It can sometimes feel as if your thermostat is working against you. Home is where you’re supposed to be at your most comfortable, and that shouldn’t involve the need for constant temperature adjustments. Then there’s the general unsightliness of the devices themselves.
Beyond being a nuisance, imprecise thermostats can squeeze household budgets by wasting energy on heating and cooling when it’s least needed. This also hurts the environment, as providing our buildings with power, heating and cooling accounts for a fifth of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Retrofitting our homes to improve energy efficiency can help to cut costs, but having a smarter thermostat that adjusts to busy schedules can also form part of the solution.
Founded in 2007, Toronto-based Ecobee was the first company to introduce WiFi-enabled thermostats to the North American market. Using sensors around the home, customers are able to adjust the temperature per room using their smartphone or other device. The thermostat then combines these preferences with an algorithm that matches your household’s schedule and habits to reduce energy use accordingly. Its stylish design has also been a hit with increasingly discerning appliance consumers.
Customers have already managed to reduced their energy bills by an average of 23%, according to Ecobee. Looking for further reductions, the company began its Peak Relief pilot project last summer with select customers in Ontario, Arizona and California (each of them jurisdictions with time-of-use energy pricing policies in place). By using more energy when rates are higher and less when they’re lower, customers can reduce their bills by an additional 10%.
Now on its fifth generation of devices, Ecobee has managed to capture about a third of the fast-growing North American smart thermostat market. It continues to face its fiercest competition from Google’s Nest device, which leads the industry in market share.
Ecobee’s devices are compatible with the voice-activated platforms from Amazon, Apple and Google, with the latest version of its products even featuring Amazon’s Alexa voice control built in. To help it compete against some of the biggest industry players, the company has raised over $200 million in financing. That included $127 million raised last year from Amazon.com Inc.’s Alexa Fund and the Business Development Bank of Canada, among others.
In looking for other ways to fight climate change and cut costs for customers, Ecobee rolled out an innovative data donation plan in 2016. Instead of trying to monetize their users’ information, the company allows customers to voluntarily donate their anonymized energy use data to a group of researchers at 17 universities, think-tanks and government agencies looking to reduce the carbon footprint of our buildings.
By using the data donation tool, we can both save energy in the present and support research to reduce it further in the future. All from the comfort of our smartphones.