Nobody likes buying something only to have something new and better come out a month later. Smart thermostats were a new and quickly-changing market several years ago, but things are stabilizing now in 2018.
If you haven’t gotten your smart thermostat yet, 2018 is a great time to buy. Here’s why.
1. The smart thermostat hardware update cycle is getting longer
We’re now waiting about 1.5 – 2 years between major hardware releases, and the differences between versions are becoming less pronounced. Half a decade ago, a new hardware release from Nest or ecobee might’ve meant a significantly improved screen or much slimmer model, but nowadays new additions to the most popular lines tend to be budget versions of flagship models (such as the Nest Thermostat E) and cosmetic improvements to the flagship model.
Ecobee 3 launched October 2014 and it was our favorite pick until two and a half years later, the Ecobee 4 came out (May 2017) with virtually the same design except for Alexa integrated into the device. That’s not to say that integrating Alexa into such a small device wasn’t an engineering marvel, but the guts of the device are the same (and previous
Far more significant was the addition of Alexa capabilities into WiFi enabled thermostats in general, but that was done without a hardware update. Software updates, done over the air, have somewhat replaced the need to continually purchase new hardware.
2018 could very well be a plateau in terms of smart thermostat hardware updates. We expect major players such as Nest and ecobee to spend the year refining their existing thermostats with software updates and expanding their product lines into new categories. In 2018 we’ll see Nest roll out their new doorbell, Hello, and Ecobee introduce their new Alexa-integrated light switch.
2. Many smart thermostats are now a part of a robust family of products
Years ago, you picked a thermostat and that was that. Now, in 2018, the biggest names in smart thermostats belong to families of integrated products.
Nest is going for whole-home domination with Nest Cameras (for home security), Nest Protect (a smarter smoke and carbon monoxide alarm), Nest Secure (a home alarm system), and Nest Hello, a new doorbell product coming this year. All of the Nest products can be controlled from one easy-to-use app.
Meanwhile, ecobee is trading on the utility of voice-activation and is busy building products with Alexa built right in, including their popular ecobee4 thermostat and soon-to-be-released ecobee Switch+.
Also, many of 2018’s major smart thermostats feature integration with Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, so you can issue commands verbally to any voice-activated assistant you might have in your home. No need to open an app or walk over to the thermostat.
3. Budget versions are here – and they’re great
In 2017 we saw two exciting additions to two of our favorite smart thermostat lines: Nest and ecobee both released high-quality, budget-friendly versions of their flagship products.
Both the Nest Thermostat E and the ecobee 3 lite come with an MSRP of $169 with very few tradeoffs. (The Nest Thermostat E lacks support for certain combinations of HVAC accessories, and the ecobee 3 lite is identical to the 3 except it does not ship with a room sensor in the box – but you can add them later, if you like.)
Considering how much money the devices can save a typical homeowner, this is an awesome price and a great time to buy.
Meanwhile, other thermostat makers have been quietly adding WiFi capability to thermostats that might be described as “old fashioned”. These are just programmable thermostats with WiFi added on, but they’re typically available at under $100 and blend in rather nicely.
4. Apps have continued to improve and stabilize, with new features along the way
The most exciting addition to smart thermostats in the past couple years came in the form of voice control – now you can adjust the temp of your smart thermostat by speaking to your Amazon Echo or Google Home device. But the best thing about this update is that most smart thermostat owners didn’t have to go out and buy new hardware to get this functionality – it was added over the air in a software update.
Manufacturers of smart thermostats have largely made good on their promises to keep apps and hardware up to date with new features and improvements. Nest tends to release several updates a year and last year, ecobee was surprisingly quick to respond to customer requests that the red light indicating that Alexa is disabled on the ecobee4 have an option to be disabled.
5. Many utility companies are offering rebates!
Chances are, your utility company is willing to give you $50 (or more) back for upgrading to a smart thermostat.
Now’s a good time to take advantage of the offer because right now, we’re in a sweet spot where loads of North American utility companies are participating, but haven’t yet reached a saturation point where they reduce or stop offering the rebate.
How to see if your utility company is participating:
- Google your local utility company + “Nest rebate” or “ecobee rebate”
- Visit Nest’s site and it’ll attempt to locate your utility company and whatever rebates might be available to you
You’ll have to submit a receipt and possibly wait a few billing cycles but it’s basically free money.
6. Installers are familiar with a variety of use cases now
If you’ve held off on getting a smart thermostat because the installation process is daunting, it might comfort you to know that many HVAC companies are quite familiar with a variety of smart thermostats nowadays and can tell pretty quickly whether your wiring is compatible, make recommendations, etc. You won’t be their first customer asking for a Nest or an ecobee installation.