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So Smart they Drive you Crazy

Kay headshot

About three weeks ago, the following conversation happened at the front desk:

Black dog with label saying "Puppy" on her forehead

When a Librarian gets a label maker…

Kay: We got a Nest thermostat at home. It was free with the solar panels.
Claudia: Neat. What does it do?
Kay: Well, for starters, you can see what temperature your house is and change it from afar. *pulls out cell phone* See? Our house is currently heating to 62 degrees.
Claudia: Well, look at that.
Kay: Um….wait, WHY is it heating to 62? It should be 58 when we’re not there.
Claudia: Uhh….
Kay: *pushing buttons on the app frantically* Seriously, what are you doing to me?
Claudia: You know it’s only four degrees, right?
Kay: It doesn’t matter. Technology has failed me!

December and January has seen a veritable flood of trackable technology at Chez Kay & Bryan. We got solar panels installed. (Ok, technically, we signed the contact four months before, but apparently getting the interconnection requests done was a pain.) The solar panels came with a free Nest thermostat and, in January, I finally bit the bullet and bought a FitBit.

What does this mean? I can now track how much power my house is generating, how many steps I am taking, what temperature my house is at and my current heart rate per minute. I have three new apps on my cell phone and I spent an hour farting around with the fitbit to get it to give me text notifications and it’s still only working half the time. What does all this data mean? Boy, are smart devices stupid sometimes.

A chart showing our pitiful solar output except on one day

Yes, the day with sun outproduced the previous five days…

For example, we got our solar panels turned on two weeks ago which coincides with the longest stretch of rainy weather I’ve seen in months. At this time of year, our house uses about 21 kWh per day and the most we’ve generated until last week in one day is 8 kWh, which has led to excessive hopping up and down in annoyance as our system is supposed to fulfill most of our needs.

Meanwhile, the fitbit is helpfully reminding me to get up and move…right after I just got up to help a patron. On the bright side, my job is actually far more active than I thought. I usually walk about 3 miles a day back and forth around the library.

As far as the Nest goes, it’s supposed to be a “learning thermostat,” as in it spies on your movements and tracks your comings and goings to learn your patterns. Practically speaking, what that means is that at 2 am in the morning when you’re staggering groggily to the bathroom it lights up like a solar flare and blinds you. There was a lot of *step, step ARUGH!* until we got used to it. (I have to admit there were quite a few rude gestures too…) I finally gave up and discovered that you can easily set a schedule on the Nest website. It didn’t stop it blinding us, but at least the heat was right.

In fact, having technology like that in your house leads to situations that I, in some dark recess of my mind, know are insane. When we first got the Nest, I didn’t have the Nest password, so I couldn’t actually change anything except from the thermostat itself. One morning, as I was relaxing in my nice warm bed, I actually texted my husband at work to ask him to turn up the heat. It was ten feet from my bed to the thermostat and, really, how could I be expected to get out and chill my tootsies?

Do I long for the days when I didn’t know what was going on in my house? Maybe, but I have to admit the ability to turn up the heat without getting out of bed is pretty nice.  I wonder what we can automate next?