Smart thermostats add new capabilities to the familiar analog dials and sliders that people have used for decades to control their heating and cooling system.
At their most basic, smart thermostats feature programmable settings that let users set indoor temperature based on the time and day of the week. More advanced systems feature wireless control from smartphones, voice activation with compatible smart home devices, and even zone control so you can warm or cool a bedroom while sitting in the living room. Also, they look really cool.
These new capabilities take the simple task of changing indoor temperatures suddenly feel standing on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. That sounds cool, but as anyone that regularly works with modern electronic knows, the more complex the things in our life become, the more likely something will go wrong. So why change something that is effective at controlling indoor temperature today as it did when the first modern thermostat was invented in 1830?
The Benefits of Smart Thermostats
The features of smart thermostats might sound like gimmicks, but they are designed with the thinking that if 48% of home energy use goes to running the heating and cooling system, there must be opportunities to help people reduce energy consumption while increasing comfort.
If you have a job, run errands or spend any amount of time away from home, then you might not realize just how much energy is wasted by not having a thermostat that can adjust based on your schedule.
Here is a quick rundown of some of the features available in smart thermostats:
- Temperature Adjustment Around The Globe: Assuming you have a wireless connection, load the app on your smartphone or smartwatch and set the temperature in your home, even if you are on the other side of the planet.
- Voice Control Via Amazon, Apple, Google: Sync the thermostat to your Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit, Google Home or other compatible voice control devices.
- Make Better Use of Your Money: Some devices follow the weather forecast and will let you know when it makes sense to start heating or cooling the home.
- Pre-Heat and Pre-Cool The Home: Leaving work or heading out to run errands? Adjust the temperature, then tell the thermostat when you plan to be home so your home is as warm or cool as you would like.
- Control Who Can Adjust The Thermostat: You pay the bills, you control the temperature; set a password to keep hands away.
- Get Email and Text Alerts: Know when there is a problem to solve problems sooner.
- Deep Insights: Helpful readouts show energy use, conservation and more.
- Zone Control: With remote sensors, some smart thermostats offer zone control from a single device.
- Know Where You Are: Motion detectors let the thermostat know where you are and whether you want it warmer or cooler.
- They Are Trendy – You don’t need to know how to use any of the features; they just look cool!
Technological innovations only available in desktop computers a decade ago that later made their way to the smartphone can now be had in your thermostat. Thankfully, these advancements exist for a reason. All of these listed features are designed to give more control of energy use and comfort. According to one smart thermostat manufacturer, using a smart thermostat can save up to 23% on heating and cooling costs.
So what are your options for upgrading an “old” thermostat for a smart thermostat?
Check Out These Smart Thermostats Available In 2017!
NEST, 3rd Generation
The Nest Learning Thermostat is now in its third generation. The newest iteration of the Nest features a higher resolution, a brighter screen, and is also thinner, so it blends into the wall better.
Notable features include voice activation with connected devices, an auto-scheduler that learns your temperature preferences, and “Farsight,” which uses motion control to know when you come into the room and will light up and show you the information you need to know. The Nest also provides energy use statistics and an explanation for your energy use.
The ecobee3 Smart Home Thermostat is a feature-rich device that is available with individual sensors that can connect to the central thermostat to provide information about conditions throughout the home.
Similar to the Nest, the ecobee3 features voice activation through compatible devices will learn when you leave for work and go to bed, tracks movement through motion sensors, and can adjust the temperature in individual rooms if your heating and cooling system has zone control. The ecobee3 also displays local weather information, alerts and reminders, plus it uses a humidity sensor that can connect with whole house humidifiers to raise or lower the relative humidity of indoor air.
Honeywell Lyric T5
Honeywell Lyric T5 RTH8580WF Smart Thermostat is around $100 cheaper than the ecobee3 and Nest, and gives up some style, loses motion tracking, and removes the ability to monitor and control the temperature in different areas of the home.
But the Lyric T5 does keep smartphone connectivity and voice control through compatible devices. Other notable features include a fully programmable 7-day calendar and geofencing technology that tracks where you are in the world, so it knows when you are home or when you are out running errands or at work and adjusts the temperature accordingly.
Installing a Smart Thermostat
All of these smart thermostats operate through the existing wires that connect the old thermostat and the heating and cooling system. However, these devices draw more power and might require a “c wire” connection. Without a dedicated c wire, there have been reports of electrical “pulses” that can damage either the thermostat or heating and cooling system. These specialized connections can be professionally installed, or self-installed with a wiring module available online.
Should You Switch?
The market for smart thermostats is understandably growing. Thanks to the rise of the smartphone and tablet, people have come to accept and appreciate the complexity of smart devices. Add to that the potential cost savings that don’t sacrifice comfort, and a smart thermostat might make sense for many people’s homes. Plus, the three devices outlined here are some of the most popular on the market and have seen few complaints when it comes to reliability.
Falling prices have made these devices accessible to a large portion of the population, and if a smart thermostat can save you 23% on your energy bill, then it will pay for itself in no time at all. If you have thought about making the switch to a smart thermostat, now is probably the right time.
Will you make the switch to a smart thermostat? Share your thoughts in the comments below!