When SMECO needed to quantify energy savings from smart thermostats and understand benefits beyond the kilowatt hour, ICF designed a pilot to provide sound data. We handled regulatory filing, pricing, and all aspects of implementation—from customer-member recruitment and installation contractor management to demand response testing. The final report demonstrated the strengths and shortcomings of these devices, ultimately guiding a plan for full-scale rollout. Now, SMECO leverages smart thermostats across seven of its EmPOWER programs.

Client

Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO)

Challenge

Provide objective evidence on the impact of smart thermostats.

Solution

Design, implement, and evaluate a smart thermostat pilot.

Impact: ICF led a comprehensive pilot in the SMECO service territory to accurately measure energy savings, demand response, and other use-cases for smart thermostats. The results played a vital role in determining the organization’s energy efficiency measures for the current program cycle.

2.7%

average energy savings at the meter

2.87kW

potential savings per home during a demand response event

48%

reported additional efforts to reduce energy use

smart thermostat

A pilot program shows undeniable evidence

With the growth and maturation of its energy efficiency programs, SMECO wished to explore smart thermostats as an opportunity for further savings and additional customer engagement. While leading manufacturers have demonstrated energy savings, SMECO needed to quantify the associated kWh specific to their service territory. ICF was enlisted to test the energy effects of smart thermostats in the homes of real customers.

Our team discovered a significant reduction in energy use after installation of these products: 2.7% to 4% energy savings at the meter depending on the device. When used for demand response, peak load also significantly decreased while maintaining high customer satisfaction.

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Energy usage insights change customer behavior

SMECO also leveraged ICF’s Sightline Analytics Platform to conduct a virtual energy audit as a way to further engage customers, make recommendations for reducing energy usage in their homes, and provide information about additional rebates available. The communications—designed and sent to participants by ICF—had open rates averaging 48%, which is well above industry standards.

Nearly half of the customers who received the virtual audits reported taking further steps to reduce their energy consumption, from adjusting temperature settings to larger projects such as adding insulation or servicing HVAC systems. The success of virtual audits revealed a new channel for SMECO to drive future behavioral changes among customers.

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Satisfying customer expectations

Feedback from pilot participants trended in a highly positive direction. Across four surveys, customers reported astronomical satisfaction ratings, ranging from 84-93%.

Participants also enjoyed the convenience of the smart thermostats installed for the pilot. They appreciated the ability to manage their home’s temperature from a mobile device and to schedule “away” settings. According to the survey results, customers were motivated to keep using smart thermostats due to environmental concerns, comfort, and monetary benefits.