degrees to 72, and tell it do it now! Maybe you’ll even dial it back to 68 today, for a little extra coolness.

Regulating heating and air conditioning wirelessly is a no-brainer. It optimizes energy use, saves money, and adds comfort and convenience to your daily life. This technology can even pay for itself through energy savings. How much you’ll save, and how quickly depends on the construction of your home, local climate, your own heating and cooling preferences, and the cost of energy. For more information, see Real-Life Energy Savings.