You may have read about or seen advertisements for mobile phone apps that allow you to monitor and control your home's heating and cooling system from wherever you happen to be. Very cool! But why would you want to do that?
For one, being able to access and control your home's HVAC system from any mobile device or Internet-connected computer can be a powerful tool. In addition to seeing how much energy the household (or a specific zone or appliance) is using during a specific period, you can adjust temperature on the fly and program the thermostat to do things like send you a text when the temperature goes above or below a predetermined level.
This, of course, is in addition to programming the thermostat to automatically adjust temperature according to a schedule - turning the heat down when you're away, for example - to reduce energy consumption.
But there's a problem with programmable thermostats: Very few of us take the time to set them up. Call us lazy, but only 10 percent or so of the quarter billion thermostats in U.S. homes are actually programmed for energy savings, resulting in a colossal waste of energy that might be as high as 20 to 30 percent per household.
Considering that heating and cooling account for 40-plus percent of a typical household energy bill, you start to see how installing smarter HVAC controls (or simply programming a conventional thermostat) can lead to significant savings. How much will depend on temperature offsets and schedules but, a savings of 2 to 4 percent for every 1 degree difference in the thermostat setting - raising the cooling set-point or lowering the heating set-point - is possible over a 24-hour period, according to Energy Experts.
Beyond the Thermostat
Beyond upgrading to a high-tech thermostat or smart HVAC control, is there anything else that can be done to conserve energy, help save the planet, and reduce your monthly utility bill? Most definitely. Todd Sandler, president of the Overland Park, Kansas-based custom installation firm Naturally Wired, says additional savings can be realized by installing automated lighting and/or shade control systems.
"From a lighting perspective, you can have shades automatically open to let daylight into a room so you don't have to turn the lights on," he explains. "From a heating and cooling perspective, you can let the sun help warm up a room in the winter and block the sun in the summer so your heating and cooling system doesn't have to work as hard." All sorts of automated routines are possible. See Automated Lighting Brings Convenience and More for more on lighting control options.
To learn more about how to conserve energy using home automation, consult a CEDIA professional. Click here for a list of CEDIA-member home technology professionals in your area.