Oct 212014

3 Mistakes that you probably doing while using your programmable thermostat

Unfortunately for most of us, the dark and cold days of winter are coming. Before long we’ll be turning on our furnaces for heat, if you haven’t already turned it on yet (I have!). And many of us will waste money by fiddling with the thermostat. Here is a handy list of our typical mistakes:

1. Turning the thermostat up when it’s cold outside. Find the correct and comfortable temperature for you and leave the thermostat there – no matter how cold it is outside!! That’s the whole point of a thermostat — it turns on and off as needed to give you the temperature you want. It doesn’t care what the temperature is outside. It measures the temperature inside. So, please STOP playing with the thermostat.

2. Turning up the thermostat when you want to heat the room quickly. Let me tell you this; turning up the thermostat up won’t do anything to heat the room more quickly. It just sets the final temperature – that’s it!. If you turn it up higher, you will likely zoom past comfortable before you realize it. And then you’ll have wasted energy — and money.

3. Leaving the furnace on when you are away, so it won’t have to work so hard when you return. Your furnace doesn’t use more energy when it turns on and off. In fact, giving it time off is the best strategy for saving money. Buy a programmable thermostat that will lower the temperature when you’re not in your home and turn on your furnace just before you get home; or better a smart thermostat which will do all these settings by itself. You waste money heating a home when no one is in it (but don’t let the pipes freeze!)

If you don’t have a programmable thermostat yet; it’s perfect time to buy one – right before the real cold weather hits. Check our programmable thermostat list

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Sep 162014

Lombard co-founded Ecobee, a Canadian company that made the world’s first Wi-Fi-connected thermostat years back, spent the past three years watching the world fawn over its competitor Nest’s futuristic design. Today (September 16th, 2014) the company is unveiling its answer to Nest, the Ecobee 3. It’s a jet-black square with rounded edges that looks like nothing else the company has made before, especially its predecessor: a white box with a touchscreen that Ecobee sold patterned Gelaskin stickers for, basically to hide the thing.

The Ecobee 3's weather display

The Ecobee 3’s weather display

By comparison, the Ecobee 3 is something the company wants you to stop and look at each time you walk by it in your house. When it’s not showing you the temperature inside your house, it doubles as a weather station, giving you the upcoming forecast. And just like Nest, Ecobee is pitching it as something that does all the scheduling for you, saving time and money in the process.

The 3 is the result of a two-year collaboration with Lunar Design, a boutique design group headquartered in San Francisco that has designed everything from Apple’s first notebook computer to ice cream scoops. The two companies took all the features from Ecobee’s existing model and have constructed a new user interface that looks and functions the same whether you’re using it on the wall-mounted thermostat or on your phone. That’s not a new idea in the world of apps (or even thermostats), but has resulted in software and hardware that feels like one in the same.

The new thermostat uses a capacitive touchscreen, with colored pixels that pop out from a black background as you approach it. Where Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric zig with color, Ecobee zagged with dark contrast. Ecobee has also strayed from the idea of a rotating, circular dial, choosing instead a virtual knob that can be maneuvered up or down a track to change the temperature. The same screen then fades to show you things like the local weather forecast, and will let you create and adjust programming schedules. If you’re on a tablet or connecting to your thermostat in your browser, you can see this interface and just about every other feature on one screen so you don’t have to dig through menus.

The new design replaces Ecobee’s previous model, the Smart Thermostat. Ecobee still plans to sell its less expensive, $179 Smart Si thermostat, which it introduced two years ago as its entry-level model.

Beyond the redesign, the Ecobee 3‘s big new feature is that it integrates tiny companion sensors that you can put in every room of your house. Each one tracks temperature and motion, so that the system can adjust for what room you’re in, instead of simply sensing where the thermostat is installed. One of these sensors is built right into the unit, and you get another in the box that’s powered by batteries, and can be placed on any flat surface, or mounted onto walls. The system works with up to 32 sensors, in case you have a house like Bill Gates. Lombard says this sort of automatic, targeted adjustment is the top thing people have asked for over the years, and results in a better reading of the temperature where people are versus where they drilled something into the wall.

For a lot of people, that’s like their thermostat in their dining room,” Lombard says. That would be fine if people spent most of their time there, but in reality, they don’t. “Being able to put a sensor into a room that you actually use, and your ability to detect whether people are home or not and turn back your temperature goes up significantly.” That kind of setup is also easier than requiring everyone in your family to run apps on their phones that are tracking where they are, just to help the system out, Lombard argues.


The new model also promises an installation that consumers can do themselves. Where previous iterations relied heavily on professional HVAC installers, Lombard says the company wanted this to be something ordinary people could take out of the box and get up and running in 45 minutes or less. “We tried to go through every step, and determine every time where someone might have gotten confused,” Lombard says (this is a big change. If you can read the reviews of the previous Ecobee Thermostat, you will see that the consumers were really happy about the functionality and the flexibility, but the installation was a headache).

To aid in that, Ecobee made two changes to keep people from getting tripped up: one is detecting your wiring and automatically configuring its software settings accordingly; the other is including power extender hardware, so that it can be plugged into the furnace in homes where the existing wiring doesn’t deliver enough juice. The company used to charge for this part as a $25 add-on, but Lombard says that it was worth adding out of the box for people who didn’t have the ideal wiring setup.

As for how all this will save on bills, Lombard says it’s all about scheduling, and touts Ecobee’s technology as the best at doing this. Citing figures from the US Environmental Protection Agency, he says that 80 percent of programmable thermostats go unprogrammed (!!!). By comparison, he says, the Ecobee 3 comes with a preprogrammed schedule that it adjusts based on information it gathers from its occupancy sensors and your local weather forecast. The company also gets pricing from local utility companies, and will alert people when they can make adjustments to save money. Together, these things add up to what Ecobee estimates will be a 23 percent annual savings over typical programmable thermostats.

Let’s wait, see and test the real product.

May 282014
Nest Learning Thermostat - 2nd Generation - 6

Absolutely nothing impacts human beings comfort and ease or mood just like a comfortable, warm environment or a cool, energizing climate. However, with all the different technologies in your home, the humble programmable thermostat receives the the very least respect despite the fact that no one enjoys pricey power bills every month.

Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers (ex-Apple staffers) started transforming the understanding of the thermostat with Nest – one of the best smart thermostats in the market. By utilizing their own experiences from Apple (having been an employee on the legendary iPod), Fadell and Rogers elevated the unattractive home electronic to produce the Nest learning thermostat, a modern wall-mounted gadget built to make home energy management and automation attractive.

Since the time of Nest’s 2011 introduction, it has gotten plenty of curiosity, and not only just from customers trying to lessen their own power bills, increase performance or present a hot brand new product. Smart home companies such as Revolv and Control4 do business with Nest, and tinkerers cannot appear to keep their hands off it.

The thoughts range between basic smart watch applications to creative rewirings or even computer software hacks to increase Nest’s control and capabilities. Yet still, it really is amazing what can be done using the Nest smart thermostat when you use a small determined effort.

Basic Tricks

You can control the Nest smart thermostat through your smart phone (iOS or Android) or from the company’s website, and its automations enhance with time because the gadget understands your routines and personal preferences. Continue reading »

May 212014
Nest Learning Thermostat - 2nd Generation - 1

Actor Matthew McConaughey hawks one device in television commercials in a folksy twang.

Power utilities are signing exclusive deals with manufacturers.

Online tech forums are awash in discussions over different devices’ virtues.

More than five years after smart thermostats were introduced as an easy-to-use alternative to the current programmable models, manufacturers are reporting triple-digit sales increases. Continue reading »

May 022014
honeywell's nest
honeywell's nest

honeywell’s nest

Do you have any idea what’s this we have here?

It looks a lot like a Nest programmable smart thermostat, and the only difference is that Honeywell brand name. Not much details yet, but this picture came from the Facebook page of a Honeywell employee. Or maybe soon-to-be-former Honeywell employee.

Honeywell has its own smart thermostats. They look like regular old thermostats, maybe a little larger and with touch screens, except they’re wifi enabled and mobile app controlled. This, if it is a real picture, is a very clear design change, one that looks very informed by Nest. Apparently gizmodo reached out to Honeywell for comment, and this is the response that they got:

We don’t comment on rumor and speculation – we have no comment at this time.

What do you think? Could this be a real product?

Apr 302014
Carrier ComfortChoice Touch

An extensive study by Nest Labs Inc. on how customers use thermostats has found that the one — the sleek unit that is supposed to be drop-dead simple to make use of — fell in the middle of the pack on numerous criteria and features a design and style flaw that gave it a near-bottom rating for usability.

An additional important conclusion within the study of “smart” thermostats is that none was all that intuitive or helped users easily adjust settings in methods that save power.

The study was carried out by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California, where the thermostat plays an particularly important role in energy use. Residential thermostats manage one-quarter of all power consumption, far more than any California utility. On a hot summer season day in SMUD’s service area in the Central Valley, home air conditioning accounts for about a third from the utility’s 300-gigawatt peak demand.

“What we discovered is that clients actually do possess a challenge utilizing thermostats. They are not in a position to use them really well, they discover the interface nonintuitive,” said Lupe Jimenez, a senior project manager at SMUD who managed the study. “You’d think by now the industry would have gotten about to it.”

A brand new generation of “smart” thermostats wirelessly connect to other devices inside the house. They may be being sold by alarm organizations, big-box shops and cable providers with the promise of managing energy use without having significantly input from the occupant (EnergyWire, April 14). Nevertheless, the study makes clear that the new connected thermostats aren’t a great deal easier to manually system than the old “dumb” thermostats.

The results for Nest had been surprising, especially offered that the company’s founder and CEO, Tony Fadell, led the design in the original iPod and brought Apple’s design aesthetic to Nest. In February, Google acquired Nest for $3.two billion.

The survey was absolutely nothing if not extensive. A total of 163 folks in SMUD’s service area participated, selected to represent a balanced sampling of gender, age, race, earnings, education and house ownership. Participants were videotaped to measure how long it took to execute tasks having a thermostat, filled out questionnaires and participated in follow-up interviews.

The study looked at the “walk-up usability” of a thermostat — in other words, with out any guidance or even a manual. Ten “smart” thermostats had been inside the study, together with two “dumb” thermostats. Every participant compared two thermostats side by side, and each and every thermostat was evaluated by a minimum of 26 folks.

The all round winner was the Carrier ComfortChoice Touch, which came in initial in each overall ease of use and general really feel and sound. Ninety-one percent of those that tried it known as it their favorite thermostat. Runners-up were the Ecobee Smart  Si and Emerson Smart Energy. (I will test both of them very soon, and will publish the review in here. Please be around :-) ).

Pitfalls for the Nest

In general ease of use, Nest came in 11th, second in the bottom, behind even the two “dumb” thermostats within the competitors. In all round feel and sound, it came in seventh. In all round look, Nest came in fourth. On the rating of “task efficiency” — how extended it takes to complete a specific function — Nest came in second from last.

The study found that most of the dissatisfaction with Nest came down to a single function: the dial. As opposed to all other thermostats tested which can be boxes controlled by buttons, the Nest is essentially a circle which is manipulated by pushing and twisting the entire unit.

“More than half from the participants that tested the Nest — 16 of 28 — had been unable to figure out the input mechanism at all or till the really end. Because of this, the Nest garnered a really low 38% Activity Efficiency score,” the study noted.

It added, “Removing those frustrated users who couldn’t determine the dial, the efficiency score changed to put Nest in first for efficiency and fourth for preference.”

The capability to utilize a thermostat without having a manual is vital in managing the energy use of the numerous properties where the thermostat is currently on the wall when a brand new renter or homeowner moves in.

“A customer who buys a Nest and brings it home is probably not going to possess the problem. But if somebody moves into that residence, that client might not have the ability to figure it out,” Jimenez stated.

Participants in the study stated they liked that the Nest was sleek and modern-looking and thought the dial and also the app had been easy to utilize. On the other hand, they thought that the screen was as well little, that the menu was hard to decipher and that it was hard to get started.

Jimenez stated that SMUD would base its future acquisitions of thermostats around the final results of this study. Moreover, she hoped that it would nudge the whole thermostat market to produce user encounter a priority.

“The question remains … regardless of whether the new thermostats will be utilized in a way that actually aids consumers use less energy,” the study said. “While it’s also soon [to] pass judgment on the far finish of the communications path, we are able to say with some certainty that these new requirements is not going to impact power savings if clients don’t like or can not determine how you can make use of the new thermostats.”


Apr 112014

As consumers look for energy-saving products to help the environment and save money, manufacturers are offering more “green” gadgets than ever before. But not all are worth the money, and some are an outright waste. Here are the top gadgets available that are actually worth the price to help you live green and save money while you’re at it!

1. Programmable / Smart Thermostats

A step beyond the programmable thermostat, new smart thermostats learn how and when your family uses the heating and air conditioning system and follows your patterns for the smartest energy savings. Since as much as 40 percent of your home’s overall energy bill from heating and cooling. This system is a great place to make huge differences with a little investment. Though these thermostats cost over $200, many landlords are willing to credit this cost on your next rent payment.

If you still don’t have one, check our best programmable thermostats list and get yours today!

2. LED Lighting

Of all the energy-efficient lighting available, LED bulbs offer the brightest light for the least money. Halogen and compact fluorescent haven’t been quite as well received among consumers for several reasons. Some fear the mercury in fluorescent bulbs while others aren’t satisfied with the quality of light from halogen. LED is a good alternative, providing a consistent light for little money, and they are safe.

You can pick your LED Lighting from Amazon.

3. Energy Management Systems

These systems allow you to control your entire home via remote control. You’ll never have to worry about leaving lights on, whether the house will be comfortable when you come home, or if you left the coffee maker on. The lights, heating and air system, appliances, stereo, and security system can all be controlled from your remote or with your smartphone.

4. Energy Star Appliances

If you have to buy a new microwave, toaster oven, refrigerator, ceiling fan or other appliance, shop for Energy Star certified products. These appliances offer significant savings in operation, often saving you enough money to pay for the appliance in just a few months. Washing machine technologies have come particularly far recently, and you can now get a machine that costs less than $80 per year to operate.

5. Charging Stations

One common cause of energy waste around the home is phantom power. This results from electronics that are plugged in but not turned on, sucking as much as 8 percent of a home’s power for nothing. Charging stations are available which automatically turn off and stop phantom power leaks when phones or MP3 players are fully charged. Others shut off after a specific length of time, such as after 4.5 hours. Most cell phones are fully charged in this length of time.

6. Smart Power Strips

Instead of having to unplug umpteen appliances and electronics around the house every night, consider a smart power strip that cuts phantom power from anything plugged into it. This is ideal for hard to reach plugs on the floor, in the back of the kitchen counter, under the computer desk, and behind the TV.

These gadgets vary in price, but all are able to save you enough money on the power bill to justify the purchase price. Ask your landlord if he’s willing to deduct the price of some of these items from your rent in exchange for you doing the work of installation. This is an easy way for him to upgrade the property with little effort and expense.

Any new gadgets you’d like to add to this list that have helped you save money and energy? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Mar 132014
Lux WIN100 connection

Follow the money seems a sound axiom for a detective — unless he investigates energy waste.

DuWayne Dunham has spent 13 years as an energy counselor solving energy mysteries. His gumshoe twist on the adage is: find the space heater. Dunham found them running in homes when the homeowner has forgotten all about them.

Clark Public Utilities advises using space heaters to help cut energy costs by moving them from room to room and turning them off at night or other times when they aren’t needed. Running one 24 hours a day, seven days a week wastes energy.

“A 1500-watt space heater running 24/7 for a month raises a utility bill about $90 monthly,” said Dunham, who often Continue reading »

Feb 252014
Nest Learning Thermostat - 2nd Generation - 4

I already wrote couple articles on why programmable wifi thermostats are awesome, but if you already have one, you know how easy it can be controlled with your phone. If you’re an Android user, a little Tasker and AutoVoice action will let you control your thermostat with your phone as well.

Norman A explains on his Svbtle blog that he used Tasker and AutoVoice, a powerhouse pair, to push voice commands through Google Now to the Nest app to set or change his home thermostat anywhere, just by speaking to his phone. The nice thing about the Nest app is that it works anywhere, so you don’t have to be near the thermostat or on the same network to use it, and while the setup does require a few added scripts and Tasker profiles, it’s not difficult to set up.

He walks you through the whole thing at the link below (complete with gifs to show you how everything looks) and links to all of the components required to set everything up. Keep in mind though that this works best on devices that support Google Now and touchless controls, so he used a Moto X and his Nexus 7, although a Nexus 5 or any phone with the Google Now Launcher installed. Hit the link below to see how it all works. Continue reading »

Feb 142014
Nest Learning Thermostat - 2nd Generation - 5

There was quite a bit of confusion surrounding Google’s recent acquisition of smart thermostat company Nest. As usual, privacy concerns about Google “spying” on people in their own homes were brought up, but an even larger question was what exactly an internet advertising company wants with a thermostat startup.

A new report on smart thermostats could shed light on what Google’s plans for Nest are. Market research firm Navigant Research today released a report showing that the market for smart, programmable thermostats could take in over $1 billion by the end of the decade. The firm estimates that smart thermostat revenue will top $1.4 billion by 2020, far more than the estimated $86 million the industry took in during 2013.

Navigant believes that current smart thermostats are limited by their ease-of-use and their limited energy savings. The firm believes that these hurdles will be passed in the coming years, with consumers embracing such technology. A move toward more home automation in general in the tech industry is also seen as a factor that could drive smart thermostat sales in the years to come.

“Large retailers, including Lowe’s and The Home Depot in the United States and B&Q in Europe, have begun selling smart thermostats, signaling that sales of these devices could grow in coming years,” said Bob Lockhart, research director at Navigant. “It remains to be seen, though, whether marketing efforts on behalf of these retailers will raise the interest of a large pool of customers who are not already planning to replace an existing thermostat.”

By Sean Patterson · February 12, 2014