Did your first utility bill of the winter give you a big shock? 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 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.
Latest Smart Thermostat News
- Microsoft's Cortana-powered thermostat, the GLAS, will be available for preorder in May. It's a pricey $319, but has a translucent touchscreen display. It will be powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410E processor, and run Windows 10 IoT operating system.
- Ecobee announced that its smart thermostats now work with Google Assistant. Consumers who have a Google Home can now use voice commands to change the temperature on the Ecobee3, Ecobee3 Lite, and Ecobee4 thermostats.
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.
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.
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.
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
- The best aspect of the Honeywell Lyric ($189) 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 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 We Test Smart Thermostats
I installed—or had installed—several smart thermostats in my apartment, and tested them separately for at least one week. This included not just changing the temperature, but also evaluating its accompanying app and web portal, if available. If the thermostat worked with other smart home devices or Web-connected services (such as IFTTT), I tested that functionality as well.
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