Our home is a little bit smarter

This weekend I installed our new thermostat. The house came with a programmable thermostat so it could adjust the heat/cold for when we were scheduled to sleep and at work, but I wanted more flexibility. What about when we are gone during the weekend, or if we decide to stay home on the weekend. If we leave I don’t know when we will be back, but want to save some money and carbon emissions, but don’t want to have a cold home when we get there.

For a while there have been some options for smart thermostats, but were expensive. Now there is one available at Home Depot for $99. The unit I first tried to install didn’t work. I called the support number (on Sunday afternoon) and it was determined that the unit was non-functional and wouldn’t power on. The guy on the phone suggested I return it. I returned it and got a new one, which worked fine.

The model I got is re branded by 3M. The company that makes them and does the support is Radio Thermostat (RT).

The setup was pretty easy. To power the Wi-Fi connection it needed more power then batteries alone can provide. The old furnace and wiring in our house meant I needed to run an additional wire and plug it into a transformer in the basement. Newer furnaces would have a transformer built in, and newer houses would already have the wiring in place. Running the cable ended up being much easier then I thought. With it powered and mounted I was able to get it to join my network and registered.

Via the web you go through the RT site. Here you can control the thermostat as if you were at it, or set up programs with their own wake/leave/return/sleep schedules for each day of the week. You can have multiple programs and set any of them via the web.

It currently doesn’t have a native web interface, but RT is in the process of documenting the API to communicate with it. This means people can make apps or scripts to program the unit. Unhappy with waiting for RT to release it there is also a group working on getting the API figured out. They have a wiki set up here with what they have so far and some good docs.

There is also an iPhone app that can communicate directly to the unit (if you are on the same local network) or via the internet where ever you are. Now if we are gone on Saturday I can tell the thermostat to save energy, and when we are headed home I can tell it to make it nice inside.

A couple things I see as missing:

  • Scheduling. I would love to be able to tell it I am going to be on vacation on such and such a day so don’t cool down during the day. Or if I am going to be gone, don’t bother with wake or return.
  • Fan Control. You can set the fan to OFF or AUTO. I would like to be able to run the fan for X minutes or schedule to fan to be on a certain times.

Both of these issues I could fix with a scheduled script from my computer, but then I have to keep a computer running. Keeping a computer on and running would negate energy savings. I could set up my own cloud service, but that seems like more hassle then it is worth too.

Overall I am happy with the product and would recommend it to someone looking for more control or a new thermostat. It is still new and updates can fix my issues with it.

One thought on “Our home is a little bit smarter

  1. Pingback: tomcook.net » Blog Archive » Cool Thermostat Stuff

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