Thursday, September 29, 2022

Best Smart Thermostat 2021: Never Touch the Temperature Dial Again

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Right next to the smart light bulb, one of the most popular devices for setting up a smart home has been the smart thermostat. It may seem like a simple device in your home to replace, without the same wow factor as a light bulb, but it can make a big difference in your comfort and, more importantly, your energy bill.Smart thermostats can cleverly manage your heat and air conditioning, letting you avoid running those power-hungry systems unnecessarily. You’ll be able to set timers or schedules to keep your home comfortable only when you’re at home, and you can even remotely control your space with many of these devices. Some will be better integrated into whole-home, central air, while others can work in even simpler environments, including rooms that rely on space heaters and AC window units.

We’ve gathered up a variety of quality devices to fit the many possible use cases of a smart thermostat, so you can find one that’ll work for you.

TL;DR – These are the Best Smart Thermostats:

1. Google Nest Thermostat

Best Smart Thermostat

Our Pick

Google Nest Thermostat

On Amazon

Google has given the Nest Thermostat a makeover. This new model brings a reimagined design with a mirrored glass cover over a sizable 2.4-inch LCD display. It’s not just the looks that have changed, though. This new model features the same temperature and humidity sensing as the older Nest Thermostat E, but now it also features motion and ambient light sensors. That means it can help manage the temperature in your house more effectively by monitoring when people are actually around and by controlling its screen brightness.

The Google Nest Thermostat is likely to work in your home, as it supports many 24V heating and cooling systems, including multi-stage systems and HVAC fans. It can even work in setups that lack a C-wire. If you have multiple zones in your home, you can also set up multiple Google Nest Thermostats to control them. Once the Nest Thermostat is set up and connected to your Wi-Fi network, you’ll be able to keep the temperatures in your home in check from anywhere.

2. Honeywell T5+

The Best Budget Thermostat

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OK, some of these smart thermostats are pretty expensive. Honeywell’s T5+, by contrast, brings a lot of smarts at an attractive price point of about $150. So, just what does it deliver at this modest price? For one, you won’t have to get out of bed and creep through a freezing cold house to adjust the thermostat, since you can control the Honeywell T5+ remotely from your phone or even just shout at Alexa or Google Assistant to change the temperature.

The Honeywell T5+’s Wi-Fi connection doesn’t just let you control it when you’re home either. You can control it from anywhere you’ve got an internet connection. So, if you go on vacation and see the weather back home getting cold, you can raise the heat a bit to ensure your pipes don’t freeze. You can also create schedules or have the thermostat change based on a geo-fence, so it won’t waste energy when you’re away from home. You can see if it’ll work with your HVAC system here.

3. Wyze Thermostat

Best Ultra Cheap Smart Thermostat

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Believe it or not, you can get a smart thermostat for just $50. Wyze makes many affordable smart homed devices, and the Wyze Thermostat stands out as an impressive value. For such a lot price, you’re still getting a thermostat that can connect to your Wi-Fi to enable control of your home temps through your phone, and it even includes a color display.

The Wyze thermostat has plenty of smarts going on. You can set schedules for temperature control as well as default temperature for when you’re home, away, or asleep. When you leave a geo-fenced region, your Wyze Thermostat can automatically switch to the away mode and help save on energy. Don’t worry about your house getting too hot or cold either, as the Wyze Thermostat has a Safety Temps feature to prevent that. You can even set it to keep the fans running after your AC’s compressor stops to make the most of the work the compressor has already done, or set a minimum time for your HVAC system to run so it’s not turning on for too short of periods. And, if you accidentally get your wires crossed during setup and your cooling system comes on when your heat should be, the Wyze Thermostat can swap functions without you needing to change any wiring. That’s a lot of capability for the money.

4. Nest Learning Thermostat

If Your HVAC Requires It

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Nest Learning Thermostat

On Amazon

If you love the idea of the Nest’s ability to learn and adapt to your habits, but the Nest E isn’t compatible with your home—say, if you use a multi-stage HVAC system—you’ll need to shell out a bit more money for the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat. At $215, it’s a bit more expensive, but you also get a slightly more premium-feeling product with a stainless steel housing, a bright display, and the “Farsight” ability, which allows it to see when you enter a room from far away and light up.

Those things aren’t worth the extra expense in my opinion, but if you have to pay more for the wider compatibility, it’s nice that you get a more premium-feeling product. It does tend to stand out a bit more, like you’re showcasing a piece of tech on your wall, but some people may enjoy that. (Like the Nest E, the Nest doesn’t technically require a C-wire, but connecting to HVAC systems without it can cause problems.)

Otherwise, the same benefits and drawbacks of the Nest E apply to the Nest: it can learn your habits, detect when you’ve arrived home or entered a room, and create energy reports so you can see how much you’ve saved. On the other hand, it’s also in a transitory period when it comes to smart home integrations, so keep that in mind if you have a lot of other devices or apps you want to use in conjunction with it.

5. Honeywell T9

Best Multi-Room Smart Thermostat

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On its own, a typical thermostat displays the temperature of the room it’s sitting in—and adjusts the air conditioning accordingly. But your living room probably isn’t the same temperature as the bedroom upstairs, which can make things frustrating when you move from room to room. That’s why the $200 Honeywell T9 allows you to place separate sensors in each room. Each sensor can detect the temperature, humidity, and occupancy of that space, and adjust the air conditioning or heat based on what rooms are currently occupied. (Note that this is different from having a multi-zone HVAC system—if you have multiple thermostats that control different parts of the house, you’ll need multiple smart thermostats to replace them.)

Nest does offer temperature sensors, but they don’t detect motion or humidity and aren’t as programmable—so the T9 gets the edge for this use case. Its white exterior also blends nicely into the wall, which is a plus. You can check the T9’s compatibility with your home here.

Of course, the T9 has many of the smart features you’d come to expect from other thermostats, too. It won’t learn your preferences like the Nest, but you can create schedules, set the T9 to save energy when it detects you’ve left the house, and integrate it with other smart home platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT. You can see a full list of Honeywell’s smart home integrations here. (It doesn’t currently support Apple HomeKit, though Honeywell says this is on the way. If you need HomeKit support now, the ecobee3 Lite, which also offers room sensors, is a decent alternative to the T9.)

6. ecobee SmartThermostat

Best Smart Thermostat with Alexa

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ecobee SmartThermostat

On Amazon

Canadian company ecobee is the other big name in the smart thermostat space, and their latest offering is known simply as the ecobee SmartThermostat. At $250, it has a decidedly more techy look, with a black touch screen that’s easy to navigate and adjust, along with sensors for different rooms just like the T9. The ecobee sensors are slightly less powerful as the T9’s, since they don’t detect humidity, but they’re still quite useful. Like other thermostats, you can control it from your phone, set schedules, and automate energy savings when you leave the house. You can check compatibility with your home’s HVAC system here. If one thing sets the ecobee apart, it’s the built-in Alexa microphones, allowing you to talk directly to your thermostat instead of a separate Echo. That said, you can use all the Alexa-enabled devices in your house to control the thermostat as well, not to mention Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, and HomeKit—giving the ecobee some of the widest smart home compatibility in this list.

If you don’t need the built-in Alexa microphones, the ecobee3 Lite is basically the same thermostat without Alexa built-in (though you can still control it with Alexa through an Echo). The T9 still has the more powerful sensors, but if you prefer the look and feel of ecobee’s software, the ecobee3 Lite is a solid device.

7. Mysa Smart Thermostat

The Best for High-Voltage Baseboard Heaters

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Mysa Smart Thermostat

On Amazon

The above thermostats are all meant to work with 24VAC HVAC systems. If you have electric baseboard heaters in your home, though, your thermostat most likely controls a 120V or 240V heater instead, which is incompatible with typical smart thermostats. You can find ways around this, or you could just get a thermostat designed to work with that type of system.

Enter the Mysa Smart Thermostat. For $140, you get a wall thermostat that can control heaters up to 3,800 watts from your phone, through Alexa and Google Assistant, IFTTT, HomeKit, or SmartThings. Like other smart thermostats, you can create schedules or automate the system based on your presence at home.

You may need to get multiple thermostats if you have multiple zones (as is more common with these types of heaters), so it can get pricey, but it’s better than turning a bunch of primitive knobs on the wall. You can check compatibility with your system on this page.

8. Sensibo Sky

The Best for Standalone Air Conditioners

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If you don’t have central air in your home—but instead rely on a mini-split, ductless, portable, heat pump, or window air conditioners—the $120 Sensibo Sky can turn those dumb units into smart air conditioners by acting as an infrared remote. You just stick the unit on your wall, hook it up to your phone, and you can control it just like any other smart thermostat, adjusting temperature from the app, with your voice through Alexa and Google Home, or using your phone’s location to save energy when you’re gone.

You can also create schedules within the app or create automations with SmartThings and IFTTT, which makes up for the fact that the unit doesn’t actually have on-wall controls. It only works with A/C units that come with infrared remotes (since it works by sending infrared commands), but you can check compatibility on Sensibo’s website.

If you want something a bit smarter, you might also check out the $130 Ambi Climate 2—it doesn’t mount on the wall like the Sky, and it’s compatible with fewer air conditioners, but comes with Nest-like learning features to adjust to your habits.

What to look for in a Smart Thermostat

Buying a smart thermostat isn’t as easy as comparing a list of features. Since the thermostat is your main control point for your home’s entire heating and cooling system, there’s a lot to consider, like:

Compatibility: You can easily rule out any smart thermostats that are incompatible with your house. For example, some thermostats—like Google’s budget-oriented Nest E—won’t work with systems that have a whole-house humidifier or dehumidifier, or dual transformer systems. Usually, a thermostat’s compatibility page will run you through a wizard that can tell you more about your situation—but when in doubt, contact a professional and ask them what’ll work for you.

The same goes for installation: while installing smart thermostats is relatively easy, I recommend contacting a professional if you’re at all unsure about your HVAC’s capabilities or your own knowledge.

The ecobee SmartThermostat connected through a C-wire

C-wire usage: Most modern homes use what’s called a common wire, or C-wire, to provide AC power to the thermostat—but some older homes don’t, since they were designed for simpler, battery-powered thermostats instead. Many smart thermostats require a C-wire due to the amount of power they draw.

Some, like the Nest, claim to work without a C-wire by “stealing” power from the other wires while the system is running—but this is generally not recommended as it can damage certain HVAC systems. If you don’t have a C-wire, you can have a professional run one through your walls, or—if your thermostat offers an adapter kit—install the adapter near your HVAC to provide power to the thermostat safely. Again, when in doubt, call an HVAC technician.

One of the ecobee SmartThermostat sensors

Sensors, Learning, and Other Features: Once you’ve narrowed down a list of thermostats that are compatible with your home, you’ll want to start comparing features. Most smart thermostats have a similar set of base offerings: they’ll allow you to control the temperature from your phone, easily set schedules, and use the GPS on your smartphone to save energy when you’re out and about.

Some features are more device-specific, though—like the Nest’s ability to “learn” your habits and adapt its schedule accordingly. Others, like the ecobee SmartThermostat and Honeywell T9, have sensors you can place around your house to adjust the temperature based on which rooms are occupied. Some will even send you energy-saving reports. So, check the thermostat’s list of unique features and decide which are most useful to your home.

Smart Home Integration: Smart devices rarely stand alone. Much of the utility in smart thermostats is in their integration with other smart products. For example, maybe you want all your lights to turn off when your thermostat detects you’ve left the house, or you want your thermostat to start cooling things down when you leave your office.

The more platforms your thermostat integrates with—whether standalone products like Philips Hue or entire ecosystems like SmartThings and IFTTT—the more powerful it becomes. So, you’ll want to make sure it’s compatible with the products you use (or plan to use in the future). Voice control generally falls into this category, too, so make sure your preferred thermostat works with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri if you want to change the A/C from across the room.

Your gas or electric company may offer sizeable rebates for buying a smart thermostat

Rebates: Smart thermostats aren’t exactly cheap, but the price on the box isn’t necessarily the price you have to pay. Your gas or electric company may offer sizeable rebates for buying a smart thermostat since they can cut down on your energy usage.

For example, my gas company offers a $75 rebate on many of the thermostats mentioned in this article, which brings down the price substantially. The selection of rebates can differ from area to area, so as you shop around, be sure to check your utility companies to see what rebates they offer—it could affect your ability to buy a fancier model.

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Whitson Gordon is a writer, gamer, and tech nerd who has been building PCs for 10 years. He eats potato chips with chopsticks so he doesn’t get grease on his mechanical keyboard.

You have a wide selection of devices to choose from when setting up a smart home, from voice assistants that can go in every room all the way to smart faucets for sinks. Not all smart gadgets are going to be as useful or exciting to add as one another, but all will give you another level of control over your space, and that can translate to better finessing of your utility bill. Few smart home gadgets are as good for that as a smart thermostat.

Smart thermostats are a solid starter for a smart home, as they can intelligently manage one of the most demanding home utilities. With a smart thermostat regulating the temperature of your house on a set schedule or only when people are around, you can make sure you’re not paying for a bunch of air conditioning no one will feel or heating up empty rooms. Just how much you can benefit from a smart thermostat will depend on the setup of your home, but there is enough variety on the market that you can still find a smart thermostat to work for you whether you have central air or rely on baseboard heaters and AC window units. With the wide variety of smart thermostats available, it may be hard to settle on the right one for you, but we’ve picked out some top contenders that fit a variety of use cases, so you can find the one that’ll work best with your living space.


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