UTIL­I­TIES EN­COUR­AGE EN­ERGY SAV­INGS WITH SMART THER­MOSTATS

Techlife News - - Summary -

As tem­per­a­tures drop and win­ter looms, home­own­ers and prop­erty man­agers are sweep­ing chim­neys, in­su­lat­ing pipes and swap­ping screens for storm win­dows.

They’re also go­ing be­yond tra­di­tional win­ter­iz­ing by in­stalling smart ther­mostats and home en­ergy mon­i­tors aim­ing to lower util­ity bills.

Smart ther­mostats — which let con­sumers ad­just their home tem­per­a­tures re­motely us­ing any in­ter­net-con­nected de­vice — are among the most pop­u­lar smart home tech­nolo­gies, gen­er­at­ing $1.3 bil­lion in sales glob­ally in 2017, ac­cord­ing to Nav­i­gant Re­search. Some mod­els use ge­ofenc­ing tech­nol­ogy and mul­ti­ple sen­sors placed through­out the house to ad­just tem­per­a­tures in in­di­vid­ual rooms when a res­i­dent walks in, max­i­miz­ing com­fort and ef­fi­ciency.

Just how much con­sumers can save by in­stalling smart ther­mostats — which gen­er­ally range in price from $150 to $250 — de­pends on a va­ri­ety of fac­tors, but Nest, one of the most pop­u­lar smart ther­mo­stat com­pa­nies, es­ti­mates users can save $131 to $145 on their en­ergy bills per year.

Cus­tomers can save more if their lo­cal util­ity of­fers re­bates or dis­counts for al­low­ing the util­ity to oc­ca­sion­ally turn their ther­mostats up or down, as long as con­sumers are will­ing.

Many util­i­ties are of­fer­ing heavy dis­counts on smart ther­mostats in ex­change for en­rolling in so-called “de­mand re­sponse” pro­grams, which let util­i­ties pe­ri­od­i­cally re­duce cus­tomers’ elec­tric­ity us­age so they’re not de­mand­ing as much en­ergy from the grid, said Dan Wro­clawski of Con­sumer Re­ports.

“When you join a de­mand re­sponse pro­gram, you usu­ally get some sort of re­bates, and the best deals we saw were bill cred­its that hap­pen an­nu­ally,”Wro­clawski said.“When you agree to these pro­grams you are ced­ing some level of con­trol. But if it’s both­er­ing you — if you’re too cold or too hot — all you have to do is go up to the ther­mo­stat and turn it up or down and the de­mand re­sponse pro­gram will es­sen­tially just re­al­ize, ok, they’re ig­nor­ing us.”

Na­tion­wide, nearly 1.4 mil­lion cus­tomers are en­rolled in pro­grams that al­low util­i­ties to turn their ther­mostats up or down, and more than 40 util­i­ties with ther­mo­stat pro­grams took ad­van­tage and ad­justed cus­tomers’ tem­per­a­tures about 8 times per year, ac­cord­ing to the Smart Elec­tric Power Al­liance. But peo­ple some­times opt out of the pro­grams when, for ex­am­ple, it’s a very hot day and they don’t want

their air con­di­tion­ing turned down; and that’s the ex­act time util­i­ties need peo­ple to stick with the pro­gram.

Some util­i­ties have sim­i­lar pro­grams that al­low them to tem­po­rar­ily turn off cus­tomers’ elec­tric wa­ter heaters, and they find cus­tomers are less likely to opt out of those sce­nar­ios be­cause they don’t re­ally no­tice an im­pact.

Other util­i­ties are of­fer­ing “time of use” or hourly rate pro­grams, which en­cour­age cus­tomers to run dish­wash­ers or other ap­pli­ances at times of day when elec­tric­ity rates are cheaper. In Illi­nois, where the two main util­i­ties of­fer hourly rate pro­grams, cus­tomers save about 15 per­cent off their util­ity bills per year, said Sarah Gulezian, se­nior man­ager of dy­namic pric­ing pro­grams at El­e­vate En­ergy. With the util­ity ComEd, 24,000 cus­tomers saved a com­bined $19 mil­lion over the past decade, and at Ameren, 12,000 cus­tomers saved more than $11 mil­lion, she said.

Cus­tomers don’t need a smart ther­mo­stat for the Illi­nois util­i­ties’ pro­grams, but they do need a smart me­ter, which is pro­vided by the util­ity. They can ad­just their home tem­per­a­tures or ap­pli­ance us­age them­selves when they get email or text alerts let­ting them know the elec­tric­ity price is ris­ing or fall­ing. Such pro­grams ben­e­fit low-in­come house­holds that don’t nec­es­sar­ily have ac­cess to smart ther­mostats and whose elec­tric­ity bills eat into a larger por­tion of their house­hold in­come.

“From our re­search we’ve found that al­most ev­ery­one can ben­e­fit from this,” Gulezian said. “By tak­ing sim­ple ac­tions, you can help save on your elec­tric­ity bill and have a pos­i­tive im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment as well.”

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