Author Topic: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question  (Read 7614 times)

catccc

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Okay, so our super awesome landlord took out our oil burning furnace, hooked up natural gas, and installed an on demand hot water heat system.  IDK my HVAC terminology here, but there's a box not much bigger than a shoe box that provides hot water for us to use (faucet/shower) and also heat our home thru radiators.  I'm thrilled, because in my experience, gas heat has been much less costly than oil heat.

I want to install a programmable thermostat, and I see that many of the models say stuff like this:

"This thermostat is compatible with single-stage heating/cooling systems, heating, cooling, heat pumps without backup heat, mill volt, pellet stoves and fireplaces. It does NOT work with electric baseboard heat (120-240 V), heat pump systems with backup heat or multi-stage heating/cooling."

Obviously I can tell that we are not trying to use this with a pellet stove, fireplace, or electric baseboard heat.  How do I know if our system is single stage or if we use a heat pump with or without backup heat?  Or do we even have a heat pump at all since we use gas?  Any help is appreciated!

gimp

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #1 on: October 23, 2013, 11:53:18 AM »
Apologies for a slight deviation.

So I'm going to recommend Nest. Someone else will probably tell me that it's too expensive ($250), but the truth about programmable thermostats is that they, frankly, suck. They're hard to use, come with a manual a foot thick, don't always do the right thing, and can't be accessed remotely. (It's so bad that normal programmable thermostats can no longer claim certain 'green' certifications, since their energy savings are theoretical and rarely realized.) Nest is incredibly functional, learns from your daily patterns, is able to be set remotely from your phone / etc, and so on. (It's also gorgeous). Also I can confirm that their estimate of ~20% heating/cooling cost savings is realized. Also, they do cool stuff like partner with certain utilities, who give you a bunch of energy credits ($) in exchange for you agreeing to keep your house a few degrees hotter or colder during peak energy use.

With that said, they have an interesting way of checking compatibility that you may find helpful. In short, if you open up your thermostat, it has wires of various colors. The number of wires and their colors almost always corresponds to a specific setup. I would start with this, because it requires no special tools, and is super easy. (Nest-specific advice: they have a compatibility chart where you enter the wires and colors, and they tell you whether it will work.)

catccc

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #2 on: October 23, 2013, 01:01:15 PM »
Wow, Nest seems like a super cool doohickey, but I was thinking a $20-$25 model to just leave in the rental when we move out... Will definitely consider Nest for a more permanent situation when it arises, though, thanks!  My only beef is leaving the wifi on while we are out so we can control the temp, but I guess the savings make up for that one?!

Spork

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2013, 01:06:45 PM »
Okay, so our super awesome landlord took out our oil burning furnace, hooked up natural gas, and installed an on demand hot water heat system.  IDK my HVAC terminology here, but there's a box not much bigger than a shoe box that provides hot water for us to use (faucet/shower) and also heat our home thru radiators.  I'm thrilled, because in my experience, gas heat has been much less costly than oil heat.

I want to install a programmable thermostat, and I see that many of the models say stuff like this:

"This thermostat is compatible with single-stage heating/cooling systems, heating, cooling, heat pumps without backup heat, mill volt, pellet stoves and fireplaces. It does NOT work with electric baseboard heat (120-240 V), heat pump systems with backup heat or multi-stage heating/cooling."

Obviously I can tell that we are not trying to use this with a pellet stove, fireplace, or electric baseboard heat.  How do I know if our system is single stage or if we use a heat pump with or without backup heat?  Or do we even have a heat pump at all since we use gas?  Any help is appreciated!

I'm not an HVAC expert... take what I say with a grain of salt.

If you have gas, you don't have a heat pump.  A heat pump is simply an air conditioner that runs backwards.  It takes the heat from outside and dumps it inside (as opposed to an AC).  They often need a second stage because: they're great at maintaining a temperature but suck at moving the temperature a lot.  In other words, if it is 50 and you want it to be 70, they have a second heating element that comes on to move it faster.

I've never found the cheap programmable thermostats to be difficult to use and I'd almost guarantee their manual is smaller and simpler than any electronic gizmo.  Nests are toys.  If you want one, that's cool.  But I can count the times I've needed to access my thermostat from somewhere else on zero hands.

ZiziPB

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2013, 01:07:17 PM »
You really don't need Nest to realize savings.  A $50 programmable thermostat will work just as well.  Why don't you ask your landlord about the system that he installed?  Or call the company who did the installation to recommend a thermostat appropriate for the system (is there a sticker on the "shoe box" furnace that tells you who installed it?).  I bought a condo earlier this years that came with regular thermostats.  The company who installed the HVAC system wanted to charge me something like $220 to swap the thermostats to programmable ones (there are 2 zones).  I asked them for the specific model they proposed to install and found them on line for $80 total.  Installing them took 5 minutes of my time and they came pre-programmed with a schedule that needed just minor adjustments for me (that took another 5 minutes). 

seattlecyclone

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2013, 02:24:09 PM »

I've never found the cheap programmable thermostats to be difficult to use and I'd almost guarantee their manual is smaller and simpler than any electronic gizmo.  Nests are toys.  If you want one, that's cool.  But I can count the times I've needed to access my thermostat from somewhere else on zero hands.


It's not so much that the cheap programmable thermostats are impossible to use, it's that a thermostat like the Nest allows you to optimize your use even more than a cheaper model. For example, if you're gone at work most weekdays, you'll probably want to program your thermostat for a lower temperature so you're not paying to heat an empty house. How low would you set it to, though? With a regular programmable thermostat you might set it to 55 or 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) so that if you do come home early one day, you're not freezing while you wait for the house to heat back up to your preferred temperature. If you go away for an evening out or something, you may remember to turn the thermostat down when you leave, but you may not. Either way, there's nothing you can do about it while you're gone.

With the Nest, you can have your "away" temperature set just high enough so that your pipes don't freeze (perhaps 45 degrees or even lower). Then whenever you're about to come back home (whether you're coming home early, late, or at your usual time), you can use your computer or phone to tell the Nest to start heating the house back up to your preferred temperature. This makes your furnace work less than if you had set a single schedule and stick with it.

The Nest is expensive. Even using it as I describe you'll take some time to achieve any net savings over a cheaper thermostat. Once you do, it will pay dividends for the life of the unit.

johlstei

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #6 on: October 23, 2013, 02:29:43 PM »
55 isn't "freezing" and maybe you could save $200 and put on a coat until the house warms up. A motion detector that just turns off the heat(/sets it to prevent pipes freezing) when no one is home seems like it would capture the lion's share of this energy savings if you are willing to be cold for a bit when you get home.

Spork

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2013, 02:34:23 PM »
It's not so much that the cheap programmable thermostats are impossible to use, it's that a thermostat like the Nest allows you to optimize your use even more than a cheaper model. For example, if you're gone at work most weekdays, you'll probably want to program your thermostat for a lower temperature so you're not paying to heat an empty house. How low would you set it to, though? With a regular programmable thermostat you might set it to 55 or 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) so that if you do come home early one day, you're not freezing while you wait for the house to heat back up to your preferred temperature. If you go away for an evening out or something, you may remember to turn the thermostat down when you leave, but you may not. Either way, there's nothing you can do about it while you're gone.

With the Nest, you can have your "away" temperature set just high enough so that your pipes don't freeze (perhaps 45 degrees or even lower). Then whenever you're about to come back home (whether you're coming home early, late, or at your usual time), you can use your computer or phone to tell the Nest to start heating the house back up to your preferred temperature. This makes your furnace work less than if you had set a single schedule and stick with it.

The Nest is expensive. Even using it as I describe you'll take some time to achieve any net savings over a cheaper thermostat. Once you do, it will pay dividends for the life of the unit.

My life just isn't that hard that I need this gadget to "save money."    It may work, but here is how I do it:
* walk to thermostat
* adjust it

If you want it ... fine.  I don't care.  I am sure it is a cool toy, but the savings bit is a rationalization.  And it's not just a rationalization to buy a $250 thermostat.  It is a rationalization to buy a smart phone and a data plan as well.  I suspect there will be a really cool version 2.0 and 3.0, too.

You could make the same arguments for wiring the entire house with infrared occupancy sensors to turn off the lights when no one is in the room.  Or.... you could turn them off when you leave and save $25 per sensor. 

Cinder

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #8 on: October 23, 2013, 02:41:51 PM »
I am installing heated flooring (replacing an electric baseboard) in our bathroom reno, and picked up this guy.

https://www.google.com/search?q=aube+th115-af-240s

There are different models for different things.  All of our other baseboard thermostats are the 25+ year old, turn the knob style.  This one seems easy to set, has 7 days a week programming, a 'vacation' button, manual override, a 'standby' switch to turn it off during the summer, and two different heating modes.  One mode is 'start heating at scheduled time' and the other is 'heat ahead' so it starts heating earlier to get it to the temp you want at the time you want.  They sent two (only charged for one), and I was thinking of trying it out just with my regular baseboard in my bedroom to see how it does.  They seem to have a wide variety. 

They do have a 'phone' addon that you can get for it, I think you may need a landline to hook it up though, but you can 'phone home' and change the value with the addition. 

My biggest issue is that there aren't many programmable thermostats available for electric baseboard that aren't really expensive.  But they probably have a version of this one that is usable with a low voltage setup like you are talking about.

gimp

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #9 on: October 23, 2013, 02:44:07 PM »
It's definitely not worth buying for a rental.

I will disagree that a motion detector is enough. Nest has a bunch of algorithms for different heat setups, and it learns how fast it can heat/cool your house using different controls. It knows the weather, so it can predict ambient temperatures. It knows how cold or warm you can go without complaining based on your usage - you might program a cheap model for 73, but nest realizes you don't mind 74, and eventually 75. It knows how much it costs to heat quickly vs slowly.

And it knows the difference between people at work, and people sleeping, and people off on vacation, and so on. Went out to the park and forgot to turn the AC down? Just pull out your phone and tell it you'll be back at 6PM, so it can decide when to set what temperature and how fast to do it. And so on.

Oh, and it gets firmware updates over time. Better algorithms. For example, it can now detect that its thermometer is being hit by a sunbeam and doesn't think the temperature spiked. For example, it will interface better with utilities in the future.

It's not about being lazy, it's about cost savings you *can't* do by just walking to thermostat and adjusting it, as you put it.  It's not about wanting to spend cash on a fancy gadget, it's bought solely because it should have a fairly high ROI - just like an energy-efficient fridge, or LED light bulbs, for example. I got one for my parents, and they already kept the house pretty cold in the winter and so on, but it's managed to save them a pretty penny that they had no idea could be saved. (I got them version 2.)

Most people already have a smartphone and a data plan, but you can also use your work-supplied computer at work, if you so choose.

catccc

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2013, 02:44:55 PM »
Okay, nest is a toy, but like I said, not interested in it at this time.  Also, there are mixed reviews on the Nest at Amazon.  I hate amazon reviews.  I have to read them, then hey make me second guess everything and leave me unable to make a decision.  I went nuts trying to buy a multi-day fish food feeder thing for my kids fish on a long weekend trip.  "This feeder was great!"  on the same item as "I came home and ALL my fish were dead!"

Spork, thanks for your response.  I figured that was the case (gas means no heat pump).  The other clue is that there is no big fan-box thing anywhere near the house that I've ever seen.  I think the $20 honeywell will do...


Spork

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #11 on: October 23, 2013, 02:51:57 PM »
It's not about being lazy, it's about cost savings you *can't* do by just walking to thermostat and adjusting it, as you put it.  It's not about wanting to spend cash on a fancy gadget, it's bought solely because it should have a fairly high ROI - just like an energy-efficient fridge, or LED light bulbs, for example. I got one for my parents, and they already kept the house pretty cold in the winter and so on, but it's managed to save them a pretty penny that they had no idea could be saved. (I got them version 2.)

Most people already have a smartphone and a data plan, but you can also use your work-supplied computer at work, if you so choose.

LOL.  I turned my heat on twice last winter.  Can it go out and get the wood, light the wood stove, then close the damper when it gets too hot?

And no, not everyone has a smartphone.   I'm also very much not a fan of the internet of things. 

gimp

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #12 on: October 23, 2013, 04:05:48 PM »
catccc - definitely not the right device for a rental. You're on the right track. Let us know which thermostat you pick.

Spork - looks like you won the heating game, and the smartphone game. Rejoice in your technological freedom, and the amazing smell of burning wood. I'd love to have a little log cabin with a wood stove one day.

hybrid

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #13 on: October 24, 2013, 07:39:36 AM »
It's not so much that the cheap programmable thermostats are impossible to use, it's that a thermostat like the Nest allows you to optimize your use even more than a cheaper model. For example, if you're gone at work most weekdays, you'll probably want to program your thermostat for a lower temperature so you're not paying to heat an empty house. How low would you set it to, though? With a regular programmable thermostat you might set it to 55 or 60 degrees (Fahrenheit) so that if you do come home early one day, you're not freezing while you wait for the house to heat back up to your preferred temperature. If you go away for an evening out or something, you may remember to turn the thermostat down when you leave, but you may not. Either way, there's nothing you can do about it while you're gone.

With the Nest, you can have your "away" temperature set just high enough so that your pipes don't freeze (perhaps 45 degrees or even lower). Then whenever you're about to come back home (whether you're coming home early, late, or at your usual time), you can use your computer or phone to tell the Nest to start heating the house back up to your preferred temperature. This makes your furnace work less than if you had set a single schedule and stick with it.

The Nest is expensive. Even using it as I describe you'll take some time to achieve any net savings over a cheaper thermostat. Once you do, it will pay dividends for the life of the unit.

My life just isn't that hard that I need this gadget to "save money."    It may work, but here is how I do it:
* walk to thermostat
* adjust it

If you want it ... fine.  I don't care.  I am sure it is a cool toy, but the savings bit is a rationalization.  And it's not just a rationalization to buy a $250 thermostat.  It is a rationalization to buy a smart phone and a data plan as well.  I suspect there will be a really cool version 2.0 and 3.0, too.

You could make the same arguments for wiring the entire house with infrared occupancy sensors to turn off the lights when no one is in the room.  Or.... you could turn them off when you leave and save $25 per sensor.

I don't get these arguments.  I have this thing called a computer where I work, and my wife has an iPad that she uses at any number of wi-fi hotspots, so accessing a Nest remotely certainly does not require a data plan (which we don't have).

The real question for me is does the Nest perform so much more efficiently than a traditional programmable thermostat that it justifies the difference in cost?  Installing a programmable thermostat is on our short list of to-do items and I simply want the one that is going to give me the biggest bang for the buck.  I want a thermostat that will keep the house at 70 between 6 PM and 11PM in the winter, let the temperature slip back overnight, warm back up to 70 between 6 and 8 on weekdays, and slip back while we are at work.  Also, stay at a constant 70 on the weekends.  And lastly, let me program it simply for the times we will be away or some special occasion interrupts that schedule.  Sounds a lot easier from an app of some sort.

I also have a woodstove and hope not to use my heat pump nearly as much this winter, but the wood stove only works when I am there to feed it.

Matt K

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #14 on: October 24, 2013, 09:17:31 AM »
Apologies for a slight deviation.

So I'm going to recommend Nest. Someone else will probably tell me that it's too expensive ($250), but the truth about programmable thermostats is that they, frankly, suck. They're hard to use, come with a manual a foot thick, don't always do the right thing, and can't be accessed remotely.

Really, you're going to spend $225 to not have to read a manual? Never mind that my programmable thermostat was so simple to use I never read the manaul (hit "program", cycle through the days, set times, set temperatures, done).

What does "Don't always do the right thing" mean?
It does exactly what you tell it to - at any given time it will turn on heat or cooling if the sensor (located in the thermostat itself, not in the middle of the room) detects temperatures above or below the limit you set. Nest does the same thing, it just has a bunch of them setup around the house instead of one.

And really, do I need to access my thermostat remotely? How much of an inconvience is it to walk up to a thermostat, or remember to set it to vacation mode before leaving for a long weekend?

I just don't see how a NEST is a financially responsible choice.

Quote from: hybrid
Installing a programmable thermostat is on our short list of to-do items and I simply want the one that is going to give me the biggest bang for the buck.  I want a thermostat that will keep the house at 70 between 6 PM and 11PM in the winter, let the temperature slip back overnight, warm back up to 70 between 6 and 8 on weekdays, and slip back while we are at work.  Also, stay at a constant 70 on the weekends.  And lastly, let me program it simply for the times we will be away or some special occasion interrupts that schedule.  Sounds a lot easier from an app of some sort.

You overestimate how hard a programmable thermostat is to use.

Spork

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #15 on: October 24, 2013, 10:24:41 AM »

I don't get these arguments.  I have this thing called a computer where I work, and my wife has an iPad that she uses at any number of wi-fi hotspots, so accessing a Nest remotely certainly does not require a data plan (which we don't have).



sure.  But (and I mean this as a serious question) how often do you need to access your thermostat when you're not home?  That is clearly "zero" for me.  Even in awful cold climates, setting it to 50 (or something really low) when you're not home gets you 99.999% there. 

The "reason" is usually "I am headed home and it must be exactly 73.2 degrees when I arrive."  Meh.  If I get home and it's 62, I put on a coat, walk out to the wood pile, bring wood in, light a fire.  Now: I'm already warmish from both the exercise and the fact I went out in the cold and back indoors.   The main room with the stove will be warm pretty quickly.  Further away from the stove takes a while. 

It's convenient to use the Nest.  It's cool.  It will be exactly 73.2 when you pull into the garage.  But... It isn't saving you money.  You're running the heat for X minutes while you rush home to get to your perfect house.  Even if you don't use a wood stove, it just isn't that hard to wait X minutes after you get home to get your home to perfectly toasty.

And don't get me started on why you shouldn't use free wifi hotspots...  (and lets ignore the "simple is better" and "least access privilege" concepts of network security.)

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #16 on: October 24, 2013, 11:31:26 AM »

I'm not an HVAC expert... take what I say with a grain of salt.

If you have gas, you don't have a heat pump.  A heat pump is simply an air conditioner that runs backwards.  It takes the heat from outside and dumps it inside (as opposed to an AC).  They often need a second stage because: they're great at maintaining a temperature but suck at moving the temperature a lot.  In other words, if it is 50 and you want it to be 70, they have a second heating element that comes on to move it faster.

It's common in my area to have a heat pump with gas back up.  Given our temperatures that's still more efficient overall than just gas heat and just electric AC.  The second stage kicks in occasionally but not often.  I'm not sure why you would say the two are mutually exclusive. 

seattlecyclone

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #17 on: October 24, 2013, 11:51:08 AM »
sure.  But (and I mean this as a serious question) how often do you need to access your thermostat when you're not home?

Never. You never need to access the thermostat when you're away from home. You can keep your standard thermostat and just turn it down when you want it colder and turn it up when you want it warmer. This is all true. You can have the house cool down to 45 while you're away, turn it up when you get back, and leave your jacket on while the house heats up (or start a fire, if you happen to have a fireplace and a ready supply of free firewood). If you do this, your utility bills will be lower than if you use any programmable thermostat. No argument there either.

By those metrics, any programmable thermostat is an unnecessary toy. I wouldn't recommend one to a person in a debt emergency -- those folks should generally plan to wear sweaters, use more blankets, and not spend a single unnecessary cent on heating until the emergency is over anyway.

So why buy a one at all then? You would do it if you often forget to change the temperature before going to bed or leaving the house. You would do it if you like walking around at home without a jacket enough that you're willing to spend a little bit extra on your heating bill to make that happen, but you draw the line at heating the house for the whole day just for a little extra comfort when you get home.

For someone who is planning to buy a programmable thermostat anyway, I stand by my recommendation of the Nest. Most programmable thermostats force you to set a schedule and the thermostat will stick by that schedule unless you override it at home. Anytime your life deviates from the pre-set schedule, something mildly (but not outrageously) unpleasant happens: either you waste a little money when the thermostat brings the house up to full temperature before you return, or you come home early and you have to keep your jacket on a little longer until the house heats up.

A Nest, when used properly, helps strike a better balance between comfort and savings on the utility bill. It's a trade-off. Compared to a manual thermostat that you adjust religiously, your utility bill will be marginally higher, but your comfort will be higher as well. Compared to a less flexible programmable thermostat, your utility bill will likely be slightly lower and your comfort slightly higher. The Nest hits the sweet spot for me. I understand the arguments behind avoiding a programmable thermostat entirely, but buying a cheap one instead of the Nest strikes me as penny-wise but pound-foolish.

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #18 on: October 24, 2013, 01:03:58 PM »

I'm not an HVAC expert... take what I say with a grain of salt.

If you have gas, you don't have a heat pump.  A heat pump is simply an air conditioner that runs backwards.  It takes the heat from outside and dumps it inside (as opposed to an AC).  They often need a second stage because: they're great at maintaining a temperature but suck at moving the temperature a lot.  In other words, if it is 50 and you want it to be 70, they have a second heating element that comes on to move it faster.

It's common in my area to have a heat pump with gas back up.  Given our temperatures that's still more efficient overall than just gas heat and just electric AC.  The second stage kicks in occasionally but not often.  I'm not sure why you would say the two are mutually exclusive.

I say that because I am not an HVAC expert.  The only experience I have with heat pumps have been fully electric units.  I stand corrected.

Matt K

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #19 on: October 24, 2013, 01:27:05 PM »
Never. You never need to access the thermostat when you're away from home. You can keep your standard thermostat and just turn it down when you want it colder and turn it up when you want it warmer. This is all true. You can have the house cool down to 45 while you're away, turn it up when you get back, and leave your jacket on while the house heats up (or start a fire, if you happen to have a fireplace and a ready supply of free firewood). If you do this, your utility bills will be lower than if you use any programmable thermostat. No argument there either.

By those metrics, any programmable thermostat is an unnecessary toy. I wouldn't recommend one to a person in a debt emergency -- those folks should generally plan to wear sweaters, use more blankets, and not spend a single unnecessary cent on heating until the emergency is over anyway.

So why buy a one at all then? You would do it if you often forget to change the temperature before going to bed or leaving the house. You would do it if you like walking around at home without a jacket enough that you're willing to spend a little bit extra on your heating bill to make that happen, but you draw the line at heating the house for the whole day just for a little extra comfort when you get home.

See, here I see a distinction between a programable unit, and a simple thermostate. My programmable unit will start to warm up the house before I get out of bed, I cannot do this without one unless my thermostat is within reaching distance of my bed. And the distinction between waiting for the house to warm up when you return from vacation (a rare occurance) versus every day when I get home from work, is rather significant. Here the savings of a $25 - $50 programmable thermostat makes a lot of sense.

Quote
For someone who is planning to buy a programmable thermostat anyway, I stand by my recommendation of the Nest. Most programmable thermostats force you to set a schedule and the thermostat will stick by that schedule unless you override it at home. Anytime your life deviates from the pre-set schedule, something mildly (but not outrageously) unpleasant happens: either you waste a little money when the thermostat brings the house up to full temperature before you return, or you come home early and you have to keep your jacket on a little longer until the house heats up.

A Nest, when used properly, helps strike a better balance between comfort and savings on the utility bill. It's a trade-off. Compared to a manual thermostat that you adjust religiously, your utility bill will be marginally higher, but your comfort will be higher as well. Compared to a less flexible programmable thermostat, your utility bill will likely be slightly lower and your comfort slightly higher. The Nest hits the sweet spot for me. I understand the arguments behind avoiding a programmable thermostat entirely, but buying a cheap one instead of the Nest strikes me as penny-wise but pound-foolish.

It's the line penny-wise pound foolish that gets me here.

The heating fuel saved by being able to leave my house at the cooler setting on an evening where I'll be late is pretty minimal. In the coldest months of the year, I pay shy of $100 to heat my house and hot water. So, to give the full benefit of the doubt, let's say it costs me $90 to heat the house for one month. So $3/day for a -30C day. If this feature lets me not heat my house for an extra 8 hours because I won't be home that evening, that's saving me $1 (again, this is the benefit of the doubt since the house will still need some heating). In reality the numbers will be much much lower. So, I need to use this feature more than 200 times, on the coldest days of the year, for the NEST to recover its cost. If I stayed out, exepectedly for the entire evening, every evening of winter, it would still take more than two years for the NEST to pay for itself. And this is only if I'm concerning myself with the temperature of my house and remembering to use my app and keep the house cool. Or, I could drop $25 on a programmable unit, not worry about it, and focus my attention on other things.

The nest is a neat idea, but I just haven't seen a scenario that makes it look remotely cost effective.

hybrid

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #20 on: October 24, 2013, 01:44:12 PM »

I don't get these arguments.  I have this thing called a computer where I work, and my wife has an iPad that she uses at any number of wi-fi hotspots, so accessing a Nest remotely certainly does not require a data plan (which we don't have).



sure.  But (and I mean this as a serious question) how often do you need to access your thermostat when you're not home?  That is clearly "zero" for me.  Even in awful cold climates, setting it to 50 (or something really low) when you're not home gets you 99.999% there. 

The "reason" is usually "I am headed home and it must be exactly 73.2 degrees when I arrive."  Meh.  If I get home and it's 62, I put on a coat, walk out to the wood pile, bring wood in, light a fire.  Now: I'm already warmish from both the exercise and the fact I went out in the cold and back indoors.   The main room with the stove will be warm pretty quickly.  Further away from the stove takes a while. 

It's convenient to use the Nest.  It's cool.  It will be exactly 73.2 when you pull into the garage.  But... It isn't saving you money.  You're running the heat for X minutes while you rush home to get to your perfect house.  Even if you don't use a wood stove, it just isn't that hard to wait X minutes after you get home to get your home to perfectly toasty.

And don't get me started on why you shouldn't use free wifi hotspots...  (and lets ignore the "simple is better" and "least access privilege" concepts of network security.)

First off, I don't have a programmable yet so I don't have any skin in this game.  I just want the best option, period, and I don't have any experience with one so this is research to me.  So I am thinking, hmmm, traditional programmable thermostat is set to go back up to 70 at 6 each day.  What if the missus and I discover we will be out for the evening?  Would be nice to access it from work and tell it to come on at 9 instead of 6.  In other words, lower actual usage via remote access.

As for the wi-fi hotspot security, please. I'm not going to get scared off that easy.  Even my non-IT wife knows not to access our bank from a hotspot.  But a programmable thermostat?  Now I feel like you are stretching what is truly plausible from the very remote chance of getting hacked at a hotspot while accessing your thermostat.

If it doesn't add up, it doesn't add up.  You just seem awfully determined to dismiss it for some reason. 

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #21 on: October 24, 2013, 02:28:12 PM »

As for the wi-fi hotspot security, please. I'm not going to get scared off that easy.  Even my non-IT wife knows not to access our bank from a hotspot.  But a programmable thermostat?  Now I feel like you are stretching what is truly plausible from the very remote chance of getting hacked at a hotspot while accessing your thermostat.


Not really.  The hacker's motto is "pivot mercilessly".  It's not uncommon to pivot through 4 or 5 devices.  It's a linux box.  If you get a shell on it, you're golden.  If you can use it as a proxy, you're golden.   

Plus, it's got zigbee radios in it... so hacking can come from the electrical side of things as well.  Any bets on if there are hardcoded authentication strings in it?  (Even D-link hasn't learned that lesson.)

I tend to be anti-internet-of-things because I deal with this stuff pretty much all the time.

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2013, 03:13:34 PM »
Ahhh, OK.  I sort of get it.  My mother was a social worker and dealt with retirement horror stories for 25 years so guess how conservative she was when she entered retirement?  When all you see is bad news day in and day out...

I worked in auto parts for several years in my 20s.  Saw lots of horror story car repairs.  As such I am wired to hate, hate, hate car repairs (and tend to buy new as a result and keep them for 15 years, and am very wary of used cars, probably irrationally).  I know folks who work in IT security and they see bogeymen everywhere.

I'm an IT administrator and I know what makes a good target and a not-so-good target.  When people ask me if their Verizon wireless at home is safe (it comes pre-secured) I usually tell them that the odds of someone being within range of their network and hacking it and seeking their personal data are remote.  Someone with that kind of skill can just sit on public hotspots a lot easier.

So I look at the thermostat in the same light.  Sure, all things are possible, but probable?  Seems highly improbable to me.  I'd be much more worried about downloading some sort of key logger from a bad web site on the Internet (which I do see a lot of, if not key loggers, but all kinds of malware rather frequently) than someone getting to our bank account via a thermostat.

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Re: programmable thermostat/on demand water heater/heat pump question
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2013, 04:58:29 PM »
Yeah, we're on the same page.  I see the bogeyman.

The "good target" for things like this is hacking the central site.  Odds are that Nest has shell access (and certainly proxy access to the thermostat).  I mention this because it's been done a few times with webcams: hack the central site and get all the cams!