I have been on a quest to make my home more energy efficient for many years now. I replaced all incandescent light bulbs either with CFL or LED bulbs. I installed a gas range, which, by the way, consumes five times less energy than an electric one. I installed a range hood to pull hot air outside when cooking. We do laundry only during off-peak hours. And our monthly bills still stubbornly come up in the range of $80-100. My last bill came in at $130 that was simply outrageous for a small home of ours. One culprit to that is central air conditioning – one luxury we could not give up. An average central air conditioner cost you about $700 a year to run. So, the question du jour was how do I make our cooling bills lower.
I did some research and discovered that Enbridge currently has a promotion where they will contribute $100 towards the purchase of a new smart thermostat. Smart thermostats have been around for years, but I have always shied away because they can get expensive. This incentive helped me make my decision. This program is in effect until December 31, 2015, so you still have time to take advantage.
Choosing the smart thermostat
Two thermostats are covered by this program – the well known Nest and no so well known Ecobee. Both go toe to toe on functionality and specs, but Nest is $50 more expensive. Ecobee also integrates with the Apple Home Kit that would allow integrating with other smart home devices. It connects to your home wi-fi and communicates with its smart server to use outdoor temperature to optimise your cooling or heating cycles. You can see real-time weather information and forecast right on the thermostat. Overtime, it learns the patterns and optimises the heating or cooling cycle accordingly.
It also includes a wireless temperature sensor that you can install in a different room (which Nest does not). For example, if your second floor is warmer as in most homes, you can install it in your bedroom to make sure it is cool at night. It has a neat, smart phone app that allows you to control your thermostat wherever you’re. The thermostat senses that there is no movement in the house and adjust the temperature accordingly. You can also set up a schedule of what temperatures you want when you sleep or are at work.
It promises 20% annual energy savings that is about $20 a month in my case. At the cost of $300 minus the $100 incentive, it would pay for itself in a year or so. So, I decided to give Ecobee a shot.
The only hesitation I had was would I be able to install it on my own. After doing some research, I decided that I could, and so I went to Home Depot to purchase the device.
It came in a neat well-packaged box, but with absolutely no instructions.
Fortunately enough, I found a great article on the internet showing step by step how to install it. I removed the old thermostat and used existing wires.
It connects to your furnace wiring using five wires and communicates with the furnace, air conditioner and the central air fan. It took me about an hour to wire the whole thing. All wires are marked by colour and effortlessly connect to push pins in the furnace and the device. After some tinkering, I was all set.
On the first day after I installed it, I noticed significant improvements in how the cooling system operates and the comfort of my house. The air fan became less frantic and would gradually modulate in and out. The air conditioner that would cut in and out every ten minutes before now would turn on much more rarely, and the room temperature is still very stable. I set the thermostat to connect to the bedroom sensor at night, and – a sheer miracle – our bedroom felt much cooler.
It would be interesting to see the long-term savings after we use it for a while. Ecobee compares your usage with millions of other homeowners and helps you optimise the consumption even further.
Let me know if you need help installing one of these in Ottawa or have any questions.