ecobee — Programmable Thermostats and Other Green Living Products

From the Hive...

Q&A with Stuart: The problem with Power Stealing

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

ecobee CEO, Stuart Lombard answers your questions.

Stuart Lombard, ecobee CEO

Stuart Lombard, ecobee CEO

Q: Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot more about ‘Power Stealing’ as a power source for smart thermostats – is this something ecobee does?

A: Good question. We’ve seen a lot of discussion about this recently because of the extreme cold weather conditions we’ve been experiencing. To quickly answer your question, no ecobee does not use power stealing as a source of power. Here’s why:

Power stealing is a way of powering a thermostat using the circuits that turn on and off your HVAC system, rather than using a dedicated power wire or a Common wire (referred to as a C-wire).  As the term implies, it involves using these circuits in a way that they were not designed to operate. There’s a lot of history and literature on power stealing dating back at least 20 years and for a while it was used for simple thermostats. We looked at this technology very carefully when we designed ecobee. However as we discovered through our research, it is very difficult to do reliably especially given all the things a smart thermostat needs to do.

Power stealing is designed to charge a thermostat battery which then powers the thermostat. The challenge with power stealing is you can only steal a very small amount of power. Steal too much and you will turn the equipment on when you don’t want to, steal too little and the battery and your thermostat runs down and goes dead. Obviously this is not a reliable way to power a thermostat. The other problem is that batteries lose about 20% of their capacity every year, so as every year passes, the buffer provided by the battery goes down and your chances of failure goes up.

The amount of power you can steal is different when the equipment is running versus when it is off. The amount of power you can steal is less when the equipment is running. With the recent cold weather, heating systems are running 12-18 hours per day, which is enough time for the thermostat battery to deplete its charge. When this happens, a thermostat may do several things internally to conserve power such as throttle down the CPU cycles, turn off the Wi-Fi radio and, worst case, shut down your heating/cooling so it can recharge.

In an analysis across our customer base, we predicted power stealing will fail in 2-8% of customer installs. And a bigger problem is that when power stealing fails, it doesn’t fail deterministically. In other words, reliability or failure can’t be predicted at the time of install. So while it may happen during extreme weather conditions, it could also fail at any time.

Heating and cooling equipment are simply not designed for power stealing. Newer HVAC equipment tends to be even more sensitive to power stealing. A thermostat that power steals might work fine for a few weeks, a year or two years, then fail. A lot depends on the equipment the thermostat is connected to, the equipment duty cycling and the customer usage patterns. This may be part of the reason some people experienced high failures during the Polar Vortex, when duty cycle and customer usage is high. For these reasons, ecobee does not use power stealing.

In our case, ecobee thermostats require a 24VAC power supply using a ‘C wire’ to ensures constant (24 VAC) power. This provides a continuous and reliable power source, so our customers can be sure their ecobee thermostats will always stay powered on.

Image from RatherSquare.com ecobee installation

Image from RatherSquare.com ecobee installation

Have a question for Stuart? Tweet us @ecobee and maybe you’ll see your question answered in our next blog post.

5 facts about your old mercury-filled thermostat

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

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Are you installing a new ecobee thermostat soon? That’s great news!

But after your install, please make sure to recycle your old mercury-filled thermostat properly, because it can be very harmful to you and to our environment.

5 facts about your old mercury-filled thermostat:

  1. Mercury thermostats contain approximately 2.5-10 grams of mercury. (Switchthestat.ca)
  2. One mercury-containing home thermostat has the capacity to contaminate a 20-acre lake. (Earth 911)
  3. Mercury can inhibit the development of the brain and nervous system in young children and women of child-bearing age. (Wikipedia.org/Mercury_poisoning)
  4. When mercury enters our environment, it becomes part of the food chain for all living organisms. Mercury does not break down, so it builds up in fish, birds and people. (Maine.gov)
  5. There are 12 states where it is illegal to dispose of a mercury thermostat any other way than by recycling: California, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Vermont. (Thermostat WiFi)

Looking for a drop-off location near you? No problem!

US residents: Find a public drop-off location with the Thermostat Recycling Corporation.

Canadian residents:  Find a public drop-off location through the Switch the Stat program.

Majority of programmable thermostats go unprogrammed

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk, testimonials

Did you know the majority of programmable thermostats go unprogrammed? In fact programmable thermostats can be so difficult to use that Energy Star stopped certifying them in 2009 (Source: ACEEE).

There are many great energy-saving tips on ways to save on your utility bill this winter, for example:

  • Use weather stripping & caulk
  • Cover drafty windows
  • Turn the ceiling fan clockwise

But many tips are still recommending a programmable thermostat. We’d like to instead recommend a smart thermostat.

ecobee, for example, comes with a program out of the box, so you don’t even have to worry about ‘programming’ it. But if you do want to customize it based on your personal routine – it’s simple to do, either from your thermostat, computer, or smartphone.

50% of your energy costs are consumed from heating & cooling your home, but when you have a schedule, energy savings can be quite substantial. Our customers have saved an average of 23% on their heating & cooling bills (when compared to leaving their thermostat on hold at 72F).

To learn more about the benefits of installing a smart thermostat in your home, check out the videos from a couple of our contractors below.

John Kern of One Way Mechanical in Pennsylvania shows off a smart home with a smart thermostat and how much money you can save on your energy bills!

Phil Hanna from AtlasCare Heating and Cooling explains the key benefits of this new technology to Homestars … and how you can control it from anywhere in the world!

Enjoy!

Are you a contractor looking for learn more about ecobee? You can sign up for our webinars, every Tuesday & Thursday, to learn more about our products, installation and updates. 

 

Facebook Contest Alert!

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

Contest Pic

To win an ecobee Smart Si with installation, simply post your story on our Facebook page telling us how far you have gone to stay warm (or cool) in your home. Then share with your friends & family because the story with the most ‘Likes’ wins!

Remember to share with your followers on Twitter too. Feel free to use this Tweet (Click to Tweet): #Win a smart thermostat from @ecobee. Visit their Facebook page to enter the #PutOnASweater contest: https://www.facebook.com/ecobee#contest

Contest Rules & Regulations:

  • There will be one winner of an ecobee Smart Si thermostat including installation by an ecobee preferred contractor. The approximate value of the thermostat and installation is $400.
  • The contest will close on Friday, November 29. It is open to residents of the US & Canada, excluding QC, and is void where prohibited. Winner must be the property owner or must be able to authorize installation of the thermostat.
  • ecobee will notify the winner via Facebook after the contest has closed.
  • If the first winner does not claim their prize via Facebook within one week, ecobee will select the next winner.
  • This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

How to fight off energy vampires this Halloween!

By: Linda North

Blog, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

Halloween is here! The kids’ costumes are ready, the pumpkins are carved & the big bags of candy are ready to go.

You may feel ready for Halloween night, but have you thought about those energy-sucking vampires lurking in your home? Vampire power attacks your wallet when you leave home appliances and chargers plugged in when they’re not in use – and it affects the environment and your energy bill.

According to Energy Star, the average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off! And on a national basis, vampire power accounts for more than 100 billion kWh of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.

This Halloween, fight these energy-sucking vampires with 2 simple steps (no garlic required):

  1. Use a power bar. Plug your TV, DVD, stereo system and gaming consoles into one power bar. At the end of the day, just switch off the power bar. A couple of power bars throughout your home will make it simple to unplug your entertainment systems every night.  Check out some innovative power bars here.
  2.  Unplug your chargers. After you’ve charged up your smartphone, tablet, camera, etc., unplug the chargers from the outlet. It’s that simple.

Here’s a few recommended articles to learn more about vampire power:

Your gadgets are bleeding out your wallet. Here’s how to put a stop to vampire power

Top 5 Energy-Sucking Vampire Appliance

Vampire Slaying and More: NRDC’s Halloween Energy Survival Guide

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Happy National Energy Awareness Month!

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News

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It’s mid-October and the fall weather has arrived here at ecobee headquarters. The leaves are changing colors, days are getting shorter and the chill is back in the air. And we’re starting to feel a little jealous of the warm weather our customers have year-round in Texas, Florida … and the southern states in general!

October also marks National Energy Awareness Month! To help commemorate, here’s our top 5 energy efficiency tips to help you save money and hassle over the coming months:

ecobee’s Top 5 Energy Efficiency Tips

  1. Make a 1° difference. Setting back your home’s temperature by 1°F while you sleep can help save you money on your energy bill. For example, if you live in New Jersey you can save 200 kWh per year on your energy bill by making this easy set back. So while you’re dreaming of warming days, or counting sheep, let your blanket keep you warm and consider making that 1° change on your thermostat. (Source: Energy Star Programmable Thermostat Savings Calculator)
  2. Remember your furnace filters. With the change of seasons also comes a time to think about your furnace filters. A dirty filter reduces heat/cool airflow, which can lead to expensive repairs. Ideally you should change your filter every three months, as recommended by the ecobee support team! If you have an ecobee thermostat, set your Furnace Filter Reminder on your web portal for added peace of mind.
  3. Identify and seal drafts. One of the most cost effective ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency & comfort is by looking for drafts in your home and sealing them up. You can easily check for drafts by using a feather duster at your windows and doors. Use caulking or weather stripping to eliminate the energy lost through these spaces. According to Energy Star, air sealing and insulating your home can save as much as 20% of your heating and cooling costs!
  4. Adjust your thermostat while on vacation. Heading away for a fall getaway with the family for a few days? There’s no need to keep your home at a comfortable temperature when you’re not there. Make sure to adjust your thermostat settings to help save you money. With your ecobee thermostat, you can set your vacation schedule in advance so you don’t forget.
  5. Control your thermostat remotely. With a Wi-Fi enabled thermostat, even if you leave on vacation and forget to adjust your thermostat, you can easily open your ecobee app and swipe to turn the temperature up, down or completely off! Or if you’re having a late night at the office – you can adjust your settings on the way home to ensure is at your preferred temperature when you arrive.

We know you have lots of great energy efficiency tips too! Please tweet us your tips at @ecobee and we’ll help share them.

Have a great National Energy Awareness Month!

 

We’re now compatible with Control4!

By: Linda North

Blog, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

Control4

Image from Control4.com

We launched our open API in June and we’ve had some great developers engage with us since then.

One that we’re especially excited about is TheDriversLab‘s Control4 driver. It’s a two-way Driver that gives you full control of your ecobee thermostat via your Control4 system – meaning you can now connect your Wi-Fi electronic devices together with your ecobee thermostat, giving you an awesome home automation experience.

Recently Dennis Berger from Technology Tell wrote a Hands-On review with the Drivers Lab’s Control4 Driver for ecobee. He provides a nice overview of what you can do when you connect your Control4 system to ecobee. Check it out here.

And we appreciate the following comment on his review about our own app.

“… ecobee’s app control is amazing, its setup and online monitoring tools are beyond compare, and once the thing is set up, you rarely if ever need to touch it, aside from letting it know that you’ve replaced your filter (or if you’re walking by and just want to check the local weather conditions and forecast).”

Visit our API page to see more of our exciting partners.

Consumer Reports ranks ecobee in Top 3!

By: Linda North

Blog, For our contractors, For your home, Quick News, Tech talk

consumer reports_lg

The results are in! The ecobee Smart thermostat ranks in the Top 3 in Consumer Reports lab testing.

Our score: 94 out of 100!

Here’s CR’s Take:

This interactive thermostat has a full-color touch screen and simple prompts that make it easy to use and see. A seven-day model, it lets you create a separate program for each day. It connects to the Web through Wi-Fi, so you can make changes to your settings from anywhere using a computer, smart phone, or tablet. The ecobee provides weather updates, and the Reports tool tracks your systems and creates a history. 

In User Reviews – we received 4.3 stars!

NJ Guy from Chatham, NJ says:

5.0 Excellent unit – 5 years of perfection

“We’ve had this device now for over 5 years in two homes and cannot live without it. I’ve installed it myself but I am very electrically inclined. The fact that there is no additional cost to connect your device to the web was a huge selling point and they have continuously improved the interface each year. Everyone should have one of these.”

Check out the full rating here: http://bit.ly/YAuWUN

Also take a look at Consumer Reports’ 5 ways to save energy and money right now.

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  • "I have 9 ecobee thermostats across 3 properties and love your product." - Roger, Commercial Customer

  • "What a great product! it performs as is stated. nothing better than turning on the ac from my iphone and coming home to a cool house!" - T.Y.

  • "You guys are one of a kind - that's a good thing! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm very excited to start using this smart device." - R.T.

  • "I love my ecobee thermostats - I have two and in the first year of having them I saved enough money on my oil bill to pay for my thermostat." - A.G.

  • "Abilene Texas has an entire new housing development using ecobee - You should come here and see how your units keep up with the Texas summer heat!" - G.W.P.

  • "My favorite thing? Warming up the master bedroom from my iPhone when heading home in the evening on a cold winter day. And vice versa..." - L.S.R.

  • "The ecobee thermostat and iPhone app was worth every penny. My wife tells me on every trip to the vacation home what a great purchase it was." - R.B., Homeowner

  • "The online web portal is revolutionary and is just as simple to navigate as the thermostat itself." - Joe, Contractor