New smart thermostat program aims to save energy, costs

Posted on Oct 10, 2015

Brent Warner, a pharmaceutical executive in Deerfield, installed a smart thermostat in his Chicago home last year and has since saved about 30 percent on his monthly bills.

He installed the Ecobee3 thermostat with sensors as part of a kit for homeowners. It helped to regulate the temperature, save on energy usage and costs, and was easily programmable from his smartphone, he said.

“Usually when my wife sees me with a screw driver, she gets scared,” Warner joked. “But this was very easy to install and has saved us a lot.”

Families like Warner’s around the region will now be encouraged to adopt the technology and get money back on the purchase. The new program is expected to be announced today at a news conference with U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the Illinois Commerce Commission, the Citizens Utility Board, ComEd, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center. They aim to get 1 million smart thermostats installed over the next 5 years around Northern Illinois.

“We are excited about this because it is an innovative public-private partnership that should really allow Northern Illinois to make some major strides in energy efficiency,” said David Jakubiak, spokesman for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which helped to organize the news conference.

The program touts the Ecobee3 and Nest thermostats, which retail for about $ 249, and can provide up to $ 120 in rebates for customers with Wi-Fi, central air and a furnace, the center said.

Smart thermostats are WiFi-enabled and allow residents to control the heating and air conditioning settings in a home through their smartphones, tablets and computers.

The center also will release a study on the benefits if 1 million smart thermostats are reached. Projected annual savings include 76 million therms of natural gas, 342 million kilowatt-hours of electricity and $ 85.6 million to $ 118.5 million for consumers.

“CUB is enthusiastic about any program that helps families cut their electric and gas bills,” said CUB spokesman Jim Chilsen. “This is the largest program of its kind in the country, and it’s all about getting an effective, proven money-saving tool in the hands of more consumers so they can take control of their energy costs and cut their utility bills. The only reliable way to cut your electric and gas bills is through energy efficiency and a smart thermostat can be a big help to budget-conscious families.”

Chilsen said rebates and other cost-saving measures will be available.

“We’re on a mission to make money-saving tools available for all Illinois families, and up to $ 120 in rebates is a great step in the right direction,” Chilsen said. “But it doesn’t stop there. We’ll continue to work to improve access to energy efficiency programs so that more and more people can take part. We want this campaign to spark more interest in energy efficiency — because right now there are great free programs available for people of all budgets.”

ComEd also is a supporter of the smart thermostat program.

“We are always looking for opportunities to bring value to our customers and provide them with access to new technologies that will help them enhance their electric usage, reduce costs and improve their green footprint. We are glad to be collaborating with advocacy, government, utility and product partners who have the same goals and believe that by working together, we can achieve greater success,” said ComEd President and CEO Anne Pramaggiore.

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