As we get closer to winter, you don't want your heating costs to burn up all the cash in your wallet. You may want to consider investing in a smart thermostat, which will not only let you you monitor and control your home’s temperature from your smartphone, PC or tablet—but can help reduce your energy bill too. That’s because these devices can monitor temperature and humidity inside and outside your home, your comings and goings, and tailor heating and cooling cycles accordingly.
Based on our comprehensive testing, the Ecobee4 is the best overall choice in this category because its sensors let you deliver the right temperature on a room-by-room basis. It also knows which rooms are occupied and comes with an intuitive app, and it works with Apple's HomeKit among many other smart home systems. Plus, it has Alexa built in, so you can interact with Amazon's voice assistant without purchasing an Echo or an Echo Dot.
If you're looking for something less expensive, then we recommend the Honeywell RTH8580WF Wi-Fi Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat. It's not as fancy as the Ecobee, but it costs less than $100, works with many smart home systems, and can be controlled from your smartphone. (Ed. note: the RTH8580WF is currently unavailable on Amazon, but the RTH6580WF provides similar capabilities, such as Alexa compatibility.
Still, the Nest Learning Thermostat is no slouch; in addition to automatically learning your heating and cooling preferences, you can link it directly to other smart home devices through Nest's app. For example, when the thermostat turns to Away mode, it can automatically turn off your smart lights. Here are the best smart home devices that are compatible with Nest.
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The Ecobee4 has all the great things in the Ecobee3—such as its slick touchscreen interface, a small wireless sensor to make sure all your rooms are the right temperature, and compatibility with most major smart home systems. However, the Ecobee4 has one more feature: Alexa. A built-in speaker and microphone let you interact with Amazon's assistant as you would with the Echo or the Echo Dot. Still, the fact that I could get all of my rooms—not just one—to the right temperature makes all the difference.
The third version of this Google-owned thermostat has a larger and sharper display than its predecessor. Like before, the Nest Learning Thermostat can talk to hundreds of other smart home devices—from the Logitech Harmony remote to the Amazon Echo to the Nest Cam—so it can automatically change the temperature when someone comes home, or if you’re about to watch a movie. While it has a retro-style circular design, its brushed stainless steel finish and turning mechanism all feel premium. This thermostat combines the best of the past with the future.
|MORE: How to Connect a Nest Thermostat to Amazon Alexa|
The Honeywell RTH8580WF Wi-Fi Thermostat offers much of the same functionality as the Nest and Ecobee, but for less than half the price. While it looks like a run-of-the-mill thermostat on the outside, a Wi-Fi link lets you control this thermostat from your smartphone, just like the more expensive models. Plus, it can link to other smart home gadgets, such as smart locks, and can be controlled via voice. In all, it's a great bargain.
Honeywell is phasing out the RTH8580WF but the RTH6580WF ($87) provides similar capabilities, such as Alexa compatibility.
A less expensive alternative to the Ecobee3, the Ecobee3 Lite has many of the same functions, including a color touchscreen, intuitive interface and deep smart home integration. Ecobee also updated the Lite model to work with remote sensors (as with the full-price Ecobee4), so you can set it to keep the heat on until a room in a far corner of your house reaches a certain temperature.
Other Smart Thermostats We Reviewed
- Johnson Controls' GLAS thermostat ($279) has a cool-looking glass touchscreen, monitors air quality in your home, has Cortana built in, and works with Alexa. For all that, though, it left us feeling a bit cold.
- The Nest Thermostat E ($169) is another excellent smart thermostat for less than $200. It's easier to set up than the pricier Nest Learning Thermostat, but still has many of the same features.
- The Bosch BCC100 Thermostat has a large and colorful touchscreen, is easy to set up, and works with Alexa. At $144, it's a very good mid-range thermostat, but we prefer the Ecobee3 for its remote sensor and geofencing capabilities.
- The best aspect of the Honeywell Lyric ($211) is that it uses geofencing to know when to turn on and off. When linked to your smartphone, it will know when you’re nearing home, and start heating or cooling your abode so that it’s toasty warm--or refreshingly cool--by the time you walk in the front door.
- The Honeywell Lyric T5 ($129) has many of the same features as its pricier Lyric Round (Alexa and HomeKit integration, for one), but costs about half as much. You can control the T5 from Android or iOS devices, and geofencing will automatically turn your system on or off when you leave or arrive home. It can also learn and adapt to your home's heating and cooling cycles, and remind you to change the air filter. Like the Lyric, it also works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT.
How to Install a Smart Thermostat
For the most part, installing a thermostat, smart or not, is a fairly easy process, usually involving nothing more than a screwdriver and about half an hour of your time. Here's our video guide for installing a Nest thermostat, however, the procedure is similar for almost any thermostat.
How We Test Smart Thermostats
We install each thermostat in a home or apartment and live with it for at least one week, to see how it handles different conditions. This includes not just changing the temperature, but also evaluating its accompanying app and web portal, if available. If the thermostat works with other smart home devices or Web-connected services (such as Alexa), we test that functionality as well.