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Smart thermostats could be the heroes we need to cut energy costs in brutal heat

Smart thermostats could be a simple solution to cutting energy consumption while keeping cool during increasingly brutal summers.

That's the word from Pecan Street, an non-profit out of Texas that's researching ways to help offset the impacts of climate change and conserve precious natural resources.

In its latest report, the organization estimates that in Texas alone, installing a smart, responsive, thermostat or manually adjusting temperatures on an air conditioning system could cut energy demand in the state by up to 35%.

That's a Texas-sized amount of energy savings for an electricity system that's already hitting new records in peak demand thanks to a series of over 100 degree Fahrenheit days.

"Energy efficiency and demand response solutions have been touted by experts as 'low hanging fruit' for decades, but they’re still overlooked by grid managers and politicians," writes Pecan Street data analyst, Cavan Merski. "[In] Texas, where the population and electricity demand continue to grow, developing these resources to their full potential should be atop the state’s energy priority list."

Similar programs in other states shows that demand-response really works. Last year, California residents saved the state's grid from rolling blackouts during September simply by turning up the thermostat a few degrees to reduce energy demand. Both Nest and ecobee have demand response programs in place in California cities -- and other states are adopting the initiatives.

These summertime heroes shaved off 2 gigawatts of power on that day in September -- roughly enough energy to power 1.5 million homes.

A recent American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy study predicted that smart thermostats can reduce ERCOT summer peak demand by 5.2 gigawatts (or roughly 3.5 million homes) by using less energy overall (1.3 GW) and including homes with smart thermostats in demand response programs (3.9 GW).

To make these savings happen, the U.S. needs to do more to encourage consumers to adopt these game-changing, and potentially life-saving, smart home technologies.

"The massive energy savings our model suggests, however, are not even close to being fully realized in the real world," wrote Merski. "One study estimates only 16% of internet-connected homes in the United States have smart thermostats, and less than half of our sample said they adjusted their thermostat when they left the house. This suggests massive unrealized potential energy savings if these strategies can be employed by a larger percentage of the population."


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