Smart Thermostat Reviews - Warm Your Home Wirelessly

The number one culprit when it comes to high energy bills is climate control. Heating and cooling are massive power hogs and getting the settings right so that everyone is comfortable while not using more power than necessary is something that is simply beyond the control of mere mortals.

One of the best things to come out of the home automation revolution is the smart home thermostat. Not only does it give you fine control over your home’s energy bill, it also let’s you ensure that everyone has a comfortable environment.

Ever since the Nest broke this market wide open the competition has been heating up (pun intended) and prices are more competitive than ever.

I’ve collected some of the most popular smart thermostats here for a good looking-over. My best choices are at the very top and the ones I’m more lukewarm on are in no particular order.

Best Overall: Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

This is the product that started the whole smart thermostat revolution. Well, this is the third generation of that original. Although I would like to be controversial and say that another smart thermostat has knocked the Nest off the top, I can’t, because it’s not true. The Nest is still the king and its feature set is still the standard against which the whole product category is measured, in my opinion.

The main feature of the Nest is of course its learning ability. You don’t have to program the Nest – it learns from the way your household uses it and starts to anticipate the needs of the people in the house. It also knows when no one is home and doesn’t waste power controlling the temperature in empty rooms.

The average installation time is 30 minutes and the Nest is compatible with a wide array of heating systems. The best part is that there is a 24/7 helpline in case you get stuck, so no sweat.

Apart from the beautiful modern design and intuitive control system you can also manage the heat from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Feedback on the Nest from customers is basically flawless and as far as I can see any problems that people do experience, Nest jumps on immediately. They really seem committed to dominating the market and that can only be good for us as consumers.

Second Pick: ecobee3 Smarter Wireless Thermostat

The ecobee 3 is probably the closest thing to the Nest you can buy and comes priced at a similar level. It also takes a minimalist approach to the display and also sports a more futuristic modern design, as both companies try to shy away from the industrial design norm of the HVAC industry.

The whole value proposition of the ecobee is how smart it is supposed to be. The system is designed to work with a number of smart external sensors that you can purchase separately and place throughout your home or business. The ecobee uses data from these sensors plus a bunch of other sources to work out what’s best for your thermostatic needs.

According to the company the average energy saving is 23%, so the ecobee will pay for itself sooner rather than later.

What all of this comes down to is that the ecobee is also a learning thermostat just like the Nest. It costs about the same, looks similar, and also works with Alexa from Amazon.

This particular model is also Homekit enabled, so if you have already bought into that ecosystem the ecobee becomes a no-brainer.

It’s hard to decide if this or the Nest is the better choice. People who have bought it put forward some strong arguments as to why this is the way to go. There are some negatives, though. The sensors are awesome, but their range is abysmal at only 45 feet. The other issue is that when software bugs or other issues show up it seems that ecobee isn’t as quick to fix it as Nest is. Of course, after-sale service quality is something that varies with time, but I get the feeling Nest is giving 200% in this area. Whichever you buy, I’m certain both will work great, but if you want a more nuanced temperature control system, the ecobee with multiple sensors is probably the way to go. The Nest still wins on grounds of simplicity.

Nest Alternative Pick: Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable 1F86U-42WF

While the Nest is certainly the future of home climate control, not everyone is quite ready to cross over into full internet-enabled home appliances or to shell out nearly $300 for a thermostat. The Sensi promises to help you transition between the old and the new. With a price nearly a third of the Nest it also won’t hurt your wallet as much, either.

Sensi claims that their product is the most widely compatible thermostat and will plug into existing systems universally. If you never connect WiFi to the Sensi you won’t tell the difference between it and any other modern digital thermostat.

If you do decide to hook it into the 21st century you’ll find a free app for both iOS and Android that will allow you to remotely control the Sensi. You can schedule a seven-day temperature program, which can save you a bit on your power bill if you do it right.

The Sensi may not have any of the learning features that makes the Nest so special, but it will still work with home automation software such as Amazon’s Alexa and you get all the other advantages the “smart” bit of the name brings.

The Sensi comes in both a Pro and a DIY version, so be sure to get the right one, since the DIY costs a smidge more. This is a solid choice if the Nest is not your cup of tea.

There are actually quite a few people who have switched from the Nest to this, citing better reliability or a simpler, more straightforward control system. Personally I think that the issue has more to do with the fact that the Nest takes control away from the user, which I think some people aren’t ready for, while for the rest of us that’s exactly what we want. Between these two you’re sure to find something that suits both your comfort level and your wallet.

Best of Both Pick: ecobee Smart Si Thermostat 2

This product from ecobee doesn’t quite have the flashiness of the flagship product that they have put into competition with the Nest, but it is still a significant step above the simple, boring units we’ve also seen here. The Smart Si does not have a touch screen interface, but rather just a display with some physical buttons.

That’s not really a negative, though, since most people would prefer to operate it from their smart devices using WiFi; even on the Nest and ecobee3 I don’t think the onboard controls see much use at all.

The Smart Si has a nice little full color display that gives you the most important info that you need at a glance. This also includes things like the current external weather. You get a lot of the same features that the more expensive model provides. The most important of these is the automatic learning ability that we’ve only really seen on the new generation of smart thermostats. For $100 less than a Nest or ecobee3 you can get 90% of that functionality. At the same time, the actual wall unit is no more intimidating than the simple low-end units we see in this market. To me this thermostat is a nice bridge between the two extremes of smart thermostats. It’s a pretty good one to go with if you can’t make up your mind.

Top Budget Choice: Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi

While smart thermostats like the Nest, ecobee, and even Honeywell’s own touchscreen are futuristic powerhouses, none of that flashy stuff is actually necessary to have smart thermostat features in your home.

This programmable WiFi thermostat from Honeywell does away with all the window dressing and gives you just the minimum. It has a basic green LCD display and a design that fits in with HVAC stuff from the 90s. OK, it is pretty ugly, but it is also very cheap compared to the likes of the Nest and ecobee 3.

So what do you get in terms of features? Well, obviously you can control the thermostat using a smartphone or tablet – which is good because it means you can hide this thing behind a curtain or something and never use it directly ever again.

While you can program the thermostat yourself, it comes with some energy saving presents that Honeywell say will knock as much as 33% off the bill. I’m not sure that’s necessarily as much as you’ll save, but given how much cheaper this basic unit is, it will also pay for itself much more quickly than a Nest.

Most people seem to be quite happy with these, although there are some complaints that changing the WiFi password makes things unnecessarily complicated. It may not be as sophisticated as the Nest or ecobee, but for most people, most of the time, this will be perfectly adequate and is a good entry into something better than a simple “dumb” thermostat.

Honeywell RTH9580WF Wi-Fi Smart Touchscreen Thermostat

In the world of high-end technological products you don’t get much bigger than Honeywell. They may not be a household name in consumer level products, but spend any time in science and engineering and you encounter their products all the time.

This touchscreen WiFi thermostat definitely looks the business. The silver unit may not win any design awards, but it would look at home in just about any corporate boardroom. Since the interface on this product is completely touch-based I can’t fault Honeywell too much for making it uninteresting. After all, in the end, from the user’s perspective it’s just a square screen on the wall.

Honeywell lets you access and control the thermostat through its own Total Comfort Connect Service which can be accessed from the usual suspects such as smartphones and tablets.

Because it uses a full touchscreen the Honeywell displays a wealth of information. It’s like the polar opposite of the Nest in this way. Where the Nest goes for the absolute minimum in its interface, the Honeywell shows you everything you could want to see. One of the frequent criticisms I see about the Nest is that it only shows you the set temperature and not the current real temperature. The Honeywell shows you this and a 100 other things. The flip side of this is that it makes it much less attractive and intrinsically less user friendly. That’s not to say that it is user UNfriendly, just that in comparison it is more complicated.

What is cool about it is that you can customize the colors used on the screen to match the color scheme of the room, so it makes it easier to blend the thermostat in with everything else. I also like that you can lock the device with a password so that the other people in the area can’t just mess with the temperature once it is all locked in. Like the other smart thermostats I review here, the Honeywell is fully programmable so that you can save on energy costs, but of course it’s all manual with no automatic learning like the Nest’s.

The Honeywell is a feature-rich device from an established company and is priced well below what Nest is asking. If you don’t mind (or actually want) the complex information and control level, then this is a fine alternative to the current darling of smart thermostats.

2gig CT100 Z-Wave Programmable Thermostat Review

It seems that Honeywell is not the only company that has a good handle on building smart thermostats that look utterly boring.

This unit doesn’t use WiFi, but rather the proprietary Z-wave protocol which is mostly used for lighting control. These days, however, there are quite a few devices that will work with Z-wave, and if you have already bought into other devices that supports the protocol you may already be interested in the CT100.

The CT10 has a very basic design, but actually employs a touchscreen and takes up very little space.

One neat thing about this thermostat is that it doesn’t need to be hooked up to a c-wire for mains power. It will run off AA batteries and the 2gig claims a 2-year battery life. In practice, though, this claim seems very optimistic. A few months off a set of AA batteries is nothing to be sniffed at though, especially considering the rather bright screen.

This thermostat seems to be perfectly good and satisfactory in the eyes of the people who have bought it, and it is priced well. What bothers me is that Z-wave protocol isn’t nearly as useful as simply using WiFi, which makes this very hard to recommend over the basic Honeywell at the same price. The only way I could is if I had already bought a bunch of Z-wave stuff and it made sense to hook it up to a thermostat in the first place.

Honeywell Z-Wave Enabled Programmable Thermostat

Now we have a Z-wave enabled Honeywell unit – another more basic unit. There’s no color display on this guy, although it is touch enabled. Unlike the sub-$100 unit, this has a large, more easily readable screen.

A Z-wave hub controller and c-wire is an absolute requirement, so this makes sense as a replacement for an existing Z-wave system, but I wouldn’t bother if building from scratch, since you have to buy a bunch of other hardware to get this to work at all, whereas a WiFi-based system will simply work out of the box and let you use your phone or tablet. This is just too much hassle, in comparison.

Honeywell Lyric TH8732WF5018 WiFi

The first thing that strikes me about the Lyric from Honeywell is that it is the only other round smart thermostat I’ve seen at this end of the market, other than the Nest. In fact, I get a real Nest vibe from the whole thing, although I doubt anyone could argue that it looks as good as the Nest.

That’s not to say that the Lyric doesn’t look great. It has a definite maritime vibe to it and I think in the right sort of environment it will look fantastic.

It’s got some neat features too. It has something called “Smart Cues”, which sends you maintenance messages about your HVAC system if it looks like things are starting to need attention from a repair person. It also has a neat geofencing features where it uses your smartphone to track your movement and adjusts the temperature accordingly, so the energy expended on heating doesn’t end up heating no one.

Of course, it has apps that you can use to control it as well, and the level of temperature control is also more precise than that of the Nest.

There are quite a few bugs though, the worst of which seems to be with the geofencing feature, which won’t detect that you are home under certain conditions, such as being on the phone when you cross the boundary.

The main reason that this thermostat doesn’t really appeal to me is the lack of learning features and the high price. There are a few cheaper models, some of which are made by Honeywell, that do the same stuff for less. This is a product clearly designed to compete with the Nest, but lacks the most important draw for that device, which is the automatic learning feature. If you are going to spend this much money on a smart thermostat, you may as well buy the Nest or the ecobee3.

The Smart Choice

We sure have come a long way from the simple mechanical thermostats of yesteryear. Climate control is probably one of the places home automation is felt in the most obvious way; for many people, a smart thermostat will be the first part of the home automation puzzle that they purchase. The market is not yet overflowing with good choices, but it is clear that the good choices we do have are already mature products that do what they basically promise to do. The upside of smart thermostats is that even if you purchase one today, the manufacturer can still fix many bugs or add additional features over the air. So you are actually less likely to be left in the lurch if any serious issues made it through testing.

I’m almost 100% sure one of the units I’ve chosen to list here will be perfect for someone. Usually I find many products that are straight-up junk, but with smart thermostats I have found it is rather a question of good versus great; not good versus bad. So go ahead and give these great new gadgets a chance, or you can risk being left out in the cold.