The “Smart” Choice

These days, it seems as if every device is “smart.” You might own a smart phone, a smart TV or a smart watch, but what about a smart thermostat? The first smart thermostat hit the market in 2010 and is now the corner stone of the new “smart home.” Still, to most, the devices are a mystery.

What the smart thermostat does:

Modern smart thermostats are comprised of three different components: a device attached to your A/C’s boiler unit, the traditional wall display unit, and a downloadable app.

These three components work together to produce a smart system that allows you to see and control your A/C system in a new and more in-depth way. From the app, owners can see data about their system in real time and control the temperature settings within their home remotely. This is extremely beneficial for people with hectic schedules and homeowners who want to know more about their energy usage.

Some types of smart thermostats, like the Nest learning thermostat, can monitor your home on their own. These thermostats collect humidity and temperature level data throughout the day, saving you the most energy without you doing anything at all. A smart thermostat can even use app connectivity to detect when you’re on your way home, learning your schedule to keep you comfortable at all times.

My current thermostat is working fine:

If you check your current digital thermostat every day, adjust the settings to accommodate the weather, and turn up the temperature every time you leave, you may be fine sticking with what you have.

For the micro-managing homeowner, a smart thermostat can seem like a frivolous purchase with no payback, but the data it collects is invaluable. Though you may monitor your digital thermostat like a hawk, your home’s atmosphere is a mystery when you leave. A smart thermostat is a treasure trove of information that can be used to drop your energy bill even lower.

Smart thermostats don’t come cheap, though. A smart thermostat can set you back $500 and some models require a contractor’s installation. Still, the EPA found that programable smart thermostats can save up to $128 a year in electricity. Long-term homeowners or renters looking to take their thermostat with them will see returns in their investment over time.

What’s on the market:

The three biggest names on the market, Nest, Honeywell and Ecobee are popular for a reason. Each company offers its own unique system to suit a variety of homeowners.

The Nest Learning thermostat has a minimalist design that will learn your schedule. This thermostat is easy to install— all assembly parts come with the thermostat, including a screwdriver and a plate to cover any marks left by an old display—but Nest also connects customers with reputable installers to make the process even easier. Not to mention, Nest has been creating smart thermostats since 2011 and have been improving their product for the past six years.

Honeywell’s Wi-Fi smart thermostat is the perfect answer to Nest’s smart system. Homeowners looking for a larger, more interactive display can find it at Honeywell for only $200. Though this thermostat may not “learn” like the Nest, the programable device is great for people who want to stay in control and is pre-set to save you money. It’s display panel sleek and easy to use, allowing homeowners to connect more directly with the system itself.

Ecobee systems are the cheapest on this list, but work just as well. Each Ecobee thermostat comes with a step-by-step installation guide that the website claims only takes 30 minutes to follow. You can also save a purported 23 percent on heating and cooling each year, with free monthly reports sent directly from Ecobee to help you save even more.