A smart thermostat is a tech product you have likely heard a lot about, but might not be fully convinced you need.
And you aren’t alone: I had the same thoughts when I moved into my first home a few months ago. I may be a tech guy, but I just didn’t see the need for a smart thermostat and figured a regular, programmable one would be sufficient.
That changed this past winter when I was driving home from work on a bitterly cold day, and knew that I did not set the heat to be a proper temperature. I arrived home to discover my house was the equivalent of an ice box. After luckily avoiding frozen pipes and other potential issues, I decided it was time for a smart thermostat.
And if you are still on the fence, then it’s worth mentioning that a smart thermostat will not only let you you control your home’s temperature away from home – it can even reduce your energy bill too.
That’s because smart thermostats learn and adjust temperature by observing your preferences, weather conditions in your location, and detecting occupancy in the home. This helps save on home energy costs. And many power companies will even offer rebates on smart thermostats, so you can save on the cost (you can find more information about rebates in your location by going the OpenEi website here).
So the following list of the top 5 best smart thermostats of 2017 will help set you on the path to maximum comfort and maximum savings. The top pick is the best of the best, while the others can be called best in class:
BEST THERMOSTAT OF 2017:
The ecobee 4 is our number one pick for best smart thermostat. That’s because a smart thermostat should be exactly that – smart – and the ecobee 4 fulfills this promise better than any other device by far.
One of the best benefits of the entire ecobee line it’s sensor capability, and is best exemplified by the included remote sensor. It gives the HVAC the ability to produce the right temperature on a room-by-room – or multi floor – basis. The ecobee 4 also learns general arrival patterns due to these motion sensors and can begin to learn how long it takes to cool the home properly, ensuring you are at the temp you want at the time you want.
The ecobee 4 does not have polished, slick looks (like those of rival Nest Thermostat) but the device is attractive enough on its own merits with the sleek black design. This model however does come outfitted with a neat blue strip at the top; this is because Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant comes built in. That’s right – this allows you to interact with Alexa to control other smart devices in your home without needing to purchasing an Echo or an Echo Dot – all by talking to your thermostat.
Now while I give top marks to the ecobee 4, that doesn’t preclude me from pointing out some of it’s shortcomings. One of the biggest issues that customers are currently facing is that the Alexa built in does not include Echo Spatial Perception; the feature that allows multiple Echo devices know which one of the devices is closest to the person trying to get Alexa’s attention. This would not be a problem for a home who is using the ecobee 4 as it’s main Echo device; however in homes with more than one Echo, it is a frustrating issue. Ecobee says that those issues stem from compatibility issues that Amazon has with third party companies like ecobee, but that they are looking into the issue. In fact, since the ESP feature was introduced in an update to Echo devices, Ecobee believes it will be likely that they will be able to push the feature out as an update as well.
Those issues aside, the ecobee trumps the third generation Nest in terms of smart home compatibility – working with almost every major platform you can think of – Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Vera, HomeSeer, Home Assistant – and yes, it even works with Apple’s HomeKit platform; which is a big draw for those who stay within Apple’s ecosystem and want smart home capabilities.
With all of the features built-in – and with the possibility of updates addressing some of the downsides to the device – the ecobee 4 tops the third generation Nest to be the best thermostat of 2017 (so far).
The Ecobee 4 is $249 and is available at Best Buy, Home Depot and Amazon.
The other smart thermostats all have their benefits, like the number 5 pick – and most cost efficient option – the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat.
BEST BUDGET SMART THERMOSTAT:
Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat
No, it may not look like what you expect a smart thermostat to look like, but it’s a super cost efficient option compared to the others on the list that can get the job done when it comes to monitoring and controlling your home’s HVAC usage. Installation is definitely the easiest out of the bunch with no C wire requirement necessary, so it is a great option for older homes with an older HVAC system. The display is not a touchscreen which is a bit of a downside, but it is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, as well as the Wink Home automation Hub (unfortunately there is no support for Samsung SmartThings).
The Sensi Wifi Programmable Thermostat is $129 and is available on Amazon.
The number 4 pick is the Schneider Electric Wiser Air. The device integrates with a mobile app that has an easy to use and well thought out design. The touchscreen display is smaller than the actual unit, so while it doesn’t look as nice or detailed as the ecobee or the Nest, it’s screen still offers easy to glance, accessible information. Not to mention it has neat little details like LED backlighting that make it pop against the wall its mounted on. It also comes with a feature called Comfort Boost which allows for quick bursts of heating or cooling for a 15-minute period, such as when you initially wake up in the morning, which can help cut down on energy costs.
The Schneider Electric Wiser Air is $149 and is available on Amazon.
The number 3 pick is, fittingly, the ecobee 3. While the latest version in the ecobee line – the ecobee 4 – is our top smart thermostat pick, this model deserves inclusion for the value it offers. As I previously mentioned, the ecobee line finds it strength in it’s standalone sensors, which helped solidify the ecobee as a legitimate threat to the Nest learning thermostat.
There is a version of this thermostat called the ecobee 3 lite, the name due to it not including support for whole home accessories such as HRVs, Ventilators, Humidifiers, and Dehumidifiers. Another difference is that the standalone sensor is no longer bundled with the unit. But with the ecobee lite only about $20 less than the original ecobee 3, the 3rd generation model is still a tough model to beat.
The ecobee 3 is $169 and is available at Best Buy, Home Depot and through Amazon.
THE RUNNER UP:
Nest Thermostat, 3rd Generation
Yet the ecobee 3 is indeed beat by our runner-up, the Nest Learning Thermostat. The device – an attractive ring of brushed stainless-steel – released it’s third generation model in September 2015. Compared to the previous generation models, it features a larger, crisper display (the screen is 40 percent larger and sharper) and measures 3 inches in diameter with a resolution of 480 x 480 pixels. As a result, the bezel around the display is thinner, and the screen is easier to see from across a room. And like the previous generation models, it will show you energy savings and reports through the mobile app, so you can see how much money the Nest is actually saving you (though the cleverly named Nest Leaf).
Like it’s rivals in the ecobee line, the thermostat is able to detect when you’re home and when you’re away and adjust accordingly. But it does come with some new features like the Furnace Heads-Up feature – which will alert you if it detects irregular shutoff patterns with your furnace – as well as a feature called Farsight; where the Nest will sense your presence from across the room and illuminate to show you the time and temperature in the home.
But at this point in 2017, Nest has yet to make a hardware update to it’s smart thermostat line, which means this version is beginning to feel a little long in the tooth. As far as smart home partners go, the Nest thermostat works with a wide range of smart home devices like Philips Hue, Chamberlain MyQ Garage Door Openers, security systems like ADT Pulse, and a lot more. However, it does not offer compatibility with Apple’s HomeKit platform – and likely never will – given that Nest is owned by Google. Despite this, the Nest has many positives, but it’s shortcomings cause us to recommend the ecobee 4 over it.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is $249 and is available on at Home Depot, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Amazon.
So those are the 5 best smart thermostats of 2017 so far. And I say so far simply because there is still plenty of time for new products to arrive on the scene (including the long-awaited arrival of new products from Nest). Yet the ecobee 4 has an interesting future ahead (with some new initiatives and product integrations coming) so it is very possible that the ecobee 4 will stay on top to truly be the best smart thermostat you can buy this year.
Are you going to purchase a smart thermostat or do you already have one? Do you find it saves you money on your energy bill? What do you love about it? What do you wish you could change? Let us know in the comments below!