What Can Internet-Connected Thermostats Tell Us About Building Performance? The Grid?
At least five million American homes have Internet-connected thermostats. These devices use cloud-based algorithms to improve comfort and reduce energy consumption. Every five minutes, they collect and transmit detailed operating information, including thermostat setpoints, actual indoor temperatures, occupancy, and HVAC operation. One thermostat provider established a program that enables customers to anonymously “donate” their data to researchers and more than 50,000 customers have opted in. This dataset represents the most comprehensive public data on home temperature preferences for North America and provides far more detail than any previous method based on surveys or monitoring programs. The data show in detail preferred temperatures while occupants are home, sleeping, and away. On average, these households lower their thermostats about 1°C when they are asleep compared to when awake, though this average conceals both widespread constant operation and deeper setbacks. The peak usage of air conditioners in Texas was shown to precisely match the grid’s systemwide peak. Thermostats are also grid sensors and provide new visibility into power outages. When a power outage occurs, the thermostats go dark. This feature was demonstrated during Hurricane Irma’s passage through Florida.
Senior Scientist, Buildings Technology Urban Systems, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Alan Meier is a Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he leads the Electronics, Lighting, and Networks group in BTUS. Meier was instrumental in identifying the problem of standby energy use in appliances and equipment, and then devising technologies and policies to reduce it. Meier’s research focuses on using enhanced communication technologies and networks to economically reduce energy consumption. In 2001, he developed the first web-based, real-time display of grid demand and supply conditions, which is now used worldwide. In 2010 he developed procedures to quantify the usability of thermostats and other interfaces. While at the International Energy Agency, he wrote a book for utilities and policymakers facing temporary power shortages, Saving Electricity in a Hurry. Meier is also an adjunct professor of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.