Best Smart Thermostats of 2017 – The ultimate smart thermostat shopping guide
‘Tis the perfect season to upgrade your home with a smart thermostat! 2017’s smart thermostats are supported by polished apps, well-integrated with home automation systems and voice-assistants, and there are plenty of deals to go around.
If you have a 24-volt HVAC system (often called forced air or central heat/air conditioning), there’s a smart thermostat out there for you. If you have a line-voltage heater, such as electric baseboard heating or a thermostat that controls an electric heater in every room of your home, look at the bottom of this article for our recommendations.
Here are the best smart thermostats for 2017 – based on our own expert opinions, feature sets, prices, and overall popularity.
Good news, Amazon Echo fans. All of the thermostats featured in this article support Alexa.
About us: We’ve been installing, reviewing, and generally obsessing over smart thermostats since 2014. Thanks for joining us! This guide is current as of November 2017 and is intended to help shoppers figure out what smart thermostat is right for them – or their intended gift recipient this holiday season!
Top smart thermostat gift pick for 2017: ecobee4
Hands down, our top pick for 2017 is the ecobee4 Alexa-integrated smart thermostat from ecobee. This is the Tesla of smart thermostats right now and if you’re giving a smart thermostat as a gift, this is the one you should give. Everything your recipient needs to get started is right here in the package: the best smart thermostat of 2017, a room temperature sensor, a Power Extender Kit to help with wiring, and Alexa built right into the hardware. Read our hands-on, detailed review of the ecobee4 here.
We’ve seen a number of fantastic deals on the ecobee4 this shopping season (check current price and stock on Amazon.com) and you can add as many additional room sensors as you want to see exactly which parts of your home are getting the heat (or cooling) they need. The touch screen is beautiful and pleasing to use, but it hardly matters when the app is so great – you’ll do all your initial adjusting and scheduling in the app, and then you’ll enjoy hands-off comfort year-round.
We don’t know what kind of HVAC wiring you have – but chances are, if it’s a 24-volt system it will work with the ecobee4 thanks to the included Power Extender Kit.
The ecobee4 has Alexa built in and works with any additional Alexa devices you might have, Samsung’s SmartThings, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit (so you can control it through Siri and your Apple Watch), and Google Assistant (Google Home and Google Home Mini). Also, disabling the integrated Alexa can now be done without making a red “error” light glow on the top of the unit, thanks to a November 2017 firmware update.
The bottom line: the ecobee4 is the smart thermostat to give this winter.
Most “hands-off” smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat
Are you someone who wants to “set it and forget it”? (Or are you shopping for someone like that?)
Then you want the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Nest sells itself on its effortlessness: once it’s powered on, you’re done – Nest’s smart “learning” algorithms will take it from there. It looks at the current weather, whether you’re home or away, and works out your schedule on its own. The schedule it creates optimizes for savings and comfort by not heating an empty house or not turning on the AC until you’re on your way home.
If you’re one of those people who leaves your thermostat set to 70 degrees day in, day out, you’re going to love what the Nest can do for you (and your wallet).
Also: Check out the Nest Thermostat E. The Nest Thermostat E doesn’t support some combinations of accessories and it doesn’t support humidifiers (if you already use a separate humidifier control panel and thermostat, then you can just replace your thermostat with the Nest Thermostat E and keep the separate humidifier control).
Best smart thermostats for data nerds: ecobee3 lite or ecobee4
The data geek in your family will be pleased by ecobee’s HomeIQ reports, which are detailed and offer some built-in data analysis, and tinkerers might be tempted to play with ecobee’s open API (ecobee Chrome extension, anyone?).
There’s plenty more to love about ecobee: ecobee3 lite and ecobee4 both ship with Power Extender Kits, making it more likely that either one will work with your 24-volt HVAC system. The ecobee4 offers Alexa built right into the hardware, and both models support as many room temperature sensors as you need. The room temperature sensors can be placed anywhere (no wires needed) and should appeal to anyone who wants to quantify exactly how warm – or how cool – certain rooms feel.
The bottom line: the ecobee4 is the way to go if love data and fine-tuning.
Best budget smart thermostat under $200: ecobee3 Lite or Nest Thermostat E
The word “budget” can mean a few things – either you want to save a lot on the thermostat unit itself, and/or you want to see some big savings once you have it installed.
All smart thermostats are marketed with claims of energy savings (usually around 17-23%) but the actual savings you will see depends on how bad your energy usage currently is. If you like your house at 75 degrees day in, day out, through a sub-zero winter and you program your smart thermostat to do exactly the same thing, then you won’t see any savings. The whole idea is that the smart thermostats let the temp drop when you aren’t around to notice how cold it’s getting. If you need your house kept warm all day because you work from home, or you have small children at home, or you have pets, then you probably won’t see those 20%+ savings. (But no matter which smart thermostat you buy, be sure to Google your utility company and see if they’re offering a rebate. For example, my utility company offers a whopping $100 rebate on a Nest!)
Either way, we have two suggested “budget” models to consider, both with an MSRP well under $200.
Choose the ecobee3 lite if you are motivated to design an energy-efficient schedule (it’s simple to set up) and/or you need the Power Extender Kit to install a smart thermostat on your system (perhaps your wiring is lacking a C-wire). The HomeIQ reports are helpful for evaluating your monthly energy usage.
If you want to outsource the thinking, the Nest Thermostat E has the same “learning” brains that the full-featured model is famous for. Earning “Leafs” nudges users in an energy-saving direction and the Home/Away detection built into all Nest products makes it easy to figure out when you aren’t around.
The monthly reports show how much energy you used this month vs. previous months and in comparison to your regional neighbors. The only drawback to the Nest Thermostat E is its lack of support for HVAC accessories.
Either way, to reap the monthly savings with a smart thermostat you’ll have to let them do their thing – that means letting the temperature drop when you aren’t home, lowering the temp at bedtime, and letting the house get warm in the summer months.
Best budget smart thermostat under $100: Emerson Sensi
If the “budget” picks above weren’t budget-y enough for you, consider the Emerson Sensi.
This WiFi-enabled, Alexa-enabled thermostat has been one of our top picks this year, and it’s no surprise why: it’s capable, pleasing to look at and touch, and it works without a C-wire. We set one up in a family member’s vacation cabin last winter and we have been pleased with its reliability.
Another popular choice in the “under $100” bracket is the Honeywell RTH6580WF. Honeywell is a trusted name in thermostats and the RTH6580WF is built on decades of thermostat-building experience. It’s got an old-school look but WiFi and “smart home” capabilities (including support for Alexa, SmartThings, Wink, and more). The only drawback: it requires a C-wire, so make sure you have a C-wire before choosing this thermostat.
Best smart thermostat for effortless energy savings: Nest
High energy bills are what the Nest was made for: set it up, give it a little bit of information about yourself, and it figures out the rest.
The Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E are perfect for buyers hoping to see a reduction in their monthly energy usage. The Nest’s award-winning design is all about nudging you towards energy-efficient settings with its on-screen “Leaf” icon that rewards you for choosing an energy-efficient temperature and monthly reports show you how well you did compared to others in your zip code.
Of course, you can always tweak the schedule it came up with or override its defaults.
Both thermostats have the same “brains”, so pick whichever one works with your system (if you have a lot of accessories or a humidifier, you’ll need to get the full-featured Nest.)
Best “old school” smart thermostat: Emerson Sensi
Don’t need a futuristic thermostat? Check out the Sensi by Emerson. Read our full Emerson Sensi review
It looks and acts like a programmable thermostat, but it’s full of modern sensibilities: the companion app is excellent and setup is easy. We set one up at a winter cabin that’s only in use half the year and it’s great: we can raise the heat to melt some snow off the roof, check that the house has electricity, and just generally keep an eye on the place without having to drive over. Our particular installation had no C-wire, which makes the Sensi’s versatility even more apparent.
We hear a lot of “I just want a basic thermostat but with an app” – the Sensi is the way to go.
Smart thermostats for baseboard line-voltage systems
If your home is equipped with a line-voltage system then you’ve had to sit out the smart thermostat party for the last few years. (Clues that you have a line-voltage system include: you have a thermostat and heater, such as base board heat or an electric heater, in every room of your home. The wires behind your thermostat(s) are thick and red/white in color.)
There are some signs that manufacturers are starting to cater to the line-voltage market. Our 2017 recommendation for certain types of line-voltage systems is the Stelpro KI STZW402WB+.
HOWEVER! There are some catches.
This thermostat is very specific in what kinds of systems it will work with. It does not work, for instance, with heaters that use a fan.
Also, the Stelpro is a Z-Wave or ZigBee thermostat. This means it is not programmable by itself. You will need a Z-Wave controller such as Samsung SmartThings (available on Amazon). To control the Stelpro from your phone, you’ll need to connect your Z-Wave controller to the Internet.
Our hope for 2018 (since we own a line-voltage house ourselves!) is that more smart thermostat manufacturers will cater to this large market!
Best-selling smart thermostats (according to our data): Sensi and ecobee3
We crunched our numbers for the past 12 months and the Emerson Sensi is our best-seller for 2017! It looks like we aren’t the only ones out there who appreciate the no-nonsense design and wallet-friendly price point.
And that’s it for 2017!
We hope you have a wonderful – and warm – holiday season!