In USA, about 90% of homes is powered by a central heating/cooling system like a central furnace or a boiler or a heat pump based system. We write about boiler thermostats in this guide, which are thermostats for controlling central boiler units. A boiler is basically a specially designed water heater – which distributes heat through hot water, while systems like a central furnace distribute heat through warm air. Water is heated in a special chamber of the boiler (which is usually powered by gas or fuel oil) and is then distributed to different rooms of the home via radiators or other heat distribution systems installed. A boiler thermostat helps in controlling boiler operation, thus maintaining a proper set temperature inside the home.
As I noted above, there are different types of boiler systems like gas-fired boiler, steam boiler, and fuel oil based boiler. Out of these 3 types, gas-fired boiler is the most common one in USA, just like the central furnace based heating systems. You may find steam boilers in some older home constructions, but they are being replaced eventually. Fuel oil based boilers are not used in US homes due to many reasons like foul smell, and efficiency problems.
Our interest is to help you learn more about boiler thermostat models and to find a right one that best fits your boiler heating system.
Smart Boiler Thermostats
“Smart Thermostats” are technologically superior, modern, internet connected thermostats which can save energy like no other thermostats. A smart thermostat can save energy in the range of 10% to a max of 23% (under ideal conditions) annually. Apart from energy savings, smart thermostats are built with high end features like control from anywhere using smartphones, self learning (auto scheduling and auto programming), voice control, geo fencing (turning your boiler ON/OFF based on homeowner’s location). Let’s see the best smart boiler thermostats available.
#1 Ecobee 4 & Ecobee 3 Lite
Ecobee smart thermostats our #1 choice as boiler thermostat. Ecobee has two models in market, Ecobee 4 – the full featured model and Ecobee 3 Lite – the budget model. Both Ecobee 4 and Ecobee 3 Lite supports 2 stages of heating and cooling (2H/2C) for boilers. They also support 2 stages of forced air cooling (which is known as 2 transformer configuration in boilers).
Out of the 2 models, Ecobee 4 – is the full featured model with high end features like built in Amazon Alexa (for voice control) , self learning (auto programming/scheduling), geo-fencing, smart phone based control via internet, and above all energy savings upto 23% (as claimed by Ecobee company). Ecobee 4 also comes with an extra room sensor to setup zoned heating/cooling and manage any hot/cold spots in your home.
You may read our full review of Ecobee Smart Thermostat – comparing Ecobee 4 vs Ecobee 3 Lite. You will get to know complete features and compatibility with your HVAC system.
Ecobee 3 Lite – is the budget model, which is basically a trimmed down version of Ecobee 4. The budget model has all important features of Ecobee 4, except that it has no built in Alexa (you’ve to purchase Alexa device separately to enable voice control in Ecobee 3 Lite), and there is no extra room sensor provided (you can buy room sensors separately). Finally, take note that the full featured model Ecobee 4 is compatible with more types of heating/cooling (HVAC) systems. Ecobee 3 Lite may not be compatible with central heating systems having 3 or 4 stages. Also, Ecobee 3 Lite doesn’t support any accessories like humidifier or dehumdifiers.
#2 Nest 3rd Gen and Nest E
Our #2 choice is Nest 3rd Gen and Nest E. In our opinion, Nest smart thermostats are equally good as Ecobee models. They both can be #1 choice alike. But we chose Ecobee as #1 for the extra room sensor (that comes with Ecobee 4) and the alternative option for a C wire/common wire (if you don’t have c-wire, Ecobee provides a PEN – power extender kit which can be used to solve the C – wire requirement). Just like Ecobee, Nest has two models namely Nest 3rd Gen and Nest E. The full featured model Nest 3rd Gen thermostat has more features, higher compatibility and better build quality compared to the budget model Nest E.
Nest 3rd Gen – “Learning Thermostat” – as Nest calls it officially is a self learning thermostat which programs itself by learning lifestyle patterns of homeowner. It also has advanced features like “geo-fencing”, internet connected control using smartphones, vacation schedules, energy reports, and many other features. The key highlight is “energy savings” – where Nest claims upto 13% of annual savings with their thermostats.
If you’re interested in Nest thermostat, you should read our review of Nest 3rd Gen vs Nest E – where we compare both models with features and compatibility.
Nest E – the budget model thermostat is a trimmed down version of full featured model. The primary difference being lesser compatibility (Nest E is not compatible beyond 2H/1C – 2 stages of heating and 1 stage of cooling) and build quality (Nest E is built of plastic materials). Apart from this difference, all high end features of a smart thermostat like “self learning”, controlling via smartphones, energy savings, geo-fencing and other features are common for both Nest models.
Nest – Compatibility as a boiler thermostat
Nest 3rd Gen is compatible upto 2H/2C – Two stages of heating and Two stages of cooling for boilers. As a boiler thermostat, Nest 3rd Gen model supports “dual transformer configuration” – where there is more than one R wire.
Nest E is compatible only upto 2H/1C – Two stages if heating and One stage if cooling as a boiler thermostat. Nest E does not support dual transformer configuration.