More and more homeowners are discovering the convenience of device connectivity. Speakers, watches, phones, refrigerators, TVs, light bulbs, garage door openers, washers and dryers, ceiling fans, locks, and more—the internet of things (IoT) is creating a web of interconnected convenience that’s changing the world.

Even the humble AC/heating thermostat has joined the IoT revolution. GVEC is proud to offer homeowners in south Central Texas the option of adding one of these convenient, money-saving thermostats to their existing or new AC/heating systems. Our product lineup includes the Nest Learning Thermostat®, the Nest Thermostat E® and the ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control.

What’s the Big Deal About Connecting a Thermostat to the Internet?

Like any device with internet connectivity, connected thermostats include a built-in Wi-Fi antenna that accesses the internet via radio waves broadcast by the home router. Internet access gives these thermostats an array of features that offline thermostats can’t match.

For example, connected thermostats not only can check the weather, but can also use this information for help creating a heating/cooling schedule for your home. This is really just the beginning of the conveniences connected thermostats offer.

Connected Thermostats Follow Your Schedule

After establishing an online connection, your new thermostat begins collecting information on your usage habits. Do you adjust the temperature in your home at night before bed? In the morning, do you adjust back to a daytime, “working” temperature? Before everyone leaves for work and school on weekdays, do you set the thermostat to account for the fact no one will be home all day?

Your connected thermostat compiles a record of these adjustments and any others you may routinely make. It uses this information to help create an automated heating/cooling schedule for your home. After a few days, it can take over, adjusting the temperature based on your usage preferences without further input from you. These innovative devices can continually tweak and sharpen that schedule based on your feedback, internet-derived weather data, anonymous usage data compiled from other connected thermostat users and on operating system upgrades from the thermostat manufacturer.

Smart Comfort on Your Terms

Of course, owners always remain in control, with the option to turn off automated heating/cooling or to modify the schedule as desired. You can also choose whether you want to share your own anonymous usage data for other connected thermostats to use and to help your device manufacturer improve the thermostat’s operating system. Whether or not you choose to share data, you’ll still benefit from regular operating system updates that help enhance your thermostat’s operational efficiency and security.

Are Smart/Learning Thermostats Secure?

Can smart/learning thermostats be hacked? The short answer is yes: Like any other connected device, these thermostats can be vulnerable to third-party breaches. However, also like many other connected devices, some responsibility for maintaining security rests with the owner. It’s important, for instance, to create strong passwords for logging into your thermostat’s operating system (for tips on strong password creation, visit our blog). Two-factor authentication is another good way to protect your thermostat from third-party intrusion. It’s also important to keep your connected thermostat updated to the latest version of the manufacturer’s operating system; these updates include enhancements to the thermostat’s built-in security algorithms.

Can a Smart/Learning Thermostat Spy on You?

Do connected thermostats “spy” on their owners? The short answer is an unequivocal “no.”

New Nest Systems Have No Means to ‘See’ or ‘Hear’

All Nest Thermostat models are sold without embedded microphones or cameras. These can be purchased as a separate security add on, but this is solely the owner’s choice.

The ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control: Listening Only When You Want It To

The ecobee doesn’t come with an embedded camera, either. This thermostat does include a microphone for allowing owners to control it with voice commands. This is hardly cause for fear of “spying,” though, as voice connectivity has grown quite common among IoT devices.

Consumer Privacy: Built into Every Connected Thermostat GVEC Sells

To date, there is no evidence that Nest Thermostats or the ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control — nor any mainstream, reputable connected thermostat — collect any data without owners’ knowledge. Additionally, users maintain complete control regarding what data—if any—can be shared for improving the overall experience for all owners. And such shared data is always anonymous.

The ecobee SmartSensor

Although it doesn’t include a camera, ecobee does come with the company’s patented “SmartSensor” device. SmartSensor includes a built-in infrared motion detector and a thermostat. This device can detect if a room is occupied or empty. If said room is occupied, SmartSensor transmits the room’s temperature to the primary unit so this information can be accounted for when the ecobee performs a run cycle.

Suppose, for instance, your bedroom is a fair distance from your ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control. It wouldn’t be unusual for this room to be colder than areas closer to the ecobee hub. Set up SmartSensor and when your bedroom is occupied, ecobee knows extra heating is needed to make that part of the home comfortable.

Maybe your primary ecobee SmartThermostat is set to heat the home to 68 degrees (GVEC’s recommended wintertime AC/heating temperature), but when the primary ecobee reaches 68, SmartSensor reads a temperature of 65 in your bedroom. The ecobee can average the difference and heat the primary thermostat to say, 70 degrees, allowing your bedroom temperature to hit 67.

Additionally, although each ecobee comes with only one SmartSensor in the box, each unit can be connected with up to 32 SmartSensors, which may be purchased separately. Add a SmartSensor to every frequently occupied room, and ecobee can help make your home buzz with comfort.

Comfort in Saving Money

Smart or learning thermostats aren’t just designed to make life more convenient and comfortable. They can also save on heating and cooling costs. Studies suggest that a connected thermostat by Nest or ecobee can save between 20% and 23% on monthly heating/cooling bills and perhaps even more.

Ready to Upgrade to a Connected Thermostat? Call GVEC

Our experts can help you decide which connected thermostat is right for you. They can also set up an appointment for GVEC to come install it after you purchase one. Our installers will show you all the ins and outs of your new connected thermostat and help you set it up for maximum comfort and savings. To learn more, call 877.466.5506.

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