Adding GPS-Control to Traditional Thermostats: An Exploration of Potential Energy Savings and Design Challenges

  • Manu Gupta
  • Stephen S. Intille
  • Kent Larson
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5538)


Although manual and programmable home thermostats can save energy when used properly, studies have shown that over 40% of U.S. homes may not use energy-saving temperature setbacks when homes are unoccupied. We propose a system for augmenting these thermostats using just-in-time heating and cooling based on travel-to-home distance obtained from location-aware mobile phones. Analyzing GPS travel data from 8 participants (8-12 weeks each) and heating and cooling characteristics from 5 homes, we report results of running computer simulations estimating potential energy savings from such a device. Using a GPS-enabled thermostat might lead to savings of as much as 7% for some households that do not regularly use the temperature setback afforded by manual and programmable thermostats. Significantly, these savings could be obtained without requiring any change in occupant behavior or comfort level, and the technology could be implemented affordably by exploiting the ubiquity of mobile phones. Additional savings may be possible with modest context-sensitive prompting. We report on design considerations identified during a pilot test of a fully-functional implementation of the system.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    CIA, The World Fact Book (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  2. 2.
    U.S. DOE Annual Energy Review (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  3. 3.
    U.S. DOE Building Energy Data Book (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  4. 4.
    U.S. DOE Residential Energy Consumption Survey (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  5. 5.
    Nevius, J., Pigg, S.: Programmable Thermostats that Go Berserk? Taking a Social Perspective on Space Heating in Wisconsin. In: Proc. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, vol. 8, pp. 233–244 (2000)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Plourde, A.: Programmable Thermostats as Means of Generating Energy Savings: Some Pros and Cons. Canadian Building Energy End-Use Data and Analysis Centre, Technical Report CBEEDAC 2003-RP-01 (2003)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Harris, C., Cahill, V.: Exploiting User Behaviour for Context-Aware Power Management. Proc. Wireless And Mobile Computing, Networking And Comm. 4, 122–130 (2005)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ross, J.P., Meier, A.: Whole-House Measurements of Standby Power Consumption. In: Proc. 2nd Int’l Conf. on Energy Efficiency in Household App. and Lighting, vol. 108(13) (2000)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Roy, A., Bhaumik, S.K.D., Bhattacharya, A., Basu, K., Cook, D.J., Das, S.K.: Location Aware Resource Management in Smart Homes. In: Proc. IEEE Int’l Conf. on Pervasive Computing and Communications, pp. 481–488 (2003)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Harle, R.K., Hopper, A.: The Potential for Location-Aware Power Management. In: Int’l Conf on Ubiquitous Computing, pp. 302–311 (2008)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Thermostat History (cited 08/15/2008),
  12. 12.
    Keyson, D.V., de Hoogh, M.P.A.J., Freudenthal, A., Vermeeren, A.P.O.S.: The Intelligent Thermostat: A Mixed-Initiative User Interface. In: Proc. Conf. on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 59–60 (2000)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fountain, M., Brager, G., Arens, E., Bauman, F., Benton, C.: Comfort Control for Short-Term Occupancy. Energy and Buildings 21, 1–3 (1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Mozer, M.C., Vidmar, L., Dodier, R.H.: The Neurothermostat, Predictive Optimal Control of Residental Heating Systems. In: Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems, vol. 9, pp. 953–959. MIT Press, Cambridge (1997)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Titus, E.: Advanced Retrofit: A Pilot Study in Maximum Residential Energy Efficiency. In: Proc. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, vol. 1, pp. 239–245 (1996)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Fuji, H., Lutzenhiser, L.: Japanese Residential Air-Conditioning: Natural Cooling and Intelligent Systems. Energy and Buildings 18, 221–233 (1992)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Springer, D., Loisos, G., Rainer, L.: Non-Compressor Cooling Alternatives for Reducing Residential Peak Load. In: Proc. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, vol. 1, pp. 319–330 (2000)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Thermostats and Comfort Controls (cited 2008 08/14/2008),
  19. 19.
    Kempton, W.: Two Theories of Home Heat Control. Cog. Science 10, 75–90 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Gladhart, P., Weihl, J.: The Effects of Low Income Weatherization on Interior Temperature, Occupant Comfort and Household Management Behavior. In: Proc. ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, vol. 2, pp. 43–52 (1990)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Sachs, H.: Programmable Thermostats. American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy Technical Report (2004)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Analytics, R.: Validating the Impact of Programmable Thermostats: Final Report. RLW Analytics, Inc., Middletown, CT (2007)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Karjalainen, S., Koistinen, O.: User Problems with Individual Temperature Control in Offices. Building and Environment 42, 2880–2887 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Mozer, M.: The Neural Network House: An Environment that Adapts to its Inhabitants. In: Proc. AAAI Symposium on Intelligent Environments, pp. 110–114 (1998)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    TrackStick (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  26. 26.
    LASCAR Logger (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  27. 27.
    LOGiT Current and Voltage Data Logger (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  28. 28.
    U.S. Env. Protection Agency Energy Star Programmable Thermostats Specification (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  29. 29.
    Mull, T.E.: HVAC Principles and Applications Manual. McGraw-Hill Professional, New York (1997)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    MapQuest WebService (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  31. 31.
    U.S. Census Bureau (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  32. 32.
    Yahoo Weather WebService (cited 2008 08/15/2008),
  33. 33.
    Residential Control Systems (cited 2008 08/15/2008),

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manu Gupta
    • 1
  • Stephen S. Intille
    • 1
  • Kent Larson
    • 1
  1. 1.House_n, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

Personalised recommendations