Google & Nest thermostats: New Frontiers in Energy EfficiencyLevon Whyte for Zondits, May 5, 2014
As a standalone product, NEST’s Learning Thermostat was already a game changer. Unlike other programmable thermostats, the Nest thermostat studies the preferred heating and cooling schedule of the home’s occupants and over a few days begins to program itself. This feature alone makes a world of difference because research shows that half of the homeowners who use programmable thermostats don’t actually program them.
With standard programmable thermostats, the initial setup can be complicated and time-consuming—not to mention the hassle of reprograming throughout the year to capitalize on seasonal savings. A Nest thermostat, however, will automatically make adjustments to reduce energy consumption and will also suggest to the user, through its intuitive interface, schedules that yield optimal savings. Two of Nest’s trademarked features are Auto-AwayTM, which detects when you leave your home and resets the temperature accordingly, and AirwaveTM, a setting that automatically runs the AC less when the house humidity isn’t too high. Other features include monthly energy reports with suggestions on improving conservation, and remote mobile control. It is almost as if you have your own personal home energy manager sitting quietly on your wall.
Interesting, but there’s even more.
With select energy companies across the country (for example, Austin Energy in Texas) customers can choose to sync their Nest thermostat with the energy provider such that their home’s temperature is automatically adjusted during energy rush hours on extremely hot days, reducing the peak demand. Not only does the energy provider save money and prevent potential blackouts this way, but customers also receive incentives . More and more utility companies are starting to see the benefit of this technology to their own operation and are now offering their customers rebates as high as $100 after the purchase of a Nest Learning Thermostat. With this direct interaction and cooperation between the utility company and the homes they serve, utilities are getting one step closer to accurate load forecasting, peak demand control, and overall energy conservation on a large scale.
Earlier this year Nest was acquired for $3.2 billion. Zondits offered its own take on this acquisition in a previous post. On the surface, one might wonder what the search engine giant has to do with these seemingly unrelated thermostats: “Will my house post its own statuses through my Google plus account or send messages to my Gmail?” Not quite. Google and its related products, including its Android phones, have been integrated into the lives countless consumers to date, and these products have collectively captured much of our routines and behavior. Combine this behavioral information with Google’s powerful data analytics capabilities, and Nest energy usage data capture and utilities will be able to have a clearer view of large-scale energy usage patterns and trends as well as more contact with their customers. They will have the ability to tailor efficiency programs for more precise areas, and it will be easier for them to track how well the particular efficiency program is doing. They could also request from customers, in real time, a particular action (offering additional incentives, if necessary) to improve the outcome of the program. This could even be extended beyond just residential into the commercial and industrial spaces as well.
So many possibilities exist. In the near future, you’ll find yourself using the OK Google feature to confirm your arrival time to your vacation getaway when suddenly you’ll be asked, “Do you also want to power down your home appliances and work PC?” It could be the start to saving the country millions of kWh and countless tons of carbon emissions.