How to Select a Smart Thermostat
Get comfortable with energy efficient features.
- Is your home unoccupied during the day?
- Would you like to program your thermostat from your tablet or phone?
- Do you have a different schedule on weekdays and weekends?
- Does your home have hot and cold spots?
- Are you confident installing it yourself?
Programmable thermostats work most effectively by adjusting when residents are away or fast asleep based on the settings you decide. Stick to a regular schedule. If you’re home all day, working or caring for children and pets, you can set your thermostat a few degrees above normal and use heaters or fans to make main rooms comfortable. If you work outside the home, program your thermostat to begin changing temperature an hour before you arrive in the evenings. That gradual difference is easy on your air handler and on your wallet. Once you set it, forget it. Resist the temptation to walk in the door and override those smart settings. Remember, they’re designed to save you money!
Smart thermostats that connect to your home’s Wi-Fi signal work best when you install the corresponding app on your phone or mobile device. Too hot in bed at night? Turn down the heat from your phone. Heading back from summer vacation? Crank up the air conditioning as you near your journey home. Forgot to turn the fan off before you left town? Access settings and power down from your phone. Wondering how much energy you saved? Log in to the app and see the savings instantly.
If your schedule is consistent from week to week, and you don’t want the hassle of programming a manual or Wi-Fi thermostat, a learning model may be your best choice. Learning thermostats spend a week tracking your preferences, monitoring movement, and noting when you change existing settings. They create a schedule based on that information, and update temperature settings as your indoor climate needs change with seasonal temperatures, daily habits, or unexpected early returns from scheduled holidays.
Most thermostats are centrally located, but that won’t let them take hot or cold spots into account. If your home has distinct temperatures in different rooms, explore thermostats with portable room sensors designed for strategic placement in areas where temperatures may be significantly different than in the center of your home. Some manufacturers sell extra sensors that connect with their thermostats to ensure even heating and cooling in every room throughout the day and night.
It takes about 30 minutes to replace an existing thermostat with a new Wi-Fi model. If you have a Common Wire, or C Wire, and your current wiring is long enough to reach the terminals on your new thermostat, chances are you can install it yourself. Some thermostats have kits that include C wire. Most have customer service reps that can talk you through basic installation issues. If your current wiring is too short, call an electrician to make sure your unit is safe and properly attached.
Be sure to take a moment to install the thermostat app once the thermostat unit is securely in place so you can make quick changes to fit the seasons or accommodate unexpected events.
Connect the dots
One of the coolest features in smart thermostats is their ability to coordinate with digital assistants. The ecobee4 has voice enabled Alexa built right in, the Microsoft/Johnson Controls GLAS has Cortana voice controls and a translucent touchscreen, and Nest models coordinate with Echo, Google speakers, and other smart devices for coordinated home automation. Many more models integrate with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. Advantages include skills that can coordinate light, sound, and temperature settings when you are home or away.
Expect to pay between $100 to $300 for a smart thermostat, depending on its features. Pricier models may update their software automatically, provide detailed usage about energy consumption, adjust easily to outside temperatures, control humidity, and have 24/7 customer service support. Basic models may be easier to install and have all you need for efficient home heating and cooling.
New models often monitor inside and outside temperatures and humidity levels, and track energy usage from month to month, which can help you predict seasonal spikes. Your power company may also offer budget billing to alleviate spikes in power usage when temperatures are extreme.
Certified EnergyStar models quickly enter low-power standby mode when inactive and track home energy use with data that helps you manage thermostat settings for efficiency. Learn more about Energy Star certified models.
A few small changes can make a big difference when it comes to your power bill. Browse our collection of smart thermostats and start your approach to a smart home.