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Smart Thermostats Would Save 2.6 Gigatons of Carbon by 2050

Wesley Fryer/flickr

Smart thermostats place #57 on the Drawdown list of climate solutions. By 2050, this technology could reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by 2.6 gigatons at a cost of US$74.2 billion and produce net savings of $640.1 billion in utility bills.

Energy use, and the need to better manage it, has become an important issue in the effort to reduce carbon emissions, Drawdown states. And smart thermostats can play a key role in making energy use more efficient. In the United States, for example, residential thermostats are linked to 9% of total energy consumption.

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Most of today’s thermostats are manual, and they’re generally not used efficiently. However, smart thermostats can get the job done “without any heavy lifting,” Drawdown notes. “They are ‘smart’ in the sense of being able to learn and take independent action, thereby eliminating the capriciousness of human behaviour and driving more predictable energy savings.”

Smart thermostats are a relatively recent development, only entering the market over the last 10 years. They’re easy to install and manage, and have sensory technology that allows them to adapt to residents’ choices, habits, and routines.

“Smart thermostats detect occupancy, learn inhabitants’ preferences, and nudge users toward more efficient behaviour,” all of which can decrease energy consumption during times of peak demand, emissions, and price. Households can not only become more energy efficient, but also reduce costs. And if homes are connected through a microgrid or a larger building, individual smart thermostats can boost the efficiency of the entire system.

Despite their potential to increase savings and improve energy efficiency, more work is needed to promote the use of smart thermostats. According to Drawdown, the main barrier remains cost, and persuading people to invest in making the switch from their current thermostat to a smart one.

However, there are ways to encourage smart thermostat use—by lowering costs, creating incentive programs, and developing building codes that support their use.