Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Smart Thermostat
Below we answer the top FAQ people have about smart thermostats. Learn more about how smart thermostats work, and whether they’re really worth the investment.
What is a smart thermostat?
Smart thermostats are considered “smart” because they learn and adapt to your behaviors to adjust the temperature accordingly.
Instead of blindly following a schedule that you set like a traditional thermostat, smart thermostats turn the system on and off during the day according to your behaviors (e.g. when you get up in the morning, when you leave for work, when you go to sleep). They also account for humidity and outdoor temperature. The end result is a heating and cooling system that works at maximum efficiency, while keeping you comfortable.
What are the best smart thermostat brands?
While Nest gets most of the credit for helping smart thermostats go mainstream, Ecobee actually produced the first commercially available smart thermostat. They’ve since been joined by Honeywell, Trane, Carrier, Bosch, and other recognizable brands.
All of these brands have a good industry reputation for high quality HVAC products. What makes one of their smart thermostats the best smart thermostat for you will largely depend on your budget and the particular features you need.
Do smart thermostats really save money?
Yes, in the long run, smart thermostats will save you money on your energy bill. Heating and cooling accounts for about half of your home’s energy usage. If you use a programmable thermostat, Energy Star estimates you’ll save $180 per year in energy costs. Since smart thermostats range in price from around $125 to $250, most claim to pay for themselves within the first 2 years of use.
If you don’t want to worry about having to adjust your thermostat, and you’re away for significant amounts of time during the week (such as when you’re at work), a smart thermostat can significantly increase the energy efficiency of your home, while lowering your monthly bill.
How do I install my smart thermostat?
To facilitate widespread adoption, manufacturers have made smart thermostat very easy to install. Most brands promise pain-free installation within 30 minutes or less. Your smart thermostat will come with detailed instructions and color-coded labels and graphs on how to install it. Usually, all you’ll need is a screwdriver.
The two areas where installation can be trickier are if you live in a home with a multi-component HVAC system, or if you live in an older home. Not all smart thermostats support multi-component HVAC systems (although some do), so you’ll want to confirm your device does before buying it. You’ll probably want to hire a professional to install it for you, too.
In order to work, smart thermostats require C wires in order to receive power and work. Unfortunately, sometimes older homes don’t have these. Some brands will include a power extender kit, so you can set up a C wire in your home. However, if your home is missing one of these, you’ll be better off hiring a professional to install a C wire for you so you can connect your smart thermostat.
How can a smart thermostat help me sleep better?
Smart thermostats don’t just save on your energy bills. They help you sleep better, too. Throughout the day, your body experiences fluctuations in temperature. These temperature fluctuations, along with other bodily functions, all play a role in regulating your sleep-wake cycle.
Specifically, during the evening, your body temperature begins to lower. This signals to your brain that it’s time to start melatonin production, the hormone responsible for sleep. Your temperature reaches its lowest in the early morning, at which point, cortisol production begins. This activating hormone increases your body temperature, preparing you to physically greet the day.
A smart thermostat can facilitate your body’s own natural thermoregulation process. You can pre-set your ideal temperatures for sleep and waking (for restful sleep, your bedroom temperature should be somewhere in the low to mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit). Then, the thermostat can automatically start cooling the temperature at night, encouraging your brain to fall asleep. In the morning, it can start heating your bedroom, helping you wake up more easily.