What is a Smart Home and What are its Benefits - firstenergyhome | Blog
328 views | May 23, 2020

What is a Smart Home and What are its Benefits

By choosing the right energy efficient thermostat, homeowners can help improve overall HVAC system performance and increase the comfort of their home.

Convenient control, energy efficiency and monthly savings are the three main reasons to consider a smart thermostat. Smart thermostats connect to a heating and cooling system like traditional thermostats but offer intelligent functionality and mobile control.

Through smart technologies like geofencing and onboard sensors, smart thermostats will automatically adjust the temperature without manual input. Smart thermostats can integrate with other smart home devices like the Google Home Smart Speaker, which allows certain smart thermostats to be voice-controlled.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 51% of energy used in the home is through heating and cooling, which makes up the largest energy expense for homeowners. By choosing a smart thermostat, homeowners can be energy efficient without extra effort.

The following is an overview of smart thermostats, including features and benefits.

Core Benefits of Smart Thermostats

A smart thermostat investment has many benefits. Some benefits are clearly recognizable, but other benefits go unnoticed. These core benefits of smart thermostats are what set the smart version apart from its traditional predecessor.

  • Energy-Efficiency and Savings – Digital thermostats can be programmed, manually or through automation to follow an efficient temperature schedule without hourly or daily input. How much can be saved by installing a smart thermostat? According to Energy Star, a smart thermostat may reduce energy bills by up to 8% a year, or about $50. However, not all smart thermostat manufacturers tout the same level of savings.
  • Convenience – Often overlooked, convenience is the unsung hero of smart thermostats. Managing and controlling the thermostat from anywhere, on a smartphone or tablet is easy. Simply adjust the temperature settings or switch it on and off from the couch or the office. This simple convenience allows for hours of wasted energy to be conserved. Whether it’s a residence, rental property or vacation home, email alerts and app updates will keep homeowners aware of energy consumption and system maintenance.
  • Easy Installation – Installing a smart thermostat can be a DIY project. However, it’s important to confirm that the thermostat model is compatible with the HVAC system. Smart thermostats are manufactured with the homeowner in mind as the installer. In many instances, just a screwdriver and pair of pliers may be the only tools required for installation. With the aid of the manufacturer’s instructions or video tutorial, connecting the wires to the correct terminals is a simple step-by-step process.
  • Enhanced Functionality – Each smart thermostat will include functional benefits unique to each model. But a common trait among all smart thermostats are the smart features, which cannot be found in non-programmable thermostats. Smart thermostats have many enhanced functions, including (but not limited to) remote access, geofencing, motion and proximity sensors, and smart device integration.

Smart Thermostat Features and Capabilities

Programmable thermostats are not a new concept. However, the new smart thermostats are more advanced and offer for more than just programming the temperature. Here are a few of the more common advanced features.

  • Home Away Function or Geofencing – Geofencing technology uses smartphone GPS and the thermostat’s app to create a virtual boundary, or geofence, which then communicates with the thermostat to turn on or off once that perimeter is breached by the smartphone. This feature will automatically adjust the temperature based on the homeowner’s location.
  • Smartphone Alerts– Every homeowner would love to act before a catastrophe occurs. This is especially true for an expensive repair or replacement of an HVAC system. These alerts include humidity levels, heating and cooling fluctuations during cycles, and equipment failure. Alerts like these allow homeowners to resolve issues before it’s too late
  • Touch Display – Most smart thermostats include a touchscreen display. Thermostat display screens come in different colors, sizes, shapes, and designs. Some touchscreens are intuitive and easier to read than others and all thermostats should at least display the time, date and temperature.
  • Sensors/Motion Detection – The best connected thermostats usually have built-in proximity and room sensors. Display screens that are lit at all times can be distracting. A proximity sensor will dim or brighten the display screen when motion is detected. Smart thermostats are also able to sense the surrounding temperature and whether the room is occupied. This makes both heating and cooling much more efficient.
  • Energy Reports and Tracking – Tracking energy usage is a cost-saving feature. A smart thermostat will monitor which parts of the house are consuming the most energy which allows the homeowner to make energy-efficient adjustments to the schedule.
  • Voice Assistant – Smart thermostats integrate with various voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri. With any of these voice assistants, simply use the voice command feature to adjust the temperature. The best Wi-Fi thermostats will be those that have voice control compatibility.
  • Integration – An important aspect of any smart device is the ability to integrate with other smart devices. IFTTT (If This, Then That) is another advanced feature of smart thermostats. IFTTT is an action that causes a reaction which in turn triggers the smart thermostat. This includes many possible scenarios like the furnace activating when the sun sets or the AC increasing along with the outdoor temperature.

Before You Buy

A smart thermostat is a great investment for any home, but two important factors need to be considered before purchase.

  1. Alternative Options – Smart thermostats have been on the market since 2007, and the technology has improved since then. There is more than one type of smart thermostat – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Infrared, etc. – and hundreds of options available. It’s important to research and compare the ratings and reviews.
  2. Compatibility – Integration with other smart devices is one of the best features of smart thermostats. Researching whether a smart thermostat is compatible with other smart devices is a must. A voice assistant is useless if it can’t integrate with the smart thermostat. Don’t pay for a feature that may never be used or is not compatible with existing household devices.

In Conclusion

Smart thermostats are an invaluable upgrade to traditional thermostats, offering automation and remote control. The smart thermostats can be programmed and scheduled per preference, as a weekly or daily routine. They are capable of self-learning and automatic temperature adjustments and are compatible with other smart home devices and can be installed by almost anyone. However, if installation becomes a problem, FirstEnergy Home offers Smart Thermostat installation to help make installation simple.

In today’s technology-driven world, smart thermostats are a simple answer when upgrading a thermostat. Practical and convenient, it’s the easiest step towards energy-efficiency. If you would like to learn more about how to increase home comfort with smart home devices, please browse other articles in our Learning Library.

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