Thermostats are pretty simple devices. You turn them up to heat and down to cool.
Smart thermostats basically do the same thing. The only difference is how you control them. Most also come with a few extra features that you don’t get with a regular thermostat.
The basics of a smart thermostat
A smart thermostat is one that is connected to the internet, meaning you can control and monitor it remotely from your phone.
Smart thermostats have become more common as the concept of smart homes has taken root. The most popular smart thermostat brands include Nest, Ecobee and Honeywell. They all work the same way.
Installation is similar to traditional thermostats though there could be slight differences. For instance, some thermostats require a C wire while others can be installed without one.
During installation, you’ll need to connect the thermostat to your home network. After it’s connected you have two ways to control it.
You can use physical buttons or touch screen on the thermostat or more conveniently, the companion app on your phone or tablet. You can easily see the current temperature and raise or lower it from wherever you are.
Smart thermostats also offer advanced programming options and settings.
Using the app, you can create your own personal schedule noting the time you go to bed, when you wake up, when you leave for work and when you come back.
You can then set your preferred temperature for all those times and the thermostat will increase or lower temperature automatically based on your schedule.
Sometimes you don’t even need to set a schedule manually. Some smart thermostats are intelligent such that they can automatically learn your schedule and automatically adjust to it.
A good example of this is the Nest Learning thermostat, now in its third generation.
In the first few days, you set the temperature manually either on the thermostat itself or using your phone. Over time, it begins to understand what you like.
For instance it might catch on to your habit of lowering the temperature just before 10pm when you go to bed and raise it again at 6pm when you wake up. It will automatically start changing the temperature for you at those times.
With time, it can keep your home at the perfect temperature that you like without you having to do anything.
Many smart thermostats including Nest and Ecobee also make use of sensors to more intelligently control the temperature in different parts of the house.
These sensors know which rooms are occupied and they focus on them to save energy and make the house more comfortable.
Smart thermostats can also sense when you are away from home using motion sensors or your phone’s location. They will automatically engage an eco-mode that uses less energy. Of course you can always override the automatic settings from the office if there is someone coming over.
Smart thermostats also have a holiday mode. You tell it when you’ll be away on vacation using the app and it will go into an energy-saving mode during that period.
In the end you find that smart thermostats save quite a bit of energy. Most pay for themselves in a couple of years.
Smart thermostats and smart homes
As I said, smart thermostats are all about offering homeowners easier and more convenient ways to control their home’s climate.
I’ve mentioned two ways you can control a smart thermostat: using the thermostat itself or remotely on your phone.
Yet another way you can monitor and control your smart thermostat is by integrating it into your smart home.
If you already have an Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speaker, you can easily connect a smart thermostat to Alexa or Google Assistant and control it with just your voice.
Just tell Alexa or Google assistant to make the house warmer or cooler and it’s done. How convenient is that?
Different smart thermostats are compatible with different smart assistants so be sure to check before buying.
Some thermostats like the new Ecobee4 are taking things a step further. It comes with Alexa built-in. So you don’t even need an Echo speaker. You can talk directly to the thermostat.
Most of these smart thermostats can also be connected to popular smart home systems like IFTTT. This gives you even more control.
For instance, with IFTTT you can use your smart thermostat as a sort of fire alarm. Set it to alert you on your phone if the temperature rises above a certain point which could indicate a fire.
Smart thermostats also come with several extra features that you can’t get with a good old thermostat. The most common ones include:
If you use an Ecobee, Nest or Honeywell thermostat, you’ll get an energy report on your app every month. The report helps you see how much energy you have saved. Using the companion app, you can also track your energy usage and savings history over several months.
The Nest Learning Thermostat comes in several styles including copper, black, stainless steel and white. You can choose the one that best fits your home décor. You can also change the display screen to show a clock, current temperature or a weather report.
A smart home thermostat is not a gimmick or just another fancy smart something. It really is useful.
If you are thinking about buying one, there’s no better time than now.
Manufacturers have perfected their products and now they work really well, especially when it comes to their intelligent features. They have also expanded compatibility to many other different smart home systems including Samsung SmartThings and Apple’s HomeKit.
Best of all, smart thermostats are cheaper than ever. You can get the latest Ecobee and Nest smart thermostats for less than $250.
Author Bio : As the Sr. Researcher & Writer for RobotsInMyHome.com, Vicky spends most of her time covering the real-world impact of the latest technologies on consumers' lives around the world. She writes full-time for a number of leading review and editorial publications around the web. Click here for more information.