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Heating and cooling systems that use energy efficiently are important, but it takes an effective control device to get the most out of them. Happily, a new generation of thermostats makes it simpler to control the interior climate, and savvy consumers are taking notice.

One new product, called the Nest Learning Thermostat, was designed by a former Apple engineer responsible for the iPod Touch, and exhibits a similarly elegant user interface. Beneath its simple surface, Nest uses an array of sensors and some complex algorithms to “learn” and replicate its user’s behavior.

Adjust the temperature setting manually for a couple of days and the Nest will recognize and maintain your use patterns automatically. It also indicates, by displaying a leaf icon, when an adjustment you make will likely save energy. The icon offers immediate feedback to help the user recognize energy-saving behavior. Just as hybrid vehicle owners who continually monitor their fuel usage may alter their driving habits to reduce fuel consumption, homeowners prompted to “look for the leaf” may find more ways to save.

While Nest has been marketing the thermostat directly to homeowners by promising DIY-level installation, many customers would be happy to hire a remodeler do the job for them, pairing an advanced user dashboard with efficient propane technology. And, besides, even pros like ease of installation.

Nest went to market in December 2011 to rave reviews from the media and consumers. Despite a hefty price of $250, the product sold out within weeks. At this point, would-be buyers must add their names to a waiting list.

Another innovative thermostat, the Prestige HD from Honeywell, offers comparable benefits. A programmable unit designed for professional installation, it’s controlled by a high-definition touch-screen display that’s simpler and more intuitive to program than most. The Prestige HD also allows the use of a remote control that senses room temperature and controls the system accordingly.

The popularity of these new products suggests that homeowners are keen to save energy when they find an effective yet easy way to do it. They’e even willing to pay more, if necessary, for good energy solutions. Using smart technology to derive energy savings effortlessly is also the concept behind the Propane Energy Pod. Products like the Nest and Prestige HD fit well within the Propane Energy Pod, another system that eases the adoption of energy-efficient and environmentally responsible energy solutions, and emphasizes long-term value over initial cost.

Builders and remodelers who promote the benefits of this new generation of smart thermostats will find a receptive audience among energy-conscious homebuyers and current owners looking to upgrade their systems. Most customers will appreciate learning about technology that allows them to monitor their energy-use patterns, recognize energy-saving strategies, and make adjustments easily.

To learn more about the Propane Energy Pod concept, be sure to check out the free online training course, An Energy and Environmental Analysis of Propane Energy Pod Homes, available at the Propane Training Academy.

Want to see how a Propane Energy Pod home measures up against a standard home? The interactive training tool can estimate the annual energy cost, CO2 emissions, and HERS (Home Energy Rating System) Index of both prototype homes built in your area.