Smart thermostats are designed to help consumers save energy and provide convenience. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling costs account for about half of a user’s energy bill. These thermostats are estimated to save 8-15 percent on energy costs when used properly. They can also be controlled by your voice or an app, and some learn your daily habits and automatically adjust accordingly.
The caveat with the smart thermostat is that it is best used with certain heating systems. If you are thinking of purchasing a smart thermostat, consider your home’s heating system before making the purchase.
There are three main types of heat pump systems: air-source, geothermal and ductless mini-split. Heat pumps do not generate heat – they move heat from one place to another. A furnace creates heat that is distributed throughout a home, but a heat pump absorbs heat energy from the outside air and transfers it to the indoor air.
Air-source heat pumps can reduce heating costs by 50 percent compared to baseboard heaters or electric furnaces. If temperatures drop below 10-25 degrees Fahrenheit, a heat pump may use an auxiliary heating system similar to an electric furnace.
Geothermal heat pumps move heat from the earth through pipes buried underground. The earth maintains a temperature of about 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. When compared to a conventional heating system, geothermal units can reduce energy by 25-50 percent. A geothermal heat pump also has an auxiliary heating system, but it is very rarely used.
Ductless mini-split heat pumps do not have any energy loss through ductwork, which accounts for more than 30 percent of a home’s energy use for space heating and cooling.
When using a smart thermostat with a heat pump, it is important to choose one that is compatible with your system, supports the wiring required of a heat pump and supports your heat pump if it has an auxiliary heating system.
Smart thermostats allow consumers to set different temperatures in the home based on their schedule, like when home, away or sleeping. When using a smart thermostat with a heat pump, it is recommended that the temperature settings do not fluctuate more than four degrees. The system cannot expel heat as quickly as a furnace because it is pulling warm air from outside and may need to supplement the heat in extreme temperatures. If using an air-source heat pump, a dramatic increase in temperature settings can cause the auxiliary heating system to kick on and negate your energy savings.
Electric resistance heat
Electric resistance heat can be supplied by centralized forced-air electric furnaces or by heaters in each room. Room heaters can consist of electric baseboard heaters, electric wall heaters, electric radiant heat or electric space heaters.
Electric furnaces are more expensive to operate than other electric resistance systems because of their duct heat losses and the extra energy required to distribute the heated air throughout your home.
Blowers, or large fans, in electric furnaces move air over a stack of electric resistance coils called elements. Heated air is delivered throughout the home through supply ducts and returned to the furnace through return ducts. The ducts may lose some of their heat through air leakage, and if the ducts run through unconditioned spaces, they will lose heat through radiation and convection of the duct’s metal surface.
Electric resistance heat can handle greater internal temperature fluctuation setting changes from a smart thermostat than a heat pump because it creates hot air on demand. When choosing a smart thermostat for an electric furnace, be sure that it is compatible with your system and supports the wiring necessary for the thermostat.
Choosing and installing a smart thermostat
There are multiple brands of smart thermostats on the market today such as Nest, Honeywell and Ecobee. A certain brand and model of smart thermostat may work best for your specific type of heating and cooling system. Do your homework by reading through the manufacturers’ information and use reviews from trusted media publications.
The installation of a smart thermostat can be a good DIY project if you have the proper skills. Most manufacturers will provide good support to make sure that it is properly configured to work with your heating and cooling system. By using a professional installer, you know the wiring and setup of the smart thermostat will be done correctly and safely.
There’s a rebate for that
Dawson PPD offers a smart thermostat rebate to qualified customers. Customers that primarily use electric heat qualify for a $75 rebate. Fossil-fuel heating customers will receive $25. An additional $25 rebate is available to customers who hire a professional to install the thermostat. For more information, please visit our rebates page or call 308-324-2386.
Other home heating considerations
- Size matters – an improperly sized HVAC unit can wreak havoc on your home. An oversized unit can cause your system to “short cycle” by constantly turning off and on. An undersized unit will run constantly to keep up with demand. Enlist the help of a licensed professional to determine if your unit is adequately sized.
- Insulation – the better insulated your home is, the fewer British Thermal Units (BTUs) per square foot your home will need to stay at the desired temperature.
Whether you’re looking to save energy, add convenience – or both – a smart thermostat may be a good solution for your home heating needs.
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