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Friday
Feb012013

Podcast #568: Super Bowl 2013 and Smart Thermostats

There are a few reasons you would want to automate your home. Very close to the top of the list is saving money. And the one item that uses the most energy is your heating and air conditioning system. Today we’ll take a look at four thermostats that let you monitor and control your HVAC system from anywhere in the world. When you decide to build out a complete automation system these thermostats can be integrated right in.

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Wifi Thermostats

Today’s topic is not really related to home theater but it is related to home automation and many of our listeners have expressed an interest in the subject. Please allow us to take a brief side street off the main HDTV and Home Theater highway.

There are a few reasons you would want to automate your home. Very close to the top of the list is saving money. And the one item that uses the most energy is your heating and air conditioning system. Today we’ll take a look at four thermostats that let you monitor and control your HVAC system from anywhere in the world. When you decide to build out a complete automation system these thermostats can be integrated right in.

 

Nest Learning Thermostat (Second Generation) $250

Nest made a big splash with their learning thermostat a couple of years ago and the second generation model is even better. Its sleeker and compatible with 95% of the homes out there. Unlike other programmable thermostats the Nest learns how you live and automatically adjusts. This process takes about a week. One of the cool things about having access to your thermostat over the internet is being able to turn it on or off from anywhere you are. This of course is if you remember to do that. The Nest will auto sense that no one is in the house and turn off the system automatically.

The nest is easy to install and they even provide a helpful video to take some of the stress out of it. If you want, they can help you find an installer in your area. They also include a great app for iOS and Android for controlling the thermostat but the coolest thing about the app is the Energy History. The Nest keeps detailed information about your energy usage and displays it in an easy to read graphical report. It will really help you zero in on your energy usage. This truly is one of the best thermostats out there!

 

Honeywell RTH8580WF Wi-Fi 7 Day Programmable Thermostat with Touchscreen $150

Honeywell is a name that is very familiar and they make a lot of thermostats. The RTH8589WF gives you access over the Internet via an iOS or Android app for your smartphone or tablet. Unlike the nest you’ll have to program the thermostat. It allows four periods a day for up to seven days and it installs like any other thermostat. The biggest drawback we can see is the interface is very bland but it is the lowest priced thermostat on our list.

 

ecobee EB-STAT-02 Smart Thermostat 4 Heat-2 Cool with Full Color Touch Screen $300

The ecobee is the most expensive thermostat on our list and the best looking and most feature packed. It comes with a big color LCD that makes everything easy to read and use. The ecobee has an intuitive interface that makes setting it up easy, it even includes your local weather forecast at a touch of a button.  Like the Nest the ecobee will learn how you control your home and make decisions on how to heat and cool your home.

There are Android, iOS, and Blackberry apps as well as access from a computer. There is a web portal that allows you to setup a vacation schedule. This is a cool feature since you can set it up weeks or even months in advance. You won’t leave for a weekend and forget to turn off the system, even though you have the power to from anywhere in the world. You can setup alerts to get sent when it gets too cold. So if you are away you can have an alert go to your contractor or your neighbor and they can make keep an eye on your place for you. The ecobee also provides reports on energy usage making it a truly smart thermostat.

 

Venstar T5800 Color Thermostat (with Wifi Internet Key) $220

ColorTouch has customizable backgrounds, including the users' own photos, and more than a dozen preset themes, including holiday themes. You can even set up a slideshow screen saver turning your thermostat into a digital picture frame. You can monitor thermostat information like how many hours its been running and temperature ranges. You can setup alerts based on the home's inside temperature and you can view a pictorial display of the current weather and weather forecast for all thermostat locations. One of the coolest features is you can send text messages from a mobile device to the thermostat display for family members to see.

 

 

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Reader Comments (2)

Devoting a show to a review of wifi / internet thermostats is a great idea! Another option for your listeners to consider is the BAYweb line of internet thermostats. http://www.bayweb.com/internet-thermostats/

I have the BAYweb Standard for single-stage HVAC systems; they also make the Advanced for more complex HVAC setups. Here is a data sheet for the Standard model:
http://www.bayweb.com/wp-content/uploads/BAYweb_Standard_salesheet.pdf

The Standard is about $220 and the Advanced is about $250.

There's a lot that I like about the BAYweb product. First and foremost is that all of the configuration is done through a web page "in the cloud". There are also iOS and Android apps as well as a mobile version of the website. The settings are saved and then transmitted down to the thermostat, which is necessary to keep things running smoothly in case the internet connection is lost.

The BAYweb thermostat is a two-piece system. The main control module is located at the furnace, and the display/touchpad/sensor installs where your old thermostat was located. The main module needs a local AC plug for a DC wall wart and it also needs a hardwired Ethernet connection. The main control module splices into your existing low-voltage thermostat wiring to control the HVAC system. It's very easy to install.

You can load in your heating and cooling system specifications and cost per unit for your fuel source and electricity, and you will get web-based reporting on your home's energy usage. You can set up numerous "profiles" for temperature control and switch between them easily in the web interface.

You guys were talking about whether or not it makes sense to interface a programmable thermostat to a home automation system. I would say absolutely yes, in terms of occupancy sensing. I installed three of the BAYweb wireless, battery-powered occupancy sensors (one for each floor) and set a "no motion detected" timer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes of no motion being sensed, the thermostat goes into whatever pre-programmed setback you dial in. This has largely eliminated the need to set up complex thermostat schedules based on my family's ever-changing habits and routines. Basically we just have a simple program that has a wake up time and a sleep time. The occupancy sensors take care of all the other "comings and goings" automatically.
https://store.baycontrols.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=8&products_id=34

Of course, if you set the temp way back during no occupancy, when you come home it could be way too hot or too cold - even though the HVAC will kick on as soon as the sensors see you in the house. So while I set the "no one home" temperature back, I don't go crazy with it. You could set the temp way back if you wanted to; you just might want to log in from your phone 30 minutes before you return home to punch it back up to your normal comfort level.

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

For Wes's request of music when he gets home, an easy solution would be to mount and ipad, iPod touch on the wall nxt to the door and use a network ready reciever (Yamaha 673) and a controller app. Then he could turn on the reciever and select any desired input and any zone right the front door.

February 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterWill

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