Honeywell joins the smart thermostat war

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© Honeywell

In 1953 Henry Dreyfuss designed the classic round thermostat for Honeywell, a design so iconic that Honeywell sued Nest for making their smart thermostat round. They also sued for patent infringement; it turns out they were busy developing their own smart thermostat, just introduced as the Lyric. It's also round, but that's about where the similarities end.

Right out of the gate, Honeywell attacks Nest's idea of a learning thermostat; the first line in this video is "Let's be honest, life's not that predictable. If you can't learn your schedule, how's a thermostat supposed to?"

The Lyric is essentially turns your smart phone into the thermostat controller; the device on the wall is really just the interface with the furnace and air conditioner, the local thermometer and humidistat. It's part of the trend Apple talks about with HomeKit, where the IOS intends to "integrate the growing field of home automation apps and services."

Honeywell gets that it's personal, that different people feel temperature differently. That there is more to comfort than just temperature. They sing "keeping things feeling like 72 degrees, because a dry 72 can make some people freeze."

Honeywell video/Screen capture

The Lyric doesn't have to guess your habits because it knows where you are, it follows you around. When you are driving to your suburban house on the winding street, it detects you and cranks up the AC in anticipation of your arrival.

Honeywell/Screen capture

In a Lyrical world, you don't have to know what's going on outside, you drive your air conditioned car into your air conditioned house, all cool as a cucumber. You don't have to know the outside weather, because the Lyric does, and fine-tunes conditions accordingly. And herein lies the problem.

The smart thermostat is a dumb response to a bad building.

A smart thermostat works best in a stupid house, one without a lot of insulation or shading, preferably one that leaks a lot of air. A well insulated, well shaded and well built house holds its temperature; as noted in an earlier post discussing passivhaus, a smart thermostat would be bored stupid. You don't want to live in a house that is designed so that the AC can crank the temp down five degrees in the time it takes you to drive a few blocks; it means you have a huge unit. If your architect has designed your house with a little thermal mass to act as a sort of energy flywheel, it will actually be fighting with your thermostat, trying to keep the temperature even when the thermostat is trying to change it.

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You don't want to have a smart thermostat that raises the temperature three degrees; a layer of clothing will do that. Suggesting that a thermostat is going to create energy savings like you've never known is idiotic; it is going to probably cost you money as it dashes from air conditioner to furnace to dehumidifier, to satisfy your every whim. Putting on a sweater is cheaper.

Comfort is a complicated thing that can't really be solved by a smart thermostat. The Lyric, like the Nest, throws technology and electricity at a problem that is better solved by design. As I have said before, we don't need smart thermostats, we need well built dumb homes.

More at Honeywell Lyric.

Tags: Green Building | Smart Home