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Empty Nest-ers Beware: Smart Thermostats are Here to Stay

In an era where energy efficiency is paramount, the role of smart thermostats is becoming increasingly significant. Over recent years, these devices have transitioned from niche gadgets to essential household items, driven by their potential to reduce energy consumption and adapt to user preferences.

The smart thermostat market, which had previously seen a steady adoption rate, experienced a notable surge in 2022 and 2023. According to Parks Associates research, the user base increased from 13% to 17% among internet households, breaking the stagnation that hovered around 11%-13% for many prior years. This increase is primarily attributed to the rising cost of energy, which has spotlighted the economic benefits of these devices. Smart thermostats provide energy savings and feature automated controls and communication tools that aid in efficient energy management.














The expansion of the smart thermostat market in 2022-2023 is not just about numbers; it signifies a shift in consumer mentality. A significant portion of new users were previously hesitant, typically waiting for technologies to be tried and tested by others. This change in adoption pattern reflects a growing public trust in smart thermostats. Additionally, the tendency of consumers to purchase these thermostats alongside other smart home devices suggests an inclination towards a cohesive smart home ecosystem

While the growth trajectory is positive, there are underlying challenges that could potentially curb this momentum. Consumer perceptions of value and affordability have shown a decline, as have their intentions to purchase. This could indicate a looming period of market stagnation, which manufacturers and retailers need to address proactively. They must innovate and effectively leverage the context of rising energy costs in a fluctuating economy to maintain market growth.

As we enter 2024, the economic landscape shares similarities with the previous year, with some sectors experiencing eased inflation. Improvement in supply chain bottlenecks, especially in semiconductors, is a positive development for manufacturers. However, the ability to navigate component shortages and adapt to changing market demands remains critical. The smart home industry continues to advance, albeit cautiously, focusing on enhancing product features and ensuring compatibility across different platforms.

The increase in energy rates, coupled with a resilient consumer base, propels the market forward. Easing inflation in certain areas and stable job markets also contribute positively. Conversely, persistent inflation and economic uncertainties, along with a slowing housing market, pose significant challenges. The industry is particularly sensitive to housing market trends, as new homeowners are a key demographic for smart thermostat adoption.














In response to these challenges, smart thermostat manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of innovation. The introduction of models with advanced sensors for more precise temperature control and integration with home energy management systems marks a significant step forward. More adopters report two advanced functions are becoming more common: alerting users to equipment issues and presence sensing for energy savings.

As the smart thermostat market matures, more sophisticated consumers will become aware of and attracted to the sophisticated features that are more proactive. Examples today include alerts related to general HVAC health and adjusting the temperature based on residents being home or away. In the future, these same consumers will want more detailed and personalized automation, such as profiling based on facial recognition or smartphone detection.














Collaborations between manufacturers, energy providers, and other sectors are paving the way for cost-effective production and distribution, ultimately benefiting the end consumer.

The evolution of the smart thermostat market is a testament to changing consumer needs and the industry’s response to economic and environmental pressures. While the path ahead is lined with challenges, the potential for growth remains robust, contingent on strategic innovation, effective marketing, and leveraging the synergy between energy efficiency and smart technology.

Parks Associates will address this topic and more at the 15th annual Smart Energy Summit in partnership with DISTRIBUTECH, Feb 27-28 in Orlando, Florida. The conference, featuring keynotes from Google and Uplight, addresses the evolution of the consumer energy markets and new opportunities to drive engagement in utility-sponsored programs, with panels and networking sessions discussing strategies for utilities, service providers, retailers, software providers, and manufacturers to expand and monetize energy management and other energy-focused offerings.

This article was published first at POWERGRID International on January 22, 2024

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