Smart thermostat swarms are straining the US grid

Source: https://www.theregister.com/2022/07/13/smart_thermostat_strain

Smart thermostats, those unassuming low-power gadgets designed to keep homes at comfortable temps, are having an impact far wider than most might have considered, according to recent data.

A paper from Cornell University brings bad news for renewable energy enthusiasts – smart thermostats are secretly taxing the grid.

Smart thermostats, which the paper said were present in around 40 percent of US homes in 2021, are programmed by default to have different night and day modes. In hundreds of thousands of homes across the US that means a sudden jump in electricity use right before residents wake up – if people aren’t changing default settings, which the paper suggests is the case. 

Those hundreds and thousands of smart thermostats, typically configured to switch to day mode around 6am, “can cause load synchronization during recovery from nightly setpoint setbacks, increasing the daily peak heating electrical demand,” the paper said. 

Cornell professor Max Zhang and PhD candidate Zachary Lee, the paper’s authors, wrote that most studies predicting electrical demand fail to account for smart thermostats and the stress they can place on the grid.

“As we electrify the heating sector to decarbonize the grid, this so-called load synchronization will become a problem in the near future,” Zhang said.

To address the problem, Zhang and Lee built a dataset from publicly available smart thermostat logs collected by EcoBee that contained anonymized temperature, set point, runtime, and home occupancy statistics.

They used the data to examine energy costs during a New York City winter, and found that load synchronization often occurs before renewable resources, like solar, have had a chance to kick in and take stress off the grid. That stress is actually aggravating peak demand by 50 percent, the paper said.

Zhang and Lee also found that energy-saving mechanisms built into smart thermostats are less effective than advertised, with most homeowners only seeing energy savings of 5-8 percent, as opposed to the 25-30 percent they’re capable of. 

Thinking outside the home

The world is electrifying at an ever-quickening pace, and environmental problems have cropped up along the way. Electric cars create battery waste, as do other electronics, and removing carbon emissions from homes doesn’t mean power plants have dropped coal and gas in favor of sustainable solutions. 

Those solutions, like solar and wind, “require a considerable amount of real estate, and the right weather, and as a result they’re typically located far from the cities they would serve,” the Washington Post‘s Will Englund wrote

Smart thermostats increase frequency and magnitude of peak energy demand, and without more tenable ways to store energy from renewables, Lee said, they could offset greenhouse gas reductions from electrification.

Energy Fairness, a nonprofit allegedly funded by gas and oil interests, thinks that the challenges of electrification require emphasizing energy reliability above all else. Zhang and Lee’s paper, while not arguing for the retention of fossil fuels to support grid reliability, does suggest that close monitoring will be key.

“Future energy system planning must consider the interaction of weather, generation capacity, and energy management tools, show a large performance gap between potential energy savings and actual energy savings,” Zhang and Lee wrote.

Zhang suggests there may be an easier way to ease grid stress from smart thermostats: educate consumers on how to use them so default settings are changed. Even that may have its limits of effectiveness, though.

“In the end… we have to make smart thermostats even smarter,” Zhang said.

Sustainable Sources will go dark on Jan 18 to fight SOPA

On January 18 from 8am to 8pm, SustainableSources.com will join RedditBoing Boing and a growing number of other sites around the Internet in “going dark” to bring awareness of the need to loudly oppose SOPA and PIPA, the pending US legislation that creates a punishing Internet censorship regime and exports it to the rest of the world.

Let Congress know you OPPOSE H.R. 3261 “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and S. 968 “Protect IP Act” (PIPA):

Opponents of SOPA: Google, Yahoo, Wikipedia, craigslist, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, eBay, AOL, Mozilla, Reddit, Tumblr, Etsy, Zynga, EFF, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, Darrell Issa (R-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Ron Paul (R-TX)

Supporters of SOPA: RIAA, MPAA, News Corporation, VISA, Mastercard, Pfizer, Comcast, Time Warner, ABC, Nike, Walmart, Dow Chemical, Tiffany, Chanel, Rolex, Monster Cable, Teamsters, Lamar Smith (R-TX), John Conyers (D-MI)

Where does your Member of Congress stand on SOPA? (Project SOPA Opera)

SOPA and PIPA Are Too Dangerous To Revise, They Must Be Killed Entirely 

Congress needs to hear from you, or these dangerous bills will pass – they have tremendous lobbying dollars behind them, from large corporations reportedly hoping to prop up outdated, anti-consumer business models at the expense of the very fabric of the Internet — recklessly unleashing a tsunami of take-down notices and litigation, and a Pandora’s jar of “chilling effects” and other unintended (or perhaps intended?) consequences.

For example, Monster Cable considers craigslist a “rogue site” for takedown under PIPA – they want to prevent YOU from selling YOUR unwanted cables so they can increase sales! Many other “rights holders” want to do the same. Boycott anyone? There is an app for that.

Corporations pushing SOPA/PIPA want the ability to block you from reaching any web site they feel might be hurting their profits — without due process of any kind, or review in any court — by literally interrupting all Internet traffic to those sites via DNS at the ISPs and by censoring search engine results.  Incredibly, many lawmakers want to give them that right.

There is still time to be heard. Congress is starting to backpedal on this job-killing, anti-American nonsense, and the Obama administration has weighed in against these bills as drafted, but SOPA/PIPA cannot be fixed or revised — they must be killed altogether.

Sen Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep Ron Wyden (D-OR) are championing an alternative to SOPA/PIPA called Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN) that focuses on cutting off payments to foreign sites dedicated to piracy, and refrains from disrupting basic Internet protocols, or threatening mainstream US sites like craigslist.

Tim O’Reilly, a publisher who is himself subject to piracy, asks whether piracy is even a problem, and whether there is even a legitimate need for any of these bills.

Learn more about SOPA, Protect IP (PIPA), and Internet Blacklisting:

Neighbors and Fruit Trees

Not exactly green building, but sustainable none the less…

As long time proponents of edible agriculture and local foods, we were delighted to find the article Neighbors and Fruit Trees by Jim Hightower. The the websites referenced, www.fallenfruit.org, www.forageoakland.blogspot.com, www.neighborhoodfruit.com, and www.veggietrader.com all look useful, though the latter two are probably the ones I’m most likely to use as they’re both free and not limited to a specific geographical area. Happy eating!

Site Revision-June 09

In June 1994 Sustainable Sources put its first web page up. Like most websites of the day, it was pretty darn basic. But it was a good start. The site you’re currently viewing, launched 15 years later in June 2009, is the most recent in a long series of revisions.

There are many new changes:

  • The Calendar has been incorporated into the site, and is now available as an RSS feed (feel free to add it to your blog!). And be sure to add your events!
  • The Resources section has been moved to the right sidebar so it’s easier for you to find.
  • Sitewide searching (it may be a few days before Google indexes the revised site. Stay tuned)
  • RSS feeds on posts to the home page and comments on Draft sections
  • Easier navigation
  • And most importantly, we’ve set it up so that interested individuals or groups can take responsibility for a particular section.

It’ll now be much easier to add new sections, and we have a handful of Drafts already in progress. If you know a lot about ANY of the subjects covered here and would like to participate, please contact us! All the Draft sections allow user comments as well, so you can ask relevant questions, point out errors, and offer corrections.

It’s also easier than ever to list your company in the Resources section for any particular subject.

More changes will be coming as our web development schedule allows…

Site Selection for a Sthapatya Ved Building

Copyright © 1996 by Deepak Bakshi. All rights are reserved.

It is very important that all the documents described in this article are
collected from the client well in advance of starting a Sthapatya ved design.

Jyotish chart of owner

Because Sthapatya Ved design is based on and intends to re-establish the connection between the individual (microcosm) and the universe (macrocosm), it is very important that a Jyotish (vedic astrology) chart is prepared by an experienced Jyotish practitioner. Errors in the Jyotish chart will feed false information back in to the calculations of the Sthapatya Ved design and the resulting design which will not produce the desired benefits for the occupants.

The Jyotish chart must contain the following information:

  • Birth time/day/month/year
  • Birth place
  • Birth Nakshatra(constellation)
  • Birth Rasi
  • Gane. Prior to consulting Jyotish, it is very important that the birth time is checked for accuracy. An experienced Jyotishi will be able to determine the correct time of birth from significant events in your life. It will help if vedic Architect is well literate in Jyotish knowledge, however as long as an experienced Jyotishi is accessible, one can design a building with Sthapatya veda knowledge.

Site plan

Prior to visiting the site, the vedic architect or designer needs to obtain site plan
of the land. This site plan should include land location, road layout, contour
layout, vegetation, location of pond, river, creek and well. Also location
of mountains, mounds, or slopes, or other natural features that are offsite, yet have an influence on the site. Of course, a north arrow is required, as Sthapatya Ved designs buildings according to such natural influences as the sun’s path.

Information of town

Prior to buying land or deciding to build a house in a city or town, one needs to consult an experience Jyotishi. The Jyotishi should be given the name and location of the town, and the relative location of the land you are considering. He should also be provided with the approximate “date of birth” of the town (such information is easily available from the local library or town hall). The Jyotishi will compare your personal Jyotish chart with that of the town, to see if it will be an appropriate move for you. If your moving there creates a good influence for you, you may then actually begin the process of purchasing, designing, and building.

Physical relationship of land with immediate surroundings

Selection of land is a very important aspect according to Sthapatya Ved. Once
you find land in an area that you would like to live in, you should check the surrounding area for negative and postive influences

Some influences which should be avoided:

  • cemetery in a one mile radius
  • hospital
  • industry
  • prison building
  • police station
  • electrical power station within approximately 1000ft, or high voltage
  • electrical line

Some positive influences:

  • school, church, temple, or religious building within one mile radius natural beauty such as parks or preserves
  • clean water features (lake, river, pond, etc)

Copyright © 1996 by Deepak Bakshi. All rights are reserved.


I have been asked by several people for sources of more information on Sthapatya Ved. The best place I know of to find a good collection of original source material is at Motilal Banarsidas, for instance, the Mayamata. I have also read a number of other texts; some that I would recommend are “The Temple in the House: Finding the Sacred in Everyday Architecture” by Anthony Lawlor, and “Mayamata” translated by Bruno Dagens, (can be hard to find). — Bill Christensen