Could wifi thermostats coordinate zone firings?

nest_smallerAs we approach the end of the renovation project on our house, we now find ourselves with three heating zones, vs. the two we had before.  (The 3rd zone is kind of ridiculous; that’s a different story.)

Having 3 zones pretty well dashes my hopes of outfitting the house with Nest thermostats; yes, we could have the main zone on a Nest, and the others not, but that offends my sense of order.  And three thermostats for $750?  Sorry, no.

But this got me thinking.  Wouldn’t it be cool if thermostats on multiple zones could communicate in order to coordinate boiler/furnace firings, to reduce short-cycling and firing losses?  If the zones have a swing of, say, two degrees, one could opportunistically turn on even  if it’s within one degree of its setpoint if another zone is firing, thereby maximizing the current boiler firing cycle.

Or conversely, if one zone has low mass fin tube radiators, and another zone has high mass cast iron, perhaps it would make more sense to try to fire those zones separately, and coordinate that with thermostat communication as well.

I had thought about trying to flesh these ideas out into a patent, but realized I don’t have the money or the lawyers to do so.  There’s probably already a patent out there, anyway.  But if not, here’s prior art & public disclosure.  :)

Nest finally has developed an API, as the Radio Thermostat (RTCA) folks did long ago [pdf].  But I’m not sure those are flexible enough to do this kind of coordination very well; it’d work better if it were in the firmware, I think.

Hey Nest?  If you like this idea, and you implement it, feel free to send me a thermostat.  Or three.  :)

7 thoughts on “Could wifi thermostats coordinate zone firings?

  1. I really like your blog, I have a similar blog about a hobby of energy conservation or in my case heat production from a homemade pellet boiler that I intend to convert to chip burning to save even more money. I intend to add photovoltaic in the spring, I have a Viesmann evacuated tube solar hot water system working now it is a fun hobby.

  2. I’ve actually thought about this as well and wonder why thermostats can’t do this. I actually find my Nest thermostat quite dumb. For one it isn’t even capable of intelligent humidity control for when the temperature is expected to drop which causes windows to freeze over, it just maintains a humidity set point. Also, it’s not even smart enough to not turn on before a set point reduction for heating, it will run even for a couple of minutes then shut down at the set point, it doesn’t know that it’s not worth it to start, on the flip side, it will turn off slightly before a heating setpoint rise rather than just running up to that temp. Be nice if there was a 30 minute or so swing in there that where it wouldn’t bother turning on or would stay on depending on the situation.

    • No doubt! I’ve seen these things as well (ok, I don’t have a humidifier, but I’ve seen the firing just prior to a setpoint reduction, which is plain stupid). I was excited about my Nest, but more and more I think it’s just a giant marketing thing, and less about smart technology…
      Now that I’ve got a modulating boiler, it’s apparent that it’s even dumber when the heating plant is smarter…

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