Thermostats get smarter to help save you money

August 8, 2012 3:20:43 PM PDT
Experts say roughly 70 percent of energy costs come from running your air conditioner. So how do you cut costs on your next bill? Newer thermostats are helping homeowners keep their cool -- and their money.

From learning daily routines to allowing you to control them with your phone, modern thermostats are becoming smarter.

"We wanted an easy way to not only conserve energy, but save money," said homeowner Jennifer Roane.

It's called the 'Nest' -- a thermostat that learns your habits.

"The Nest thermostat has motion sensors," said Wayne Morrison with Reliant Energy. "So it learns when you're at home by adjusting the ring, by adjusting what temperature you want, and then from the motion sensors it knows when you're away."

After a week of learning, the thermostat adjusts the temperature in your home accordingly, in turn, conserving energy. For homeowners like Roane, it's helping save money.

She said, "Since we installed the Nest about two months ago, we haven't seen any spike in our energy bill."

You can also control the Nest with a PC or mobile device. It's offered by Reliant Energy at no cost if you sign up for their Learn and Conserve Plan. But you don't have to be a customer to get it. Some local retailers carry it for $249.

Then there's the iThermostat, offered by TXU Energy.

"It ties into your whole home so that you can see not only what your air conditioning, what your heating and cooling system is using, what your whole house is using," explained Juan Elizondo with TXU Energy. "So then you can see what opportunities you have for savings."

iThermostat works in conjunction with TXU's Dashboard. So you can monitor your usage with a PC or iPhone. And if you're on a budget...

"You can look at your budget alerts, which tie into this," Elizondo said. "It tells you in the middle of the month, or anytime you want when you're headed toward a particular cap that you set. So that you can make some adjustments so you don't hit that cap."

Another thermostat to consider is the Ecobee.

"You can use it with any energy company, with any standard HVAC system also," explained Scott Thompson with the Lee Thompson Company.

He has been installing the Ecobee in homes for the past six months.

"Customers like them because you can actually call them up on your iPad, iPhone, and or Android phone and change temperatures," Thompson said.

If you leave the house, you can adjust the temperature with your mobile device. Other bells and whistles that make the Ecobee different include weather forecasts and humidity control. Plus, there's the savings.

"Save probably about 25 percent on your energy savings using the setback features," said Thompson.

According to the EPA, 53 percent of homeowners with programmable thermostats keep them on hold mode, meaning they don't program them at all. If you simply set them along with your work schedule, it could help you save nearly $180 a year.

No matter who you go with, it's best to have a professional check this out for you to see if it's compatible with your with your system.

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