Smart Thermostats Just Got Smarter

You’ve sealed your windows and doors for winter. You’ve switched to energy efficient light bulbs. You ride your bike or take public transportation whenever possible, and even purchased a hybrid vehicle. And yet, you still feel the need to go even greener. Even if you haven’t done any of these things, you can ease your mind by buying the an eco-friendly thermostat. If you’re a renter, you might be doubly motivated to buy a better thermostat because, quite frankly most of those in use in apartments are aging and not accurate. So, what are some of the best and most useful gadgets out there? Two immediately pop out as possible revolutionary products in home environmental controls: the Nest, and the Ecobee, with an honorable mention going out to the not-yet-released Honeywell-OPower collaboration.

Developed by iPod executive Tony Fadell, a new breed of environmental control device called The Nest was recently released. Demand was so high upon initial offering, it sold out before the first batch was even shipped. The Nest works by “learning” your habits, creating algorithms, and using cloud computing to help you manage your home’s energy usage. Fadell created the device because he discovered that many existing “smart” thermostats don’t have a friendly user interface, and therefore, people don’t use them properly. Because nearly 10 percent of all energy usage in the United States is controlled by thermostats, the device has great money-saving potential. It is expensive, though. Cashing in at $250, it’s one of the high-end thermometers out there.

Ecobee is another green thermostat company that uses Wi-Fi so that you can access it wherever you have Wi-Fi access. If you split your time between households, this could be very convenient for you, as you can manage your heating and cooling needs from hundreds of miles away. The product gives you a personalized web portal on your computer, has a touch screen for easy programming, and sends you alerts if anything goes wrong with the system. The one down side to this particular system is that it must be installed by a certified HVAC technician and it only works on HVAC systems. So, renters, you’re out of luck.

I’m very curious to see how Honywell’s partnership with OPower turns out. In September the company released its plans to have a new, interactive touch screen thermostat that will use cloud computing, Wi-Fi and smart technology to help consumers save money. Opower is a company that analyzes utility usage data and sends it to homeowners to compare their energy use with that of their neighbors. This helps folks to figure out how they can cut down on unnecessary usage or why their bills are higher than other neighbors’. Honeywell will be releasing its latest creating in limited markets to determine how well it actually performs.

So, should you throw your hard-earned money at a smart thermostat? If you’ve tried everything to keep your energy bills down, it just might be worth it to spend a little more money in order to save a bit more in the long run. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of leaving a smaller carbon footprint on the earth, one of the biggest motivating factors for this newest piece of technology.

If you’re worried about dumping your old mercury thermostat, Thermostat Recycling Corporation makes that easy for you to do. In many locales, you can drop off your old device at your utility company, heating and cooling distributors, and other places in your area that accept them for recycling. In the Dallas/Fort Worth area alone, the zip code of 75248 offers 38 places where you can drop off your old thermostat.

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