Smart thermostats — Bulb Community

Smart thermostats

We've seen some really great discussion on the community about smart thermostats, which has got us thinking. We're thinking about offering smart thermostats to members to help households reduce their carbon footprint and save on their bills. What does everyone think?

An exciting thinktank called the Behaviour Insights Team has done rigorous research into smart thermostats, and the results are striking. They found that smart thermostats save homes about 6-7% of annual heating-system gas use. For the average home, this means saving £26 a year. And they found that the comfort level was the same, or better, with smart thermostats.

This sounds great to us. We'd love to help our members save energy (and money too). A large proportion of households' energy is used on heating the home, and it makes sense to use a smart thermostat to control the temperature at a sensible level while conserving energy.

Looking at various smart thermostats on the market, we're especially excited about Nest and Tado. Do you agree, or are there other models people are excited about? Is there a clear favourite?

Most importantly, we'd love to hear what you think about the idea of Bulb offering a smart thermostat. Is this something you'd like Bulb to offer?

We can't promise anything yet, but we'd love to try and offer a smart thermostat to our members at a slight discount on their listed retail price. On this note - do you have a preference for buying the product outright, or would you prefer to pay off the thermostat over a period of time (say, 1-2 years)?

Thanks in advance for everyone's thoughts on these questions.
@Owen at Bulb , @Alistair at Bulb and @Andrew at Bulb

Comments

  • edited February 2
    Firstly I'd be interested (in a second one as I already have a Nest)

    I think if you can offer them at the same price or slightly cheaper, as an add-on to your bill, they will likely be quite an attractive proposition.
    Buying them straight off, unless you can do a really good deal on installation is probably no better than local purchase and installation though.

    My preference would probably be for the Nest but that's mostly because the tado system is more expensive for the same functionality if you require hot water control or want it to be wireless (£199 plus £79 for the extension unit).
    If the Tado system was a more competitive price, I'd be interested in trying one out.

    However, at your suggested saving of £26/year, it's still going to take 10 or more years to recoup the cost (Nest plus installation being around £260). The device will also likely have died by then but the tado may fair slightly better in this regard due to its lower display complexity and lack of inbuilt Li-ion battery.
    So I stick to my previous comments regarding them not actually saving households any money...
    I still don't know how tado are still getting away with this statement:
    Pays for itself in the first year

    I'd also worry that Bulb would get stuck with supporting these devices if they did offer them, and that might sound the death knoll for any such scheme as support's tricky and expensive.


    On a related note, I wonder how much embedded energy there is in a smart thermostat and what the whole-lifecycle footprint of the product is.
    A couple of old articles and a newer IEEE one:
    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/06/embodied-energy-of-digital-technology.html
    lowtechmagazine.com/2008/02/the-right-to-35.html
    https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/your-phone-costs-energyeven-before-you-turn-it-on

    Add the datacenter power consumption, the embedded energy of all of the servers and devices required to make these smart thermostats actually operate (no, the data does not go from your thermostat to your phone, it goes across the world and back first), and they're not actually looking very green at all.
  • @mowcius

    You raise some good points.

    For the average UK household, smart thermostats have been shown to save around 4.7% of a yearly household gas bill, rising to 8% for Nest thermostats that utilise their ‘Seasonal Savings’ function. We were being fairly conservative when quoting potential savings in our original post; for the majority of Bulb members, the savings are likely to be higher and this would make smart thermostats a more attractive proposition.

    The lifespan of each thermostat is definitely something we’re looking into. We wouldn’t want to recommend a product that wasn’t likely to recover the purchase value before breaking.

    Your second point regarding the embedded energy cost of these thermostats is such a good point. It would be interesting to convert this value into the carbon intensity of manufacturing and running the back-end services of a smart thermostat and compare this to the potential carbon savings a thermostat offers when heating your home more efficiently.

    Out of interest, what convinced you to go with a smart thermostat?
  • Out of interest, what convinced you to go with a smart thermostat?

    I moved into a new house that had no thermostat at all, so going for a smart one when I replaced the boiler just made sense. The additional cost was not ludicrous (at least not when compared to the cost of the new boiler!).

  • I really like the idea of getting a smart thermostat via my energy supplier and then paying for the thermostat over a year, or twos, period of time. However, it would be good if the brand/ model of thermostat offered would not only be able to control the central heating and hot water, but also be able to control specific radiators around the home.
  • I’d certainly welcome a smart thermostat. We’re currently looking at Nest, having ruled out Tado for the increased cost with no additional functionality.

    Any idea when this might happen? I take it there are no issues with smart meters and smart thermostats working together? Not really read about that so no idea personally.
  • edited October 10
    Tomd1984 said:

    I’d certainly welcome a smart thermostat. We’re currently looking at Nest, having ruled out Tado for the increased cost with no additional functionality.

    Any idea when this might happen? I take it there are no issues with smart meters and smart thermostats working together? Not really read about that so no idea personally.

    Hi @Tomd1984, I really wouldn't hold your breath on getting a Smart Meter for cheap/free/monthly from Bulb as they're still currently working on the Smart Meter rollout and a variety of other things no doubt.
    As winter is quicky approaching, now might be the ideal time to get one installed though.

    Smart meters are however independent of your power meter (smart or otherwise) so there should be no issue with having (or not having) both. The main thing to consider is just that most smart meters require a WiFi signal and a power socket near to the room thermostat part (although there are exceptions to both).
  • I'd recommend getting a Nest to anyone that'll listen =)

    I got mine from using my Bulb referral credits to cover the cost - with the hope that the Nest would help lower my usage and make the rest of my credits stretch further.

    It's certainly helped lower our useage. And freed me up from over-zealously making timer adjustments.
  • Having gone from no thermostats, and a timer only on the boiler, I reckon my savings are much more, somewhere in the region of 25-50% less gas used depending on the weather. The nest is also in a more convenient location for setting the temperature. The heating is on far less.

    Going from having a thermostat to a smart thermostat will have much smaller cost saving.
  • This sounds like a fantastic idea. Obv issues around slelcting a brand of smart thermostat could be an issue, as many have various limitations and functions which may or may not meet bulb customer needs.

    The offering of the smart thermostat at a discounted prices from Retail is a very attractive idea, I would go a little further by offering it customers on a contractual payment plan. Offer the smart thermostat on contract, like a mobile phone contract, and charge an additional x amount on daily charges and unit price. I am sure many would b happy to pay for the device through an increase in their tariffs.
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