This ecobee thermostat offers a robust range of features. It comes with a sensor and can be set up with up to 30 more just in case you needed that many. While it cannot manage two zones, the sensor allows you to monitor two and begin to even out the home temperature a little. The sensors also have occupancy/motion detectors, so the thermostat can “follow” you and keep you comfortable wherever you are in the house without much effort from you. We absolutely love how easy this thermostat is to use. It has quite a few bells and whistles, including built-in Alexa technology. It can do all the things your Amazon Alexa device does, like tell you about the weather, answer obscure questions and play music. If that weren’t enough, it also offers extensive energy usage reports. We like that the Ecobee is compatible with major smart home systems and isn’t limited due to brand rivalries like the Nest is.
The Nest is an attractive device with a user-friendly mobile app. It’s beautifully simple and once it’s set up does not have a complicated display which is appealing to many. We love the retro-inspired design with the high-resolution screen. Nest has recently added remote temperature sensors to their line-up but they are unable to detect occupancy and aren’t as useful. We feel that they were rushed out as a response to Ecobee’s product. While there is a lot of bad press surrounding the Nest thermostats, we very much like how easily Nest integrates with all the other Nest devices allowing you to do so much with just one app. Certain other Nest devices have their own issues which we won’t delve into here, but please do your homework and be sure your home and wiring are compatible before making the plunge. Nest allows you to look at your previous 10 days of usage or wait for a monthly digest with usage reports. We weren’t as impressed with its “learning” abilities but our schedules may not be as predictable as some so maybe the Nest just gave up trying to figure it out.
If you are considering upgrading from an earlier version, the improvements the third generation Nest has include a better screen, better support for wireless networks, more streamlined, compact body, more color options for the outer ring (we LOVE the copper), and a sensor that changes the size of the display data when you are further away from it. We docked a point because we are very disappointed that Nest is continuing to maintain their devices should be installed without a C-wire.
This is a more scaled-down version of its big brother and a great value if you want a Nest system without the heftier price tag. This one also blends into its environment a little better due to the muted color and frosted glass lower-res display. It’s very soft and organic looking. Even though it’s plastic, it still feels very high quality and well-built. The Nest E still has ambient light, temperature, humidity, proximity and occupancy sensors. It’s compatible with the other Nest products and the Nest Temperature Sensor, but we don’t think the Sensor is worth the price. They were rushed out to compete with the Ecobee remote sensors but lack the features their competitors have. The Nest E is compatible with many HVAC systems provided they do not have multi-stage functions such as a humidifier. We like Nest’s geofencing system that allows a little more flexibility with their Eco mode in the event you have a family member still in the home after you and your smartphone leave the geofence boundary. Nest integrates with many other devices and systems except Apple’s HomeKit and Samsung. It’s unfortunate that Nest is still claiming a C-wire is not needed and we docked a point for that.
The Lyric T5 is a very affordable alternative to the pricier options. While it does not have all the bells and whistles it’s still a solid choice. It works with Apple HomeKit, Google Home Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. It can be programmed with a schedule or used with geofencing to adapt to changes in your routine. This unit learns cooling and heating cycles-how long it takes your home to reach the right temperature- and utilizes adaptive recovery technology to adjust accordingly. Its app is user-friendly and we like how easy it was to set up and get everything working. The unit itself is simple, attractive and unobtrusive.
his device is another excellent budget option in the smart thermostat market. While it may not have as many features as the higher-end models but at a lower price point, it still performs well long-term. It installs easily. It has a very attractive design and we like the glass touch screen front on it both for ease of use and the size. We like how user-friendly the phone app is, and that is where you do most of the scheduling and programming for this device. There are occasional WiFi connectivity issues but this is in all honestly just part of wireless life.
When we saw this thermostat installed we couldn’t believe how insanely attractive it looks. Johnson Controls is a reputable company primarily involved with commercial HVAC and we were excited to see what their consumer offerings would look like. With a transparent LED “heads up display” style screen, it looks like something you’d see in a movie. It is bigger than the Nest or the Ecobee at 5 inches. When we looked at the possibility of installing this over where an old 1990s digital thermostat had been we realized some wall repair would be in order because of the clear display. But it’s so beautiful we felt that would be worth it. The GLAS can be used with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. It plays better with Cortana than any other thermostat we’ve reviewed, but as of this writing, Cortana is not as useful or capable as Alexa or Google. We are extremely impressed with the ability to detect air quality- allergy sufferers rejoice! This being said, it’s not quite as intuitive as the Ecobee. If you enjoy technology and space-age aesthetics, this is an amazing little thermostat, and Johnson Controls has promised remote sensor support in 2019.
While many homes have the “traditional” HVAC systems, there is still a sizable population of homeowners with high-voltage style heating systems. Mysa can be used for homeowners who have electric baseboard heaters, convectors, hydronic baseboards, and radiant heating. Mysa ensures that demographic is not left out in the cold. It has a user-friendly app that will track your energy consumption. We love the display- it’s simple, understated and elegant. The Mysa thermostats have a built-in Wifi adapter and are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Homekit. Some users have reported connectivity issues with these units and some bugs getting them to connect or stay connected, with a power outage causing even more problems with getting them to reconnect. Because the Mysa is wired to your heater, it will get its power from the line wire. If incorrectly installed or a previous homeowner did not wire the floor heaters properly, installation could be confusing and if done improperly could literally burn up the thermostat.
The Mysa system is going to cost more because you have to purchase a thermostat for each heater, but you can connect all of the thermostats together to create zones and control them together from the one app.
Don’t see what you’re looking for, or still have questions left unanswered?
You may think that controlling the temperature of your home is as simple as setting your thermostat to turn down or completely off when you’re asleep/away and on when you’re home/awake. This approach has worked for years for homeowners who have set a timer or schedule for their thermostats to maximize energy savings.
Homes are for the most part being built more efficiently than ever with new code requirements for insulation, windows, and preventing loss of warm or cold air. In spite of these advances, energy bills for heating and cooling the average American home may still eat up as much as half of annual utility costs. We believe technology can help trim those costs for most homeowners.
Here’s how to make the right choice for a new smart thermostat.
If you are considering replacing an older thermostat, a smart thermostat may be a great option to consider. While these devices initially cost more than regular thermostats, they have the potential to save you a lot of money over time and make your life a little easier too! If you are already enjoying smart technology to control your lighting and other systems in the home, you already appreciate the convenience and savings that come from automating your home’s systems. If you are away from home a lot or own a vacation property, this could be even more useful. For example, if your home is in Minnesota and you are vacationing in Florida and you’re worried about your pipes freezing in the cold, you can log in and crank up the heat in your chilly home while sipping margaritas on the beach.
Many smart thermostats even offer you usage reports so you can fine-tune your heating and air conditioning even further to save money.
If you don’t want a Google Home Assistant, Cortana or Alexa in your home, a smart thermostat can still be handy as most of them can be controlled by an Apple or Android app on your phone or tablet almost as easily.
Be sure that the thermostat’s schedule settings can easily be overridden in the event you stay home or return early. Nothing could be more frustrating on a snow day than struggling to get a “smart” device to turn the heat back on!
Geofencing will use your smartphone’s location services to tell your thermostat to turn on or turn off when you are near your home. This is a great solution for the homeowner who comes and goes a lot with a variable schedule. It’s nice to come home to the air conditioner or heater already running no matter when you arrive!
Be sure to examine your wall where the new thermostat will go to ensure you won’t need to repaint or do drywall repair. Most of the thermostat manufacturers will send you a wall plate (like the cover over an outlet) and if the dimensions of it will cover any damage from removing the old thermostat you should be fine.
We don’t recommend utilizing a thermostat that does not utilize a C-wire and instead uses another means of taking power from furnace control circuits. This can wreak havoc with your HVAC system. Please factor in the cost of hiring a licensed technician to add a C-wire for you if there is not one in place.
Remote access will allow you to make adjustments and control your thermostat when away from home using an app or other means of connecting to an interface.
Sensors in some thermostats can detect occupancy in the house. If you do not actively move around your home a lot during the day ensure this is not the thermostat’s primary method of deciding when to heat or cool your home.
A smart thermostat allows you to control it with an app on your phone or tablet, but we recommend a model that can play well with other smart devices and integrate with a central control device like Alexa, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, Cortana or Google Home.
Smart thermostats that can also link to a smoke detector will automatically turn off the home’s central fan if there is a fire. This will give the occupants of the house a little more time to escape in the event of a fire.
If you have a large home or lots of “zones” that will need to be continuously heated or cooled, it may be beneficial to use multiple thermostats for each zone vs. using remote sensors for each zone.
Most smart thermostats will only work with 24v HVAC systems. Learn whether or not your home is considered low or high voltage before purchasing anything. Begin by assessing what kind of HVAC you have. If you are uncomfortable trying to figure out what’s in your home or nervous about what work may have been done on the home, you may want to call a licensed technician to come out and take a look at everything.
The 24v “Low Voltage” System:
Does your existing temperature control system cover the entire house? Is it a rounded dial-type (usually a Honeywell) on the wall or a digital one? If you have an older “digital” thermostat, remove it from the wall as if you were going to change the batteries. Look at the wires on it- are they are multi-colored and flexible? Do you have a furnace somewhere in the house such as the basement? Are there heating/cooling vents on the floors, baseboards or in ceilings? If this describes your home, you likely have a 24volt HVAC system.
The 120v “Line” or “High Voltage” System:
Does each room have its own thermostat control? Do you have baseboard heaters or radiant heating? If this is the case, you likely have a high voltage system in your home and will need a thermostat that specifically indicates it is designed for high-voltage heater support. Most smart thermostats will not support a high voltage system but we do include one in our product roundup that will.
You may also have a ceiling mounted ductless mini-split heater/cooler, and these are often found in apartments and older homes without central heating or a cooling system. Some homes even utilize gas heating. Unfortunately, neither of these technologies is compatible with a smart thermostat.
We hate to break it to you, but the term “wireless” thermostat doesn’t mean you can stick it on the wall, connect it to your phone, and voila! Nope, it will still need to connect to the HVAC with a wire. The “wireless” refers to the thermostat’s ability to connect via WiFi to be controlled by an app on your phone or tablet.
Because most smart thermostats have bright screens and are using much more than a digital clock to control the HVAC systems in your home, they will require more energy than those old battery-operated thermostats you might remember.
It’s easy to utilize what’s called a C-wire to use the low-voltage power from your HVAC system to power your thermostat. Be sure to check to see if your existing thermostat has a C-wire connected to it. If not, you will need to hire a professional to install one. Some manufacturers (Nest, we’re looking at you) have in the past suggested that if there is no C-wire that you utilize the power from your furnace’s circuit board to power your thermostat. We’ve seen nasty things happen when this is done.
Furnaces are not “smart,” and if they’re not on, they aren’t going to be powering the thermostat. Nest thermostats have been documented turning on a furnace to power themselves while “pulsing” to recharge their internal batteries. A Nest doing this may cause your HVAC system to turn off and on rapidly. No electrical device does well with that, especially an HVAC system that only runs well when everything is synchronized properly. That rather defeats the purpose of saving energy, and it can cause some real problems with your furnace. Repairs to a furnace and having to bring in a technician to install the C-wire you should have opted for in the first place may end up being far more expensive than the original thermostat. If you don’t believe us, open a new tab and do a search for Nest install fails without the C-wire. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
You WILL need to add a C-wire either by using an adapter or having it wired in. If your home does not already have this, we strongly suggest you factor the cost of hiring a licensed technician installing one for you into your thermostat budget. DIY’ers may be able to tackle the chore, but if you are a new homeowner of an older home, remember that not everybody who noodled around with those wires before you came along may have been a professional.
It’s good not having to navigate to a dozen apps on your phone and spend more time handling all of your home’s smart technology than you would play Tetris. When you invest in a system that helps you tie it all together under one or two apps, the “smart home” really does live up to its name to save you time and brain damage. For example, we like all of the devices in the Nest family that include WiFi thermostats, cameras, video doorbells, alarms, door locks, smoke, and CO2 alarms. The Nest is not our top pick, but for a complete smart home solution requiring little integration, they are doing a pretty good job.
We wanted to be sure to cover the difference between the remote control thermostat and remote sensors.
Remote sensors are separate little units from the main thermostat that you place in different rooms or areas of your home. They send readings to your thermostat about the room temperature, occupancy, and other information near that remote sensor. The thermostat can then make adjustments, such as not heating an unoccupied room after you’ve left it. This helps address (but may not completely eliminate) hot/cold spots in your home. Keep in mind the limitations of these units though. Unless your HVAC/home was purpose-built for smart technology you will not be able to completely equalize temperatures throughout all the rooms in your home. Raising the temperature in a room that’s typically drafty or chilly may warm that room up but the rest of your home will be much warmer than usual.
Remote control thermostats are connected via WiFi so that you can control them using your smartphone. They don’t have any other sensors providing temperature readings except for what’s in the thermostat itself. The thermostat will control the heat for the entire house based solely on the temperature where it’s placed. Most thermostats are installed in hallways or the foyer of a home since this is where they’re most accessible.
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