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As Thermostats Get Smarter, Will Consumers Think More About Energy Efficiency?
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As Thermostats Get Smarter, Will Consumers Think More About Energy Efficiency?

Traditionally, consumers haven’t been as engaged with the thermostats in their homes as they have been with their smartphones and tablets. After all, energy consumption isn’t nearly as entertaining as the latest online game or new shopping app. That was then, however, and now, home thermostats are gaining steam, largely because they’re getting “smarter.”

In fact, “smart” thermostats, those that can actively learn about homeowner temperature preferences and be controlled remotely, are being marketed right alongside a wealth of other consumer gadgets, all of which is fostering the Internet of Things movement. As a result, consumer awareness about smart thermostats is steadily rising. Despite the relatively low penetration of smart thermostats in the U.S., Nielsen’s recent Consumer Energy Sentiments report found that 3% of Americans have jumped on the bandwagon and now own one.

While smart thermostats promise to help consumers become more informed and in control of their energy usage, most are still using manual and programmable devices. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; consumers still have the ability to control their energy expenditures. They just need to put forth the effort to adjust the temperatures in their homes themselves.

Apart from the consumers who are highly engaged with the Internet of Things in all aspects of their lives—including their homes—many consumers aren’t knowledgeable about their energy programs and the efficiency of their heating and cooling systems. In fact, 27% of U.S. consumers don’t know if they have normal or high-efficiency heating systems, slightly more than the 25% of U.S. consumers who aren’t sure about the efficiency of their cooling systems.

While the consumer sentiment data around efficiency options, protective warranties and rebates in the energy realm reflect relative ambivalence, energy efficient and properly maintained equipment can help consumers’ bottom lines. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that home heating accounts for 45% of the average household’s energy bill. That said, however, 78% of consumers say they don’t use any protective warranty program offered by their utility, and 79% don’t use any rebates for purchasing energy-efficient appliances/equipment (HVAC) and weatherization services.

Based on the traction that the select manufacturers of smart thermostats have had recently in building awareness and market share, traditional utility companies and manufacturers might benefit from revising their marketing strategies along the lines of those that use newer media channels and innovative, engaging messaging.

Smart thermostats are just one example of how tech and energy are blending to take advantage of ubiquitous Internet connectivity and complex computational intelligence. Yet industry advances are contingent on the symbiotic relationship between the utility and consumer—and much of that relationship relies on providers sharing the benefits of their products and services to consumers in ways they can relate to and on channels that will reach them.

For additional detail and insight, download the recent Consumer Energy Sentiments report.