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By: Oliver Ames

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Buy the Best Smart Thermostat (and Still Save Money)

Energy Savings | Saving and Budgeting | Learn Something New

My wife and I are new homeowners and in preparing for winter, we've begun the yearly process of budgeting for our heating bill. In auditing how our house deals with heating over the past few chilly weeknights, we realized we wanted a better way to control the heat, while also saving on fuel oil!


Why we chose a smart thermostat

One recommendation that kept popping up was to buy and install a smart thermostat. Unlike traditional, or even programmable thermostats, smart thermostats automatically create temperature schedules based on when you typically get home, go to bed, and wake up. Basically, each time you adjust the heat in the house, you teach the thermostat what your heating habits are, and it comes up with the most efficient way to heat your home.


Perhaps a better name for a smart thermostat would be a "learning" thermostat. Not only does it work to learn your routine, it also monitors how quickly it can heat your home! Using that information and your typical routine, this enables the thermostat to heat your house to exactly the right temperature—say when you are coming home from work—without heating it too early or too late. Heat the home too early and you waste energy heating an empty house. Heat the home to late and you'll be shivering for a few minutes at home.


Occupancy Sensor


Some smart thermostats also come with little external sensors. These can be placed all around the house to detect the temperature of different rooms. Some of these sensors, like ones from Ecobee, also detect room occupancy and can help the thermostat know if it should turn on the heat. Let's say I'm watching TV in the living room with my wife and we've got the gas fireplace on. Chances are, it's even hotter in the living room than the temperature I set on the thermostat! Luckily, the occupancy sensors in the other rooms around the house know that I'm not in them so the thermostat doesn't turn the heat on. It knows that the room I'm in is set to exactly the right temperature I want it to be so why waste heat warming up empty rooms?


Another thing that smart thermostats can do is connect to the internet using secure networking protocols. This lets you do things like adjust the temperature while you are at work or use voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri to control the temperature. One example of this awesome functionality comes into play every night. Instead of trying to remember if I turned the heat down at night and going downstairs, all cold, to check the thermostat, I simply say, "Alexa, Goodnight." The voice assistant then turns off all our lights (smart light switches), locks the doors (smart door locks), and sets the temperature to my preferred setting. It's like magic!


Echo Dot with Clock


The cost of smart technology (and how you can pay less)

By now, I bet you are wondering just how expensive a smart thermostat is. Depending on what smart assistants you want it to work with (Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, or Google Nest), the cost will vary widely. The one my wife and I got was the Ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control. It integrates with all the different smart home platforms so you don't get locked into one mega corporation's system, and it has Alexa built right in so it can do wild things like play music (the best party trick is having your thermostat play the Monster Mash during your Halloween party). It can also detect occupancy all on its own and comes with an additional sensor for you to place elsewhere in the house.


The best part of all of this? Efficiency Vermont offers a $100 cash rebate if you buy a smart thermostat! So, if the $169 thermostat looks a little expensive, the rebate gets you down to $69 dollars, and that's a savings that you'll easily recoup over a few years of use and efficient heating. Worried about installation? On most systems it's a snap and all these companies offer customer support to help you out if you are nervous.


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About Oliver Ames

Oliver is VSECU's social media strategist and spends most of his day engaging with members through our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. He has a background in science education, non-profit fundraising, business communication, media production, and membership-based organizations. When not at work, Oliver spends much of his time with his wife and their little dog Butterscotch at their home in Montpelier.

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