Not much was required of the study participants.
Each participant set a range that let the temperature of the house vary up and down by, say, 5 degrees. Then the thermostat worked with software developed by IBM and the controls on the furnace and the hot water heater to balance the load between all of the participants' homes. Key is that the only thing the participants had to do was set a knob: if they got uncomfortable, twist the knob to keep the house temperature closer to the thermostat setting; if they were feeling thrifty, twist the knob the other way and allow for greater variation.
The results were astounding: participants liked the controls, and scientists behind the experiment believe this:
Over a 20-year period, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired plants.
Now that's the kind of home technology we can get behind.
story and photo via The New York Times; photo by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory