N.J. strives to encourage use of ‘smart’ thermostats

 New Jersey Sen.  Dick Codey uses a

New Jersey Sen. Dick Codey uses a "smart" thermostat to control his home’s temperature. (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey lawmakers are considering several bills to encourage homeowners to use “smart” thermostats that allow users to adjust heating and cooling through an app on their phones.

One measures urges the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to set a goal of equipping half a million homes with smart thermostats by 2023.

The devices could help consumers save money, said Kenneth Esser with Public Service Electric & Gas.

“We’re estimating it will provide about a 13 percent energy savings on heating bills and 16 percent on cooling bills,” he said.

Doug O’Malley with Environment New Jersey supports another bill that would require installation of those devices all newly constructed homes.

“If we’re going to move forward with energy-efficiency measures in the state, we need technologies like smart thermostats,” he said. “One of the easiest ways to get them into homes is in the beginning when the home is being constructed.”

Homeowners can reduce their energy costs by using less expensive programmable thermostats, said Jeff Kolakowski with the New Jersey Builders Association. He opposes the proposed smart thermostat requirement for new homes.

“The basic principle behind the energy codes and the building codes here in New Jersey is it’s supposed to provide for basic safety, health, and welfare of the applicants, and we think that it’s going a little bit too far to kind of mandate these Cadillac version of thermostats,” he said.

A third measure advanced by the Senate Environment Committee would provide a state income tax credit for half the cost of purchasing and installing smart thermostats in homes.

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