My focus this past month was on our home. We are pretty efficient- while we still need to insulate the basement, we’ve done a lot to improve our house- more and better insulation, new windows, energy star appliances. We heat with wood when we’re home and oil when we’re away. We’ve had a programmable thermostat for a while, but it was pretty basic. I go around the house turning off lights and the lights we have are all LED or CFL. We don’t go as far as to unplug the TV every time we leave (we want our DVR to keep going when we’re not home- that’s the whole point, no?), but spare appliances live unplugged. We can do better though.
Imagine my pleasant surprise when I discovered my power company, Green Mountain Power, has all sorts of programs to help make your home smarter. Through the end of 2017, they had a great rebate on a NEST thermostat (and if you ordered through nest.com it came with a free google mini). Here’s what I’m loving so far:
It was really easy to install the NEST. The instructions are clear, the unit is easy to wire, and the app is easy to set up. It was a little tricky to add my husband as a second user, but I think it’s because I tried to add him to the unit without going through my account at first and I confused things. We got the copper version and it looks great on our wall. Sleek and unobtrusive. The screen is off until it sees movement or you ask it something through google (a fun way to monitor the temperature without getting up from under a sleeping baby. The touch screen is easy, you spin it like a dial to move through the menus and press down to select. I suspect my toddler will be manipulating it as soon as she can reach it without hesitation.
In the app, you can control the thermostat from anywhere and you can see interesting usage data. The first week or so it learns your habits. The best part of this (that the old programmable just didn’t have) is if you do something out of the routine, it adjusts. Away for a while? It’ll know you’re not home and stay on the Away setting (ours is set to 50 when we’re not home or sleeping). Coming home early? Either switch it to Home before you leave work, or it will see you get home and flip on the heat automatically. Super easy.
It also gives you interesting usage data. You can really see the difference in temperature- and I was surprised that even when it’s -20, we were only heating the house for a few hours. In the image here, Thursday and Friday were pretty warm (30s) and the weekend cooled back down to the single digits. Over time, I can’t wait to see what our patterns are and work to do better to reduce our use.
The final part of the puzzle is our Aquanta Smart Water Heater Controller. A contractor came from the power company this morning and hooked it up in about a half hour. He did come early, and when you’re expecting someone at 8am, that’s not always great, but it was a quick and easy process. GMP will have access to the unit and it will learn our water usage over the next month. GMP will be able to turn down our water heater to help support the grid, but I also have control in case we need to turn the water back up for a special occasion. I’m curious about our water usage- our electric water heater works fine, though I know there are more efficient units. Keeping our water heater was a choice in sustainability. It’s not automatically better to replace everything to send functioning units to the dump. Our plan it to replace with better when it fails, not just replace for the sake of replacing.
A bonus with the Aquanta is it came with 6 free wifi light bulbs. I’m looking forward to placing them strategically around the house so we don’t have to leave a light on all day or come home in the dark. It’ll also be nice to control the light in my toddler’s room without going in there. She likes to look at books and play before she falls asleep, and now we can dim the light when the happy chatter stops…
All these small changes add up. Our home is greener and more efficient. It goes with our goal of reducing our exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens through better personal care, cosmetics and cleaning products. We’re being deliberate about the products and energy in our home. I feel really good about these changes, and it doesn’t hurt that through rebates, all of the above was only $100…
What are you going to do to make small switches to safer products or a greener home?