Can your thermostat understand you?

We here in the ABLE Lab are tasked with improving the one control system that enables residential customers to consumer approximately 33% of total energy in the US. This control system, a thermostat, does enable a consumer to feel comfortable at home but how accurately does it do so?

The evolution of the smart home has been a century-long journey. The first thermostats of the 19th century were purely mechanical, and automated radiator valves. In the 20th century programmable thermostats automated regularly scheduled setpoint changes. The latest smart thermostats automate utility energy-saving programs, adjust setpoints based on occupancy, and predict building thermal responses. “This increase in automation has become increasingly personal, from comfort temperatures, to work schedules, to home control by utilities, to room-by-room occupancy and comfort. As we can see, the future of buildings will be increasingly automated and should serve the occupants, not the algorithms. Designers must create these next-generation thermostats to be adaptive, personalized, and trustworthy.” – Dr. Michael Kane

Coming from a Mechanical Engineering background and interested in the improving the current state of the art in the automated Energy sector, one of our research assistants Kunind was tasked to assist in the development of a database that stores the data about thermostats usage (Ecobee), Energy consumption (Pecan Street Inc.), etc. Specifically, he has been working on the Ecobee’s Donate your Data platform to analyze and visualize a community’s and an individual’s thermostat usage behavior. These analyses will aid in improving the current controls of the thermostat and allow predictive controls that decrease human intervention while maintaining thermal comfort. From utilities’ perspective, this information can allow them to decrease demand during the peak demand times which will not only help the customer to decrease their energy bills but also the utility and the powerplants as they won’t be penalized for not meeting the demand. The benefits of this research are not only limited to the points mentioned before but also extend to reduction in the use of energy storage and ultimately help in the fight of climate change.

Behavior Patterns

Thermostat behavior timing

Dynamics of Behavior

Thermostat behavior dynamics