Small steps

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by Steve Gabell

Cold winters and hot summers mean we rely on heating and cooling systems to keep our houses at a comfortable temperature. According to federal government figures, buildings are responsible for 17% of national emissions, with most of that resulting from space and water heating. Thermostats control the temperature in a house, but many traditional thermostats have limited functionality and programming features leading to inefficient energy use in heating or cooling empty buildings. Inefficient energy use has direct financial costs for homeowners from the use of electricity and natural gas or heating oil, and has indirect environmental costs from carbon dioxide emissions, natural gas leaks, and the extractive industry necessary to obtain hydrocarbon fuels. There is an easy and cheap way to reduce energy wastage in your home: installing a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats are claimed to be able to save almost $200 a year in heating and cooling costs, according to energyrates.ca, and many residential customers of Enbridge are eligible for a $75 instant discount on a range of popular models, meaning smart thermostats are available for under $60. More details on Enbridge’s discount can be found at www.enbridgegas.com. Low-income households may be eligible for a smart thermostat and other energy saving products at no cost through the Energy Affordability Program – more details are available at www.saveonenergy.ca.

Smart thermostats are internet connected management systems for your home’s heating and cooling system. They enable remote adjustment of thermostat settings so you can control your home’s temperature at all times, even when you are at work or away on vacation. Some smart thermostats let you establish schedules for each day of the week, while others have more advanced features and can adapt to your daily routine. Others use geofencing technology to establish a virtual perimeter around your home so that the smart thermostat can detect whether you are at home or not, which is great for those with hectic lives and irregular schedules. They may also be compatible with smart hubs such as Alexa, enabling you to change the temperature with voice commands. Many smart thermostats have mobile and/or web apps that are compatible with them, providing insight into how much your heating and cooling system has been used over time.

Installing a smart thermostat is relatively simple in newer buildings with a C-wire. I was able to install one in around 30 minutes following the instructions provided, and I am far from a DIY expert. All that was required was to turn the electricity to the thermostat off at the circuit breaker, remove the old thermostat, install a wall plate for the new thermostat, and then connect the existing wires to the new thermostat before turning the power back on. Older homes may require an HVAC professional to install a smart thermostat.

In the long term we will need to move away from using fossil fuels to heat space, along with increasing insulation to reduce the energy needed to regulate building temperatures. Installing a smart thermostat is an easy, low-cost way to reduce energy use and one can be ordered and installed in less than a week.

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