Former engineers from Apple and Google are turning their tech-minded attention to home energy. The computer experts have unveiled a smart home thermostat that is able to cut energy use by 20 to 30 percent and save an average homeowner $173 dollars a year. The Nest Learning Thermostat programs itself based on the behavior patterns of people in the home.The Nest uses six sensors to track temperature, motion, humidity, and ambient light to control energy consumption.
Within a week of being used, the thermostat creates a schedule based on the habits of the homeowners. The Nest automatically adjusts the heating and cooling when no one is home and documents how much energy is used in a day. The new device is networked through Wi-Fi so users can program it through an iOS or Android device. Homeowners can also log onto Nest.com to program changes remotely if, for example, the weather turns unseasonably cold while the user is at work. The technology can also track weather conditions and forecasts, allowing the device to better monitor how outside conditions affect the user’s energy use.
Nest Labs CEO and co-founder Tony Fadell led the team at Apple that created the first generations of the iPod and iPhone. Nest Vice President of Technology, Yoky Matsuoka, was the head of innovation at Google. The thermostat will retail for $249 dollars and be available in about a month.
There are other simple things you can do to slash energy bills as colder weather approaches. Want to know where to start? Here are Terri’s “Top 5 Ways to Slash Winter Utility Bills.”
1) Attack the Attic
There are lots of escape routes for warm air inside your home. One biggie is your attic area. Make sure the attic door is insulated and seals when shut. As for the actual attic space, if you can see the ceiling joists, you probably need more insulation.
2) Keep Money from Flying out the Window
Windows and doors are the easiest places where warm air can slip outside. Use a match or lit candle to search for leaks. If the flame blows out when held next to windowsills or door frames there’s a problem. One alternative to upgrading to more efficient windows is to put up insulating storm windows and doors to act as a barrier. Or, try window insulating kits or heavy drapery to keep winter drafts from entering your home through windows. And, rubber weatherstripping is an inexpensive solution to fill gaps in door frames.
3) Help Keep Heating Units In Shape
Don’t forget to keep up with the maintenance of central heating units. Furnaces should be checked each year to make sure they are operating at maximum efficiency and with clean filters. A clogged filter makes the unit work harder, costing more to operate and creating a fire hazard. Another good idea is to check the duct work in your home to make sure there aren’t any leaks. You can easily fix any that you find with metal-backed tape found at any hardware store.
4) Keep Hot Air Down
If your fireplace is more ornamental rather than functional use a chimney plug to prevent warm air from rising right up and out of your house. And one of the simplest ways to keep warm air moving inside your home is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. In the colder months, your fan blades should turn in the clockwise direction to force warmer air collecting at the ceiling down toward the floor.
5) Show Your Hot Water Heater Some Love
And finally if your hot water heater is located in a cold garage or closet, invest in a water heater insulating blanket. This keeps your unit from having to work so hard to heat the water.
Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, syndicated columnist and author, and founder of DoYourPart, everyday green living ideas that are better for you and the planet. Send questions firstname.lastname@example.org and follow DoYourPart on Facebook and Twitter. Terri’s new book “Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living” is now available at DoYourPart.com