News Treehugger Voices Is Elon Musk Going to Reinvent the Air Conditioner? By Lloyd Alter Lloyd Alter Facebook Twitter Design Editor University of Toronto Lloyd Alter is Design Editor for Treehugger and teaches Sustainable Design at Ryerson University in Toronto. Learn about our editorial process Updated February 7, 2021 01:07PM EST Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive What is that man smoking? In a long interview that he may well regret, Elon Musk briefly discussed a more efficient air conditioning system. According to Fred Lampert at Electrek (since I do not have the patience to listen to two and a half hours of this), When discussing solar energy and how the capacity for a Tesla solar roof to power an entire home is dependent on the home’s energy efficiency, Musk started getting into the idea of a smarter air conditioning system: “It should predict when you are going to be home and then cool the rooms that you are likely to use with a little bit of intelligence. We are not talking about a “genius home” – just basic stuff.” Apparently, since they know where your car is, they will be able to adjust the air conditioner to cool your house down before you get home. But Musk wouldn't say much more, noting that “I cannot answer questions about potential future products.” Poor Mike Rogers jumped in to complain about this, using my favourite phrase about dumb houses, and had to withstand the wrath of the fanboi crowd. But the fact of the matter is that it is not the best approach to the problem. It should also be pointed out that there are already smart thermostats that track your car or your phone, like the Honeywell Lyric, which follows you around and adjusts your AC as required. I was not impressed when it came out, writing: Honeywell video/Screen capture 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. Without trying to second guess Mr. Musk, there is a lot that can be done with batteries, solar roofs and a really good, well-built house that might go far beyond what a Lyric or Nest thermostat does with respect to smart air conditioning. And it probably is a waste of our time to try and parse every sentence the man says, particularly when he is drinking whiskey and smoking dope. But I do hope that it is more than just an AC unit that knows where your Tesla is.