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Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostats help homeowners connect with utilities

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Honeywell has announced that its full line of Wi-Fi thermostats will enable homeowners to connect with their utility and receive incentives for cutting down on electricity use. 

"The same technology people purchase today to lower their heating bills can pay extra dividends in the summer months," said Tony Uttley, general manager of Home Comfort and Energy Systems at Honeywell. "Honeywell can easily link homeowners to these additional savings."

Here’s how the incentives work. During the summer, when air conditioners and power plants are running at max capacity, utilities will look to reduce energy use to ease stress on the electrical grid. To do this, they may compensate customers who are willing to raise the temperature in their homes a couple degrees, for a couple hours. These programs, also known as demand response, help keep the power flowing and lights on during heat waves.

In return for raising the temperature, customers can get rebates for installing hardware like a Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat and connecting to a utility program, along with other rewards, including bill credits for energy saved when the grid is congested. Homeowners retain control and interaction with the utility is fully automated.

The ability to participate in energy-savings events has been added to the Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Touchscreen Thermostat. By early 2014, all of Honeywell’s Wi-Fi thermostats, including the Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, will be able to integrate with utility programs. A firmware upgrade will be available for existing thermostats.

Homeowners can control these devices using Total Connect Comfort, the thermostat app on iTunes and Google Play. Honeywell recently updated the app so customers who join utility programs receive alerts on their smartphones or tablets whenever an energy-savings event is scheduled.

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Family Farm & Home joins True Value

BY HBSDEALER Staff

True Value Co. announced the addition of its newest affiliate member, Family Farm & Home.

Headquartered in Muskegon, Mich., with a warehouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., the chain will bring its wholesale buying for 27 existing stores in Michigan and Indiana to the co-op, effective Nov. 1.

Since the Fansler family opened the first Family Farm & Home store in 2002, the company has opened more than two dozen stores across Michigan and two in neighboring Indiana. Plans for the family-owned business include a continued focus on organic growth from their current operations, while exploring new growth opportunities with additional locations. A new store is set to open in Cadillac, Mich., before the end of November 2013. 

“We chose True Value Co. as our wholesaler for the co-op’s solid financial position, hardware product selection, logistics and support, and True Value’s increasingly popular farm, ranch, automotive and pet categories,” said Tim Fansler, VP merchandising for Family Farm & Home.

While the co-op’s affiliates operate independently under their own retail identity, Family Farm & Home will benefit from True Value’s wholesale buying power, and an annual patronage dividend. True Value has seen its sales to affiliate members grow by 4% to 6% each year for the past several years. 

“The addition of Family Farm & Home to our affiliate program increases the buying power of the co-op, and we are looking forward to growing along with them,” said True Value president and CEO John Hartmann.    

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Workplace safety inspections suspended during shutdown

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The majority of workplace safety investigations ground to a halt beginning Oct. 1, 2013, because of the federal government shutdown of all but essential operations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) furloughed more than 90 percent of its personnel and suspended most of its operations, according to OSHA’s Shutdown Contingency Plan, which was approved by the Department of Labor on Sept. 16.

In the plan, OSHA Administrator David Michaels indicated that the agency would cease most enforcement activities except for responses to fatalities, catastrophes and complaints about life-threatening work conditions.

“OSHA employees should be able to respond to safety and health complaints when employees are exposed to hazardous conditions that present a high risk of death or serious physical harm,” Michaels said.

OSHA’s workforce has been cut from 2,235 personnel down to 230. The agency is maintaining small staffs at the national office and each of OSHA’s 10 regional offices, as well as keeping two compliance officers (one safety and one health) on duty at each of OSHA’s 92 area offices across the country.

Aside from inspections, activities that will be curtailed are outreach, consultation and preparations for rulemaking.

Other government agencies that focus on workplace safety and health have also been affected by the shutdown.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the independent body of judges who hear and rule on challenges to OSHA citations, has retained only two employees to maintain its computer network and to receive mail, according to its contingency plan.

Most of the research being done at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has been halted.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, which investigates incidents at chemical facilities, has kept just three of its 40 employees and three board members active.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration has kept 768 workers on board to inspect targeted mines that have been prioritized based on safety history, specific hazards “which have been recent key causes of death and serious injury” and miners’ complaints that “would significantly compromise the safety of human life” in the nation’s mines.

“Notably, the federal government’s shutdown will not immediately impact nonfederal employees in the 21 states where OSHA has approved state-run occupational safety and health programs,” said Eric Conn, head of the OSHA practice group at Epstein, Becker, Green’s Washington, D.C., office. “In these state-plan states, normal day-to-day activities should continue as usual.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

© 2013, Society for Human Resource Management.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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