Hawkeye Students Learn to Install Smart Thermostats

By: Andrew Wind, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
Date Published: Wednesday, December 15, 2010

WATERLOO, Iowa --- Instructor Randy Lowe preaches energy efficiency to his students in Hawkeye Community College's heating and air-conditioning program.

That's why he jumped at the opportunity to install programmable thermostats, which will help homeowners reduce energy consumption and costs. About 20 of his students brushed up on their skills Thursday and headed to Rockford on Friday to begin installing the thermostats in 110 homes. They were accompanied by nine Green Iowa Americorps workers and others from the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, which initiated the effort with grant funding.

"For my guys, this is fairly basic stuff," said Lowe, although he noted it was the first time they've installed the thermostats outside of the school setting. He said it was exciting his students could be part of an installation effort of that size. "Plus, I stand up on a soapbox a lot for green technologies."

The installation was done through the association's 2 Degrees 2 Save program with the help of a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. Sara Kaplan, an energy services engineer with the association, said the grant money covers 40 percent of the cost with the remaining 60 percent funded by the municipal utility.

"These are programmable thermostats and should save customers 15 to 20 percent off their energy bills," Kaplan said, because they use "smart" technology. A computer chip in the thermostat allows a signal received from the municipal utility to raise the temperature two degrees during peak energy usage. Read more ...

Thumbnail photo by Rick Chase, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.