Thermostats have certainly come a long way. After years of stagnation where the only major innovation was from analog to digital control interfaces, thermostats are now every bit as sophisticated as other computerized systems. In fact, the sheer complexity of the current product market may be overwhelming to the average consumer.
To help narrow down the decision, this guide will discuss several of the most popular thermostats for common heating and cooling needs:
Nest Learning Thermostat
Now in its official 2nd generation, the Nest thermostat was the product to revolutionize the industry and redefine what people expected out of their thermostat. Its crowning feature is its “learning” capability, where it automatically reprograms itself according to the habits of the home’s residents.
A motion sensor detects when people are home or absent, and the schedule makes minor adjustments accordingly to try to sync up to your household’s natural rhythms and the current weather patterns. The sensor also automatically interrupts the programmed schedule by readjusting when people come home or leave.
Nest’s geofencing capability (pioneered by the competing Honeywell Lyric thermostat) also detects your smartphone’s position and turns the HVAC system on when you arrive within a few miles of your home, having everything nice and comfortable by the time your keys hit the front lock.
Wi-Fi enabled features allow users to tweak the Nest’s settings anywhere in the world from their smartphone or computer. They can monitor their home’s current temperature and schedule in real-time.
Nest was created and engineered by Tony Fadell, who helped design the groundbreaking first generations of the Apple iPod. Remnants of the iPod’s “clickwheel” design can be seen in Nest’s minimalistic and intuitive single hub design. A color LCD screen displays all needed information, including real-time weather information and scheduling options.
In short, the Nest can bump your home HVAC system’s functionality to a whole new level. It is quite pricey at around $250, but it can save users between 20-30% a month on heating and cooling bills.
The market did not take long to respond to Nest’s disruptive innovations. Many other manufacturers tried to imitate or top the Nest’s features and offer consumers more choices. ecobee3 is one of those products, rivaling the Nest in just about every category.
One thing that the ecobee does better is accommodate temperature differences throughout the house. Most thermostats have sensors on the unit itself, which may not be representative of the temperature in the rest of the house. For instance, an office upstairs may get particularly hot during the summer or a baby’s room may get uncomfortably cold during winter months.
To account for these differences, ecobee3 syncs with remote wireless sensors that detect both motion and temperature for each room. The system comes packed in with one sensor, and it can be synced with up to 32 of them for full-home temperature control. Each sensor has a 45ft range and a coin cell battery estimated to last up to four years.
ecobee3 works by averaging the temperatures across the house and activating based on this reading. A “Follow Me” feature can also be used to detect occupant’s movement throughout the house. As the sensors pick up a person in the room, the reading switches to that room’s temperature levels rather than the average.
This feature comes along with Nest’s other capabilities such as a control app, Wi-Fi connectivity, smart learning features, an intuitive touchscreen interface and real time weather data. It costs $250 with a pack-in sensor, and additional sensors come in sets of two at $76.
Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat
Honeywell has plenty of products to compete with the Nest, namely the Lyric and their Wi-Fi Smart. However, for those looking with Wi-Fi functionality but at a more budget-friendly price, the RTH6580WF Wi-Fi model offers smartphone control and Wi-Fi connectivity for more than $100 less than the Nest.
You will not find geofencing, learning adjustments, real-time weather or even a touchscreen here, but you do get a competent 7-day programming option that can be precision-controlled from your computer or mobile device.
Anyone looking for an even better deal on programmable thermostats that only wants 5-2 programming (one schedule for the work week, and another schedule for the weekend) can opt for the Honeywell RTH2300B1012/A that can be found for as little as $30 at some retailers.
This product is a bit out-of-the-ordinary compared to the others. It is not a home central HVAC thermostat, but rather an outlet-based one that is designed for plug-in devices.
The WIN100 is perfect for people who use window AC units, space heaters or similar products and wants a finer degree of control over their temperature settings. While many of these products have thermostats of their own, they tend to be inaccurate or sluggish to respond to temperature changes.
By comparison, WIN100 is quick, accurate and has a 5-2 programming schedule to set your AC or space heater to automatically turn on or off when you need it to. Who would have thought a plug-in heater could ever be so fancy?
Honeywell RTH5100B 1025 Deluxe Manual Thermostat
So, you have read all the hubbub about programmable thermostats and still think that they are not for you. That, or you have a heat pump and know that they need special wiring and control switches to work properly, making most programmable interfaces out of the question.
For anyone who wants a completely no-frills “push a button and it’s done” thermostat, this is the one for you. You may not see the monthly energy savings that other systems tout, but you will prevent episodes of confusion or outright frustration when your teeth are chattering and you just want the heat to kick on then and there.
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