Technological Improvement Solutions for Smart Thermostats

Some smart thermostats can learn when a house might be occupied and when it might be empty. This allows for automatic preheating or precooling, so residents arrive at a comfortable temperature. If residents or lifestyles change, these smart thermostats will gradually adjust schedules to maintain energy savings and comfort.

1. The thermostat's motion sensor

One issue with using a smart thermostat is the reliability of the motion sensor. One of the main features of a smart thermostat is the ability to change the temperature when the sensors in the thermostat can't sense an occupant.

One study attempted to address this problem by adding more sensors throughout the house. Rather than using just one sensor in the thermostat, the team experimented with placing motion sensors and door sensors throughout the house to better understand occupant sleep and living patterns. These sensors communicate with each other and use an algorithm to quickly determine whether an occupant is active, asleep or away. The system uses historical data to estimate when occupants will return and begin "warming up" the home before they arrive. Additionally, the system will deviate from the set point when it is determined that no one is home.

The study compared standard smart thermostats and multi-sensor systems with manual thermostats. The study concluded that reactive smart thermostats with only sensors save an average of 6.8 percent of energy consumption, while multi-sensor systems save an average of 28 percent. This study once again shows that smart thermostats, on average, can meet energy-saving goals. It also shows that smart thermostat development is less than ideal, and adding more sensors can lead to better performance and energy savings.

2. The user interface of the smart thermostat

One of the programmable thermostat problems that smart thermostats try to solve is a confusing user interface. Many owners of programmable thermostats find the controls and instructions too confusing and choose not to use the scheduling feature at all. Others who used the feature misused due to confusion and noticed an increase in energy consumption.

Developers of smart thermostat products have tried to solve this problem by creating thermostats that are easy to use and provide the right direction. While this is an improvement over programmable thermostats, research shows that users want more in-depth training from thermostat installers on how to use the technology's features. Additionally, many smart thermostats use web portals where users can adjust thermostat settings and view their energy usage history. Again, research shows that users want to improve this feature. Some people complain that the web portal is not user-friendly and they want more training on how to use the web features during installation.