Thanks to research projects facilitated by institutions like the Smart Energy Lab, we may one day see new homes being built with fully integrated energy control and monitoring systems that allow us to analyze any given aspect of a home’s power usage and control almost any connected appliance remotely from our phones. Until that vision comes to fruition, home owners can opt for add-on devices that get us close. Products like Current Cost’s Envi, for example, provide an after-market energy monitoring option for those who wish to keep a close eye on their power usage and now, there’s a new device from Venstar that will allow one to adjust their thermostat and, in some cases lights, from anywhere using a phone.
The Venstar ComfortCall is an add-on accessory that lets users adjust their thermostat while at work, on vacation or just down the street at the grocery store. The system requires the use of one of Venstar’s thermostats, which can be used to control just about any home heating and cooling system.
To set up the ComfortCall the user must plug a small attachment onto the bottom of a Venstar thermostat and integrate a small wireless base station, which Venstar says is about the size of a deck of playing cards, into a home phone line or answering machine. Users can then call the system from any phone and interface with the unit using either voice commands or keypad commands. The device will tell the user what current indoor and outdoor temperatures are, what setting the thermostat is currently at and allow for a number of adjustments to be made. The heating and cooling system can be turned on or off and pre-set energy savings or comfort settings can be engaged.
Venstar says the device can be integrated with some of its other systems such that lights can be turned on or off in association with specified energy use settings. The voice commands can be configured for advanced users that wish to use brief voice commands for speedy adjustments. For security purposes, the system also requires numeric codes to be punched in prior to accepting commands.