When we think of heating and cooling systems, we don’t normally associate them with smart technology. In the past few years, however, there’s been a major change in how we can control the temperature in our homes with the help of smart thermostats. So how do you determine whether a smart thermostat is the right choice for your home? Read on to learn exactly what it does and whether it can help you save money on your heating and cooling bills.

Smart Thermostats Explained

smart-thermostat-costWhile with regular thermostats you have to set the temperature in your home manually, smart thermostats allow you to set your preferred temperature and they can then adjust it by “learning” from your daily habits, and factoring in conditions like weather and humidity, time of the day and occupancy; they can also show you how much energy you are using at any given time so you can closely track what you’re spending on heating and cooling.

You can control your smart thermostat remotely from your phone, tablet or computer. You can set it to turn off the heat after you leave your home, and have it back on in time for your return. Another great feature is the ability to see how much time it takes to make the temperature change you requested, allowing you to determine just how efficient your system is.

Smart thermostats are not to be confused with programmable thermostats – while programmable thermostats are a step ahead of manual thermostats and allow you to give them a schedule to operate by, they come with limitations. Some programmable thermostats only allow you to have one schedule for every day of the week which doesn’t really work for most people. Others let you set one schedule for weekdays and another for weekends. Depending on the model you choose, you may have only a limited number of program periods per day, making programmable thermostats somewhat inflexible compared to smart thermostats. However, if you program it correctly, they can lower your heating and cooling bills by about $180/year according to Energy Star, and that’s a quick return on your investment as programmable thermostats cost around $50-$100.

With a smart thermostat you have complete control over your settings – you can have a custom schedule for every day of the week, and as many activity periods per day as you want.


Smart thermostats have all the features of programmable ones, plus:

Wi-Fi enabled: You can change your smart thermostat settings from virtually anywhere – all you need is an internet connection and a phone, tablet or computer. For example, if you go on vacation, and some unexpected weather condition like a heat wave or a cold front occurs, you can just go online and adjust your setting to the temperature you want to come home to. Wi-Fi connection also allows your device to provide you with weather forecasts, and lets the manufacturer make automatic software upgrades.

Data and Statistics: Smart thermostats can track your energy usage with the help of monitoring systems; when you login to your online account, you can see how much energy you’ve used for any given day, week or month. With this information on hand, you can make adjustments accordingly and identify areas where you’re wasting energy.

Mobile-friendly: Many smart thermostats have their own app, making it very easy to change your settings on the go without having to sit down at the computer.

Self-adjusting: Smart thermostats learn how to program themselves through occupancy/motion sensors, light and humidity monitors, and by remembering manual adjustments. Some even have an “auto away” setting that drops the system down to your pre-set minimum when it doesn’t detect movement.

How Much Do Smart Thermostats Cost?

A smart thermostat can cost anywhere between $150 and $500 on average. Some of the more popular brands are Nest (around $250), Honeywell Lyric (around $250), Ecobee3 (around $230) and Lennox iComfort (around $340). While that may seem like a big investment to some, it generally pays off in about two years according to projected estimates from smart thermostat manufacturers. In addition, many utility companies offer energy saving rebates, and some even provide free smart thermostats for their customers. A little extra research can save you anywhere from a few dollars to the total cost of the upgrade so it’s a good idea to check with your local utility company to see if it offers any deals.

When considering the expense of a smart thermostat you’ll also need to factor in the time and/or the cost required to have it installed. Installing it yourself would be the best option if you’re looking to save money, or you can have an HVAC specialist install and set it up for you for about $120 (cost varies). Check to find a licensed technician in your area.

Is a Smart Thermostat Really Worth it?

The purpose of a smart thermostat is to save you money by eliminating unnecessary use, so your comfort or lifestyle isn’t affected to get those savings. Whether or not a smart thermostat will bring you savings depends on several factors, including how long it will take for the initial investment to pay for itself and how long you plan to stay where you live. If you’re planning to stay at your current home for only a year, a smart thermostat may not be a great investment unless you plan to take it with you to your next home.

If you’re already diligent about monitoring your thermostat you may not see huge savings but you will gain the convenience of adjusting your thermostat remotely, see how much energy you use and identify areas in your home where energy use can be improved.

Finally, some people may be apprehensive about having components of their home connected to the Internet and allowing their thermostat company to know if they are home or not. In such cases, a smart thermostat probably isn’t right for you.

Outside of these considerations, a smart thermostat can really take all of the hassle out of managing your home’s temperature, so you can go about your daily activities and let the temperature in your place take care of itself, while providing you with energy-efficient savings at the same time.