How Tech Can (and Can't) Help You Fight Soaring Energy Bills

The Department of Energy and utilities like PG&E and Consolidated Edison have recommended setting the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahren...


The Department of Energy and utilities like PG&E and Consolidated Edison have recommended setting the thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. So I programmed the Nest for 68 throughout the day.

When the $370 bill came a month later, I realized the rule of thumb was terrible for my two-bedroom house, which was built in the 1960s with after-the-fact insulation. Once the house reached 68 degrees, it couldn’t hold that temperature for long, so the oven came back on about 20 minutes later.

All this to say that saving energy with technology requires independent thinking. While leaving the thermostat at 68 all day might make sense for small apartments in well-insulated buildings, it’s generic advice that many homes probably wouldn’t benefit from, said product manager Ben Brown. Google for the Nest Thermostat.

Instead, ask yourself a few questions. How big is your house? What do you know about insulation? How long does it take to heat up a few degrees? And most importantly, at what temperature would you and your family feel comfortable?

In November, I decided to try making the Nest work better with my house this winter. After changing the Nest’s settings and studying my daily energy expenditure for a month, I concluded that this was the best schedule for my home:

  • 6:30 a.m.: Turn the temperature up to 66, for when it’s time to get out of bed.

  • 8 a.m.: Set the temperature to 60 so that the temperature drops steadily throughout the day. It made the house a bit chilly but tolerable wearing a sweater.

  • 8:00 p.m.: Raise the temperature to 66°C, when it’s cold at night (and after PG&E peak).

  • 11 p.m.: Set the temperature to 57, for bedtime.

During this experience, the Nest Thermostat also notified me that my furnace was turning on and off every few minutes, which meant something was wrong. I hired an HVAC professional who diagnosed and fixed the problem: the gas pressure was too high, causing the furnace to overheat and automatically shut off.

This solution, combined with the programmed heating schedule, has resulted in a significant drop in my bills.

In December, after finishing my experience with gas, I turned my attention to electric. The results were less remarkable.

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Newsrust - US Top News: How Tech Can (and Can't) Help You Fight Soaring Energy Bills
How Tech Can (and Can't) Help You Fight Soaring Energy Bills
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