Energy efficiency made more possible by smart thermostats

When Americans go on vacation, they may ask a neighbor to monitor their homes, both for safety and to ensure the properties remain in the best condition possible. Homeowners concerned with energy efficiency may prefer to use a new smart thermostat, which adjusts home temperatures automatically in their absence to ensure energy costs do not soar.

The American Council on an Energy-Efficient Economy estimates that 89 percent of homeowners do not use their thermostats regularly because they are too difficult to understand, meaning a significant amount of energy could be wasted each year.

Comcast has partnered with California startup EcoFactor to release a home energy monitoring system that addresses this problem. The EcoFactor energy management system monitors weather patterns, along with homeowner temperature preferences and habits, to determine what the optimal home temperature should be at any given time.

Comcast estimates that its new system will save homeowners an average of $52.33 each month, which equates to 17.1 percent lower energy costs. A similar product – the Nest Learning Thermostat – entered the marketplace last fall.

"Our patented system collects and analyzes many thousands of individual readings for each connected thermostat every day of the year," according to a press release. "Our algorithms then identify each home's thermal characteristic and automatically adapt to occupant behavior and weather patterns. Using this vast amount of data, EcoFactor then creates and implements unique evolving strategies for each thermostat."

Homeowners may opt to install these features if they are out of the home often or if they would prefer to take a relatively hands-off approach to their home energy use, but others may prefer to hire home inspection contractors to conduct an energy audit and determine areas where homeowners can save.

Whether this means installing new heating and insulation, sealing off crevices throughout the home or simply purchasing CFL bulbs, there are numerous ways for energy-conscious consumers to create energy-efficient homes.