It would be cool (pun intended) if we could all have solar panels and fully off-grid homes, but those goals aren’t exactly realistic. (Yet.)
That doesn’t mean we don’t have accessible ways to help shrink our household carbon footprint right now. One that’s not only completely achievable but also easy is incorporating affordable technology, like installing a smart thermostat—as I did a few years ago.
It’s a low-risk investment, and you don’t have to be a gadget lover or IT pro to figure out a WiFi thermostat. I’m not.
But my expertise as a data analyst means I pay attention to how things perform and how they can improve. I like products that work for the environment, for my wallet and for streamlining my life.
And on all counts, the Ecobee thermostat is a winner.
Why eco-friendly heating and cooling matters
A 2019 study published in PNAS (the journal of the National Academy of Sciences) found that about 20 percent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. stemmed from powering households. That’s a lot.
Of course, we need to maintain certain temperatures indoors to feel comfortable. But as we go through the chaotic fluctuations of scorching summers and bitter winters triggered by climate change, the impact of cranking air conditioners and firing up furnaces is more than just raising your energy bill.
There’s an environmental toll, too, and it’s a vicious circle: The more we adjust temperatures inside because of extreme weather outside, the more we worsen the climate.
Air conditioning and electric fans are responsible for a massive 20 percent of global electricity use.
It’s important we act quickly. Air conditioning and electric fans are responsible for a massive 20 percent of global electricity use.
And then there’s the additional problem of refrigerants, the stuff that produces cold air from AC units—many of them are potent greenhouse gases, too. Getting a handle on your own contribution feels a bit more poignant, right?
A smart thermostat like Ecobee’s invites us into the engineer’s chair with easy-to-use interfaces that connect to a mobile app. We can get a much clearer grasp of our energy consumption—and then get to work on reducing our personal carbon footprint.
The scoop on the Ecobee smart thermostat
Ecobee started as a result of the founders struggle to conserve energy.
Ecobee is a Toronto-based company that started as a result of the founder’s struggle to conserve energy using a traditional thermostat while away on vacation.
The company now has three models. There’s the Ecobee3 Lite, the entry-level option, and the Ecobee4, the solid middle ground with add-ons like a room sensor. And then there’s the top-tier SmartThermostat, with voice control, Spotify syncing (who doesn’t want to control their playlist with their thermostat?) and other extras.
I’ve been a user since 2017, when I installed two Ecobee3 Lites in my 4,000-square-foot home. (Most people only need one thermostat, but I have two sets of HVAC.)
In four years, I’ve never had a technological glitch or issue. The design is slick and comes with optional wall plates, so the thermostat doesn’t have to look like a sci-fi add-on.
It didn’t matter that I’m not an HVAC specialist—the installation was easy, with extremely flexible wiring.
Many older-style thermostats don’t have a separate power line, which is not a problem for Ecobee, as it comes with an adjustment kit to solve that. (With competitors that don’t offer this, you’d have to add in a wire to upgrade to a smart thermostat.)
The main difference between a regular home thermostat and a smart thermostat is that you can control and adjust the temperature from just about anywhere—or outsource everything to the thermostat. For instance, instead of you having to remember to switch off the central air when you head out, a smart thermostat will do it automatically.
How? Ecobee’s sensors notice when you leave—picking up on lack of movement—and will adjust to your preferences, turning down the heat or AC. It detects when you’re back, too, and restores your desired settings quickly. You can even give it a heads-up before you walk in the door if you want a specific temperature to greet you.
Everything can be done from your smartphone.
A sore spot with old-school thermostats is that you could program them, but they didn’t always stay at the temperature you requested, depending on other variables—like if you use the oven, or throw a log on the fireplace. Ecobee got the memo, learning your habits and keeping things the way you like.
It uses outside temperatures to regulate levels inside. And you can decide on default settings, like “home,” “asleep” and “away.” It’s truly effortless to adjust as needed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tweaked the temperature from bed during my wife’s pregnancy.
Beyond acting as your personal temperature concierge, Ecobee helps your community, too. It’ll adjust temperatures during high-demand hours to lower the impact on your local power grid—and slurping up fewer resources at peak use means you’ll be consuming cleaner energy. You won’t even notice.
Another impressive fact: Across North America, Ecobee has saved the energy equivalent of taking Las Vegas off-grid for a whole year—and that place leaves a lot of lights on. To be specific, that’s more than 13.5 TWh of energy, a number that continues to grow.
On average, an Ecobee thermostat will help you reduce your electricity bill by 23 percent.
Last but not least, there’s the money savings. On average, an Ecobee—or another smart thermostat—helps reduce electricity bills by 23 percent.
It pays for itself in no time (under a year for the Ecobee3 Lite, for example); you can stash the additional savings for your future solar panels. Also, check if your utility company offers incentives for energy efficiency; many give rebates to help you cover the cost of a smart thermostat.
Obviously, I’m a fan. But it really is a victory on the homefront. Install it for the planet and the pleasure of achieving your ideal degree of coziness all the time, but love it for the money it saves you.
Oh, and if you were wondering, my perfect home temperature is 60.8°F at night, 68°F during the day.
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