The scorching sun of summer and wicked winds of winter can take a toll on energy bills.
Smart thermostats are one way to outsmart Mother Nature, saving both energy and money.
What makes a thermostat “smart”?
You can remotely raise or lower the temperature and set different temperatures for various times of the day – from the couch or three states away. All from an app on a phone or tablet. Those functions can lower energy costs by as much as 20% a year.
It’s a convenience Duke Energy customer Sharon King appreciates.
“There are so many times I have left the house without turning the temp down from overnight,” she said. “And I can fix that remotely instead of having to leave it all day.”
During these peak times, Duke Energy may adjust the temperature of enrolled thermostats, by no more than 4 degrees, to reduce strain on the energy grid. Events may occur a few times each month and typically last two to three hours. In return, customers get an initial $75 bill credit after enrolling in the program and a $25 bill credit annually for continued participation.
Duke Energy customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Indiana can save money by enrolling a qualifying thermostat in the company's demand-response program, Power Manager; for Duke Energy Progress customers, the program is EnergyWise Home.
These programs help the company manage energy use when there is high demand for electricity. By participating, customers allow Duke Energy to make brief temperature adjustments to their thermostats during peak electric demand periods. Participants help keep energy costs lower, help preserve natural resources, and help delay the need for new power plants.
Smart thermostats can also learn customers’ behaviors and program themselves accordingly – in just weeks, said Mark Otersen, Duke Energy’s Online Savings Store product manager.
“It can learn your schedule, so it will automatically adjust up or down based on your schedule when you are leaving the home.”
Customers who embrace geofencing can reap additional benefits. The app can notify the unit when a customer is a certain distance from the home, say a mile, to start heating or cooling the home.
Why choose a smart thermostat?
The ease of tweaking a thermostat while miles from home is a benefit to many customers. And maybe more so: the benefit of being able to change the temperature after climbing into bed.
King takes advantage of these features.
“When I go out of town, I can change it. Or even if I get hot in the middle of the night. (It’s) super convenient and you can program it to particular highs and lows.”
Ashley Sitarski likes the control that comes with the programming options. “You can lock it (the system) so no one can change the temp without your PIN, or you can set it to only raise or lower 1 degree from your locked temp.”
Plus, there’s a bonus when her household needs some motivation. “If I want to really make my family uncomfortable, I can put it into ‘eco mode’ and it will keep the house at 80 in the summer and 65 in the winter.”
She’s joking but being able to schedule the temperatures on her system is another benefit.
And then there are the financial savings.
Otersen said smart thermostats can cut heating and cooling bills by an average of 20% annually. That savings comes from the unit running the heat or air conditioning only when it’s needed (based on those learned behaviors), and from users being able to change temperatures when they’re not home.
Duke Energy also offers customers discounts on smart units through its online savings store. And seasonal sales on energy-efficient products.
The single biggest factor in choosing a smart thermostat is making sure it’s compatible with a heating and cooling system. A bit of online research can tell a homeowner which units will work with their systems.
Most homeowners can install smart thermostats on their own, in about 30 minutes or less. Many manufacturers have tutorial videos online.
King’s battery-operated unit isn’t hard-wired to her HVAC system; the connection is through Wi-Fi. She loves the simplicity and how easy it makes her life. Especially when life happens, and she forgot to adjust the air conditioning when leaving town.
“The last time we went on vacation, and we got about halfway there, and I was like, ‘I forgot to turn the unit back down.’ And so I was able … to just pull out my phone and put the unit up so that the AC unit wouldn’t come on unless it was 85.”
How you can save with a smart thermostat
Customers get an initial $75 bill credit after enrolling a qualifying smart thermostat and a $25 bill credit annually for continued participation. For customers in Indiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, the program is Power Manager. For Duke Energy Progress customers, the program is EnergyWise Home.
Customers can opt out of events from their thermostat or their thermostat’s mobile or web apps.
Both programs list qualifying thermostats on their websites along with eligibility requirements. Thermostats are available in Duke Energy’s online store for as little as $40. With the $75 bill credit, you would come out ahead $35 if you install it yourself.
More information about thermostats: energystar.