programmable thermostat

The Rise of Programmable Thermostats: Nest, Honeywell and More

The Rise of Programmable Thermostats: Nest, Honeywell and More

By. Dave Fidlin 

With each passing year, the ever-evolving use of smart-based technology is rising and changing how we conduct our lives. The growth of the programmable thermostat market in recent years has begun resonating with consumers as people consider energy-efficient, cost-conscious alternatives to the traditional methods we’ve long used.

A number of consumer product companies have been manufacturing programmable thermostats, including such heavy-hitters as Honeywell and Nest. Unlike a traditional thermostat, which requires users to make adjustments manually, a programmable thermostat can make its own adjustments throughout the day. More advanced models can even be altered by a user remotely through devices such as smartphones.

Depending upon the specific model, programmable thermostats can have a number of features, such as embedded sensors that
help determine the occupancy of a room. Other bells and whistles include algorithms that can calculate how much you should adjust your temperature, Wi-Fi capability that allows you to make adjustments and obtain feedback remotely, and voice-controlled prompts that have users’ ease and convenience in mind.


programmable thermostats


According to Navigant Research, a consulting firm specializing in emerging technologies, the number of users adopting programmable thermostats is expected to rise from an estimated 1.4 million people in 2013 to a whopping 31.9 million people by 2020.

Up until recently, Bob Lockhart, Navigant’s research director, said programmable thermostats were used primarily in the commercial setting. But in a news release announcing Navigant’s research analysis, Lockhart stated, “The combined factors of increased energy awareness, interest in home automation and security tools and more user-friendly solutions have led to an uptick in shipments for residential smart thermostats … and have revived a sense of optimism and excitement among vendors and stakeholders.”

Navigant’s projection clearly points to a sizable increase in the number of consumers who are willing to fork over their dollars upfront for a possible long-term savings. However, it is worth noting the 31.9 million-user figure represents only about 4.7 percent of all energy consumers across the globe.

While programmable thermostats are still considered a product-in-development, many experts back the assertions made by Navigant’s research team. Consider the rise of smartphones in the past half-decade. They have grown progressively from a novelty to a product that has gained widespread use. As more people integrate their smartphones further into their everyday lives, expectations for other types of intuitive products — including programmable thermostats — will likely follow suit.

Another analytics company, ABI Research, weighed in on the smart thermostat market with its own position paper, released in late 2013. ABI’s team suggested a 43-percent increase in sales during a 5-year period, ending in 2018. “Disruptive innovation in thermostats … has significantly raised the bar for product design and innovation in a device category that had seen little change over several decades,” ABI researchers wrote in the report.

By ABI’s estimation, the sale of programmable thermostats will reach $600 million in sales by 2018. Users in North American countries have dominated the market in recent years, but the growth of the technology elsewhere — particularly in Europe — has been cited as a reason behind the upward trajectory in the years ahead.

Honeywell, a veteran in the thermostat industry, is one of many companies that have been aggressively pushing their line of programmable devices. According to its website, Honeywell offers products that can be set in different intervals, oftentimes in a 7-day span of time. Some of Honeywell’s high-tech thermostats are voice operated, while others are described as having easy-to-read and understandable information displayed on the screen.

In May 2014, Emerson Climate Technologies decided to enter the programmable thermostat arena through its White-Rodgers brand. Emerson is marketing its product as the Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat.

“With the remarkable popularity of smartphones as controllers, and the growing availability of Wi-Fi in homes, Emerson saw an important opportunity to make this technology widely available and affordable for consumers,” Ed Purvis, Emerson’s executive vice president, said in a statement announcing the new product line.

In the company’s statement, Purvis readily recognized there are other programmable thermostats on the market. But he cited Emerson’s rich history in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) market as a point that sets the Sensi product apart from the pack. Emerson’s product, according to Purvis, is equipped in such a way that users frequently can use all of their existing wiring to use the Sensi.

As with traditional thermostats, there are a wide variation of programmable models on the market. One of the most recognizable companies pushing this new smart technology is Nest. A group of computer programmers with resumes that included stints at such high profile companies as Apple developed the Nest software.

According to the company, Nest’s programmable thermostats are highly intuitive and have the ability to learn the owner’s behavior during the first few weeks of usage. As time progresses, Nest’s thermostats are supposed to adjust on their own without much human involvement.

In its company literature, Nest claims users can skim 20 percent off the top of their heating and cooling bills. This can be accomplished, according to the company, because Nest’s software takes the guesswork and human error out of programming a thermostat. The feature reduces the likelihood of energy consumption being wasted in the long run.

While Nest and other leaders in the programmable thermostat market make bold assertions about the money that can be saved long term through a one-time investment, consumers should still do their homework.

On his blog site, Get Rich Slowly, author J.D. Roth issued words of caution to consumers interested in upgrading their thermostats to the latest technology.

“The main problem is that people don’t use programmable thermostats the way they’re intended,” Roth wrote on his site. “Someone might keep the home cool during the day, for instance, but crank the heat above room temperature at night.”

Regardless of the technology, Roth asserted common sense rules in the consumer quest to save money: “Whether you use a programmable thermostat or not, if you turn down the heat, or turn off the air conditioning, when you don’t need it, you’ll save money.”

The bottom line: Smart technology does not give us humans the license to be idiotic.

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Idle Your Car in the Winter: Fact of Fiction?

Idle Your Car in the Winter: Fact of Fiction?

Idle Your Car in the Winter: Fact of Fiction?

By. Ryan O’Connor

Residing in New England for my entire life has taught me a lot about owning and maintaining a car through those cold (to put it mildly) winter months. Everything from “What to do when your car battery dies in a McDonald’s drive-thru?” to “What to do when your doors freeze shut while you’re away at college?” are questionsI have been forced to confront, thanks to the cold weather. Their solutions ranged from asking the employee at the drive-thru to jump start my car, to retrieving hot water from the dining hall and pouring it all over my door handles. What I also have found in my 26 years of New England winter driving is that idling your car is not the solution to any of your winter driving problems. Not only is car idling unnecessary, it also has adverse effects on the environment and decreases overall fuel efficiency of the vehicle. I never idle my car longer than 30 seconds, and here is why.


Idling your car decreases fuel efficiency. This one should be a no-brainer. When your car is sitting in one spot with the engine running, it is using fuel. When your car is sitting in one spot, it also is not moving. Your car is therefore getting zero miles per gallon.


Idling your car is not necessary to properly operate your car. Due to the fact that most modern cars are fuel-injected, they require almost no warm-up. Modern cars are run by computers that can intelligently adjust how much fuel needs to be added to the combustion process. For older carbureted engines, this was not the case. Warming up a car before driving would actually make the car perform better and prevent it from stalling.

Idle Your Car in the Winter: Fact of Fiction?


Another winter driving concern about the operation of your vehicle is the engine’s oil. Before synthetic oils came on the market, it was very important to make sure you had the right oil for your engine, as some oils flowed better at different temperatures. With synthetic oils now being very popular, oil no longer needs to warm up as much before driving. Take, for example, Mobile 1. This oil claims to perform at temperatures as low as -40 degrees fahrenheit and as high as 500 degrees fahrenheit. However, before you go running to find any type of synthetic oil, it is still recommended that you consult your mechanic for what type of oil you should be using. Not all synthetic oils may be rated for these temperatures.


Idling your car is bad for the environment. Engine components like a car’s catalytic converter are crucial to prevent the emission of greenhouse gases. Basically, this is the thing that prevents your car from screaming down the road pouring out pollution. The catalytic converter has one shortcoming, though, which is that it is only effective when warm. So, during the winter when it is very cold, your car will not be starting off warm. This also means your car will not convert toxic pollutants into less toxic pollutants immediately after starting. What is the quickest way to warm up your car? Both the Department of Energy and the Argonne National Laboratory, as well as almost all car manufacturers, agree: Simply drive it. That being said, if you drive off gently after about 30 seconds of idling, you’re still likely to help the environment in a big way.


In addition to only idling for 30 seconds, another tip for increasing driving in an environmentally friendly manner in the winter is to combine trips. According to the Argonne National Laboratory, although the catalytic converter takes longer to warm-up during the winter, once it is warmed up it tends to stay at that temperature for up to 15 minutes. This means that when you run into the store to get your bread and milk, you can come back out to your car and the catalytic converter will still be ready to battle pollution. Instead of putting off the rest of your errands, continue on!


So what about safety and comfort? We can’t forget that cold is cold. It’s bitter and can take the wind right out of you. It provides a whole new set of obstacles for driving. I know some people who claim to feel more safe when idling their car during the winter before driving, who say it makes it easier to scrape the ice off of their cars or who attest that their car just takes longer to defrost. Most of these people also don’t feel comfortable driving with a scarf, hat and gloves on. This seems to be the only defense to idling I can find so far. I myself am able to get out there and scrape the ice off my car. I may do it begrudgingly, but it gets done. As for driving with a scarf, hat and gloves, I’ve had numerous cars (with a whole lot of what I’ll call “character”) over the years. Some of them had no heat; some of them were quite drafty. I can say that I’m crazy and used to this, and while I can’t claim that any of my friends were ever too excited about carpooling with me during those times, hopefully the benefits to the environment, your fuel economy and your wallet will be worth a little bit of shivering.


Note: I assume a few things when I say that idling is not the solution to winter driving. For starters, I assume your car is fairly new and therefore fuel-injected. I also assume you live in relatively average winter conditions. If you are unsure if your car is fuel-injected or if you may be visiting this page from areas of the world with very extreme cold conditions, you should consult the owner’s manual of your car, your car dealer or your mechanic. Most mechanics or local car dealerships will be happy to answer basic questions for you during those winter months. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about winters from living in New England it’s that we’re all in it together.

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10 Tips to Extend Your Device’s Battery

Millions of us check email, surf the Web or read Facebook or Instagram posts throughout the day. We use a smartphone, tablet or e-reader almost every day. And all of us have found ourselves in the same situation—staring at our phone or tablet’s battery icon fluttering on the edge of black.  Time to recharge – even when it’s not convenient.

If this has happened to you at least once, read on. Below are 10 easy changes you can make to your habits that will extend the battery life of your phone or tablet, empowering you to get through your busy day without interruption.

Customize Your Display

Your smartphone phone and tablet displays are the single largest consumer of battery power on your phone. By making some small adjustments, you can lengthen your battery runtime.

  • Turn down the screen brightness on your phone or tablet. It’s probably brighter than it needs to be; more light uses more power. If your device has a brightness setting that automatically adjusts to lighting conditions, select that.
  • Set the sleep mode to kick in after a minute of inactivity. Your screen will lock automatically when it’s not being used. This tip applies especially to tablets, which you might forget to turn off. A dark screen translates to less battery drain.
  • Get rid of live wallpaper. We all love animation, but those moving jelly beans will use up your battery in no time.

Stay Out of the Heat

A hot battery drains faster than a cool one. So don’t leave your device in a hot place, like a car on a summer day, in your pocket or on top of a laptop. Cold temperatures can also affect batteries, but not like heat. If your phone is hot to the touch, it’s running inefficiently. Keep it cool.

Know Your Device

Smartphones and tablets are pretty energy efficient, so charging them doesn’t cost a lot of money or waste a lot of energy. But this tip can help: Don’t charge your device with a full battery or a completely empty battery; it may shorten the battery’s life. Charging a partially empty battery is preferable. For more charging tips, visit Battery University.

Manage Your Apps We all have apps, whether for the weather, games or sports. First, turn them off when you aren’t using them.  Next, keep them updated. Updates often include improvements that use less battery power. Also Apple endorses keeping the manufacturer’s software current to help with performance. And if you really want to analyze your battery usage, consider energy-saving apps like Battery Life Pro (iPhone) or Easy Battery Saver (iPhone, Android) which help you track charging time and monitor system performance.

Turn Off the Big Offenders

Running lots of unnecessary hardware features in the background can be a big drain on your battery. The biggest offenders?  Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Turn on Bluetooth when you need it, like during your commute time, and turn it off the rest of the time. If you’re like most people, you probably use Wi-Fi quite a bit. But if your battery is running low, turn on airplane mode (which turns off all the radios, including voice). That will help extend battery life. Also, if you turn off Wi-Fi on your e-reader when you are reading, not surfing the net, you’ll reduce the drain on your battery.

Minimize the Smartphone Gadgets

Who doesn’t love gadgets? Bluetooth-based gadgets for smartphones–like headsets and the new smart watches—may have their own batteries, but they also draw power from your smartphone. It’s helpful to remember your phone’s battery will drain faster when they are in use and plan accordingly. Only connect the gadget as needed and turn off the app the rest of the time.

Location, Location, Location

Your GPS has a huge impact on your battery. So turn off your navigation app unless you’re lost and need directions. In addition, consider your app requirements. Many apps ask permission to detect your location so they can provide more targeted information. While useful, keep in mind that every time an app pings your GPS chip, it uses power. Unless you really need that location function, just say no to location requests.

Turn Off the Notifications

Does your phone or tablet light up every time you receive an email, app update or other communication?  These ongoing communications can eat up your power. Both app notifications about updates and smartphone polling (allowing apps to check your device for new data) drain your battery. Turn off these notifications for non-essential applications. Adjust your device’s settings so your apps check for new data less often.

Enter the Settings Zone

Have you opened the settings feature on your smartphone since you bought it? Now’s the time. A few small adjustments to your phone or tablet’s settings can have a big payoff in battery life. One tip–sync your email and apps less frequently. Most smartphones check for e-mail and apps data 10, 15 or 30 minutes. Extend those minutes and you will notice longer battery life. Other tips? Turn down the volume of your phone’s ringer and turn off vibrate mode if you don’t need it. Customize your settings to your daily routine. Then adjust them again when you go on a trip or your routine changes.

Remember Airplane Mode

If you find yourself in an area with no or poor reception, switch to airplane mode. Not only does it prevent your device from constantly searching for a connection (and draining your battery), when you return to a coverage zone you’ll have enough battery left to check your email. Smartphones, tablets and e-readers have changed our lives in so many ways. We can more easily communicate with work, family and friends. And as these devices evolve, it is becoming much easier to tweak your settings to extend battery life and ensure you aren’t left with a blank screen.  And always remember the best tip of all—turn it off. When you watch a movie, enter a meeting or go to sleep at night, press the power off button. That will go a long way in making sure your phone’s display lights up when you need it. Got a smartphone or battery that won’t recharge anymore? You can recycle them! Find your nearest location with our drop-off locator.


Average college student owns up to seven devices; 75 percent of children under the age of eight have their own mobile device, all of which contain recyclable batteries

recycling computersThis back to school season, millions of students will head to the classroom carrying new mobile devices containing rechargeable batteries – all of which can be recycled.  It is the perfect time of year to educate about proper recycling to protect the environment.

Recent studies show that the average college student owns up to seven devices[i], a number that has skyrocketed in the past five years.  This trend is not exclusive to college students: 75 percent of children under the age of eight now carry their own mobile device, including smartphones and tablets.

As technology advances and new equipment is released, children, teens and young adults will replace their old gadgets with new ones causing exponential growth in the number of devices in the marketplace.  If children under eight have personal mobile devices now, think about how many they will have used and disposed of by the time they are old enough to drive.  How about the number they will use during the course of their lifetime?

For older students, it is projected that 31 percent in college plan to buy a new smartphone in the next year1.  What will happen to all those old devices?

It is more important than ever to educate younger generations about how to properly recycle rechargeable batteries found in mobile devices.  These products should not end up in landfills, where reusable materials are wasted and could potentially harm the environment.  To avoid these consequences, parents and educators should take an opportunity to teach students of all ages how to be stewards of the environment by recycling old devices and rechargeable batteries. Teaching them how to safely and properly recycle their old rechargeable batteries is a great place to start.”

Why Recycle Electronics?

Why Recycle Electronics?

Why Recycle Electronics?

  • Why Recycle Electronics?Electronics contain valuable metals and components that can be used again in another manufacturing process.
  • Cadmium, hexavalent chromium, mercury, chromium, barium, beryllium and brominated flame-retardant materials are components that can pollute water and air resources without proper disposal or recycling.E-waste did not even exist as a waste stream in 1989 and now it’s one of the largest and growing exponentially. — Katharina Kummer Peiry, Executive Secretary, Basel ConventionExcerpts from Basel Convention November 2009 Press Advisory:
  • “Hazardous waste is threatening human health and the environment globally. Much of it is being exported to other countries, often to developing nations.”
  • One of the fastest growing [hazardous] waste streams is e-waste such as computers, television sets and mobile cell phones.
  • When e-waste crosses borders illegally and is indiscriminately dumped, or dismantled in unsound conditions, serious damage to human health and pollution of water, air and soil is often the result.
  • Electronic waste is a direct consequence of our ongoing desire to communicate from anywhere, connect more often and compute from home, office or on the road. Add an increasing demand for electronic gaming, higher definition televisions or smart cars and the result is a catastrophic accumulation of e-waste, now and into the future. An ongoing effort to address this exponentially growing problem is essential.

Why Recycle Electronics?

Why Is it Important to Recycle Computers?


Why Is it Important to Recycle Computers?

Americans own nearly 3 billion electronic products, and all of them are on their way toward being obsolete and discarded. Recycling your e-waste can not only keep dangerous materials out of landfills, it can protect the health of children, minimize the damage of excess mining and save you costly fines. Recycling your computer, and all your obsolete electronic waste, makes good sense.


Why Is it Important to Recycle Computers?


Toxic Materials

Computers contain toxic materials. Cadmium, which is used in computer batteries, can cause bone and kidney damage. The chromium that hardens metal computer housings causes kidney and liver damage, allergic reactions and lung cancer. Lead found in solder impairs the development of the brain and nervous system. Mercury, which is used in flat screen displays, causes central nervous system and kidney damage. The brominated flame retardants incorporated into casing and circuit boards cause endocrine disruptors. All of these harmful materials persist in the environment when computers are dumped in landfills.

Raw Materials

  • Recycling computers allows valuable raw materials to be placed back into service rather than being lost to landfills. Cadmium, for example, is a rare mineral found in low concentrations in nature. Recycling computer batteries allows refined cadmium to be recaptured. Computers contain gold and lead, iron, silicon, aluminum, plastic, tin and other materials that can be recaptured or recycled. Any metal removed from a recycled computer is a metal that doesn’t have to be mined.

Crowded Landfills

  • In 2007, 157.3 million computer units were dumped in landfills. That’s 157,300,000 computers, monitors, keyboards and peripherals dumped in one year alone. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated at that time that another 234.6 million electronic products were out of service and waiting in storage for disposal. In 2007 the recycling rate was only 18 percent, meaning the rest of these electronics are probably sitting in landfills at this very moment. Recycling computers keeps them out of already swelling landfills.

Third World Countries

  • Electronic waste is often exported from developed countries to developing ones. In the United States, 50 to 80 percent of electronic waste is shipped abroad. China has banned this waste, but continues to receive it through gray- and blackmarket channels. India, Africa and countries in the Far East also receive our waste. In Ghana, children scramble over piles of old computers, looking for copper wire to recycle. What they are finding without knowing it are all the health problems associated with the heavy metals and toxic components in those computers. The 1998 Basel Convention banned export of this waste, but the United States refused to ratify the convention and continues to export its electronic waste.


  • A big reason you may ask yourself Why Is it Important to Recycle Computers? Conscience is not enough reason to recycle computers, consider the law. In some states, it is now illegal to burn a computer or dump it in a landfill. In the United States, 61 percent of the population is covered by some kind of e-waste recycling law with more bills pending. Not recycling a computer can net fines and other injunctions.