Ask Carley: How Does a Smart Thermostat Work?

HGTV Smart Home 2016 tech consultant, Carley Knobloch shares the advantages of using a smart thermostat in your home.
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It can warm up the house before you feel chilly, cool the place before you start to sweat, and save you more than a hundred bucks a year on average. It’s a smart thermostat, and it’s a major departure from the thermostats most of us have always known. Have you ever wondered how they work, and whether you’d enjoy using one? Here’s a breakdown:

It senses what you’re doing.

Each brand functions a little differently, but they all use motion sensors to pick up on your daily routines so they can maintain a comfortable temperature when someone is home, and save energy when no one’s around. Changing the temperature manually will “teach” smart thermostats your patterns, too. All of this means you have to do less work to get your thermostat to maintain your preferred temperature, and its settings can be more sophisticated and sensitive than the average thermostat can be.

Moreover, some models combine internal motion sensors with information from your home environment and from local weather stations in order to create an ideal heating and cooling schedule (they receive weather information via Wi-Fi). Other models use external motion sensors that you can place throughout your house, so they’ll detect which rooms are occupied, and warm or cool those rooms.

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Move Aside, Television

If you’re not willing to give up television (perish the thought!) finding ways to hide television can pull focus from the boob tube and create a cozier space for, say, a board game. Here, three televisions hide behind paintings when not in use. 

Photo By: Eric Perry

Build It In

A kitchen counter full of appliances looks downright messy, but putting each one away day after day feels futile. Instead, try building your most used gadgets into the cabinetry for a polished look and cleaner counters.

Photo By: Eric Perry ©2014, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Act Naturally

Bringing in natural materials, like the rustic copper treatment for this range hood, helps to diffuse the harshness and blend into the surroundings. 

Smart Furniture

Beautiful furniture that has a brain does double duty. This lamp table is also a wireless charger for compatible phones— no cables required. 

Photo By: IKEA/Christian Andersson

Embrace Wall Space

Wall mounting gadgets, like these tablets that control a smart home, keeps countertops clear and tech out of sight. 

Photo By: Eric Perry

Create a Tech Hub

Creating a central zone for people to charge their devices, complete with USB outlets and a high-tech weather station, is a cue for family members to park their PDAs and untether from their tech. 

Finding Comfort

Think of adding technology that provides undercover comfort, like this smart mattress that adjusts to your preference, and has a massage feature. 

Photo By: Eric Perry

Declutter Wires

Tell-tale sign that technology is lurking? Cord and cable clutter. Reduce it, and you’ll have a sanctuary fit for life or work that doesn’t feel a mess. 

Touch Me

This faucet hides a secret. Wave your hand underneath, and it will turn itself on. A life-saver in the kitchen, and a brilliant example of how technology doesn’t have to be in your face. 

Potential minus: if you’re napping or watching a movie, the thermostat might think you’re out, requiring a manual adjustment. Certain models use “geo-fence technology” to recognize your smartphone, so the thermostat “knows” when you enter and exit the house—though if you don’t always have your phone with you, that could be a drawback. 

So is it creepy that my thermostat is checking on my whereabouts? It seemed that way at first, but the truth is a thermostat’s intelligence is based on algorithms, not actual people-tracking.

Is it safe? Smart thermostats use encryption and “bank-level” security. That said, even banks sometimes get hacked, so whether or not you want your thermostat collecting personal information about your home-habits is up to you.

It takes care of the place when you’re away.

Smart thermostats will automatically adjust the temperature if your house becomes too hot or too cold while you’re out, so you can avoid freezing pipes, a too-hot pet…or just a cupboard full of melted chocolate. Conversely, you won’t be heating or cooling an empty house— your house will go into “away” mode if it senses you’re not around, or you can tell it you’re going on vacation while you’re heading to the airport. 

Everpurse Phone Charger

Everpurse Phone Charger

Everpurse is stylish on the outside, but inside, there’s a dock that can recharge your phone. The purse holds enough “juice” to charge your phone several times, and charges on its own little mat so it can live to charge another day.

Photo by: Everpurse

Everpurse

It can be controlled from afar.

Rocking your baby and can’t get up to reach the thermostat? Or maybe you’re home in bed with the flu? Most smart thermostats can be controlled from your phone, so you can dial in a temperature adjustment from anywhere in the house or beyond. Imagine heating up your home up you land at the airport, so it’s nice and toasty when you get home, or checking on the house’s temperature when you’re on vacation.

It keeps in touch.

Your thermostat is constantly communicating with you. If your home’s temperature suddenly spikes or dips, you’ll receive a text so you’re the first to know. You’ll also get a monthly report on how much energy you’ve saved, and how you can save more in the future. Being more eco-friendly truly becomes an interactive experience.

It saves you money.

This is the big payoff: Smart thermostats are a bit of an up-front investment, so won’t start paying for themselves before at least a year and a half of use, on average. Once you’re past that milestone, you’ll be coming out ahead with paying smaller energy bills forever after. 

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