Web Enabled Thermostats: A not-so-new technology is becoming mainstream due to the desire to save money and be “green”.
If you have been looking to purchase a new HVAC system for your home or business, you may have been given the option to include a thermostat that enables you to view statistics & make changes to the settings using a web browser or an app on your phone. The price ranges from a round $100.oo to as much as $500.oo at the time you purchase a new system, and you promised that it will pay for itself by allowing you to set schedules to reduce the costs of operating your system during times you are away from the home/business.
Some utility companies, such as UTX in Texas have plans you can sign up for that will enable you to get a FREE web enabled thermostat, and I believe you only pay around $75.oo for the installation. Ultra good deal in my opinion.
But what about those of us with older systems? Fortunately, the majority of web enabled thermostat manufacturers have designed their units with us in mind. Instead of targeting the new HVAC market, they have built devices that can be used with any system, whether it is a heat pump, or an oil fired unit, there is a model for you.
The benefits are as mentioned before… Ability to control your system from a web browser, ability to control your system from a phone with either a web browser or an app loaded on it for that thermostat. Some thermostats feature the ability to control other devices, such as lighting, and some have the ability to sense a contact closure. You can see a graph of system usage and override scheduled events, as well as easily SEE the schedules, rather than paging through one day at a time as you do on older programmable thermostats. Some units feature alerts, should your system not cool or heat properly, which would be perfect for those who have unattended / vacation properties.
What about security? Can someone “hack” my home? Sure! Anything that is accessible via the internet could potentially be exploited by attackers, however, these devices are currently low-profile making them an unlikely target. Most of the manufacturers claim security through encryption of the data stream.
Where do you get one of these? Online vendors have a large selection of web thermostats, and your HVAC vendor probably has their favorite. Some quality brands are Ecobee, Control By Web, Schlage / Trane, Proliphix, BAYweb, among others. Which model is right for you should be based upon exactly what features you require. For instance, some have a Wi-Fi option to eliminate the CAT-V cable run.
Can I really recoup my investment? That remains to be seen. I am sure a $150.oo unit could pay for itself in a year or more if you are replacing a non-programmable thermostat, but for some of the higher end products, I’m thinking that realistically you are looking at a couple years… Your mileage may vary.
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