Posting in Design
Home thermostats have undergone a serious makeover, but they're only as good at curbing energy consumption as humans are -- for now.
Americans are using less energy but are still failing to conserve energy.
That sounds like a contradiction, but it's not. Because new homes are better insulated and heating and cooling system are more efficient, Americans burned around 10 percent fewer British thermal units to heat and cool their homes in 2009 than they did in 1993, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But during that same period, the amount of energy consumed for appliances, electronics and lighting grew by around 10 percent.
In other words, Americans' love affair with flat-screen TVs, computers, smartphones and appliances is undoing the good work they've done managing the building envelope.
Fear not, say the makers of Nest, a Web-enabled, sensor-powered thermostat with an Apple pedigree that premiered to much fanfare among design fans in late 2011. The slick, small Nest uses sensors to manage heating and cooling output. Over time it "learns" user's temperature preferences and sets itself to match them. Users can control the Nest remotely -- say, they went on a ski trip and forgot to lower the thermostat before leaving -- via a smartphone or computer.
The Nest isn't the first "connected" or "smart" thermostat on the market -- Ecobee and EcoFactor are two incumbents -- but it was the first to garner significant attention and excitement among homeowners.
But will these reinvented thermostats really reinvent home energy management? The jury, says Alan Meier, senior scientist in the Building Technology and Urban Systems Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is still out.
"There is a big question about whether consumers will persist using any of these wonderfully convenient devices," he says. "Each appeals to a small group who will find it convenient and will stick to them. Whether the overwhelming, unwashed majority of us will convert, that to me is still a very open question."
After all, most homeowners have largely failed to take advantage of programmable thermostats the Nest is meant to replace. Meier was part of a study that found around half of participants did not even use the programming features, which are designed to conserve energy when occupants are sleeping or gone for long, predictable periods (as in week days).
Even more disturbing are older studies that suggest when people forego programming thermostats and instead manually turn temperatures up or down, they often save more energy.
Perhaps that will turn out to be key to the success for Nest, et al -- since these gadgets provide a way to virtually turn the dial up or down from afar (or from the couch).
Therese Peffer, a program director at the California Institute for Energy and the Environment, says she was an hour into her Christmas vacation when she remembered she'd forgotten to turn her Nest down manually. "I set the temperature down to 58 [degrees] on my iPad," she says.
The ultimate goal of connected thermostats is that they will become nodes in the smart grid, linked to smart meters and acting as portals through which utility providers can better manage energy supply and demand (this is already happening in some parts of the United States). But in the near term, connected thermostats might best programmable thermostats not because they're easier to program, but because they're designed to accommodate both manual and automatic settings, seamlessly.
In the long term, says Peffer, smart thermostats will track our location via our smartphones and automatically adjust the temperatures in our homes based on our location. Heating or air conditioning systems will go into energy-saving mode automatically when residents leave, but then will sense as they (or their phones) make their way back home, so the temperature reaches a desired setting when they return.
Call that Big Brother if you like. I'd call it being outsmarted.
Apr 10, 2013
Have you guys heard of this? http://novelremodeling.com/nucleusenergymanagementsystem.html i read an article regarding it and have been in contact to obtain it as soon as it comes out in my area. Its suppose to be a great little device. Read more about it and tell me your thoughts
There is a little company called Honeywell that has internet access Thermostats to control the system. Set backs are fine but I am never home at the same time so to me they don't help much. Being able to adjust the temp on my way home is key. The second benefit is being able to receive an email if the system malfunctions. This is done for free so what is not to like?
Thermostats are basically on/off switches, plain and simple. The Nest thermostat focuses strictly on turning HVAC systems off as much as it possibly can. This is not a good thing for comfort. If you have a very set lifestyle in which you leave and return to your home at exactly the same times every day and you go to bed and wake up exactly the same time every day, then there is a chance that the Nest thermostat will benefit you without decreasing your comfort level. However, so will any other setback thermostat that can be purchased for a lot less money. The Nest thermostat is a disaster when used with most of the higher efficiency HVAC systems that rely on internal algorythym controls to operate the equipment at the best efficiency while providing the most comfort. If you want to save energy with your HVAC system while still having your comfort considered, talk to a qualified HVAC contractor, not some software Geek Squad.
One has to be willing to conserve or forget it. It does not mean sweating indoors in summer, if the house can be insulated enough. But it might mean that, or discomfort, for a lot of people. I use to hate fans and run 70 degrees in the day but now use fans and run 74-75. It's OK for me. It's an individual choice. As is 70 at night, oh well, therefre a scheme is to cool only the room in use. Use the central air to keep the whole place from exceeding maybe 78 or 80 (here in TX) and the individual room units use 1 to 1.5KW, much less juice than the 4-5KW big one. There is no reason to cool the whole place for the 8 hours of sleep. A cat door lets Ms. Kitty in and out of my room at night so the cool air stays in. (She likes to get up at 2-3AM and prowl the house a bit then come back to her cat bed in my room.) As a pertinent item to this green home thermostat discussion, I point out that some of it has crept in from the commercial side. In the hotel rooms, the thermostat is often programmed to lie about the temp. It will say 72 when it is really 74 (or worse) and will say this while even stopping the compressor at 76.. OK for cool climates but not southern USA, when summer is 100+ deg F. It's very dishonest for hotels to do this, cheat the guest of value but they do it all the time. (more later) Welcome to the "Hotel [u]Thenardier[/u]"! So, will we now let the household thermostat treat us the same? make it a "[i]Thenardistat[/i]"? No! Have some mental guts. Do not employ lying machines. If you are too cheap to pay for, or too green to tolerate, 72 degree temp. in summer, then set it at 74, and accept it. But don't buy a lying thermostat that only makes you feel better about dishonesty. Otherwise, what is the difference between that and a fictional one that tells you it's 74, while really cooling you to 72 so that you feel good about saving energy without sweating? The opposite lie. Just get an honest 'stat and set it and face it. What's next, people going to let the power company tell them when they can turn on a light bulb? (here is the more later part) Now, one hotel in Florida was so cheap, in addition to a/c that cut off at 74-75, it also had an IR sensor on the wall so that when you went to sleep and quit moving it reset up the air conditioning up to 77 degrees. The climate was 98 degrees and 90% humid at 3AM, so a/c was important, needed. But yet the cheap place did that, and charged some $200 a night because it was a resort. What clowns. The solution of course was simple. Use thumbtacks to hang strips of toilet paper from the ceiling in a 2x2 meter area in front of the sensor.Then the a/c keeps blowing, the strips move, and reflect IR to the sensor all night, just right for sleep. remove this in the morning, no one knew. Everyone else had a miserable wet sweaty night in their rooms and lined up at the desk to complain. The hotel generated an appearance of luxury while torturing the guests. Be a master of machines, not a thing or flesh puppet to be controlled by them. In this case I also made the room a/c cool to 71, but that is another story. and no I did not open or program a single thing or mess with it, that would be wrong. Just have to use the brain. By contrast a hotel in Houston touts its green-ness and eco-geeko situation to the point of making me vomit, but the lie was exposed when I found that the room was able to get down to 65 degrees and maintained that whether I was in or out. I liked that, of course, (and actually set it to 72 because it was too cold) but the point is to show the feel-good lies we all face in this green game. Those who -see- you used the "green hotel" imagine you are sweating uncomfortably while working by the light of a 10 watt CFL, and oh, how green you are. It is all a generated appearance of green-ness. The reverse is fact. I'm afraid there is no moral to this story, except maybe that one should set the climate control where one believes it should be, use accurate instruments, and not rely on built-in computers and processors to trick one into 'doing just a little bit more'.
Love fast cars. Hate leaded gasoline. Even though we have ended the use of lead in gasoline we still have permanently poisoned our soil with lead. Will the perpetual downward spiral of human intellect ever allow us mere mortals to develop artificial intelligence or will we be forced to be satisfied with smart phones and thermostats? Even as I write I can feel the drool beginning to form at the corner of my mouth.
Paul's observation.. an interesting perspecitive , if perceived future saving (economics) drives the decision for individuals to put more money into environmental controls of their homes. In reality the cost of electricity is not driven by the fuel .. but by the infrastructure for centralized distribution. Witness the move by electric companies to bill separately for electricity and infrastructure (victims of their own success in getting energy conservation and alternative fuel sources in place). Simply stated: If everyone uses less electricity.. electricity will cost more per KW. (this would be opposite what Jevons paradox would predict). Unless you intend to live completely "off the grid" .. expect only temporary cost savings when using less power. praoss's observation .. while valid , the article indicates people's involvement in their "green religion" is more effective than gadgets... which is a different paradox. I see three issues being raised: 1) what motivates people to change (money? environment? social morals?) 2) what actions (gadgets, life styles, etc...) are effective improvements for the planet? 3) what actions (gadgets, life styles, etc...) are cost improvements for the individual? I don't see fancy thermostats addressing a really big audience for any of these questions.
The main point of all these gadgets is not to save joules, but to force you to think about energy and the lack of it. They are rosaries of the new green religion.
This is just another example of the Jevons paradox. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox Basically, energy conservation is a nice concept, but it won't make much difference until we are willing to rein in our consumerism.
"In the long term, says Peffer, smart thermostats will track our location via our smartphones and automatically adjust the temperatures in our homes based on our location." This is a ludicrous statement if you understand the basic mechanics of how homes are heated and cooled. Before this happens the vast majority of home heating systems will have to redesigned and replaced. To have individual room temperatures you also need individually controlled ducting outlets and as well an air handling system that manages it's power usage and consumption by the flow rates of the air required for efficient temperature management. The cost of all of this controlling isn't cheap and often vastly offsets the energy savings over the life of system - especially when you consider the maintenance of the system and all of its controlling devices.
My husband, who is in the residential heating and cooling business, was told recently by a manufacturer rep that turning down the thermostat when gone during the day and turning it up when you get home puts a lot of strain of the furnace. I think this is outdated thinking, but what can you do when the furnace manufacturer is giving the information??