2012
07.13

I don’t know about you, but where I live it’s hot, hot, hot. The temperature as I write this is 94 degrees Fahrenheit and the grass outside has been burned to a crisp brown. It’s dry too, and some farmers are starting to talk about mowing down their fields because they’re too far gone. I try to keep my thermostat as high as I can stand it, since I’m already nervous about my electric bill for this month of constant air-conditioning. But as the day heats up, I tend to turn down the thermostat.

I can’t help but wonder how connected technology could help. I could buy a Nest wireless thermostat, which would reward me for saving energy by showing me a little green leaf. It would also learn my habits, automatically cooling the house at the time I generally cave and head to the thermostat. But when it’s 100 degrees multiple days in a row, I wonder how much can really be done.

At this point, I think the problem becomes larger than just my thermostat. Now my utility needs to get involved, and it does. It cycles the air conditioners of people who have agreed to have little boxes placed on the sides of their house, which allow the utility to control the unit. This saves energy on a wider scale when it’s sweltering and every AC unit in town is roaring.

But on an even larger scale, what can be done? I recently read a study that encouraged the people responsible for creating smart grids and smart buildings to work together when developing these systems. Composed by IDC Energy Insights, the study said too often these two entities go their own way, overlooking the chance to really integrate smart grid features into our most innovative buildings.

At a macro level, it will take more projects along these lines to make a significant impact on energy management. Perhaps a building could be so in tune with the smart grid, and how it’s using energy, that it automatically stops cooling an office when the person using it is out for the day. With enough smart buildings, it could make a difference.

But the same could be said for each individual homeowner, although one home uses only a fraction of the energy of a large skyscraper or office campus. Yet, I will continue to wait to turn down the thermostat until the last possible minute. Or perhaps I will get a Nest to do it for me.

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