It’s the law: All new homes in Austin, Texas, must have smart thermostats

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Austin, Texas wants to get smart, with thermostats, that is. A new city regulation requires smart thermostats in all new houses and apartments built in Austin, according to KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR Station.

Apparently, the new rule didn’t cause much fuss. “There was little to no objection to that,” said Debbie Kimberly with Austin Energy. “Most of the builders already offer the higher-end internet-enabled thermostats when they’re building homes.”

The purpose of the regulation is energy savings. In line with that goal, Austin Energy also has a program called PowerSaver. PowerSaver is only available to energy customers who have smart thermostats. To encourage participation in the program the energy company offers a $85 rebate on installation.

With PowerSaver, Austin Energy can adjust the temperature in peoples’ homes by up to four degrees during peak demand times. According to Kimberly, in a typical year the company only adjusts customers’ home temperatures about 15 times, usually for just a couple hours.

“Rather than cycling their air conditioner on and off, we just adjust the temperature settings by a few degrees in the home,” she said. “It’s typically indiscernible. We have very good participation rates. Customers really like the program.”

Approximately 50,000 customers are enrolled in the PowerSaver program. When customers drop out it’s usually because they live in older homes and buildings that aren’t as well insulated, according to Kimberly. In those cases, at times, “raising the temperature even a few degrees can make things uncomfortably hot.”

Smart home thermostat company Nest partners with Austin in the PowerSaver program. Nest’s Jeff Hamel said, “We look toward hopefully seeing more cities hopefully enacting more requirements like this going forward. It really establishes a great platform for residents in the city as well as the utility to be able to work together.”

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