Consumer Technology Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat

Published on June 12th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown


New Thermostat Helps Utilities And Their Customers Reduce Brownouts And Electric Bills

June 12th, 2013 by  

A new programmable Honeywell thermostat with Wi-Fi was designed to help power companies reduce brownouts and blackouts when electricity demand surges due to hot weather. The new programmable thermostat uses Honeywell’s Total Connect Comfort app.

Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat

Honeywell Wi-Fi programmable thermostat.
Image Credit: HoneywellPRODUCTS on Youtube.

Air conditioners draw an enormous current when running (500 to 2,400 watts per room unit). Plus, they cycle on and off, causing large, sudden electricity demand spikes. The more we can cut down on A/C usage, the better.

South Sioux City was the first municipality to implement this new Honeywell thermostat as part of a city-wide effort to reduce electricity waste and the cost of electricity.

The new thermostat communicates with utility companies, which is part of the “smart grid” concept, and enables them to temporarily reduce the energy usage of appliances in order to avoid blackouts and brownouts. (Most power plants are slow to respond to large, sudden electricity demand changes.)

So you may end up a bit warm if your utility company expects a blackout. However, if they failed to turn your air conditioner down and there was a blackout, you would end up with no A/C at all.

This adjustment also gives utility companies time to start peaking power plants, many of which take about 15 minutes to start.

Customers that choose to participate in this smart grid program receive the thermostats free of charge.

“Honeywell has worked with utilities across the country for decades to help stabilize energy consumption. We have the energy technology, experience and are now layering on our reliable, easy-to-use Wi-Fi thermostats to make these programs a win-win for utilities and homeowners,” said Paul Orzeske, president of Honeywell Building Solutions. “South Sioux City leaders and residents should be commended for their responsible, consumer-oriented approach to energy management. We hope many more utilities and cities follow their lead.”

The EPA has estimated that the thermostats can save homeowners $200 on heating and cooling annually.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is:

  • Matt

    The grid is something we “all” share, so having it work is good for everyone on the grid. These items are both more complex and simpler than people want to admit. First lets look at load, it changes in two forms fast changes, and slow changes (the average demand curve goes up and down “slowly” over the day).

    There a fast changes on both production and demand. On demand side think about a electric motor, when it starts it draws a lot more than it takes to run it.

    Lets take an example, say you live in a mid-sized city with 100k ACs. If by random chance they all start at the same millisec, bad things could happen. And there are bigger motor than that on the grid. So in a smart grid you could see a motor sending a “want to start request, AMP size, rampup time” normally it would get response “go”, but if a lot came at once you might get a “wait n secs”. Yes motor side code has if no response in m sec start anyway.

    For slow, first you want to move toward time of day pricing where price is into several level. Yes detail missing here but lets assume it by hour. Now assume that the grid can send event to you home/biz like. “start of level n” there would also be several level of warning events many “Demand spike level 1”, “Demand spike level 2”, “Demand spike level 3” where it is understood that some level rolling brownout start.

    Now if you had a smart home when you got a “start level 0” event you know you should be deep chilling your freezers and charging the EV. Note above “want to start request” keeps them all from starting at once. As you enter higher cost levels then you home could delay so items, say your washer/dryer, allow the water heater to start cutting back a few degrees, turn off the water fountain in the year, … If you get a “Demand spike” home could do the additional things. If the spike event is high enough and you are a biz might start backup generation, or start turning of machines that take time to stop smoothly.

    But today we are not there yet. So we are taking baby steps to find what can work. For instance, if you use Duke they will pay you $25-$50 to install a control on you AC and then when power demand is too high they can tell you AC not to run for 5mins (5 or 10 forget). They can do that for a maximum number of mins per hour, depending on the option you picked. The sign up bonus is greater when you pick the higher number of min/hour. You are also paid for each time they turn the AC off.

    To have the grid work we need central information to is gather and shared. So that each consumer and producer can respond.

  • anderlan

    Usually people include a state when giving a city name, unless the city is a well-known metropolis. It’s like I’m reading this on a local news site, the kind I always find a challenge in ascertaining the locality of. Hmm, that’s fishy.

  • JamesWimberley

    It’s a thoroughly bad idea to cede control of individual appliances behind the meter to the electricity utility. Big Brother! The smart supply contract may require the householder to cut usage on a signal from the utility; but the selection of the appliance (strictly speaking, a priority list) should be the householder’s, and it’s her responsibility to program the “janitroid” accordingly. Normally you would choose to cut the a/c not the freezer; but you may have a sick child in the house whose room must be kept at a constant temperature, which changes the priorities.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I don’t think anyone has suggested a total turnover of control to the grid manager.

      Any system would almost certainly have a “Do it my way/Let the grid determine” toggle. One would simply save money if they let the grid determine.

      You want to run your pool filter and charge your EV at 1PM? Fine. Pay a higher rate.

      As for cutting a/c or freezer – just the ability to turn individual units on in sequence over a relatively short amount of time has value. When motors start up they create a surge, they draw more electricity than when they are running. Smoothing surges cuts peak demand.

      Cooling down a freezer/refer a few extra degrees before the morning peak sets in helps lower the peak. The same happens on the other end of the peak. Waiting a bit to turn on the appliance until after the peak has fallen helps demand/cost issues.

      There was an interesting study in which a large office building had its central air system linked to solar output during the day. When panel output fell due to passing clouds the venting fans slowed to match and then sped back up when panel output rose. Building occupants were unaware of the air speed variations. Overall air exchanges per hour was kept constant but the system was allowed to “supply follow”.

      • JamesWimberley

        With cheap microprocessors, it’s surely possible to locate quite sophisticated load-management algorithms behind the meter, as with the NEST thermostat. I take it as a political good to decentralise control over things as much as possible. Conversely, centralised control disempowers citizens and creates potential for abuse.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I don’t think allowing the grid to trigger when your EV charges or refer runs has jack to do with centralized control over our lives, big government, and all that stuff.

          It’s simply being a cooperative participant in the larger issue of reducing energy use as much as possible in order to minimize our collective carbon footprint.

          • RobS

            These sorts of strategies are not so much about overall demand destruction or efficiency, they are more about demand time shifting, allowing a utility or an individual household to shift the time of energy use around to better match supply. There are three ways you can make a power grid function, you can either generate all the power customers demand at the time they want it, you can store power so that you can shift production to match demand or you can shift demand so that it matches production. A Device like the one shown is so vastly cheaper then grid level energy storage it’s barely even worth mentioning. If we can use such devices to prevent very brief periods of massive consumption on summer cooling and winter heating then we can save billions in peaking fossil fuel plants and distribution upgrades and have a system that can integrate VERY high levels of intermittent renewables without the need for far more expensive storage.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Better put.

            By reducing peak demand we can avoid using gas peakers.

    • RobS

      The program is entirely voluntary, obviously if you had a sick child and temperature stability was critically important you would not take part. But you may decide to let them cycle your pool pump or EV charging instead. Any other straw men to beat down?

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