I'm considering a smart thermostat for my step-dad as a birthday gift. Here are some characteristics of the home:
- 3000 sq ft living with two people
- climate is arid with highs into the 100s (deg F) in the summer, winter nights dropping as low as 20 deg F
- they already use double pane windows, not sure they have ever re-done insulation
- they've already upgraded all of their bulbs to LEDs
- they run a server for a small business in a closet near the kitchen and have two additional computers in the house that are usually idling. My Mom uses one of these computers to work from home.
- they have two refrigerators - one in the garage and one in the kitchen.
I know Nest labs has a popular residential smart thermostat for $250, that comes with a nice user friendly iPad app.
They are PG&E customers and I know oPower has some iPad apps that are pretty nice for looking at your energy usage statistics. PG&E also provides smart meters for their customers. Applications that interface with these smart meters may be more useful if they also include electricity loads, especially with some granularity.
I think these little gadgets can have some zip that might appeal to some that aren't traditionally as engaged with sustainability issues. This sort of gift would probably be taken more graciously than evangelizing to them and telling them to reduce to one refrigerator.
However, what kind of useful insight can I expect from a smart thermostat or meter application beyond the obvious - switch to LEDs and reduce to one refrigerator? Do those insights justify the cost of the device - in terms of economic and environmental savings from reduced energy consumption?