Smart buildings

Save time and energy with connected thermostats

The original version of this text was published in the September-October edition of Électricité Québec  magazine (p. 12-15).

Smart thermostats are recognized for their ease of use and user-friendly platforms that allow precise control over energy savings.

Although smart thermostats are more expensive, their many benefits can quickly offset the investment. Decision-makers, managers, installers, and users should turn to these connected devices. What if that was the sensible solution for all construction and renovation projects?

Remote control, simplicity, and efficiency

With smart thermostats, installation is accomplished on-site while programming can be done remotely. Once the device is connected to the wall and the gateway, programming can be done from afar.

This is what Michel Côté, CEO at Lucien Côté et Fils Inc. in Sherbrooke, does when he installs the Sinopé radiant floor thermostats at his clients’. “Our technician installs the products, and we take care of the programming from our office,” says he, who has been working with Sinopé devices for 3 years now. Besides, a remote control allows the company to assist its residential and commercial customers as needed. “When the customer wants to modify their programming or establish new parameters, we can do everything from the management platform. Customers really like this service, and our efficiency is optimized because we cut the time spent on the road, “adds Mr. Côté.

Full remote control offers a variety of benefits for both managers and consumers who want to reduce their electricity bills. Mathieu Cinq-Mars, a sales representative at Sinopé Technologies, observes the phenomenon. “Condominium and retirement home managers are interested in the potential of our products to set maximum setpoint temperatures, block manual control, and manage an entire fleet of devices from a single management platform.”

The applications and management interfaces used also have the advantage of being intuitive and easy to use. With smart thermostats, energy consumption can be adapted to real-life habits, unlike programmable thermostats. Indeed, according to a scientific study, 90% of consumers using programmable thermostats have never, or rarely, changed the schedule according to their lifestyle because of their complexity. [1]

The use of a smart thermostat is useful for users who may forget how their devices work and for all those who forget to lower the setpoint when leaving the house.

The user-friendliness of connected objects is one of the six benefits put forward by Hydro Quebec. ” Unlike programmable models from the 1990s, smart models are really easy to program”[2], reads their website.

The Neviweb app provides the complete energy profile for a wide variety of devices such as thermostats, switches, and load controllers.

Energy savings

Energy savings are often presented as the main benefit of smart thermostats.

Many companies, like Nest or Ecobee, present this as their sales pitch and present percentages that can sometimes go up to 30% off on the electricity bill. However, it is crucial to nuance that information. “It all depends on what you did before you had a smart thermostat,” said Dr. Guy Newsham, Senior Research Officer at the National Research Council Canada, in an interview with Global News in 2016. If your thermostats have always been set to 20 °C and you maintain the same temperature with your smart thermostats, the savings may be similar.

Users can control their smart thermostats with a mobile device. Some companies, like Sinopé Technologies, also allow computer control to simplify the work of building managers.

Heating habits, your home’s or building’s energy efficiency, and the use of smart thermostats are all factors that influence energy savings.

 

It can be enticing to choose the thermostat claiming to give the best energy savings. However, these figures must be taken lightly. Products that have very user-friendly interfaces that are more likely to be used by the consumer or the manager should be preferred. The ease of use, coupled with remote control encourages better control of thermostats that lead to energy savings.

Energy profile at your fingertips

Some smart devices give access to heating consumption data. Not all platforms provide the same information or the same accuracy. Nevertheless, some apps, such as Neviweb, provide access to consumption data expressed in kilowatt-hours, dollars, and percentage of use for 24-hour, 7-day, or 30-day periods. This information is crucial for accurately controlling consumption costs and measuring the results of changes made.

The Neviweb platform has the advantage of providing this information for a multitude of connected devices, such as light switches, load controllers, and soon for smart plugs and in-wall outlets.

Protection against temperature drops

Some smart thermostats allow to activate frost risk alerts or to block the minimum and maximum temperatures available on a device, benefits that Michel Côté, CEO at Lucien Côté et Fils Inc. in Sherbrooke, doesn’t hesitate to put forward. “Tenants often lower too much the setpoint to avoid paying for heat, and then leave for several hours or days with the windows open in the winter. This kind of alert protects the home and prevents damage”, he says. It is also an aspect that owners of housing buildings can argue to their insurer to get a lower insurance premium.

Smart heating: avoid the pitfalls

When choosing a smart thermostat, make sure that its programmings are saved locally within the product or gateway. Saving data and programmings on the cloud presents a risk for the users. In the winter of 2019, nearly 500,000 users of the Hive smart thermostat in the UK found themselves without heating in freezing weather. The Hive app, which used cloud computing, suffered a failure leaving users without temperature control or with limited or no manual control at all. [3]

In this era of connected objects and utilities’ dynamic pricing, decision-makers, managers, and installers benefit from maximizing the efficiency and energy savings that come with the use of smart thermostats.

[1] Science Direct Journal. Usability of residential thermostats: Preliminary investigations. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132311000874. Consulté le 23 août 2019.

[2] Hydro Québec, Smart thermostats: advantages over conventional models. http://www.hydroquebec.com/residential/energy-wise/windows-heating-air-conditioning/electronic-thermostats.html. Visited on August 23rd, 2019.

[3] The Sun. Hive app down as outage leaves customers freezing and unable to control heating. https://www.thesun.co.uk/money/8779168/hive-app-down-outage-customers-freezing/. Visited on August 23rd, 2019.

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