The Best Smart Thermostat for 2018 - Robo Authority

Best Smart Thermostats for 2018

Best Smart Thermostats

Last updated: April 18, 2018

Smart technology isn't yet smart enough to help you pick out the best thermostat for your particular use case. 

You'll still need to rely on good old fashioned deductive reasoning to figure out which device will work best in your home or place of work.

Fortunately, there's a lot of information that can help you cut through the confusion and figure out which unit is right for you.

In this guide we have listed several factors, which should help you pick the best smart thermostat for your home.

How to Choose the Best Smart Thermostat

factors for selecting the best smart thermostat

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    ​Climate automation and energy saving needs
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    ​Ease of use
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    Mobile app and web portal control
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    Energy use and savings reports
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    Integration with smart home systems
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    HVAC system compatibility
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    Alerts and reminders
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    Warranty
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    Technology maturity level
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    Privacy concerns

Climate Automation and Energy Savings

Probably one of the main reasons why you are considering the smart thermostat is to automate your home climate and at the same time save money by reducing energy consumption. Many smart thermostats offer just that - home climate automation features which makes your life much easier by automating your home climate and saving energy. For example, Nest learning thermostat, as the name suggests by using machine learning algorithms over time will learn your climate preferences and adjust it automatically.

Even more basic thermostats, like Emerson Sensi WiFi thermostat, have features allowing to adjust the temperature automatically by using a geofencing feature. This feature is following the GPS location of the associated mobile application. When the user leaves home, the thermostat will dial down the temperature for energy saving mode and will switch to comfort mode, when thermostat notices that the user is returning home.

Ease of Use

Many of the smart thermostat will have a great user interface, but certainly not all. If you don't want to go into countless menus and manually adjust the settings you need to consider this before selecting specific smart thermostat model. Learning thermostats like the Nest will learn your preferences over time and will require very minimum effort of adjusting the temperature manually. Usually, more basic thermostats will require more manual programming and settings adjustments, but most likely will be a less costly option.

Mobile App and Web Portal Control

Most of the smart thermostats will have a mobile application for the remote control of your home climate. Some of the smart thermostats will use mobile application for additional features, such as earlier mentioned geofencing feature.

Make sure that the mobile app is available for the specific type of smartphone or tablet you want to control your thermostat from too. It is especially important if you're using a Windows phone or a Blackberry device that doesn't come with support for the Apple and Android app stores.

You may be interested in looking for a Web-based interface, as these can be accessed from nearly any kind of device that has a modern browser. Not all of the smart thermostats have web portal capabilities, so if you need one, it is better to make sure particular model provides that possibility.

Insights Into Energy Use

Some of the smart thermostats provide quite detailed insights into the energy use. For example, the ecobee's web portal called HomeIQ will give very detailed energy usage and savings reports.

It contains information on how much homeowner has saved energy over time, rates how good is your house on energy tightness, how much your heating and cooling system ran and compared with other homeowners in your area.

Integration with Smart Home Systems

When getting the new smart thermostat, you probably would like to integrate with your existing smart home system. Even if you don't have one at the moment, it is a good idea to consider that for the future. You would want to be able to integrate your smart thermostat into the new smart home system once you got it.

Amazon Alexa

If you would like to control your home temperature with the voice commands you'd need to make sure it works with one or all of the popular voice assistants: Apple HomeKit/Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa. Besides reading the standard product description, it is recommended to search for the latest information on the internet for the particular product compatibility as it might be introduced recently.

HVAC System Compatibility

Your new smart thermostat will need to be able to control your current HVAC system, and therefore it is quite critical that they both compatible. One of the first things to check is C-Wire availability. If you don't have a C-Wire nor any extra wires in your wall to use as one, then you'll probably want to get a smart thermostat that doesn't require this extra power cord or use any of the workarounds.

Alerts and Reminders

You might be interested in thermostats that can tell you when your air filter is worn out. Some thermostats can do many things beyond merely set the temperature, and these features could be necessary depending on how you plan to use it.

Most homeowners don't know when the best time to change the filter or clean their HVAC system is, so these features might even encourage you to perform some maintenance tasks you may have been unfortunately neglecting.

Warranty

While it might not be the most exciting thing to read, you'll want to have a look at the warranty as well to make sure you have someone to call if things go wrong.

Jumping Early Onboard

Being an early adopter of some new type of technology can be exciting, but it might also be riddled with problems. For instance, Microsoft announced that they're working on a Cortana-powered smart thermostat that will be sold under the name GLAS. While it certainly looks like something out of a science fiction movie, it comes with a price tag that's over $300 and may not have all the bugs worked out of it yet.

Windows 10 devices have become popular in other IT segments, but Microsoft has struggled to deal with security problems related to the operating system. If you wait a while, then you might be able to snag this shiny new gadget once the price drops and Microsoft can patch every hole.

People who bought the Nest and ecobee3 thermostats when they first came out had to deal with similar issues as well as hefty price tags. You might even want to wait to buy a device right before a new major revision gets released. Mature equipment comes with all the firmware updates installed and might enjoy a considerable price reduction right as more modern equipment is getting phased in.

Once you have a thermostat installed, you won't need to replace it for hopefully years. You probably won't care much about which version of your thermostat you're using two or three years down the road as long as there are still firmware updates for it.

Considering Privacy Issues

When you connect any device to the Internet, it becomes a target for hackers. While it might not be the most comfortable thing to think about, security is an issue. You'll want to check to make sure whatever model you're considering going with hasn't suffered any major breaches in recent months.

Security isn't as much of an issue if you're not going to control it from an app or something similar, but you'll still want to ensure that any networked device you have connected are at least firewalled.

Our Pick of the Best Smart Thermostats

While there are many devices on the market today, we took the opportunity to narrow our choices down to the five best smart thermostats currently available to buyers.

Nest learning thermostat is well known on the market for its learning capabilities. Over time it learns your temperature preferences and by using machine learning algorithms starts automatically adjust your home climate. After several days you don't need to even worry about adjusting the temperature as the Nest thermostat should be able to keep up with managing it on its own.

This is already a 3rd generation of the Nest smart thermostat. While the 2nd Generation device is still a good pick for those who are interested in acquiring a Nest Learning Thermostat at a lower price, this new revision introduced some very important features. Chief among these is the larger higher-resolution display, which makes setting the thermostat much easier.

As with all of Nest's products, the learning thermostat is designed to support an integrated mobile app that's compatible with a dizzying array of devices. Nest Labs is part of the same family of companies as Alphabet is, so any future changes to the Google ecosystem will be backwards compatible with this smart thermostat for years to come.

Pros

  • Learns climate preferences over time
  • Large display
  • Offers some support for whole-house humidifiers and dehumidifiers
  • In many cases does not require C-Wire
  • Easy to install yourself and comes with all of the necessary parts

Cons

  • Does not have touchscreen capabilities
  • Not compatible with all 24 volt HVAC systems

Reviewing the ecobee4 is a bit of a challenge, and that's a good thing. All of ecobee's devices are part of smaller families. You could choose an ecobee4, ecobee3, ecobee3 Lite or any of the other variants and still expect to receive a consistent user experience. The main difference between the ecobee4 and the rest of the family is that ecobee4 comes with built-in Amazon Alexa-based voice control capabilities.

Far-field voice technology allows ecobee4 units with enabled voice control to hear users from across the room. By using a sophisticated algorithm that fluctuates the amount of time that the furnace and air conditioning units run, ecobee4 devices as any other latest ecobee thermostats can save upwards of 23 percent on heating and cooling costs over a hold of 72°F. While these impressive numbers aren't going to hold true for all users, they're a shade better than those offered by the competition.

Nevertheless, when you look at the ecobee4 you should also think of the ecobee3 and ecobee3 Lite as equivalent models.

Pros

  • Works with room sensors to manage hot or cold spots in a home
  • Supports Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant and even the Samsung SmartThings home automation integration package
  • Can control some extra HVAC accessories like HRV and ERV devices
  • Downloads weather maps to schedule the best settings for each week

Cons

  • Doesn't make use of Echo Spatial Perception
  • Sensors can sometimes be up to 4°F different from actual temperatures
  • Voice control module can't be used to end tasks

Honeywell has long been associated with the RTH9580WF thermostat, which is a good unit, but bound to a seven-day outlook calendar that doesn't measure up against some other more modern designs. While it still uses the seven-day system, this newer upgrade goes through a learning process that helps it figure out how long it takes for your home to reach a certain desired temperature. It then adopts itself accordingly.

For instance, if you wanted to have your home cooled to 82°F by the time you came home at 5:00 PM and it knew that it takes 10 minutes to get to that point, then it would start cooling your home at 4:50 PM. This means your HVAC system will stay off longer when using Honeywell's technology, which could also reduce the amount of wear and tear it suffers from regular use.

Pros

  • Takes less than 10 minutes to install over existing thermostat mount
  • Allows users to ask questions about the current temperature through a voice module
  • Shows a five-day weather forecast
  • Display is easy to read and offers a high pixel depth

Cons

  • Always requires a C-Wire to provide power for the unit
  • Documentation doesn't explain all facets of the thermostat in a clear and concise manner
  • Requires the unit to get named in order to work with Alexa-based smart home integration
  • Can be a challenge to configure network connection

With an iconic blue backlit display, it would be hard to confuse the Emerson Sensi Touch for any other unit on the market today. Opting for a full touchscreen interface that looks more futuristic than the designs technicians from Nest Labs and Honeywell seem to prefer, the Sensi certainly has pleasing aesthetics.

Emerson Sensi Touch ST75 thermostat works with Wink and HomeKit devices as well as Google Home, Amazon Alexa and a dizzying array of other smart home integration packages. On top of this, it offers alerts any time that the temperature or humidity levels in your home seem irregular. While it requires a C-Wire, the Sensi is compatible with a wider range of HVAC systems than even many traditional thermostats.

Pros

  • Intuitive menus don't require documentation because they're self-explanatory
  • Comes with mounting hardware and wire stickers
  • Mobile app walks new users through installation process

Cons

  • Delicate electronics might be easy to break during installation
  • Relatively high price comparing to the competition

While they're more famous for other devices, Honeywell's Lyric T5 is a good value for the price you'll pay for it. It works with an Alexa voice module or by using a specialize flat linear panel control that resembles a traditional LED display. It also works with Siri if you're networking your thermostat to anything working with Apple's ecosystem.

There really isn't much text beyond a few numbers before you tap one of the menus, which take you to various types of information screens. By hiding various details, the Lyric T5 is sure to keep you focused on what the most important issues are at any given moment.

It also comes with a genuine Energy Star certificate, which is important for many business owners who have to work with official Energy Star equipment because of standards.

Pros

  • Very simple and therefore easy to learn
  • Offers smart alerts as push notifications
  • Adaptive recovery technology figures out how long it takes to achieve certain temperature points
  • Uses geofencing  feature to adjust temperature automatically based on your location

Cons

  • May not work with all HVAC equipment
  • Requires a C-Wire

Which is the Best Smart Thermostat?

While all of these devices certainly have their target markets, the 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat is probably the choice that's going to appeal to the largest number of homeowners for its learning capabilities. It will allow you to set it and after few days forget about temperature adjustments.

Since it isn't all that new on the market, technicians at Nest Labs have been able to work all of the bugs out of it. The interface is also easy enough to use that those who haven't previously used a smart thermostat can still get something out of it. This makes it a good choice for those who are replacing an existing traditional thermostat in their home and are looking to upgrade to a new wireless networked model. It even has a couple of special features to keep you informed about the health of your AC unit and furnace.

That being said, you're always encouraged to weigh the pros and cons of all the various models and see which one might work best for you.