I have talked to quite a few folks in the HVAC trade in regards to their feelings about smart thermostats in the last few weeks. I’ll be upfront and acknowledge that I, being in the commercial/industrial side of the world, have never installed one or even seen one in operation.
My job title is boiler service technician, and most the systems I work on don’t have conventional thermostats. But the general attitude that I picked up on was that not very many techs seem to like them. They gave all kinds of reasons, the main one being that they break a lot. Regardless of our feelings about them, its pretty clear that smart thermostats are here to stay.
The projected forecast for the smart thermostat market is forecast to reach $2.99 billion, globally. Lets consider that the U.S. economy accounts for around 20% of the global economy, and assume that 1 out of every 5 smart thermostats would be sold and installed in the U.S. That would put the U.S. in line for about $600 million worth of that market.
This is by no means a concrete projection, and I am a simple boiler guy, but its pretty easy to see that there is a lot of money to be made. Those numbers are manufacturing and sales, not the installation and mark up that us, the potential installing HVAC contractors, can get.
Seems pretty simple, right?
The customers seem to want em, we put em in, we get paid and the customers are happy.
At the time of writing this article, every Ecobee and Nest thermostat available on Amazon.com with over 1000 reviews received a minimum of 4.5 out of 5 stars. In a world where consumers are all to ready to be dissatisfied and tell you all about it, those are pretty good ratings.
I see the reluctance, at least with the majority of the HVAC people that I spoke with, to install these products as slightly puzzling. It seems that smart thermostats would be pretty easy to sell. People love looking at their smart phones, and being able to see and adjust the temperature at home while they are anywhere in the world is quite appealing.
Most of the random electric companies I picked around the U.S. offer either a rebate or reduced rate after smart thermostat installation. Even if they do break, if my memory of residential service serves correctly, everything breaks. I’ve had countless thermostats, motors, and boards that were bad right out of the box, and from what I hear, that hasn’t changed much.
If I had to guess, id say the biggest apprehension is due to dislike of change, in general. Plus installing a customer supplied thermostat can come with other challenges.
What if it fails soon after installation? Who’s job is it to get a replacement, is the install of the replacement thermostat covered, and so on. But none of these are issues that cant be solved with the proper written warranty or lack of warranty with installing customer supplied parts, which has been going on for a long time. One of the most interesting things I learned in the small amount of research I did is the fact that a lot of home security and electrical companies have started selling and installing smart thermostats.
That’s right, non-hvac technicians are making money installing home comfort accessories on our beloved heat pumps and gas furnaces. And the amount of them that are doing it, I assume they are making quite a bit of money. I have no dog in the smart thermostat fight. Like I mentioned above, I do not see these thermostats, except when I walk into one of the big box home repair stores. I don’t own stock in nest or Ecobee. But as a good little capitalist, I can recognize where there is a lot of money to be made. And there is a ton of money to be made by selling smart thermostats.
Someone out there is going to be making it, might as well be us.