Hot and Cold: The Best Smart Thermostats
Smart Thermostats – Pioneering Smart Devices
Before there were smart coffee pots and smart pet food dispensers, smart light bulbs and smart water bottles, there were smart thermostats. A true cornerstone of any smart home, a smart thermostat is an improvement on the traditional way of adjusting heat and air conditioning in our homes.
Different smart thermostats do different things, but almost all of them are focused on heating and cooling more efficiently, thereby saving you money.
Some can be controlled from anywhere you’ve got an internet connection, while others learn your preferences and set them for you. A variety of features set each smart thermostat apart from the crowd, though they all have their significant merits.
Looking to invest in a smart thermostat for your home? Here are some of the best smart thermostats out there today.
1. Nest Learning Thermostat
Nest is perhaps the most well known smart thermostat; it was one of the first on the market, and the company itself was acquired by Google in January of 2014.
Nest is popular for a number of reasons: its ease of use, its relative affordability, and its innovative ability to self-program. It’s a smart device that can actually learn when you want the temperature of your home raised and lowered, and then take over the job for you.
Plus, it’s compatible with all sorts of apps and systems, including August Locks, Big Ass Fans (yes, its real name), and even Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Unfortunately, however, Nest is not compatible with Apple HomeKit.
Now in its second generation, the Nest Learning Thermostat will set you back £249, though the price does include professional installation. (Without installation, it’s £179.)
It works on mains electricity, which can be a challenge in some older homes. Features include auto-schedule and auto-away functionality, as well as True Radiant, which learns how your home heats and cools so it can be at the right temperature at the right time. If your schedule changes, you can access your Nest from the corresponding app.
It’s also got an attractive, minimalist design that coordinates with any home’s decor, the round shape is a throwback to old manual thermostats, and the whole set-up is easy to use.
The biggest drawback of Nest is that if your home heats and cools unevenly from room to room, it’s hard to keep temperatures consistent, as there are no external sensors.
- Learns to program itself.
- Learns how quickly your home heats and cools.
- Can control from remote app.
- No external sensors for zone heating.
- Won’t work with Apple HomeKit.
2. Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat
Very similar to the Nest, though perhaps not as well known, is the Ecobee3 smart thermostat. Priced almost £100 less than the Nest (after USD to British Pound conversion), the Ecobee3 offers some significant advantages over its more popular counterpart.
For example, the lack of external sensors that Nest users have to contend with is not an issue with the Ecobee; the starter kit comes with one external temperature sensor, and you can purchase others to add to your configuration. It’s also got a more sophisticated interface on the thermostat itself, which gives you temperature controls, shows you the weather, and more, all with a few taps.
The Ecobee3 can be controlled via smartphone app, though there are lots of user gripes about the app’s instability. Also, the Ecobee3 requires a lot of power to run, which is fine in newer homes, but may present a problem in older ones with older wiring.
Still, this smart thermostat is a great and surprisingly affordable solution for larger, newer homes.
- Easy to use interface.
- Comes with one remote sensor.
- Expandable; users can add more remote sensors.
- App quits unexpectedly, which is frustrating.
- Requires lots of power to operate properly.
- Installation may be tricky in older homes.
3. Tado Smart Thermostat
Geofencing is the big selling point of the Tado £199 smart thermostat. It syncs with its smartphone app to know when you leave, and then lowers the heat accordingly.
As you approach home after work, errands, or anything else, Tado warms up the house so it’s the right temperature when you walk through the door. As long as you remember to take your phone with you when you leave, this is a great feature.
The Tado Smart Thermostat also monitors the weather and daylight, so if the sun’s out, it will let your home warm up from the sunlight. Ultimately, it’s all about saving energy and saving you money.
The device’s manufacturer claims that the Tado will save you over 30% on your heating bills, and the Tado app actually shows you, in graphic format, what you’re spending each day to heat your house. The device itself works with most HVAC units, and its plain white appearance will match any decor.
And if you’re curious but not quite ready to sink nearly two hundred pounds into a Tado Smart Thermostat, the company will allow you to rent one for just £7.99 per month.
- Focused on saving you money.
- Buy or rent.
- Installation can be complicated.
- Forget your phone when you leave the house, and the geofencing won’t help you.
4. Honeywell Lyric
At first glance, you might not notice that the Honeywell Lyric smart thermostat isn’t a Nest. The design is remarkably similar: round, shiny, and with a large readout. Its functionality is similar, though there are some differences.
First, the Lyric has buttons to bring up a weather forecast, as well as a button to let it know you’ll be leaving the house. There’s also a proximity sensor to take the display from idle to full brightness when you get closer — a small but nice energy saving feature.
As for how it works, it’s exclusively on proximity. Users set up geofences in the app to let it know when you’re out of the house (or, if you have multiple people coming and going, when the last person has left for the day), and then the Lyric will adjust the temperature according to your preferences. This is actually a really helpful feature, and it makes up for the Lyric’s lack of learning, programming, and scheduling capabilities.
The Lyric can be found for around £200, depending on where you get it (though the US retail is $249). Installation is fairly simple for anyone with basic wiring know-how, or you can have an HVAC professional take care of it for you.
As an Apple partner, the Lyric does work with HomeKit, though if you’re looking for a more robust smart thermostat by Honeywell, you might look at the EvoHome, which is described below.
- Geofencing feature works with multiple users.
- Humidity sensor.
- Attractive (though familiar) design.
- No programming or scheduling capabilities.
- Doesn’t learn your preferences.
5. Hive Active Heating 2
This smart thermostat is v2.0 of a product by British Gas. Yes, that means it’s available only in the UK (sorry, everyone else), but if you’re able to get the Hive2, it’s a quality product. The price does approach the high end of the spectrum at £249, though if you’ve already got the first version, an upgrade is just £99.
The Hive2 can be easily adjusted from anywhere with the corresponding app or web tool. The thermostat itself has just a few buttons and a dial to control an LED display. There’s no touchscreen, but the attractive looking interface is easy enough to use without that type of interaction. It’s got geofencing, so you can set a home and an away temperature that’s totally dependent on your location.
You can also set up the app to notify you if it thinks you’ve turned the heat up with no one at home. There’s no learning capability, which may be a drawback, though it is easy enough to change the temperature if you remember to do so.
Other features include frost protection to keep pipes from freezing, holiday mode to keep the temperature low for an extended period of time, and boost mode to bring up the heat above the set high temperature. Hive2 can support zone heating, but only if the radiators in your home are already set up that way; it can also work with your water heater to make that more efficient too.
- Lots of helpful features.
- Easy to use.
- Geofencing to set temperature based on your location.
- Not available outside the UK.
- No learning capabilities.
- Limited zone functionality.
6. Netatmo Smart Thermostat
The Netatmo Thermostat is mostly focused on saving you money when it comes to heating your home. It shows you graphs of your energy usage so you can be motivated to use less and save more.
Programming temperatures and times is relatively easy, and the auto-adapt feature knows the weather and can predict how much energy you’ll need to use in order to keep your home comfortable. Everything can be controlled on the unit itself or via the app or web tool.
There are a few drawbacks to the Netatmo, though. There’s no geofencing function and no zone heating. Plus, while it works in the UK and a number of other European countries, it’s not yet available in the US. The price is competitive at £149, though you don’t get as many features as you do with some other smart thermostats.
It is a nice looking device, with an attractive, minimalist design that seems to be the standard with many smart thermostats. Plus, it comes with five different coloured borders; surely one will coordinate with your home’s decor.
Netatmo insists their thermostat is easy to install, and it runs on batteries rather than your home’s electricity — a big advantage if you have an older home with quirky wiring.
- Really helps you save money on energy bills.
- Easy to use.
- More affordable than other smart thermostats.
- No geofencing.
- No zone capabilities.
- Limited service area that does not include the US.
7. Carrier Côr Smart Thermostat
Carrier is the company that basically invented air conditioning and reinvented how we live during the warm months. Now, Carrier is seeking to reinvent how we heat our homes. Of course, they’re not the only company doing this, but they’ve got a competitive product in their Côr Thermostat.
Carrier wants you to have their Côr professionally installed, which can be discouraging to a lot of DIYers, but from the company’s perspective, this probably saves a lot of unnecessary troubleshooting calls.
Once it’s put in, setup and use are both relatively easy. It does need a C wire, which may be challenging for owners of older homes. The unit itself is a square touchscreen, so it looks like an oddly shaped smartphone. Not coincidentally, the corresponding app looks a lot like what you see on the Côr itself, so everything feels very much connected.
As for features, the Côr, like the Netatmo, is dedicated to saving you money on your heating bills. It offers energy reports and energy saving tips, and its smart setback feature can help you save even more while still keeping your home at a comfortable temperature. There is a vacation mode, and it works with some zone systems as long as your home is already set up that way.
As for downsides, there’s no geofencing, and it doesn’t work with other smarthome devices. Still, the Côr is priced well at $250 USD (or around £160).
- Smart setback plus energy reports and tips help you save a lot.
- Professional installation.
- Visual unity among the device and the corresponding app.
- No geofencing.
- Limited zone heat functionality.
- Can’t be incorporated into a smarthome system.
8. Honeywell EvoHome
What the Honeywell Lyric lacks, the Honeywell EvoHome has in spades. It’s a more complicated system, it costs more, and it’s not as popular (yet), but if you’re looking to make your home smart, the EvoHome is probably the one you want to go with. Rather than controlling the heat in your home as a whole, EvoHome has the capability to go room by room. It has some similarities to the Ecobee3, but it’s more complete.
Installation and set-up is a bit of a process, as there are a lot of sensors to install and zones to set up. However, once the EvoHome is humming along in the background of your home, it can go a long way in saving you money. The device learns how long it takes your home to warm up, so it can get the heat going at just the right time without wasting energy. All zones can be controlled remotely, wifi is built in, and you can program times and temperatures easily.
The biggest drawback? The EvoHome is exorbitantly expensive. The base unit is £249, which may not seem all that much, but consider that individual sensors for zoning are £59 each. Add on your hot water tank, and that kit will set you back £85.
Yes, you can recoup that money in your energy savings, but it may take a few years. However, if you’re really looking to set up a smart home, the EvoHome is an excellent first step.
- A real smart home setup!
- Zoning means you only pay to heat the rooms you want.
- Learning capabilities.
- Lengthy setup process.
- The upfront cost can be a lot.
9. Heatmiser neoStat
When you buy the Heatmiser neoStat smart thermostat, you get an easy to use system that offers enough features to be useful but not so many that it’s overwhelming to novice users. It’s not as flashy or sleek as a Nest or some of the other smart thermostats on this list — there is no colour display or touchscreen — but it does have a large digital readout that gets the job done.
The neoStat has a self-learning preheat feature: the thermostat learns how long it takes to heat your home to your desired temperature, which means you can come home to a warm house without wasting any energy by heating it up too soon. There’s also a useful geo-location feature, which uses the wifi and GPS on your smartphone to know when you’ve left the house; when you’re gone, the heat gets dialed down. Finally, there’s a temperature hold feature, a quick and easy override of any programmed or learned settings.
As with other devices of its ilk, you can control the temperature of your home from anywhere via the Heatmiser app. It can also control multiple homes on one app, which is convenient if you own multiple properties. Plus, if you’re on iOS or even watchOS, you can program “recipes,” or protocols for certain seasons or times of day; there’s no word, however, if this functionality will be on the Android or Windows Phone versions.
Multiple neoStats can be installed in a larger house for zone control, and installing one or more is a fairly simple proposition. It should be noted that the neoStat is mains powered and not battery powered, so you’ll need to make sure the wiring is right before you get started. Otherwise, it’s more or less plug and play.
There are currently no big “works with Heatmiser” partnerships like you’ll find with Nest, but the neoStat system does have an open API, so there may be some in the future. Additionally, neoStat works in the UK, most of Europe, and Australia.
A neoKit1, which includes one neoStat, the required neoHub, and all the requisite cables, retails for £199. Additional thermostats for zone control are £69 each.
- Easy to set up, easy to use.
- Useful features like self-learning pre-heat and geo-location.
- Can be used for zone heating.
- Display is fairly basic.
- No smart home integration (yet).
- Does not work in US.
Save Energy and Money, Buy a Smart Thermostat
The smart thermostat market is still rather young, but you can expect it — and the entire smart home industry — to grow significantly in the next few years. No matter which model of smart thermostat you choose now, however, you can be relatively confident that your energy bills will shrink as a result.
The ability to control the temperature of your home from anywhere is a big advantage of these devices, and the specific features that many of them offer are a bonus. With smart thermostats available at several different price points, there’s sure to be one to fit just about any budget.
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