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Since the smart thermostat was invented in 2007, the heating and cooling game has completely changed. Now you can access your home’s HVAC system via smartphone app, turning down the air conditioning when you’re away on vacation or turning up the heat when you’re on your way home from work. Smart thermostats also aim to conserve power, with features that can tell you exactly how much energy you’re using to heat or cool your home. With that information at your fingertips, you can make sure your monthly power bill stays well within your budget.

Before smart thermostats, the 1980s introduced programmable thermostats. You’d think that since this technology has been around for so long, that most people would be making good use of it. However, of the 85 percent of American households that utilize thermostats to control their heating system, only 37 percent of those are actually programmable. The same goes for air conditioning systems. While 60 percent of American households use thermostats to access their AC systems, only 29 percent of those are programmable.

The thermostat has a long and varied history. In ancient times, the Greeks invented indoor heating, using furnaces and the power of the sun to heat their homes. The ancient Egyptians used systems of wet reeds to cool the air, creating rudimentary air conditioners. It wasn’t until about a thousand years later that inventors introduced variations of the thermostat, starting with a mercury-based thermostat in 1620. The first electric thermostat came into being in 1883, invented by American professor Warren Johnson. 

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