When you are shopping around for a new thermostat for your home HVAC system, you might find yourself in the position where you want to utilize all the functions and features of a smart thermostat, but you don’t have Wi-Fi at your home, or only during certain hours every day. Or perhaps you are living in an area with regular internet outages. The question you now have is whether a smart thermostat can work without Wi-Fi.  

A smart thermostat can partially work without Wi-Fi. It does not require an active Wi-Fi or internet connection to continue with temperature management in your home. However, without Wi-Fi, you will have limited access to most of the special features offered by the smart thermostat. You will basically be limited to the traditional heating and cooling system. 

In this article, we’ll have a look at what your smart thermostat can still do when there is no Wi-Fi and what is impossible to do without Wi-Fi. And as some people are sometimes confused with “smart thermostats” and “Wi-Fi thermostats,” we also include a comparison between these two types of thermostats. 

Will the smart thermostat completely stop working without Wi-Fi?

No, your smart thermostat will continue to operate your home’s heating and/or cooling system even when your Wi-Fi network is down. But most features, such as shortcuts, humidification levels, and geofencing are usually only managed through the thermostat’s app. 

When the Wi-Fi is down, these features will not be functional. In principle, you can expect your smart thermostat without Wi-Fi to execute the same functions as a traditional programmable thermostat that does not require Wi-Fi for operation. The reason is that there are no wire connections between the smart thermostat and the HVAC system, its devices, and the app. All advanced communication is done via Wi-Fi. 

Fortunately, most smart thermostats will automatically reconnect to your Wi-Fi as soon as the network is restored. Your smart thermostat will not stay offline when the connection is providing Wi-Fi again. 

When is a Wi-Fi connection essential?

When you want to do the scheduling and manipulating of the system’s settings via the app an internet connection is essential. Thus, the Wi-Fi connection must be active. When you’ve scheduled everything and installed the settings correctly via the app, your smart thermostat doesn’t need Wi-Fi to execute essential functions.  

It has to be remembered that regardless of Wi-Fi connectivity, you can change settings and reschedule the thermostat manually by using the buttons on the thermostat.

What can the smart thermostat definitely not do without Wi-Fi?

Although basic cooling and heating functions will still be working without Wi-Fi the following are features that will only work when the Wi-Fi connection is active: 

1. Receiving instructions from the user via the app

One of the benefits of a smart thermostat is its ability to let you connect remotely with it.  But to do it, the smart thermostat requires an active internet connection. If the thermostat fails to obtain an internet connection, you can’t send and the thermostat can’t receive any instructions via the app.

2. Making adjustments based on the outside temperature

The ability to adjust is one of the features of any smart thermostat. The thermostat adjusts the temperature of your home based on the outside temperature. But to determine the outside temperature the thermostat depends on weather forecasts that it obtains with the help of a Wi-Fi connection.

Without a Wi-Fi connection, the weather forecasts based on geographical location can’t be downloaded. Thus, it becomes impossible for the thermostat to adjust the inside temperature by bringing the outside temperature into play. 

3. Compiling the monthly activity history

One of the features of a smart thermostat is that it stores various information regarding different aspects of the system. It usually stores information about things like energy and electricity usage, highest and lowest temperatures and other useful information. You can then use this information for future scheduling. You do the monitoring of the activities on the app. 

However, an active Wi-Fi connection is needed for the storing and monitoring functions to work. No information can be stored on a thermostat that is not connected to Wi-Fi and no information to monitor can be sent to the app. 

4. Sending notifications and alerts to your app

A smart thermostat has the ability to sense possible issues in the thermostat self, or the HVAC system and its devices and then send alerts to you via the app. You can also program the smart thermostat in such a way that it provides monthly reports to you regarding your energy use. It can even propose some tips on how you can save even more energy and money. 

 Without Wi-Fi, your smart thermostat can’t communicate with you via the app. So, while the Wi-Fi is off you will not receive any information, alert or notification from the thermostat.   

5. Keeping the home’s temperature as comfortable as possible

A smart thermostat uses smart sensors to determine and provide the preferred temperature in your home.  The communication between the sensors and the thermostat is via Wi-Fi. So, if there is no Wi-Fi available the thermostat doesn’t get feedback from the sensors and keeps the temperature on the fixed set temperature. No adjustments are possible without an active Wi-Fi connection.

Smart thermostats and Wi-Fi thermostats – the similarities and the differences

Smart thermostats and Wi-Fi thermostats aren’t the same things, but they share some similarities. Although both Wi-Fi and smart thermostats connect to the internet, they work in different ways. Generally speaking, all smart thermostats are also Wi-Fi thermostats, but not all Wi-Fi thermostats are smart thermostats. Wi-Fi thermostats don’t have all the capabilities that smart thermostats offer.

The four main similarities and differences between these two types of thermostats are the following:

Wi-Fi thermostatSmart  thermostat
Connect to the internet.Connect to the internet.
Can be controlled by a connected device, such as your cell phone, or tablet via an app.Can be controlled by a connected device, such as your cell phone, or tablet via an app.
Can only be set to perform certain actions in specific situations based on a reading from a sensor.Can be set, but also learn and make decisions for you.
Can be told to alert you when your home’s temperature gets below 70 degrees. You can then log on and change the temperature settings. The thermostat can’t do anything about your temperature settings on its own.
Can be programmed to automatically change the temperature in your home at a certain time and to take appropriate steps when your home’s temperature is getting below 70 degrees.
wifi vs smart thermostat

Let’s look at one example to demonstrate the difference between a smart thermostat and a Wi-Fi thermostat.  

With a Wi-Fi thermostat, you can control your thermostat remotely to lower or higher the temperature in your house. If, for instance, you leave your home every day at 8 in the morning, you can set your thermostat at a lower temperature after you’ve left. When you come back at 6 in the evening you want a comfortable temperature in your home and therefore you remotely set the right temperature an hour earlier. You have to manually change the temperature every time you leave or return to your home.

The problem is that on the day that you’ve forgotten to remotely change the temperature before returning home, you’ll have a too cool house waiting for you.

A smart thermostat, on the other hand, will learn to automatically drop the temperature to a more energy-efficient temperature just after 8 every morning, and automatically gradually increase the temperature back again for the home to be at the preferred temperature when you return home. 

Conclusion

A smart thermostat makes life much easier for you as a homeowner as it literary takes over the management of your HVAC system. Smart thermostats are designed to learn and then execute your temperature and humidity preferences. You communicate with your thermostat via the app and can monitor the system from anywhere at any time. All the features are only available if the Wi-Fi in your home is active 24/7. 

But yes, if the Wi-Fi goes down, your smart thermostat will still provide the basic function of cooling and warming your home, but only like an old traditional programmable thermostat would have done.  And fortunately, if your thermostat has encountered a temporary Wi-Fi outage, it will automatically reconnect and return to full functioning when the internet connection is restored. 

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