Smart thermostat company Ecobee has become the focus of a new profile shared online today by CNET, and alongside that article the company has revealed a new money saving feature for select Ecobee users called "Peak Relief." This feature was created to help users save on energy bills by automatically cutting down on heating and cooling when energy rates are higher, and then using more when rates are lower.
For those in the test, Ecobee says Peak Relief can help customers save an extra 10 percent on heating and cooling bills. Adding in the up to 23 percent of savings that Ecobee already claims from normal use, the company now aims to save customers as much as 33 percent on monthly heating and cooling bills.
Ecobee CEO Stuart Lombard mentioned that the feature was developed over a year and a half and uses artificial intelligence and indoor/outdoor temperature readings to customize settings for each home. This is then combined with time-of-use rates from a utilities provider, which charge customers different prices depending on the time of day versus standard flat rates that go up as users consume more energy.
CNET explains that Peak Relief requires time-of-use utility rates, and while these rates have the potential to cut-down costs it can be difficult to keep track of the higher demand periods, which is where Ecobee's new feature comes in:
Time-of-use has the potential to save customers money and help utilities avoid spikes in demand. But, many customers have a hard time keeping track of varying time-of-use rates, resulting in less energy savings for utilities and potentially higher costs for customers. Peak Relief may be able to alleviate that problem.
So, how does Peak Relief work? Let's say you set your thermostat temperature to cool at 74 degrees. With Peak Relief, the thermostat will automatically cool your home to 71 or 72 degrees when rates are lower, then allow the temperature to slowly go back up to 74 when rates increase.
The feature offers two preferences, so your thermostat will either focus more on comfort and stay closer to your temperature settings or focus more on savings and veer a little further away from those settings when rates change.
Peak Relief is rolling out today, but it appears that the test is fairly small and only for "select customers" in California, Arizona, and Ontario, Canada, and again only if those customers are using time-of-use utility rates. However, the company has already said that it plans to roll out Peak Relief to a wide audience "early next year."
Ecobee's line of thermostats are part of over two dozen heating and cooling controllers compatible with Apple HomeKit, also including thermostats from Elgato, Honeywell, iDevices, and Netatmo. On Apple.com, customers can buy the Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat, but the company's latest iteration is the Ecobee4, which includes built-in Alexa support.