This might be one of the smartest ways to use a smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats like Nest do appear to pay for themselves in energy savings, but the upfront cost of several hundred dollars can be pretty hard to swallow for many households. That got a little easier recently with the launch of Nest Thermostat E (review coming soon), which retails at $80 cheaper than its shinier older sibling.
But—like many energy saving home improvements—that's still out of reach of many who could use these devices the most.
That's why I'm encouraged to hear from Nest that they are aiming to provide 1 million thermostats to low income homes by partnering with government, non-profit and utility programs aiming to address fuel poverty. Specifically, Nest will be offering special pricing and logistical support for installation in lower income homes. According to the company's press release, low-income families living in major metropolitan areas experience a median energy burden of 7.2 percent, compared to 2.3 percent of higher-income households in those areas. So it's not hard to see why the 10-15% savings that many households experience would be particularly appreciated by families on a lower income.
Indeed, this might be one of the smartest applications for smart thermostats I have heard of. As I've shared before, even Lloyd—who has long championed insulation and proper building techniques over smart thermostats—did once concede to me (over several whiskies) that installing a smart thermostat is a whole lot easier than retrofitting an old building to be energy efficient. True, in an ideal world we'd do both, but given the poor state of much low income housing, not to mention the logistical, economic and political challenges of large-scale public weatherization and insulation programs, this may make sense.
Yes, it's a band aid, but low income homes are bleeding energy. A band aid is not necessarily a bad place to start.