11 Ways to Create a Smart Home for Your Smart Thermostat

The Nest and Meridian Smart Thermostat MapsAccording to a 2010 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory survey about programmable thermostats, “89% reported that they rarely or never adjusted the thermostat to set a weekend or weekday program, and 54% of respondents used the on/off switch at least weekly.”

That means that most consumers who bought a programmable thermostat to help them save money either improperly or never bothered to program them, which winds up costing them more money. Not surprisingly, cost-conscious energy consumers are looking for a smarter alternative, together spending $86 million in 2013 on smart thermostats.

Smart thermostats, like the Nest and the Meridian Smart Thermostat (powered by Honeywell smart thermostats) offer more than just programmable climate control. They work by analyzing your home’s actual electricity usage in relation to the time and local weather to produce a convenient way to reduce energy use and save money.

And in the case of the Nest and the Meridian Smart Thermostat, setup is simplicity itself. The Nest learns your usage habits by recording your daily patterns of how you set your home’s temperature – when you get up, when you leave, when you return, and when you go to bed. After one week, it takes over. The Meridian Smart Thermostat uses a series of intuitive interview-style questions that you answer online when you sign up for the Meridian Saving Plan. The Meridian App then gathers daily usage data and calculates the most efficient temperature settings. Both systems do all the weekly programming work for you.

Of course, there’s always little room for tweaking. So, here’s list of a 11 energy efficiency tips to create a smart home for your smart thermostat.

1) Keep supply and cold air return vents open. Prevent them from being blocked by furniture or carpets.

2) Insulate and seal your duct work. Make sure that all your heated and cooled air gets circulated in the right places. Leaky systems are costly.

3) Cranking the thermostat up to 80 or down to 50 doesn’t heat or cool your home faster. In fact, doing that could end up wasting energy and costing you money. Thermostats only have control if your heating or cooling should turn on or off. How fast your home heats or cools depends mainly on the weather outside and how efficiently your HVAC does its job.

4) Change your air filter every three months. Clogged air filters increase your energy costs. Even though smart thermostats will send out reminders, YOU still have to do it.

5) Warm sun & cold house. Thermostats are usually mounted where they won’t receive direct sunlight, and (theoretically) are in the room where the home occupants spend the most time. This time of year can be a problem if that room has windows with a southwestern aspect, as they may let in a lot of warm sunlight during the late afternoon. Depending on the size of this room and several other factors, your thermostat might turn off the heat sooner, leaving other parts of your home uncomfortably cool just as you and your family returns home. There are several simple workarounds:

  • Close the curtains that let in the sun (though you’ll lose all that free solar heat).
  • If there’s a ceiling fan in the room, leave it running to help circulate the air on that floor.
  • Program your Nest or Meridian Smart Thermostat to run the blower fan continuously during that time of the afternoon. This will circulate the air throughout your home and help keep the temperature uniform.

6) Make sure you have a strong Wi-fi signal from your smart thermostat. Because you can remotely control your smart thermostat via the internet, periodically check the signal strength in the network settings on the thermostat’s control screen. If you are having intermittent connectivity problems, try relocating your wireless router so that it is closer. Also consult the smart thermostat manufacturer’s website for router compatibility issues.

7) When you leave your home, consider how low you really can go. Some house pets and plants do not tolerate a wide range of temperatures well. If you go out to run errands for an extended period, your son’s pet reptile might not handle cooler temperatures and your daughter’s canary might stifle in summer heat. Keep these in mind when you adjust your away settings. The Nest Auto-­Away system will follow your preset minimum when it doesn’t detect movement, while the Meridian Smart Thermostat lets you adjust your “Away” settings through its app on your smartphone.

8) Bags packed. Pets at their sitters. All Aboard! Smart Thermostats let you save energy and money while your home is empty. Because vacations interrupt the weekly routine, it’s easier to manually set its schedule (or place it in “Hold”) to use the least amount of energy for the time you’ll be away. For winter, the safest low temperature is 50°F. In the summer, you can turn off the air conditioning. You won’t need to worry about coming to a hot or cold house because you can just instruct the device to follow the automatic schedule while you’re on your way home. That way you home will be comfortable when you arrive.

9) Set the temperature lower when you go to bed. Most people know there’s no reason to heat or cool and empty house. But there’s also no reason to heat or cool the house when they’re asleep and inactive. The human body tends to lose 1-2 F° of heat when sleeping . Set the thermostat several degrees lower during the winter or a little higher in the summer about 30 minutes before your normal bedtime and set it to bring the temperature back beginning one hour before you wake up. Not only will this reduce your energy bill, it might help you sleep better.

10) Keep both your app and your thermostat current with software and firmware updates. Both apps and the thermostat programming is periodically revised to enhance their functionality and give you access to more control options. The Nest and the Meridian Smart Thermostat notify you when new updates are available. Updates are also available from iTunes and Google Play.

11) Energy efficiency reports help you learn how to save. Both the Nest and the Meridian Smart Thermostat display a time-to-temperature feature. It calculates and displays (in real-time) how long it takes to reach the current set point temperature. They do this by calculating temperature change in relation to local weather data they get from the internet. Over time, you’ll see how your home and its HVAC system respond in different weather conditions and adjust scheduled settings accordingly. Since both thermostats track and record your usage, monitoring that information will help you better fine-tune those settings. The Nest lets you access your Energy History by selecting ENERGY in the Nest Thermostat menu. The Meridian Smart Thermostat calculates the most efficient temperature settings for you and recommends a new setting in the app’s “Set for Savings” feature. You can also see just how your home compares with similar homes’ energy use. Often, just by tweaking the temperature setting, consumers can save about 10% more off their energy consumption.

Want to know just how much you can save with these smart thermostats?

And if you do choose to use one of these smart thermostats from Direct Energy, remember the mercury in you old thermostat is toxic and should be recycled safely. Visit thermostat-recycle.org to see how.

Hopefully, these 11 energy efficiency tips will help you develop a smart home for your smart thermostat so that you can maximize the energy savings on your electricity bill!


Vernon Trollinger is a writer with a background in home improvement, electronics, fiction writing, and archaeology. He now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.