Smart Home Tech

My home’s air conditioner has been trudging through a slow, laborious death over the past six years or so. It’s an older unit that still uses the old style freon to charge and I’ve been able to recharge it more cost-effectively than replace it. When the lines started freezing up and causing water to pour through the furnace as it finally condensed, however, that cemented the need to replace the AC (and the furnace as well). So with that replacement coming up, I’m weighing the benefits of standard 13-14 SEER rated units (80% efficiency) versus 16 SEER rated ones (96% efficiency). The cost difference is about $1500, but I’m wondering how much energy savings I’ll actually see to make it a viable decision. I fully realize that the savings may not be substantial until the weather turns more extreme.

So I’m turning to the home owners reading this post to see what sort of savings you’ve experienced. Have your utilities been fairly consistent between multiple summers or winters? Have you noticed a spike where one season is significantly higher than the other (summer over winter or vice versa)? I’m sure savings will depend on the differences between the efficiency of the older unit compared to the newer ones.

While I’m on the topic of heating and cooling, I would be remiss in not mentioning the other decision before me. What’s the best way to control the new AC and furnace? I’ve narrowed my choices down to two WiFi programmable thermostats:

NestThermostat

– Versus –

HoneywellThermostat

The Nest is about $100 more expensive than the Honeywell and is reported to be more intuitive in its ability to learn your daily routine. One large drawback from a multitude of reviewers is that The Nest doesn’t show the current temperature by design unless it’s greater than a three degree difference from the target temperature. At that point, it’s the smaller number along the edge of the device rather than the centrally located number. I find it curious that the top three Amazon reviews are all three stars or less (83% are five star ratings).

The Honeywell isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as The Nest. Although it has a customizable touchscreen which can allegedly be set to match any decor, it’s still a hunk of white plastic surrounding the edges. It’s also supposed to make up for its lack of intuitive learning of your home routine by being highly programmable. It certainly features a lot more information on the display panel than The Nest. By comparison, two of the top four Amazon reviews for this are three stars or less (66% are five star ratings).

Both are programmable on the thermostats themselves, via a web portal, or an Android/iOS app. I don’t know if the Honeywell unit can be integrated into a home system as The Nest boasts. Perhaps the biggest concern is whether my parents will understand how to work them if they decide to visit. Seriously, my dad still watches my older, smaller TV upstairs because he can’t figure out how to turn on everything downstairs (even when it was all controlled with three buttons on a single keyboard).

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