Why having a smart thermostat is becoming a big deal
By: Yelekal Mengistu
Smart Thermostats are a big deal.
You've probably come across the word ecobee or Nest whilst scrolling on your feed, whether it be on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit. They are part of a group of brands which are now trying to hold an oligopoly on the relatively new craze that is the smart thermostat.
Sure it's human nature to find new and practical ways to improve our lives, this case is no exception. But we ask the question, what is the driving force behind this new contraption, I mean was there a need that needed to be addressed? Is the thermostat not good enough to do what it's supposed to do anymore? Hmm… let's see first how can we approach this, a problem that needed to be solved or is the current technology just deemed obsolete?
What's wrong with the thermostat?
I mean, what's wrong with our our current, 'old' thermostat? They tell us the ambient temperature, switch to the one we want when we program them too and they barely brake down. So why is the smart thermostat frenzy all of a sudden upon us?
Well it goes beyond practicality. Let me explain.
Thermostats were invented to combat the harsh fluctuations of the weather by providing ambient temperature throughout your house. They've been around for so long that it is hard to even call them 'inventions'.
However, their role in the household grew exponentially, so much so that realtors and renters would highlight their presence, providing they help the client tilt towards the deal they're offering.
Think about it, what we take for granted today was a significant step towards ultimate comfort, no burning of ply wood, no more putting on layers after layers or opening a window and blasting off huge mega fans. The thermostat did all that for you, and better.
So what type of advancement have we made since the old days? Well, it might of taken a while to hit your households, but smart thermostats are creating a huge buzz in the smart home market.
And by 'smart' I don't mean to assimilate your thermostats to PhD mathematicians who can tell you the 247th decimal of Pi, no, not at all. What smart means is the ability to control certain aspects of the temperature by means of gathering and analyzing data to come up with a more viable environment.
To that end, smart thermostats are starting to address problems we didn't believe were problems before. Things like which room to heat up or to cool off, how much air is needed to get to the ambient temperature or even when to start heating up a room depending on the occupancy and so forth.
Our 'old' thermostat is not that cleaver. Sure some can be configured to run a certain times but they don't offer such ramifications and they certainly cannot be operated wirelessly.
That's another point to mention. Having the ability to control your house settings is not merely a thought of practicality but barely a sense of 'is it possible?', 'how cool would it be if…' or 'I can't believe nobody has tried to control their home temperature when their away on vacation'.
Yet there are practicality issues amongst those questions. And this is where the benefits of smart thermostats shine through.
Stepping into a new realm
Innovation isn't sporadic. It doesn't sprout overnight or nor does it sprout trough a simple thought. No, we saw that there was more to be done than just reading the temperature, adjust it to our liking and turn it OFF when we leave the house.
Suppose you're away on business and your stove malfunctions and the burner turns ON. That's a real sign of a potential fire breaking out in your home. Your current thermostat might be able to detect the rise in temperature but notifying you of the looming disaster is definitely beyond its capacity.
Your smart thermostat comes with a downloadable app, easy to set up and easy to use. Take a look at this one from Honeywell.
The Honeywell Home App Preview
(source: Apple App Store)
The Honeywell Home app is the company's smart device encompassing app. It centralizes all of Honeywell's smart devices so they can be operated remotely from anywhere. One of those devices is the Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat.
Honeywell is still establishing itself in the smart home market. But it's seeing a significant growth in smart thermostats.
The 2nd Generation Lyric is a relatively reasonable option to the options we see today in the market. At below $100, it's not an investment that's going to put a dent in your wallet.
It's actually the perfect step to take when wanting to invest in a smart thermostat. It's compatibility for voice command features enables it to connect with Amazon's Alexa, Google's Assistant and Apple's HomeKit. Sensitive thermal sensors notify you through the Honeywell Home app of any changes in the temperature so you can be on alert if something peculiar is happening.
But the fun doesn't stop there. A new technology, well it's been around for a while but barely used in smart thermostats, is geofencing.
Geofencing, in a nutshell, uses GPS coordinates to monitor your whereabouts and temperature so that when you get home your thermostat can adjust accordingly. This avoids any abrupt temperature clashes and your body will easily blend into your home environment.
Unsurprisingly, these types of technology are becoming more and more familiar as companies are trying to get one on another. Google is surging on to get a piece of the hardware market. In recent times, it's smart Nest thermostats have grown quite a following.
The Power for supremacy
The Google Nest Learning Thermostat actually has two variations that are equally good. The T3007ES has long been the face of the project (Project Smart Thermostat that is). It's unique look and vibrant color changes has attracted many prospective buyers.
The T3007ES, like the Lyric we just saw, is easy to install. The instructions are pretty straight forward, helping you out by carefully distinguishing the wires to install. Most thermostats are placed on a base plate which supports the weight of the thermostat.
The T3007ES is designed to be anchored on that base plate without much modification to it. When all goes well, it looks something like this:
Cover it up with the front plate and you're set up is pretty much done. Of course it's easier said than done but hardware installation has come a long way and with so many info outlets (Youtube, Reddit and so forth…), there is an abundance of tools to get you the job done.
The main aspect of the T3007ES is of course the learning part. The Nest learns your patterns, it becomes aware of your routines and progressively provides schedules without even you knowing it. This willingness to blend in your habits is one of the traits that will be pivotal in the near future. As AI technology is taking center stage more and more now, small steps like this are encouraging to that end.
On a more user level, the Nest T3007ES, much like it's 'lite' the T4000ES or using its full name the Google Nest Learning Thermostat E, has been appreciated for its very tactile approach. The cylinder frame is very soothing to the touch. Turning it is effortless and you can see the temperature reading change as you twit your wrist around it.
This is a very good sign when people are turning more over their smart phones to send out commands and instructions. Having that hands on approach helps sustain the good old feeling of doing over to the thermostat to change the temperature. It's a ritual, one that has existed for generations now. Having control over the thermostat is a privilege. That privilege lives on with the simple twist of the Nest thermostat.
But the simple bond of simply touching the thermostat isn't the only deal breaker. Many aspects need to be taken into consideration, especially since most thermostats deem to be 'the most energy efficient'
As I mentioned before, the Google Nest Leaning thermostat is gaining great competitive advantage over its competitors. The Google Nest Thermostat E T4000ES has been voted as the best pick by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy form thewirecutter. thewirecutter, a New York Times company, reviews and analyses technology software and hardware in a wide range of selections.
In her article The Best Smart Thermostat, Jennifer lays out the winners from her thermostat test. She analyzed them from different angles, notably setting out criteria like Price, User Friendliness, Features etc. She found that the Honeywell T5+ to be the 'less expensive option' of the lot. She point out that unlike the other thermostats, it lacks, what's becoming more like a common feature, the ability to 'auto-create custom scheduling.
The T3007ES was voted as the 'Upgrade Pick', capable of working with most HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditions) systems. Its crystal clear display and more compatibility functions are desirable traits amongst the competition.
The ecobee doesn't fair too badly either. In fact, it's been deemed as the 'Runner-up' of this small but significant test. The one used for this particular test was the ecobee5 or more precisely generically renamed as the ecobee Smart Thermostat.
Like most of the other candidates, the ecobee Smart Thermostat works voice command such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but unlike the others, it has Alexa built-in which means there is no need to get an extra Echo device to send out instructions. This sets it apart simply by removing an additional hardware from the echo system, saving you money and any additional strain on your wifi network.
Other features like the room sensors have been pointed out as great tools to adjust the temperature in rooms that the thermostat doesn't reach. Having said that, it's schedule creating capabilities, however good by its own standards, is a bit less advanced to what the Nest Learning Thermostats offer.
It's safe to say that the T4000ES came out victorious mostly because of it's ability to have the less input for the best output. Simply put, the word smart conjures a feeling of independency, there of, a sense of managing itself without much interference. That aspect is king in smart devices because lets face it, the main attraction in this domain is the lack off interference, these devices are here to make our lives easier therefore alleviating the burden of thought so they can think and do for us.
It's not a question of 'WHY' anymore but a question of 'WHEN' you should get a smart thermostat. It might be a very illogical assessment but the main pull is that it offers much more than we need and that excites us. Of course the benefits are huge but we don't think on a rational level since we inadvertently believe that the product will solve our issues, issues we didn't think were solutions worthy.
This is to say that the allure of a brand new technology able to accomplish so many things is the foremost noteworthy aspect of the purchasing decision. Thermostats were not defective, they were not devices that people thought 'you know what, this is an old relic now, it's time to upgrade. Today's technology is so far past this' but people did. And they addressed the issues, quite wonderfully I might add, but it came on by glorifying the technology of convenience and ease.
Solution providers need no longer to be brute or on the money, it's not that aspect that intrigues buyers anymore, it's usability, compatibility, elegance, style and design. All these contribute to the effectiveness of the product and the decision making process but they may well have been after thoughts if the smart thermostat was being invented eons ago.
To sum it all up, yes it's a big deal, and yes I encourage you to dive in the smart thermostat market. For a logical stand point, it saves you energy, which in turn saves you money. It improves your health by determining the perfect ambient temperature for your body. No more getting up to adjust the thermostat, your phone can do that for you. Everything is geared towards making you live a better and healthy life.
But think about how cool this is for a moment. 10- 15 years ago, we were in 'aw' of the LCD screen smartphones and now we can turn off our home thermostats while boarding a plane for Manila. If this idea doesn't make you a little tingly inside then I don't know what will.
Gives your thought on the subject. Have I given you the urge to go and buy a smart thermostat? If yes comment below!