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Ever since Nest came on the scene half a decade ago, smart thermostats have been growing in popularity. With a smart thermostat, you can pre-set the ideal temperatures for when you’re asleep, when you’re home, and when you’re away—all while lowering your monthly energy bill.
Beyond your initial programming, over time smart thermostats begin to auto-regulate the heating and cooling in your home, in order to achieve maximum energy efficiency. Some even use your smartphone location to start the process while you’re on your commute home from work.
One of our favorite features of smart thermostats is their ability to reinforce your natural sleep-wake cycle. As your smart thermostat learns your behaviors, such as when you go to bed and when you wake up, it can adjust the temperature in your home accordingly. The thermostat will begin cooling the air in the evening, calming your body in preparation for sleep. Then, in the morning, it warms up the indoor temperature before your alarm goes off, enabling you to wake up more naturally.
Smart thermostats have a large upfront cost, ranging from $125 to $250, but the money they save you on energy bills makes them well worth it in the long run. Plus, many people simply enjoy geeking out over having a “smart” home device that learns their habits and optimizes their home energy use—while helping them sleep better, too.
Read on to learn all about the common features of smart thermostats, so you can determine exactly what you need. Plus, we share our top 5 picks, based on customer reviews and our own in-depth analysis.
Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat with Built-In Alexa
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Nest (T3007ES) Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation
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Honeywell Lyric T5 Thermostat
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Kono Smart Thermostat
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Emerson Thermostats Sensi Smart Thermostat
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With a sleek touchscreen display and discreet white room sensor, the Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat will fit in with any room decor. Plus, Ecobee promises easy installation, with an included Power Extender Kit for homes that don’t have a C-wire. According to Ecobee, this smart thermostat will save you up to 23% per year in heating and cooling costs.
However, the real selling point of the Ecobee4 is that it comes with Amazon’s Alexa built-in. Like many higher-end smart thermostats, that means you can give it voice commands. But the Ecobee4 can also be used as your personal Alexa device. You can ask it to play music, set timers, and answer questions about anything.
When you consider that it’s essentially two devices in one, the higher price tag seems like a real deal, which is why we’ve made the Ecobee4 our top pick.
With the Ecobee 4’s built-in far field voice recognition technology, you can speak to it (or Alexa) from across the room. The Ecobee mobile app works on all Android and iOS devices, including the iPhone, Apple Watch, and iPad, as well as Samsung SmartThings. The Ecobee4 smart thermostat comes with one room sensor, and two-packs can be purchased separately.
As one of the original smart thermostats, the Nest Learning Thermostat is Amazon’s #1 best seller. After just a few manual adjustments, the Nest smartens up and learns your behavior to automatically make your home run more efficiently.
Or, you can forego the manual scheduling altogether, and just let the Auto-Schedule feature do it for you. This smart thermostat promises to save you between 10-15% on your energy bills.
You can control the temperature remotely using the Nest mobile app, which is compatible with iPhones and iPads running iOS 8 or later, and Android devices 4 or later. You can also give it voice commands through Alexa. Plus, the Nest Learning Thermostat includes humidity sensors, so it can make further adjustments to optimize your home’s indoor air.
The Nest Learning Thermostat touchscreen display, called Farsight, makes it easy to recognize—even from across the room—the current temperature, time, and whether the system is heating or cooling. Plus, thanks to motion sensors, the display will automatically turn on if it senses motion.
You can choose an analog or digital clock display to suit your preference. The thermostat itself is available in black, white, copper, or stainless steel to match a variety of home decor.
To get the best value out of the Nest, you’ll want to take advantage of its compatibility with other Nest smart home devices. The Nest Learning Thermostat will work in tandem with your other Nest devices to optimize your home for comfort, safety, and energy usage. For example, if your Nest Protect Smoke Alarm goes off, the thermostat will work with other devices to alert you via a voice command, sound alarm, and flashing smart lights.
The Honeywell Lyric T5 Thermostat offers two main scheduling options: 7-day flexible scheduling or location-based temperature control, backed by geofence technology. That means as long as you have your smartphone with you, the Honeywell Lyric T5 will adjust your home temperature to be just right whenever you’re home. It can also adjust the temperature depending on which room you’re in, so if you’re in the bedroom at night, it may cool the air slightly to facilitate restful sleep.
You can adjust the temperature remotely using the mobile app, or by voice command. Additionally, the Honeywell mobile app notifies you whenever you need to change your air filters or if there’s a sudden change in indoor temperature. You can also configure the Honeywell Lyric T5 to work with your indoor fans and auto operate them.
The Honeywell Lyric T5 includes all the essential features you’d want from a smart thermostat, and for one of the lowest prices we found, earning it our top budget pick.
If there were design awards for smart thermostats, the Kono Smart Thermostat by Lux would win. The sleek, modular design can be interchanged with a variety of different-colored cover plates to fit any house decor. You can even purchase a paintable cover to match the exact color scheme of your home. Keep in mind, however, that at 6 inches across, the device is physically larger than most thermostats. It will definitely be more noticeable in your home, so make sure you pick the right color.
Putting design aside, the Kono also works well as a smart thermostat. You can pre-program the smart thermostat schedule yourself or choose to let it smart schedule. Thanks to geofencing technology, you can also have the Kono automatically make temperature adjustments based on how close you are to getting home.
The Kono app includes the usual indoor air quality reports, along with energy savings tips. The smart thermostat is compatible with iOS, Android, Alexa, and Apple HomeKit-enabled devices.design options, too. It’s available in 5 colors.
The Emerson Sensi device itself looks like a standard thermostat, but the free Android and iOS app is anything but. The Emerson app contains color-coded temperature readings, so you know instantly whether your smart thermostat is cooling, heating, or off. The app also includes usage reports, fan monitoring, and the typical scheduling features.
In addition to the standard 7-day flexible scheduling, the Emerson Sensi’s geofencing technology enables the thermostat to auto-control the temperature based on your phone’s location. While you can adjust the temperature using the app or your voice, it should be noted that the display is not a touchscreen, so this is a better fit for people who enjoy the tactile touch of buttons.
Most smart thermostats integrate with Amazon’s Alexa, but the Emerson Sensi is one of the few that also works with Google Home devices and Google Assistant. Also, the Emerson comes with a 5-year limited warranty, which is 2 years longer than most smart thermostats.
Today’s smart thermostats range in pricing based on the included features. Review the list below to consider what features are most important to you.
|WiFi Connectivity||Smart thermostats connect to your home network over WiFi. This allows you to control the device remotely from a mobile app or a web browser on your computer.|
|Temperature Controls||Like a traditional thermostat, smart thermostats allow you to change the temperature. One added benefit over the traditional thermostat, however, is the ability to raise or lower the temperature remotely—from the device’s mobile app or by voice command, instead of walking over to do it manually. That means no more having to stop and turn on the A/C before you go to bed; the thermostat will take care of it for you.|
|Voice Controls||Speaking of voice commands, many smart thermostats allow you to change the temperature or ask for a current reading using your voice.|
|Humidity||Many smart thermostats now include humidity sensors, in addition to temperature and/or motion. They’ll alert you when humidity is high or low, so you can get out your humidifier if necessary. Alternately, you can let the system adjust the humidity using your fans or A/C.|
|Display||Some smart thermostats have an always-on display, others may require you to physically tap the device for the display to turn on, and still others may use motion sensors to automatically turn on the display whenever you’re moving nearby. The display is not only functional, providing you with key information such as the temperature and time, but it also serves a stylistic purpose. Many smart thermostats are designed to look good and blend in with the rest of your home, and they may come in a variety of color options for you to choose from.|
|Smart Device Connectivity||Most smart thermostats are equipped to work with other smart devices. These may be other devices from the brand, such as the Nest thermostat working with a Nest smoke alarm, or they may integrate with third-party voice assistants like the Google Home or Amazon Alexa.|
|Geofence Technology||A smart thermostat with geofence technology uses your smartphone to determine your location. Depending on where you are, and based on your daily habits, it will use that location to determine whether you’re getting close to home, and if it needs to start cooling or heating accordingly.|
|Sleep Optimization||One of the many benefits of a smart thermostat is its ability to automatically lower the temperature in the evening, according to your sleep schedule. You can pre-set the night temperature to be somewhere in the mid-60s degrees Fahrenheit. As the thermostat learns your schedule, it will begin cooling your bedroom to that lower temperature, cooling your body down and preparing your mind to fall asleep.|
|Motion Detection||Beyond turning on the display, some smart thermostats use motion sensors to determine whether or not to turn the system on in a particular room. For example, if your bedroom is empty during the day, it may turn off the heating or cooling to save energy costs. It will turn back on once you enter the bedroom, or around the time of night that you normally go to bed (which the smart thermostat learns by monitoring your movements).|
|Scheduling||The scheduling features of smart thermostats are more sophisticated than traditional thermostats, as well. You can create a multi-day heating and cooling schedule, override the schedule, and turn it on and off—all remotely. When you’re home, smart thermostats continue adjusting the temperature based on your comfort preferences, such as cooling at night to help you fall asleep and warming slightly in the morning to help you wake up.|
|Reporting||The makers of smart thermostats know that people love analytics, especially when they’re investing in a smart thermostat to improve their home energy use. All smart thermostats integrate with a mobile app, where you can review reports of how efficiently your system is running, receive notification reminders to replace your filter, and power cycle your system.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.