Geofencing is a feature offered in most of the smart thermostat models like Nest, Ecobee & other popular thermostats. ‘Geofencing’ feature in a thermostat tracks the homeowners location (via GPS in his/her smartphone) and adjusts the thermostat settings based on the location (away/home). In this article we write about geofencing thermostats – those smart thermostats like Nest, Ecobee, Emerson Sensi, Mysa (line volt), which offer the geofencing feature.

What is geo fencing?

Nowadays owning a smart phone is no big deal and hence most of us have one. The GPS feature of such phones help in tracking your location. This is smartly used by some smart thermostats to deliver optimum performance in terms of reduction in energy consumption through a feature called “geo fencing”.

Geo fencing can be imagined as a virtual fence around your home, the diameter of which you can set.

The thermostats with geo fencing feature, when linked to your smart phone use the GPS to track your position. Once you cross the “virtual” fence, you will be considered to be at home. Now the thermostat will automatically set the temperature according to the input value entered by you.

However, if you are outside the “virtual” fence, you will be considered “out” by thermostat. This will turn down the thermostat and allow the room or home to cool down a bit, which will help in reducing the unnecessary energy usage.   

Why go for a Geofencing Thermostat ?

Well, when you spend some good bucks on a smart thermostat, why not choose a model which gives you comfort and savings at the same time? Let me explain how geo fencing thermostat adds to the luxury of a thermostat.

As already mentioned geo fencing senses your location through the GPS of your phone. Once you enter into your home the thermostat switches on and sets the temperature of your room according to the  pre-programmed schedule.

This means after a long tiring day you would enter into a house that is already cosy and comfortable for you. If you are day in and out all day or if you do not have a fixed schedule, this feature is a must have!

Another benefit is its power saving nature. Once you leave your house, the thermostat moves to away mode, and lets the room’s temperature rise/fall. This means your home HVAC system will work only when it’s needed, thus reducing the power consumption. Obviously, this would be a great relief when you save on your energy bills!

Now that you have clarity about the advantages of geo fencing thermostats, here is a brief review of some of the geo fencing thermostats to help you choose the right one that suits your needs.

Best Geo fencing thermostats:

The year 2011 witnessed the launch of original nest learning thermostat, which was welcomed by the consumers wholeheartedly. It could learn your daily routine and set heating/cooling schedules for you. Even though it was not the first smart thermostat, it sure paved a way for many other companies to launch smart thermostats. Ever since then the companies are striving to make the thermostat smarter with each passing year. Since this article deals with the geo fencing feature, below are reviews of some thermostats focussing on the same.

We have picked three thermostats to review: Nest, Ecobee and Sensi to guide you to select the apt thermostat for your needs.

Nest Thermostats

If you own a nest smart thermostat which has “Home/Away assist” then your thermostat offers you the geo-fencing feature.  

In the present market scenario, Nest has thermostats which has implemented the geo fencing in the most effective way. Since it supports multiple accounts, it tracks the location of all the members in the house and turns to away mode only when the last person leaves. This is one of the important advantage of this thermostat.

Some of its pros and cons have been mentioned below:

Pros:

  • Supports multiple accounts
  • Moves to “away mode” automatically when the last person leaves the house and changes the temperature automatically. Similarly moves to “Home” mode when it senses someone is nearing your home.
  • Geo-fencing  can be used in the compatible version of nest thermostat which are Nest Learning Thermostat (flagship model) and Nest Thermostat E (budget model)

  Cons:

  • If you do not have a fixed day in and out schedule, there are chances that geo-fencing feature would interfere with the learning capabilities of the thermostat.
  • In case you need to set radius of the geo fence, this thermostat does not have that option.    

Ecobee Thermostats

Even though Ecobee has some great models when it comes to smart thermostats, its geo fencing feature still needs much improvement. If you own an android phone, it would be easy for you to configure it through the ecobee app itself. However, if you are on iOS device, you have to configure it through the Apple’s own homekit. This means it would require a hub like an iPad, HomePod etc which will be available at home every time.

After configuring, you still might not be satisfied with its performance. Therefore, even ecobee suggests the use of IFTTT and life 360 to gain optimal experience it.

Pros:

  • If you have an irregular schedule, the ecobee geofencing thermostat will work for you.
  • Use of IFTTT and Life 360 gives an optimal geofencing experience.

Cons:

  • It is found to conflict with the schedule programmed by us, thus creating a lot of inconvenience.
  • If you and your phone are out, you will be considered “away” and thermostat will rise/lower the room’s temperature accordingly. Even if there are people inside the room, their motion wont be enough for the thermostat to be in “home” mode.
  • When you return to your home, the thermostat instead of resuming to the pre-programmed schedule, goes into the “hold” mode. This means if you need to go back to the intended schedule, you will have to flip back. This unnecessarily adds an extra step.

Emerson Sensi Thermostats

The geo fencing feature of the Sensi thermostat is very basic and easy to use. It works as if it has created a virtual circular fence with a radius of 3 miles around your home. This means if you are within this 3 miles, you will be considered “home”, and “away” in case you are out of this radius. All the members have to use the same login credentials, which can be a drawback.

The pros and cons have been listed below:

Pros:

  • This works even if you do not have a fixed day in , day out timings.
  • Pre-programmed schedule is not a necessity for it.

Cons:

  • Does not work with any other home automation devices other than sensi products.
  • Single account has to be shared with all the members of the house.
  • The fixed radius of 3 miles cannot be altered. This means if you are out all day but within these 3 miles, you will be considered home. This in turn would lead to unnecessary energy consumption.

These thermostats have the geo fencing feature. However, if your thermostat does not have this, you can still avail the geo-fencing through various Smart home hubs.

Geofencing using SmartHome Hubs

If you already have smart thermostat which does not have the geo fencing feature, do not worry! You can still avail this feature using various Smart Home Hubs like IFTTT, Life 360, Apple’s HomeKit etc.

So lets start with the basics, what is smart home hub? It is just another version of IoT, where the home equipments are connected with each other through the internet and can be controlled over your phone.

Some of the popular smart home hubs include IFTTT, Samsung smart things, Apple’s home kit etc.

The IFTTT setup is free and simple. It tracks the location of every member through their phone GPS. It also has the option to set multiple fences. It sets the thermostat to “Away” mode, when the last person leaves the home and resumes the program when the first person enters.

It can be used to control any wi-fi enabled thermostat and is very simple to use.

The Apple’s HomeKit on the other hand can be used only for iOS devices. Also it requires a HomeKit hub that remains at home all day and does not support nest products.

Another most recommended SmartHome Hub is the Samsung’s Smart things. It offers all these features as well.

Let me explain how this works by taking IFTTT smarthome hub as an example.

First, you need to download the IFTTT app on your Android/ iOS phone.

Next turn on the location of your phone, and link your thermostat with this app.

Whenever the app senses that you are in the geo fencing radius, it will send a signal to the thermostat to set up the pre-programmed schedule and make your home nice and comfy.

Wrap Up

Geo fencing has indeed transformed the way thermostats are used. With more and more advancements in the technology and companies thriving to make the best use of the smart home and IoT, geo fencing thermostats have a long way to go. They not only add to your comfort but also help you in saving a huge amount of money while optimally using the power for your HVAC systems.

The SmartHome hubs have made it easy to avail the geo fencing feature for your wi-fi enabled thermostat. It means anyone with a smart phone and a wi-fi smart thermostat can enjoy the benefits of the geo fencing thermostats.

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