Two young companies that have experienced highly publicized growing pains — the Google-owned home automation startup Nest Labs (smoke detector defects, product recalls, patent battles) and peer-to-peer hospitality website Airbnb (eyebrow-raising rebranding initiatives, never-ending legal tussles in New York, squatter horror stories) — have announced a partnership that marries smart home technology with the sharing economy.
According to a joint press release issued by the companies, 500 Airbnb hosts in the United States will be issued Nest Learning Thermostats in order to help them, along with the paying guests taking up temporary residence in their spare bedrooms and basement studios, "conserve energy and continue to have a positive impact on their local environments."
The big-brained, Wifi-enabled thermostats which retail for $250 a pop will be issued to the selected hosts free of charge.
It's an intriguing partnership that directly addresses one of the great anxiety-raising unknowns involved with renting out your apartment, home, weekend cabin, or, um, villa as a vacation property: Will your guest(s) be running the AC on full-blast during the entire duration of their three-night stay? How high will they crank the heat up? And, perhaps most important, will they be comfortable?
The companies believe that with Nest Learning Thermostats in place, Airbnb hosts will be able to better manage household energy usage — even when they’re away. Hosts will be able to remotely program heating and cooling functions via smartphone; the super-intuitive device is also capable of automatically turning the heat down or completely off when it senses that a home is unoccupied.
Hosts who participate in the program will also have access to MyEnergy, an online service from Nest Labs that enables users to track household energy consumption and gain better insight into the HVAC-related habits of their guests.
Says Doug Sweeny, Nest Lab's head of marketing:
Airbnb hosts tend to be environmentally aware, so having a Nest Thermostat is a great opportunity to further enhance energy savings in their homes. Features like AutoAway and remote control from anywhere help hosts manage energy use when the house is empty. And the Nest Thermostat’s built-in temperature lock allows hosts to specify a temperature range for guests without having to put the thermostat behind a locked case.
In recent months, Airbnb has been aggressively positioning home sharing as a greener alternative to staying in a traditional hotel. This summer, the results of a comprehensive sustainability study conducted by Cleantech Group on behalf of the massively popular online lodging platform were released. Among the findings? In North America alone, Airbnb guests use 63 percent less energy than hotel guests.
I’d believe it. But how'd they come up with that figure?
Cleantech Group analyzed over 8,000 survey responses from hosts and guests worldwide (from February 2014 to April 2014) and conducted research on residential and hotel sustainability levels and practices. For the values presented in this study, CTG compared residences to the most sustainable and energy-efficient hotels. Data reflecting the top 5th percentile hotels (in terms of energy use) from an Energy Star report was compared to residential energy data for the 40-50th percentile of homes in North America. A similar approach was used in Europe. This is a reflection of the wide range of residential units that participate in home sharing, as well as a recognition of the best practices that have already been implemented in hotels.
The study also found that 83 percent of North American Airbnb hosts claim to own at least one energy-efficient appliance at their property. They're also reportedly big on recycling.
Many of the Airbnb properties outfitted with Nest Learning Thermostats will be featured on a curated Nest + Airbnb Wish List alongside other eco-friendly home collections.
Frequent Airbnb'ers: any HVAC-related horror stories from past experiences you'd care to share? And moving forward, would you be more inclined to stay in a property that comes equipped with a smart thermostat over one that doesn't?
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