The 7 Best Smart Thermostats to Buy in 2017

You'll never be too hot or too cold again

Nest Learning Thermostat
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Smart or connected thermostats help save money because they can monitor temperature, humidity and adjust heating and cooling cycles. And you can control the entire system from your smartphone. In fact, many are even compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Samsung’s SmartThings, which allows for even greater functionality. If you’re looking to cut costs, add some technology and gain temperature control of your home, these connected thermostats are well worth the investment.

Compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice-control service (Alexa sold separately), the Nest is the industry’s best-known name and, with its stainless-steel frame, it's one of the best designed smart products available today. Once you finalize the fairly simple installation process (30 minutes or less), the Nest immediately begins learning how you move around your house, adjusting temperatures automatically based on time of day through a series of sensors, your smartphone or hundreds of other smart home devices, including smart remote controls and connected cameras such as the Dropcam Pro.

It's also equipped with Wi-Fi, so controlling the Nest from your smartphone, tablet or laptop is a breeze and with the app you can easily track energy history. Extras such as home/away help exercise the cost savings by monitoring when nobody is home and automatically adjusting temperatures accordingly to save energy. Once you re-enter the home, Nest’s Farsight tech will light up the 2.08-inch (480 x 480) display presenting you with the time, temperature and outside weather. With anticipated cost savings between 10 to 12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills, Nest expects its devices to pay for themselves within the first two years of purchase with an estimate of $131 to $145 savings per year.

Vine’s Wi-Fi programmable thermostat might not be the fanciest option, but it offers a slew of features without a hefty price tag. The inclusion of Wi-Fi connectivity pairs with the free smartphone application on both Android and iOS, so you can make quick and easy temperature changes. Compatible with most HVAC models, the Vine installs quickly with the included hardware so long as a C-wire is available to provide power to the thermostat. Once installed, the 3.5-inch LCD display on the Vine allows easy programming for up to seven days with eight periods of time each day for raising or lowering temperatures.

For those who want a more tangible temperature-adjusting experience, there's a physical dial present on the Vine. Looking past physical touch, the Vine’s budget-pricing hides some small, but fan-favorite extras such as hourly or five-day forecasts, humidity reports, a programmable nightlight, as well as service reminders to let you know when to change filters.

While the cost savings are no joke, value buyers should look to Honeywell’s Lyric T5 for a smaller up-front cost with the same saving opportunities that other connected thermostats provide. Thanks to Honeywell’s exclusive uwp wallplate, installation is a breeze with C-wire configuration. The outdated-looking display belies its value-pricing, but you can easily pair the device with a range of connected devices, including Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon Alexa. The T5 features seven-day programming, which adjusts the temperature on-demand anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi or cellular connection and it also reminds you to change the air filter.

Once you switch on Apple HomeKit, you can control it with both Siri and geofencing, the latter of which utilizes mapping software to institute a radius around the house. Once in place, the geofencing allows the Lyric T5 to know whether you are home or away, which helps the thermostat adjust temperatures accordingly for additional cost and energy savings. Amazon Alexa fans will equally love the voice control letting you adjust the temperature without lifting a finger.

With a built-in speaker and microphone for Amazon’s Alexa service (so you don't need a dedicated Echo or Echo Dot), it’s easy to see why the Ecobee4 is the best-integrated system. It also offers support for Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings, IFTTT and hundreds of more devices. With an average cost savings of 23 percent per year on heating and cooling, it’s a good thing the installation takes just a few minutes to be up and running.

Once installed, the Ecobee can do more than just adjust the temperature. For example, it can read the news, tell a joke or ordering a pizza with the pre-loaded 10,000 (and counting) Alexa skills. Beyond integration, room sensors help monitor hot and cold spots around the home to automatically adjust for more ideal conditions. The available smartphone app for both Android and iOS allows temperature adjustments, whether you're down the block or on the other side of the world.

With an array of physical sensors at its disposal, the Ecobee3 allows for highly accurate changes in heating and cooling a home. Beyond its attractive physical design and touchscreen, it’s also compatible with both Apple’s HomeKit, Samsung’s SmartThings and Amazon Alexa, the latter of which enables voice control. Still, the real highlight isn’t the integration, but the addition of up to 32 separate sensors that take notice of humidity changes and immediately adjust and re-comfort a room to a more desired temperature.

The large sensor volume is a key addition to the Ecobee3’s knowledge of which rooms are occupied or whether anyone is home, so it can continue to make energy adjustments that can add up to 23 percent of savings annually. With updates coming directly from the manufacturer, the device is always up-to-date with the latest software to help encourage a smarter, better-connected thermostat system. Additional support from a smartphone, tablet or computer on both Apple and Android offers the same control as other connected thermostats from anywhere in the world.

The Emerson Sensi features a dull, white frame that looks and feels very similar to your existing thermostat. Fortunately, it’s easy to install with the included C-wire (although you can also use two AA batteries to power if needed). Ultimately, the Sensi boils down to you telling it what you want out of temperature control and not the other way around ala systems like Nest or Ecobee that attempt to learn from your movement and behavior. 

Gone are the color LCD screen, proximity sensor and location tracking inside your home. The focus here is solely on setting, changing and scheduling the temperature from anywhere in the world courtesy of the Android and iOS smartphone applications. A custom seven-day scheduling option helps reduce unnecessary energy expenses, as well as saving on HVAC energy costs. The lone splurge with the Sensi is the integrated Amazon Alexa support for voice control, but it feels more of an add-on than an absolute necessity.

With good looks and a touchscreen display that’s easy to use, the Honeywell Wi-Fi smart thermostat is a good choice for voice control fans. Featuring support for Amazon’s Alexa service (Echo, Echo Dot sold separately), the model predates many of its competitors, but holds its own with a feature set that rivals more expensive options. Perks like a customizable touchscreen that can change colors to match your décor are good, but the free smartphone application for both Android and iOS helps you control temperature anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Choosing the programmable mode is the best way to save on annual heating and cooling costs. The one area where age impacts the Honeywell is the ability to learn your routine and adjust your temperature accordingly, but that’s hardly a deal breaker when the flip side is a best-in-class on-screen interface. With a setup process that asks questions about who is home during the day and preferred temperature when sleeping, the set-it-and-forget-it Honeywell is still punching above its weight to this day.

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