Smart thermostats can lead to cost savings


For the impending winter season, a smart thermostat might be a worthy investment, according to Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Supervisor DuWayne Dunham.

Dunham said smart thermostats are oftentimes an upgrade from a person’s common programmable thermostat. 

“They’re able to be worked with furnaces, so any type of central air system, electric furnace, heat pump, gas furnace, or any of those would be compatible,” said Dunham. 

Dunham said smart thermostats use a learning algorithm and there aren’t any preset settings on the device. 

Instead, he said a person can turn the thermostat up and down like they normally would on any given day and after a few weeks, the thermostat remembers the settings and starts mimicking them.  

The thermostats also have occupancy sensors, so after around two hours, if the thermostat doesn’t sense any movement, it will turn the temperature up or down depending on what mode it’s on, Dunham said. When the occupancy sensor determines that the home is unoccupied, it will increase the temperature during the cooling mode, or decrease the temperature in the heating mode, to save energy.

On top of that, the temperature can also be controlled through an app on your phone. 

“So that can be handy if you get to work and realize ‘oh no, I forgot to turn the temperature down before I left,’” Dunham said. “You could also just adjust it when you get home.”

Ecobee, Nest, Carrier and Bryant are some of the most recognized smart thermostat brands. Dunham said Ecobee’s thermostat has a remote sensor which can be put in a bedroom, which runs the heating or cooling system to whatever setting a person needs while prioritizing the air in that room.

If someone decides to install a smart thermostat and has an electric furnace or a heat pump, Clark Public Utilities has a rebate form, which offers that person $50 for the installation of the device, said Dunham. 

As for gas-heated homes, Northwest Natural has partnered with the Energy Trust of Oregon to offer rebates for smart thermostats as well. 

“Whatever type of central air system you have, there would be the potential for putting a smart thermostat on it and receiving their rebate,” Dunham said. 

Dunham has been to many homes as an energy counselor over the past 20 years, and he said he still gets surprised with how many people are fearful of operating a programmable thermostat. Once Dunham walks them through the step-by-step process, he said people quickly get the hang of the thermostats. 

“What the smart thermostat has over a programmable thermostat is being able to control it remotely, the occupancy sensor, and the learning algorithm,” Dunham said. “When you talk about setting a thermostat, it’d be much easier to put it to the temperature you want, and in a couple weeks, the system takes it from there.”

In terms of energy savings, Dunham said it’s possible to save $38 when using a smart thermostat along with an electric furnace, and $55 with a heat pump, based on 468 kilowatt hours (kWh) by 8.16 cents, which is the amount Clark Public Utilities charges per kWh.

For more information, contact CPU's energy counselor of the day at  360-992-3355.