Your very old HVAC thermostat is giving problems and you will most probably have to replace it. Although almost all your friends have changed to smart thermostats you are not sure whether is worth the money. You are still wondering about the cons and pros of smart thermostats.
Generally, it is a good choice to change to a smart thermostat because of all the benefits like the energy you can save and the comfort of controlling your home’s temperature remotely. But it is also true that not all households need a smart thermostat. It depends greatly on your family’s habits and requirements regarding the temperature comfort in your house.
In this article, we’ll look at what exactly is meant by “smart thermostat.” Then the pros and cons and other relevant information will be listed and discussed. For your convenience, we’ll also list some of the most popular smart thermostats. And to conclude we will give more guidelines and tips on how to decide whether a smart thermostat will be worth it in all circumstances.
What is a smart thermostat?
A smart thermostat works in principle in much the same way as a traditional in-home thermostat. Simply put, it controls the flow of cool and warm air in your home to keep the temperature in the house comfortable.
But what smart thermostats enable you to do – and what you can’t do with the older thermostats – is allow you to control the temperature in your home via the smart thermostat at any time and from anywhere. You don’t have to be physically at the thermostat to set it. You even don’t have to be at home to make changes to your preset schedules. This remote control of your home’s comfort is possible with a smart thermostat because the thermostat connects to Wi-Fi and can be controlled via smartphone apps.
Some types of smart thermostats even learn repetitive user behavior. These thermostats need only very little or even zero input from you as it relies on collected data to decide when to heat and cool a home.
In short, a smart thermostat is a tool to communicate with your HVAC system from anywhere at any time with your mobile via Wi-Fi.
Pros of a smart thermostat
There are many benefits to having a smart thermostat as part of your HVAC system. Let’s look at some of the most important pros of a smart thermostat.
Research has shown that an average homeowner can expect to save around $180 each year by using a smart thermostat. The actual amount can differ depending on the size of the house and whether you set the thermostat to keep the system working or not when nobody is home.
Generally, the more sophisticated the smart thermostat is, the more energy-saving options are offered.
With a smart thermostat, you can easily adjust the desired temperatures and can even set up customized schedules suiting you and your family’s habits.
You can set the temperature to a certain level for the times when there are people in the house and another “absent” temperature for when the house is usually without any people. And as you can contact your thermostat via Wi-Fi from your smartphone you can change the settings remotely if your family’s schedules change.
This feature enables you to ensure that your house is always comfortable when people are in the house while saving you money when there is nobody at home.
Worry-free system that learns your habits
Most smart thermostats “learn” the habits of you and your family and generate algorithmic temperature schedules. The result is a worry-free system that provides homeowners peace of mind because the thermostat needs very little input from you as it relies on collected data to decide when to heat and cool a home.
Tracking energy use
With a smart thermostat, you can always keep track of your energy use. The thermostat provides energy reports with details regarding how much power you are using, and also how your energy use has changed over time. The reports give you tips on how to adjust temperatures to save energy, and thus money. These reports take the guessing out of energy bills – you can accurately budget for your energy expenses.
Better temperature visibility and control
Generally, smart thermostats offer large, clear and stylized temperature indicators with simple interfaces. You can read the temperature at a glance. You don’t have to try and read small numbers on poorly lit screens and can easily see which buttons to press to access different menus. It is as easy as when you use your mobile phone.
Compatibility with other smart devices
If you choose the right compatible smart thermostat your smart thermostat can link up and exchange information with other home devices like smart air purifiers, for example. These devices can be controlled with the thermostat if they are using compatible platforms.
Most smart thermostats can also be controlled with your voice if they are compatible with voice command technology like Amazon’s Alexa. Simple commands like, “Alexa, lower the temperature to 70 degrees” allow you to conveniently make immediate changes.
A smart thermostat offers the opportunity to create and use energy profiles. An energy profile is the profile of your home’s energy consumption and is based on various factors like size, location, and methods of heating and cooling. You program your smart thermostat with these details for energy efficiency and the thermostat uses it to set up an automated process. This makes HVAC management much easier.
Tracking the weather
Some of the newest thermostats can track the current local weather reports and make suitable changes in the temperature if the weather report warns about extreme warm weather or a cold front that is coming in.
Cons of a smart thermostat
Like any device you ever buy, there are not only pros but also cons that you have to take into consideration. A smart thermostat might not be right for everyone. Looking at the most important cons will help you to decide whether a smart thermostat will be worth it for you.
The house must be empty part of the day to be efficient
The house must be without tenants for a part of the day for peak efficiency. The main reason why homeowners change to smart thermostats is for the energy-saving feature when nobody is at home. If there are always people in the house the thermostat never gets the opportunity to adjust to a less energy-consuming state and does not contribute to money-saving.
If you want to change to a smart thermostat for other reasons than the money-saving aspect, this con will not be a problem, but if your main aim is to save energy and money you’ll have to consider whether a smart thermostat is worthwhile,
People who rent accommodation might not benefit
Individuals and families who often move from home to home and usually rent accommodation may not benefit from installing a smart thermostat. The thermostat will not travel with you from home to home, and your landlord may not approve of a smart thermostat HVAC system.
May require professional installation
Complicated HVAC systems can be tricky to work with. Before choosing a product, it’s important to contact a reputable service provider to find out whether you will be able to install the thermostat yourself. If you need a professional to do the installation it can escalate the costs dramatically.
Not always compatible with your existing HVAC system
All smart thermostats are not necessarily compatible with your existing HVAC system and devices. Ensure that you don’t have to make expensive changes to your existing system before you purchase a smart thermostat.
Relative high price
Smart thermostats are quite expensive. It can cost anything between $200 and $500. You’ll have to look at what amount your budget allows for the purchase and weigh it up against the envisaged monthly savings on your energy bill.
Your budget naturally restricts your options, and people who don’t remain in a home for a long time may not want to invest in one of the more expensive models. Fortunately, $200 smart thermostats are incredibly common and popular, and they are often just as effective as the $500 models.
Can be confusing for people without smart device experience
If the homeowner and his family are unfamiliar with smartphones or apps, they may be unable to successfully set home temperatures. Confusing user interfaces can also be frustrating for users.
Why some homes don’t benefit from smart thermostats
Smart thermostats work well with air conditioning systems and furnace-based heating systems. Both these systems operate with hot and cool air that is blown around your house to make it feel cooler or warmer. But this is actually a very inefficient way of temperature management. A furnace, for instance, makes a room feel warm very quickly but it needs to run often to keep the home continuously feeling warm.
The small adjustments a smart thermostat makes continuously by switching the air conditioning unit or furnace on and off to keep your home’s temperature comfortable is what saves energy and money. Therefore, a smart thermostat is ideal to find ways to save energy by, for example, keeping the furnace off until it’s needed.
Thus, by using a smart thermostat when your home’s HVAC system is based on an air conditioning unit and furnace you can save energy and money.
If your home uses radiant heating
If your home uses radiant heating a smart thermostat will not necessarily save energy. Radiant heating is when a boiler heats water and sends it around a home to heavy cast-iron radiators, baseboard heaters, and radiant flooring.
Radiant heat is much more efficient than forced-air systems because radiant heat systems heat up people and objects and not the air in the first place.
The problem smart thermostats encounter with radiant systems is that radiant systems heat and cool slowly. There are not many opportunities to save energy by switching the source of the heat off. A radiant floor, for instance, might take a day or more to warm up to the right temperature, and after dropping the temperature for a few hours it takes hours again to recover.
There are smart thermostats with built-in software to anticipate the time to heat and cool, and they adjust accordingly. But many radiant systems are designed to run continuously.
Thus if your home uses radiant heat a smart thermostat is not recommended.
Popular smart thermostats
There are many brands and models of smart thermostats available. We’ve chosen a few of the most popular ones and list them for your convenience.
1. Ecobee Smart Thermostat with voice control
Ecobee 3 Lite
We think Ecobee’s latest smart thermostat is one of the best you can buy today. This model is a further developed version of the model that preceded it. Many other smart thermostats measure a home’s temperature in just one spot – the spot where the thermostat is located. Often this spot is in a hallway or somewhere that you never spend any time in.
Ecobee allows you to place sensors in various rooms. The rooms that you are in are the ones that the thermostat instructs the HVAC system to either heat or cool. It saves energy as rooms and places where there are no people, don’t get heated or cooled unnecessarily.
2. Nest Learning Thermostat
Nest 3rd Gen thermostat
Nest E thermostat
Google worked hard to build a comprehensive smart home ecosystem with its own products. The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of these products. With other Nest products that you can add this smart thermostat determines when you’re home or away and control the temperature in accordance with the occupancy of your home. This is an energy savings feature,
3. Amazon Smart Thermostat
The Amazon smart thermostat is the least expensive one we’re discussing here. But it is very sophisticated and offers more features than many more expensive thermostats. Unfortunately, it is not compatible with Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit. But it supports most HVAC systems and it will learn your comings and goings over time to save energy by not heating and cooling an empty home.
Smart thermostats are worth it for homeowners who want to save on their energy bills and don’t have radiant HVAC systems. But it is a very personal choice to make – it depends on what you require from your HVAC system, and thus its controlling thermostat. We hope this article helps you to compare the pros and cons to make your decision easier.