Last Updated: 7/26/2016 by M.B. Grant
Smart thermostats are the hottest doodads in home automation. With a WiFi-enabled smart thermostat, you can…
- adjust your home’s temperature from the sofa (or the office, or the other side of the globe) with an app
- control your temp via Amazon’s Alexa!
- optimize your energy usage to save money
- pre-heat your house before you get home
- control who has access to your home’s thermostat
- get emailed alerts when your home falls or rises above a certain temperature
- automate your home’s comfort via a smart hub
Best Overall: Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat with Sensors
For most homes, the ecobee3 is the best smart thermostat available today. Its innovative temperature sensors (one is included with the thermostat unit) are placed throughout your home to give the ecobee3 system a more complete understanding of your home’s warmer and cooler rooms.
You can control the ecobee3 via your smartphone, computer, or even your voice via Amazon’s Alexa (just say “Alexa, turn the temperature to 72”). IFTTT and SmartThings, energy usage reports, tight control over your system’s temperature swing range, and e-mailed alerts.An included wiring adapter makes the ecobee3 compatible with a large variety of HVAC systems, including both those with and without a C-Wire.
Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t come by this site to say they love their ecobee3 – check it out via the links below!
#2 Pick: Emerson Sensi
The Emerson Sensi is a budget-friendly smart thermostat that boasts nearly all of the same capabilities you’d get from a more expensive smart thermostat, including Alexa integration. The Sensi can be accessed from anywhere via an app, gives you full control over your HVAC system, and doesn’t require a C-Wire in home systems that include both heat and air conditioning.
The Sensi is one of the best selling smart thermostats among our readers – check it out via the links below!
#3 Pick: Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
It’s an oldie but it’s still a goodie. The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat offers a full-featured color touch screen, e-mailed alerts, tight control over temperature swing ranges for just under $200. (Let’s not mention the beleaguered Honeywell Lyric – this is the Honeywell smart thermostat to own.)
More Top Picks
- ecobee Smart Si Smart Thermostat – nearly all the features of a smart thermostat, minus the touch screen
- ecobee Smart Thermostat – like the Smart Si, but with a touch screen
- Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day – budget-friendly WiFi thermostat that looks just like an old school programmable
Also: check out our Smart Thermostat Comparison Chart.
Why upgrade to a smart thermostat?
If “because they’re cool and I want one!” isn’t reason enough, here are some compelling reasons to make the switch:
Heating and cooling represents about 42% of your home’s energy use, and millions of people just leave the temperature set to a constant 70 degrees, even when they aren’t home. If you’re one of those people, letting a computer handle your home’s temp throughout the day (taking advantage of the times when you’re not home) could save you a small fortune (about $180 a year, according to Consumer Reports).
Some manufacturers, such as Nest Labs, claim that their smart thermostats pay for themselves in as little as two years. Coupled with rebates from utility companies, that “break even” wait could be even shorter.
If you’ve ever struggled to program a schedule (or heck, even set the clock) on your programmable thermostat, you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to set up a schedule on a modern day smart thermostat, regardless of which one you choose. The Nest thermostat goes one step further and attempts to “learn” your comings and goings throughout the day and builds a schedule for you.
Not to mention, you can turn up the AC without leaving the sofa, preheat your home before you arrive on a wintry day, and set overrides to the usual programming with a few simple taps.
Most smart thermostats display useful info on their idle screens, too, such as the outside weather and temperature.
Easier to deal with schedule changes
If you’ve programmed your old-fashioned programmable thermostat to drop the temp when you’re away at work, you’re probably familiar with the pain of having to override that schedule on days you stay home. With a smart thermostat, just open the app and override the default programming – easy.
No more squinting at a tiny LCD. All the modern smart thermostats feature bigger, brighter screens. And they all come with companion apps and web portals so you can program your thermostat in the same way you might write an email or check Facebook.
Seasonal changes (and Daylight Savings Time) are no challenge to smart thermostats
Many North American homeowners find themselves reprogramming their programmable thermostats several times a year to keep up with the shifting seasons, earlier sunsets, and twice annual time changes.
Smart thermostats just keep up – time changes and seasonal shifts are taken into account and you don’t have to do a thing.
Keep an eye on your home
A lot of home automation enthusiasts keep an eye on their homes with security cameras, like the Nest camera, but a smart thermostat also lets you know the temp. This is especially useful if you live in an extreme climate where you worry about your pipes bursting if the temp falls too low while you’re away.
Get feedback on your energy usage
Most smart thermostats offer some form of usage tracking. The Nest Learning Thermostat encourages you with a green leaf icon whenever you’re using a temperature setting it thinks its “optimal” for your current weather and reports on your last 10 days of usage. The ecobee3 keeps a longer history of usage data (for those who want to really geek out about their HVAC usage).
They look cool!
Installing a wifi enabled thermostat is about as challenging as installing a new light switch. If you’re a homeowner with a few DIY projects under your belt, you’ve probably got the experience needed to install it yourself.
As a nice extra, most smart thermostats come with an optional rectangular backplate that can be used to cover up any mismatched paint jobs you might discover behind your old thermostat.
The C-Wire dilemma
Some smart thermostats (like the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Honeywell Lyric) claim they work in wiring configurations that lack a C-Wire, but we’ve heard enough horror stories about “furnace pulsing” and damages to furnace boards to take a different stance: unless your thermostat comes with an adapter designed to make up for a missing C-wire, you should install a C-wire. Professional installation will add about $150 to your costs, but the peace of mind (and avoidance of damage to your very expensive HVAC system) is worth it.
The Best of Smart Thermostat Guide
Most Popular Thermostat Reviews
- ecobee3 review
- Nest Learning Thermostat review
- Honeywell WiFi Smart Thermostat review
- Emerson Sensi review
Saving Money and Home Energy Tips
- How much money can you save with a smart thermostat?
- How to prioritize heat-saving upgrades on your home