Definition of smart thermostat
Besides the primary task of maintaining a set temperature, “Smart” thermostats have the added functionality of being able to automatically adjust the temperature of your home based on your schedule, on the temperature outside, and on modifications you make to it from your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Having the ability to control the heating and cooling of your home remotely, as well as having a thermostat auto adjust temperature settings based on the time of day or whether or not anybody is home, provides consumers with convenience and huge energy savings.
Other names for smart thermostats like wireless, digital, internet
There are several varieties of thermostats which get grouped under the “smart” category, such as thermostats that are wireless, digital, and connected to the internet. These all offer the convenience and energy-savings ability to manage and program your thermostat remotely, however, brands such as Nest and Ecobee take the smart thermostat a step further with giving it the ability to actually learn from your behaviors and adjust the temperatures accordingly.
The difference between smart and connected t-stats
A thermostat that is connected to the internet and allows you to remotely access its programming is known as a “connected” thermostat. Many manufacturers label connected thermostats as “smart,” but this has caused some confusion in the marketplace as to what consumers expect smart thermostats to be able to do. The term “smart” is not regulated by any agency and can be freely used by companies to increase the appeal of their product.
However, according to the IHS and EMEA Markets for Thermostats report, “smart” thermostats are “those that are connected to the internet and make automatic adjustment decisions.” Unlike thermostats are just “connected” to the internet, truly “smart” thermostats have the capability to automatically change the temperature of your home based on external inputs. These external inputs include temperature sensors placed in different rooms of your house, motion and occupancy sensors which tells the thermostat if a room is occupied, and geo-fencing technology, which tells the thermostat when you are getting close to home or have left the home and will therefore adjust the temperature accordingly.
Connected thermostat have useful and energy-saving features as well but lack the ability to make automatic adjustments “on its own.” A benefit of connected thermostats, though, is that they’re much less expensive than smart thermostats. Connected thermostats typically cost around $100, whereas a true “smart” thermostat retails for closer to $250.
Are they programmable?
Smart thermostats have all the features of programmable thermostats, allowing you to set a temperature schedule for each day of the week, but smart thermostats go a step further by allowing you the ability to control temperature settings remotely. If, for example, an impromptu event comes up on today that you’re going to attend instead of going home at your usual time of 6 p.m., then you can access your smart thermostat from your phone and program it to not lower (or raise) the temperature at the time it normally would if you didn’t veer from your normal routine.
Features such as this not only give homeowners more control over their comfort, but also provide additional energy savings. For people whose schedules change frequently, programmable thermostats may not be the most efficient option; if it’s set to adjust the temperature at 6 p.m. and you don’t get home until 10 p.m., then that’s four hours of wasted energy that could have been saved if you had the ability to adjust it remotely from your phone or computer.
Additionally, smart thermostats will show you your energy consumption in real time and let you know how long it will take for the temperature to reach your desired setting. With the app or remote interface of a smart thermostat, you are able to immediately know how much you are currently spending on heating and cooling your home and can make energy savings adjustments if necessary – no more sticker shock when you receive the energy bill at the end of the month!.
Why the smart t-stat is shaping the history of the thermostat
The technology of smart thermostats is continuing to evolve. Newer models have voice control features so if you just ask your thermostat to change the temperature, it will. Smart thermostats like the Ecobee4 has integrated Alexa technology within – no need to even purchase the Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot. You can get music, the latest news, and weather forecasts all from your smart thermostat.
With more and more home appliances and features getting connected to the internet, it’s predicted that the thermostat will become the interface through which you can control your entire smart home, including lights, music, alarm systems, locks, media center, etc. No longer just a device which controls the temperature, the thermostat of tomorrow will become so much more.
Understanding your smart thermostat
Similar to a smart phone, smart thermostats have many features that are intuitive and easy to use and can be tweaked to better integrate with your unique lifestyle. Smart thermostats don’t just provide convenience and personalized home comfort, they also help you save a lot of money on your utility bills. In addition to the convenience of remote temperature adjustments, some smart thermostats use tiny sensors placed in different rooms of your home to determine whether or not a room is occupied or zoned for a different temperature setting. This is another great energy saving feature, because instead of cooling every room in your house to the same temperature, as programmable thermostats would do, only the occupied rooms will be cooled.
With a sleek, modern design with an option to change its color to match your interior, smart thermostats have a user-friendly touchscreen where you can access the controls and input settings. You can also do everything you need to through thee app, which is just as user-friendly, allowing you to program adjust, and control your thermostat whenever you need to. Other features smart thermostats offer are:
- Individualized temperature programming for each day of the week
- Mode selection, such as Home or Away
- Humidity control
- Air quality monitoring
- Real-time energy consumption statistics
- Filter and maintenance alerts
- Weather forecasting
- Location tracking
- Learning capabilities
- Energy-efficient recommendations
If you’re ready to experience the convenience of true home comfort, reduce your heating and cooling costs along with your carbon footprint, and smarten up your home, then getting a smart thermostat is a good place to start.
Setting up the smart thermostat (what can it do that mine can’t).
The user-friendly interface most smart thermostats have make it easy to set it up and program your temperature preferences. In fact, some smart thermostats will program your desired temperature settings themselves based on your behaviors so you don’t even have to bother. Schedules can also be overridden if necessary, without any original programming being affected. For example, if you come home early and would like the HVAC system to begin cooling sooner than usual, or you have a cold and want to crank up the heat, you can do so without affecting any presets.
Another great feature some smart thermostats have is the ability to start warming or cooling your house when you are certain driving distance away so your home is the perfect temperature as soon as you walk in the door. Using geofencing technology that tracks your phone’s location, your thermostat can automatically raise or lower the temperature when it “knows” you’ve left the house or will soon be home.
How can I teach my smart t-stat?
Smart thermostats can “learn” from your behaviors by tracking your comings and goings and automatically adjusting the thermostat accordingly. The Nest, for example, starts learning about your home and habits as soon as it’s installed. To start teaching your smart thermostat what you like on the first day, set the temperature to your preference. The Nest will maintain that temperature until someone changes it.
On the second day, the Nest will continue to learn your personalized temperature preferences based on how you’ve adjusted it throughout the day. After several days, the Nest has learned your basic temperature schedule, and you can view this schedule and make changes to it through the app.
By the end of the week, the thermostat has learned your schedule and will adjust itself automatically. Your thermostat will continue to learn and if your schedule changes significantly, your thermostat will automatically adapt based on repeated changes you make to it. During this learning period, it’s important to teach your smart thermostat how to be energy efficient by turning up (or down) the temperature before you leave the house, before you go to bed, or any other time when you would normally adjust the temperature to save energy.
What is the best smart t-stat?
The smart thermostat marketplace is booming with competitor products, services, and features that are being introduced regularly. There are a few top brands out there, though, that rate high in comparison studies due to their ease-of-use, functionality, features, and smart home integration. It’s important to do your research to find the best smart thermostat that fits your lifestyle and budget, but here are some of the top-sellers you may want to consider:
- Ecobee4: Using remote sensors to measure the temperature in multiple rooms, the Ecobee4 can provide even more energy savings by accurately detecting the temperature of individual rooms as well as employing occupancy detectors to prevent cooling or heating of rooms that are unoccupied. With the Alexa voice command system built-in, the Ecobee4 can also give you news headlines, play music, and control other smart products in your home such as lights, locks, garage door, etc. Ecobee4’s voice command system works with Google Assistant and Siri as well.
- Nest Learning Thermostat: With a big, bright screen that has display options, such as time and weather, plus a variety of display color options to can choose from, the third generation Nest is stylish, sleek, and sets the bar high for other smart thermostats to follow. One of the first “learning” thermostats, the Nest tracks your cooling and heating preferences and automatically adjusts your home’s temperature accordingly so you don’t have to mess with it. The Nest also supports Bluetooth, has geofencing technology, and can talk to hundreds of other smart home devices, including Google Assistant and Alexa.
- Honeywell RTH8580WF Wi-Fi Thermostat: Offering similar features and functionality as the Nest and Ecobee but for less money, the Honeywell Wi-Fi thermostat has remote control functionality, links to other smart home devices, and supports voice commands.
Can I install the smart t-stat?
Most smart thermostats are relatively easy to install yourself as long as you know what type of HVAC system you have and how it’s wired to your old thermostat. Also, as most smart thermostats require a C (common) wire to work, it’s important to know whether or not you already have one. If you don’t have a C wire or are unsure about installing your smart thermostat by yourself, then consult with a professional who can do the installation for you.
What happens with all the data?
As many smart thermostats work with multiple other “smart” devices (the Nest thermostat alone has over 115 third-party devices that it can work with), there is some concern that the data collected by smart thermostats is shared with many of these third-party companies. An interesting article on the data flow of information collected and shared by smart devices such as your thermostat can be found here.
What if my wi-fi goes out?
If you wi-fi happens to go down, you won’t be able to communicate with your smart thermostat, but it should still operate as usual. If the power goes out, the battery back-up will kick in to keep your HVAC running.
Should I upgrade to a smart t-stat? Will it save me money?
The convenience and energy saving features of smart thermostats make them very appealing, but they do come with a higher price tag. The average cost for a smart thermostat is around $250, where a basic programmable thermostat is around $30. It’s true the energy savings a smart thermostat can provide will cover the upfront expense over time, but a programmable thermostat will save you an equal amount of money. Of course, that’s if you program it properly, and if you’re the type to not even bother to program the thermostat because it’s a hassle and you just don’t have the time, then a smart thermostat that programs itself based on your schedule would be a smart choice.
A smart thermostat makes it easier and more convenient to stay on top of your HVAC energy usage. According to a joint study of smart thermostats conducted by Pacific Gas and Electric and Honeywell, people liked being able to change the temperature of their home remotely from an app so much that they did so a great deal more than if they if they had to adjust the temperature using only the thermostat. This resulted in more than half of the participants in the study using less energy. Also, a study by Nest discovered that consumers saved on average 10-12% on heating and 15% on cooling, which resulted in around $130 of annual savings.
It’s true a cheaper programmable thermostat can potentially reduce energy costs as much as a smart thermostat, but that’s only if you take the time to very carefully and accurately program your thermostat and keep a fairly regular schedule. However, if you don’t want to bother with programming a temperature schedule and your day-to-day schedule is constantly changing, then a smart thermostat is definitely the one for you.