The Case for Smart Thermostats:
Smart Thermostats are getting a lot of attention these days. Suppliers include Smart Thermostat startup companies, the well-established thermostat manufacturers and now most of the major furnace manufacturers have jumped on board by offering smart thermostats with their high end equipment. Following are a number of reasons I feel heating contractors should be talking about these types of next generation controls with their customers.
- Homeowners have more information available to them than ever before with the use of the Internet. If a contractor is not talking about new technologies they are missing out on an opportunity to market their expertise and prove value for the services provided.
- The smart thermostat technologies are utilizing information streams that can better inform the thermostats of what the home and HVAC system needs. The technology is not that much different from thermostats of the past in the way of hardware and install the main difference is we are now able to put real world information into places where a manufacturer used to have to make an assumption or offer a couple of hypothetical scenarios and variables to be programmed by an install contractor. Weather forecasting and home heating history data are examples of those variables that are now monitored and used to more effectively utilize energy and maintain comfort.
- Giving contractors the ability to get real time service information. The level of remote diagnostics and troubleshooting varies by product and is an important feature for contractors to consider. Most Smart thermostats can alert a homeowner and/or contractor when there is a problem with the HVAC system. Some allow a contractor to remotely identify a problem and provide a higher level of service versus his competitors. Even more impressive, some brands of thermostats collect data that can be analyzed and could lead to the contractor upselling a job. For example, if humidity is not dropping in a home during air conditioning season, a contractor can recommend a dehumidification system and show the homeowner with the data collected from their thermostat why they need that product.
- The future of energy and how it is billed is moving toward the time of day the power is consumed. These new web connected thermostats will allow homeowners to better use power in their home while shifting loads and minimizing peak period usage. Some of the Smart Thermostats on the market today have the ability to interface with appliances and utility controls.
In Summary, there are many factors to consider when selecting a smart thermostat brand. Factors such as equipment compatibility, online content, and remote control vary greatly between smart thermostat manufacturers. Other questions to consider are: Does the manufacturer support the supply chain and heating professionals or are the thermostats sold in big box stores? Also, what level of integration does the control offer for sensors, home automation and external components? Is the product being used for retrofitting an existing HVAC system or is it a new install? These types of differences are things that will point towards which type of thermostat is best for your customers and your business. In the long run, it will require a contractor to do some research and have some trial installs to find their thermostat of choice. The good news is there are a lot of options to choose from and more improvements on the way.
Andy Shilt is a product representative and Territory Manager for EP Sales in Bloomington, MN. He is responsible for the representation of manufacturers in the Southern Minnesota, Northern Wisconsin and South Dakota HVAC and Plumbing market. He also support Rep. Partners for National Sales on the Thermolec, Summeraire and EPS Make Up Air product lines. Other duties include sales support through project quotations, technical support and other various sales and marketing activities. Andy is very knowledgeable in the technical and electrical aspects of HVAC and Hydronic equipment.