Whether you power your home with electricity, heating oil, gas, solar power, geothermal energy, or some other source, the energy you use to heat and cool your home is undoubtedly a huge part of your household budget. Lowering those costs is something we all want to do!
One of the best ways to do that is by using a programmable or smart thermostat, which raises and lowers the temperature in the house according to your activities. Going out for the day? The thermostat raises (or lowers) the temperature, using less energy while you’re gone. Some models even adjust to account for variable rates from energy companies that charge more during peak usage times.
Is it time to trade in your old-fashioned thermostat for a newer model? Check out these three options to see if one of them is right for you.
1. The Nest
The Nest is one of the darlings of the thermostat world (if there is such a thing). It was a big hit at CES 2012, where our own Ashley Esqueda was able to see what all the fuss is about. The big deal about this particular thermostat, which sells for $249, is that after about a week of use, the device actually learns your habits. It then creates a program to meet your energy needs in the most efficient way possible. You can also control it from your smartphone or web browser, even when you’re not at home.
But the Nest isn’t simply a thermostat that monitors and adjusts the temperature. It also measures things such as ambient light, humidity, and motion, ultimately using any information it gleans to fine-tune its program. If it detects that you’re not home on, say, a Sunday afternoon, it adjusts accordingly, even if the standard program dictates otherwise. If you have multiple Nest units in your home, they will communicate via wifi to coordinate schedules for the different parts of your house.
While some reviewers have complained that the Nest isn’t actually very good at learning schedules, especially complex ones, most agree that it generally does what it sets out to do. The design is sleek, inside and out, and the ability to control your thermostat from anywhere is a definite plus. If you find that you’d prefer to set the Nest’s schedule yourself, you can simply pause the learning mode and do so.
2. Smart Thermostat from Ecobee
Canadian company Ecobee’s Smart Thermostat is similar in functionality to the Nest. Since it’s wifi-enabled, you can control it from any web browser or your smartphone (download Ecobee Smart Thermostat for iPhone or Android). The LCD touchscreen interface includes programming functions, an energy conservation mode, and even five-day weather forecasts.
The major downside of the Ecobee Smart Thermostat is cost and an intimidating installation procedure. Unlike the Nest, which can be installed by just about anyone, the Smart Thermostat generally requires installation by a professional. This is because it actually has two parts: the equipment interface, which connects directly to your furnace, humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, and any other environmental control units you have, and the thermostat itself, which replaces your current thermostat unit.
You can install this device on your own if you want, as long as you’re not afraid of messing about with wiring. Ecobee recommends having a pro do the installation. The Smart Thermostat itself retails for about $469, and installation generally requires at least a couple of hours of labor. Most reviewers agree, however, that the Smart Thermostat is well worth the cost.