The Nest Learning Thermostat jump-started the smart thermostat market over a half decade ago. These days however, Nest isn’t the only game in town, and the competition is fiercer than ever. Nearly every major thermostat manufacturer now has a ‘smart’ model, and prices have dropped to a point where any homeowner can afford them.
Of all the smart home devices, the thermostat potentially has the best return on investment. Optimizing your heating and cooling can turn into real savings over time. They learn your daily schedule, can adjust the temperature of individual rooms, and anticipate heating and cooling needs based on the weather outside. You can even control your thermostat away from home through an app. But even with more affordable options, cheapest isn’t always the best. Below are a few of the best smart thermostats.
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)
Why you should buy it: Now in its third generation, the original smart thermostat still is the best of the best.
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:
We really like the Nest Learning Thermostat because of its learning capabilities. After you install the device and set the temperature you like, the thermostat does the rest. Nest takes 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. With the third-generation model, a new set of sensors called Farsight make this even more accurate.
Farsight detects when you enter a room or walk past it up to five meters away, a significant improvement over earlier models. Additionally, up to 10 additional sensors can monitor temperatures in other rooms, further optimizing your heating and cooling. You can monitor temperature from a much further distance thanks to a 3.25” screen, a half inch bigger than previous models.
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 budget buyers
Nest Thermostat E
Why you should buy this: Can’t afford the Nest Learning Thermostat? Nest has another option for you.
Who’s it for: Budget-conscious buyers who still want lots of functionality.
How much will it cost: $169
Why we picked the Nest Thermostat E:
Nest was seeing a lot of price pressure from its competitors after nearly a half decade at the top of the heap, and that’s likely one of the main reasons for the Nest Thermostat E. Cheaper than the Learning Thermostat at $80, it retains a good deal of its functionality at the same price point as most mid-range competitors, even though Nest has ditched the iconic metal enclosure for cheaper plastic.
That’s not to say it looks cheap. If you have white or light-colored walls, the E blends in. The choice to place a diffuse plastic film over the screen gives an almost watercolor-like effect to the display, maintaining its overall subtleness. You won’t get Farsight or some internet-connectivity features, but to be honest we don’t think you’ll miss them.
You’ll still get the learning features of the more expensive models. It works with other Nest and third-party devices. We firmly believe (at least right now) that the Nest Thermostat E is the cheapest smart thermostat out there that is actually worth buying.
The best Alexa-enabled thermostat
Why you should buy this: Don’t want to buy an Echo? This thermostat has Alexa built in.
Who’s it for: Anyone looking to add voice control to their smart home.
How much will it cost: $249
Why we picked the Ecobee4:
Ecobee3 was one of our previous favorites for large homes, as it allows you to add up to 32 (no, that’s not a typo) sensors to monitor conditions in large spaces. The Ecobee4 is essentially the same thermostat in functionality and design, but with an important addition: Amazon’s Alexa voice service.
This makes the Ecobee4 an especially good deal. It’s almost like getting an Echo for free considering $249 seems to be the go-to price for high-end smart thermostats these days, and an Echo can be anywhere from $50 to $230 more depending on the model you want. If Alexa doesn’t tickle your digital assistant fancy, both Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit support is available too.
Where Ecobee still feels a step behind is in its learning capabilities, which is the reason why we’ll still give the edge to Nest. Yes, Alexa is a good feature, but you need to remember that the speaker itself is pretty small and on the back of the device, making it okay for voice queries but not an option to listen to music or anything like that.
We would recommend this unit over the Nest to those who might not already have an Echo. Digital assistant technology is one of those things that you just don’t know how convenient it is until you’ve tried it. Putting it in a thermostat is a pretty neat idea, since it’s always located in a central spot in your home.
Our Ecobee4 full review
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:
In a nutshell, the Honeywell Lyric 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.
Our Honeywell Lyric full review
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: £110
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.
Should you buy now or wait?
The holiday shopping season is here, and if you want to maximize your savings this season, now is a good time to look for sales to buy a smart thermostat. However, keep in mind that post-holiday sales aren’t terribly far away. 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.
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 Amazon Alexa and Apple 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.