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Research in the Utilities Industry: Thermostats and Remote Access

This past spring we surveyed our consumer panel about the winter of 2013 – 2014. We used our proprietary message prioritization tool called BracketTM to determine that high heating bills were the worst part of enduring a challenging winter.

Energy utilities dedicate resources toward educating consumers about ways to conserve, which both increases sustainability and also keeps money in consumers’ wallets. One conservation method is to use programmable thermostats – homes and businesses can be kept cooler at night or when no one is around, and warmer when people are home (and the opposite is true in the summer). The set-it-and-forget-it nature of the program means the consumer doesn’t need to fiddle and adjust; once you decide what temperature you want on which day and at which time, the system takes over.

But we like to fiddle and adjust, and thermostats can also be controlled through apps on your PC or mobile device. This allows you to over-ride the program if you forget to re-set it while you’re on vacation, for example.

We were interested to understand consumer interest in these technologies, so we polled our panel once again and asked them what type of thermostat they used, if any, and how interested they’d be in installing a fancier type than they have now.

Nearly all of our survey participants use some type of thermostat. Half use a standard thermostat (not programmable). This number is higher among non-homeowners (61% vs. 48%). Landlords take note: consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat in your rental units.

 Utilities Research1

Interest is relatively high in programmable thermostats among those who don’t currently use them. Interest isn’t quite as high for remotely controlled thermostats, but there’s still a great deal of interest there.

Utilities Research2

While there’s no difference in interest in adopting these technologies among homeowners vs. non-homeowners, younger consumers are more interested in remote access than older consumers are. This aligns nicely with Nest’s current ad campaign in which grandpa blasts his grandkids for installing a newfangled thermostat.

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As technology and new energy resources continue to infiltrate the energy market, we'll keep checking on the pulse of the consumer. If you have suggestions for questions to ask our panelists about energy consumption, please let us know.

VP / Research Management


Michele likes to hijack TRC's online consumer panel to get relevant answers to her burning research questions. She loves asking questions relating to her favorite hobbies - TV and movies, golf, casino gambling and travel - and more often than not the answers can be generalized across industries.


Contact Michele

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