Being cold in your home is rarely ideal. Thankfully, the market for smart thermostats has been growing ever since Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers first unveiled the Nest Learning Thermostat four years ago, ushering in a new wave of connected devices that had more or less been overlooked, in the effort to revolutionize the home of the 21st century.
The self-aware devices pack far more capabilities than their older counterparts — such as the ability to learn your daily schedule, adjust the temperature of individual rooms, and anticipate your heating and cooling needs in conjunction with the local forecasts — while boasting connectivity with your smartphone or tablet.
Below are a few of our favorites, from Nest to Netatmo, so you can run a more efficient system and cut back on exuberant costs. Well, at least until the cold snap hits.
Why you should buy it: The original smart thermostat, Nest does a good job of learning your habits and saving you money.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants to start smartening up their home to save money
How much will it cost: $249
Why we picked the Nest Learning Thermostat:
Nest’s Learning Thermostat really does learn. After you initially install the device — a process that’s fairly simple regardless of your heating and cooling system — you can set a desired temperature for your home. The thermostat will then take note of how you move around your house throughout the week, adjusting the various temperature settings according to the time of day and your habits. It will also automatically log and apply said settings when suitable, and showcase the amount of time it will take to get your house to your desired temperature.
Nest’s bevy of sensors will detect when you’re not home and adjust accordingly. That’s important, because when you leave with your phone, the babysitter and your kid won’t be plunged into chillier temperatures. The thermostat also works with sensors in other Nest products to get a better idea of when the house is actually empty, too.
Like any good friend, the device will offer suggestions designed to save you money. Its ability to adjust the temperature of your home a half hour before you arrive from work only furthers its intuitiveness.
Thanks to ‘Works with Nest,’ the thermostat integrates with a lot of other smart home products, allowing you to create scenes, like bedtime: Your lights turn off, the door locks, and the temperature lowers. The latest version also works with Amazon’s Alexa, so you can tell her when you’re too hot and have the Nest respond.
The best thermostat for big homes
Why you should buy this: The Ecobee3 gives the Nest a run for its money in terms of looks and features.
Who’s it for: Anyone who has a bigger house that could benefit from independent sensors.
How much will it cost: $249
Why we picked the Ecobee3:
The Ecobee3 monitors your position in your home much like the Nest Learning Thermostat, sure, but it does so utilizing physical sensors you place in different rooms. The remote sensors allow for more accurate changes in heating and cooling throughout your home, which, in turn, saves you money because it restricts heating and cooling to the spaces in your home you utilize the most (i.e. your kitchen, living room, bedroom). That definitely gives it a leg-up over the Nest for larger homes, because you can add on up to 32 separate sensors.
The slick Ecobee3 has an attractive design and touchscreen, so it looks nice hanging on the wall. If you don’t want to use the touchscreen, it also works with both HomeKit and Alexa, so you can control it with voice commands, and it’s one of five thermostats to work with Samsung’s SmartThings.
It also takes notice of humidity, and if you have a humidifier, the thermostat will automatically adjust it to best accommodate your situation. And if you don’t, it will simply tweak the temperature to keep you satisfied, whether you’re at home or away.
The best thermostat with HomeKit
Why you should buy it: Honeywell has been in the thermostat game a long time, and the Lyric was the first smart thermostat to take on Nest.
Who’s it for: Anyone with a HomeKit household
How much will it cost: $200
Why we picked the Honeywell Lyric Round:
In a nutshell, the Honeywell Lyric Round taps into your location and local weather forecasts via Wi-Fi. The circular device will then anticipate potential temperature changes and compensate for the weather, while offering a host of shortcut settings for straightforward programming and operation.
The thermostat features three standard modes — one for when you’re sleeping, one for when you’re leaving your home, and another for when you’re arriving — all of which you can adjust using the mobile app for iOS and Android devices.
The device will adjust accordingly to save you the maximum amount of money, but if you prefer to work outside the box, you can set custom settings to fit your household. Honeywell makes three of the five thermostats that work with SmartThings, including the Lyric. Much like the new Nest, it works with Alexa, but it can also work with HomeKit, which something we can’t say for Google’s Nest thermostat.
The best thermostat for the U.K.
Why you should buy it: This smart thermostat is compatible with a wide range of heating options commonly found outside the U.S.
Who’s it for: Anyone not in the U.S. market looking for an easy-to-install option
How much will it cost: £140
Why we picked the Netatmo Thermostat:
Though Netatmo’s thermostat isn’t available in the United States — at least not yet — it’s too promising not to list. It’s a smart thermostat with a penchant for design, including in a modern exterior build that requires you to press on the entirety of the frame in order to adjust the temperature, as opposed to a slew of physical buttons. It also showcases five interchangeable colors, meaning you can switch it to fit whatever motif you want, and it pairs with your Wi-Fi network and smartphone using a mobile app.
The boxy device predicts the start of various heating periods, too, taking into account local weather patterns and your household’s insulation for the optimal temperature at any point during the day or night.
The Netatmo works with gas, fuel, wood boilers, and heat pumps, and the company recently introduced beautifully designed, smart radiator knobs that give the thermostat even more functionality.
The best cheap thermostat
Why you should buy this: Though it’s $80 cheaper than other options on this list, it still has great features.
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a smart thermostat under $200
How much will it cost: $169
Why we picked the Ecobee3 Lite:
It looks very similar to its more expensive sibling, and the Ecobee3 Lite has a 3.5-inch touchscreen at its core. You tap it to see the weather or change your settings or schedules, and you can also do all that from the iOS or Android app. There are three modes – heat, cool, and auto – and the thermostat learns your preferences over time.
The main thing the Ecobee3 Lite is lacking when compared to the regular Ecobee3 is the remote sensors. That means it relies on the temperature of whatever room it’s installed in, instead of taking into account what’s going on all over the house.
Still, it’s a smart thermostat with an intuitive app and it works with all kinds of systems: Alexa, HomeKit, SmartThings, IFTTT, and Wink. If you’re looking for a thermostat to integrate into your smart apartment without breaking the bank, the Ecobee3 Lite is a great choice.
Should you buy now or wait?
Winter is coming, and if you want to get ahead of the curve and maximize your savings this season, now is a good time to buy a smart thermostat. However, keep in mind that Black Friday isn’t terribly far away, and last year Nest, for example, offered a $50 discount on its thermostat. Another thing to keep in mind is that Ecobee just released the Lite version of its thermostat, and that low price might have an affect on other manufacturers, but that remains to be seen.
Now is currently a good time to buy.
How we test
Smart thermostats aren’t just about how well they regulate temperature; they’re also about saving money and changing temperatures at the right time. When we test them, we take into account several factors, including ease of installation, ease of use, how well they do their job, and whether or not we saw any cost savings during testing.
There’s always a learning period with smart thermostats, so we take those into account and then see how well they do at tracking our comings and goings. Thermostats are often seen as the center of smart ecosystems, so we also test their integrations with lights, locks, and other devices they’re compatible with.
With the addition of compatibility with Alexa and HomeKit, we also see how well the do with voice commands. Overall, we’re looking to see how well these thermostats do with cost savings and how often we have to interact with them once they’ve supposedly learned our habits.
If we’re unable to test a thermostat ourselves, we do our best to scour the web for other reviews and information, so we can provide you the best recommendations.