Last week, the provincial government launched the Green Ontario Fund (also known as GreenON), a not-for-profit government agency backed by the proceeds of Ontario’s cap-and-trade program. GreenON is meant to help homeowners, building owners and industrial operators funding shift towards renewable energy and energy-efficient systems and appliances.
The program’s first big move was also announced: using the government’s initial $377 million investment in the program, GreenON will install 100,000 free smart thermostats in detached and semi-detached residential homes across the province. Sign-ups for the program have already begun.
The adoption of smart thermostats is a small but important step in creating a more sustainable, energy-conscious future. Smart thermostats can’t save energy on their own, but they can help along the way and empower people to make better choices about their energy use.
The Smart Thermostat Revolution
While fully-connected ‘smart homes’ are still a distant future for most people, smart thermostats are the first smart home device to really go mainstream. There are over 20 million smart thermostats installed in North American homes, and nearly half of all new thermostats people purchase are wi-fi connected ‘smart’ devices. Smart thermostat sales are likely to surpass their traditional and programmable counterparts soon.
What separates a smart thermostat from one that’s simply programmable? A programmable thermostat lets you set the temperature and have it adjust based on the time of day. This allows homeowners to save energy by automatically turning their heating or cooling systems down during the hours when no one’s home.
Most Canadians have programmable thermostats in their home, but their potential to save energy is sorely underutilized. Programmable thermostats tend to be difficult to use, with unclear instructions and non user-friendly controls. One study found nearly 90% of people with programmable thermostats don’t program them properly at all.
The advantage of smart thermostats is twofold. First, the devices are far easier to use than their traditional counterparts. Many have intuitive touchscreen controls, and can be adjusted remotely using a smart phone or other wi-fi-connected device.
Smart thermostats can also program itself automatically based on your behaviour. The Nest thermostat, for instance, uses software to ‘learn’ your routine and preferences over time. The Ecobee 3 uses wireless motion sensors to tell whether a room is occupied. Other models, like the iComfort and Honeywell Prestige series, offer similar features.
Future of the GreenON Fund
The smart thermostat program is the first in what is planned to be a series of efforts by GreenON to help Ontarians reduce greenhouse gas pollution and meet provincial emission targets. Along with smart thermostat installation, the agency is offering eligible homeowners a free in-home energy review to provide advice and tips on what else people can do to reduce their carbon footprint and save on energy costs.