Nest Labs was bought recently by Google, which also purchased Texas Wind Farms. Both companies are in the energy business. Nest manufactures Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostats and smoke alarms, while Texas Wind Farms produces clean, sustainable power.
Nest results mixed.
Nest claims it saves consumers about $175 a year in heating and cooling costs. In reality, these savings can be much lower because Nest aims to keep you comfortable, not keep energy use in check. Many people actually spend more using Nest than not using it, and Nest does not work at all with some oil pump heaters. Independent studies have found that programmable thermostats often result in higher energy consumption simply because people do not know how to use them properly. Nest does better than traditional programmable thermostats, but is not the magical device people expect it to be.
EnTouch for small business.
Large commercial office buildings have used energy-smart thermostats by Siemens and Howell for years, but their cost is prohibitive for small businesses. EnTouch aims to bridge the gap by offering a $5000 system that automates energy consumption by smaller facilities, such as restaurants. In most states, the largest non-industrial energy users are grocery chains; commercial freezers are notorious energy hogs. Equipment such as dish machines, commercial laundry machines, and ice machines all use significant amounts of energy. Replacing these systems and upgrading water-heating systems can produce energy savings without altering the way you do business.
Getting an energy audit.
Power companies are state regulated and most are under mandate to invest in energy programs such as solar power. In many states, residential and small business customers can have an energy audit done by the local power utility at a reasonable cost. Often there are rebates for the replacement of outmoded HVAC equipment, along with federal tax credits. Replacing a low energy efficient HVAC system is the first step in lowering energy costs. After that, consider adding insulation, replacing old windows and doors that are not air tight, repairing torn ducts, and painting a dark roof with a light, reflective coating. A thermostat would be toward the bottom of the list! A great thermostat system will save you money, but it can’t offset a low SEER system and its inefficiency.
Using alternative power.
If you install a solar or wind system, you can be eligible for federal and state tax credits. Often the cost to finance a solar system is about the same or less as your utility bill, so it in effect pays for itself if it provides more than 75% of your power needs. The break-even point is usually around 8 years, at which point your energy is basically free. While installing the panels on the south side of your roof will provide the most energy gain, installing on the western side will provide power during peak periods.