Smart Thermostats

A Must-Have for Energy Efficiency Enthusiasts 

In the sea of gadgets and gizmos promising to support green living and great energy savings, smart thermostats have quickly emerged as one of the top must-have devices among savvy consumers looking to be more efficient.

Although these high-tech gadgets may seem like a pricey investment – ranging anywhere from $180 to $300-plus – they are considered the next generation of temperature control and can give users the ability to generate long-term savings that far exceed the upfront cost.

Programmable Thermostats vs. Smart Thermostats

Yes, smart thermostats are different from programmable thermostats.

Programmable thermostats essentially allow users to pre-program temperature settings, lowering heating and cooling at scheduled times during the day. They are a great tool for reducing consumption and can deliver a quick return on investment.

But smart thermostats take programmable thermostats to an entirely new level, with learning capabilities that actually allow the device to pick up on your habits and preferences.

Once the gadget understands the ins and outs of your routine, it will automatically change temperature settings based on key actions, such as when you get out of bed, close the front door, or have more than the usual occupants in your home (such as when giving a dinner party). Although the capabilities of these devices vary based on the product and price point, most are WiFi-enabled and have an app that users can download to manage settings remotely.

Savings Potential

According to product manufacturers, smart thermostats could help users take anywhere from 10 to 15 percent off their heating and cooling bills. But as with any opportunity to reduce energy consumption, the savings potential of such a device depends on how much consumers are willing to leverage it to their benefit.

The reality is that heating and cooling costs represent a huge chunk of the monthly energy bill – anywhere from 40 to 60 percent – so any change consumers make to maintain an otherwise constant temperature will have an impact.

Thermostat Options

Since its introduction to the market, the Nest Learning Thermostat has consistently outranked the competition as one of the top-performing smart thermostats in terms of ease of use and capabilities. The second-generation model of this device not only heats and cools your home at the appropriate time, depending on both your routine and your HVAC system, but also provides a 10-day summary of energy savings based on the time of year and the geographical location and size of your home.

Other great brands include Honeywell, Ecobee3, and Netatmo. These – as well as several other brands – have garnered a lot of attention from consumers and gadget enthusiasts. See how the competition stacks up on c|net, tom's guide, and Digital Trends.

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