As we approach the spring months, it can be freezing one day, and 70 degrees the next; regardless of what's going on outside, a smart thermostat can make sure it's comfortable indoors, what's more, you can control a smart thermostat from your smartphone, and it 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.
After testing a dozen models, the best smart thermostat is the Ecobee4 ($229) for one main reason: It comes with a wireless sensor you can place in a remote room in your house—such as one that doesn't heat or cool as fast—and lets you set the Ecobee to keep the system on until that room comes up to the temperature you want. Plus, the Ecobee4 has Alexa built in, so you can interact with Amazon's voice assistant without purchasing an Echo or an Echo Dot. The cheaper Ecobee3 Lite ($164) has pretty much everything the Ecobee4 does, but without Alexa built in, and you'll need to purchase the remote sensor separately (a two-pack is $78).
If you're looking for something under $100, then we recommend the Honeywell RTH6580WF 7-Day Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat. It's not as fancy as the Ecobee, but it works with many smart home systems, and can be controlled from your smartphone.
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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 RTH6580WF 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.
If you don't have central air conditioning, then it's a bit harder to regulate the temperatures in your home during the summer. The Sensibo Sky works with most window- and wall AC units that have IR remotes, and lets you create schedules for when they should turn on and off. It even has geofencing, so it can turn your AC on as you get home. Now that's cool.
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.