So you’ve done your part and purchased a smart thermostat to help micromanage your home energy use. But if you plan to install rooftop solar panels, it makes sense to have a thermostat that can also check on panel performance. Enphase Energy’s new Environ Smart Thermostat, the first smart thermostat with solar-monitoring capabilities, can do just that–but only for customers who have solar photovoltaic panels outfitted with Environ’s solar microinverters.
The company’s microinverters attach to individual solar panels and convert direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), eliminating the need for a centralized inverter. The individually attached microinverters allow customers to track the performance of each solar module on Enphase’s “Enlighten” website, which displays real-time energy harvesting information about both whole solar arrays and individual panels.
If Enphase customers opt to purchase the $350 Environ thermostat, they can track solar panel output and heating and cooling information both on the thermostat’s screen and on the Enlighten website. As with other smart thermostats, users can adjust their home temperature directly from the Web or a smart phone app. But the added solar component means that users can feel confident on blasting the air-conditioning on a summer day because the panels are working overtime. “It’s a way to look holistically at all your energy needs,” explains Enphase Energy CEO Paul Nahi.
The thermostat isn’t for everyone. Nahi concedes that commercial buildings might be better off with a different system because “the demand on energy inside of commercial buildings are higher.” But for home customers who have already taken the extra step to purchase solar panels, there is little downside. “When you’re buying a solar installation, you’ve expressed the desire to
manage energy,” Nahi says. “So you have an energy-sensitive customer already, you already have an installer
out there, and the additional cost is marginal at best.”