The average household spends thousands of dollars each year on energy bills, half of which typically goes toward heating and cooling empty homes. In other words, you may be spending too much to heat and cool your home while wasting energy in the process. If your energy bills are overwhelming, a programmable thermostat is a great way to cut costs.
The best programmable thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, Honeywell Lyric and Ecobee3, can reduce utility bills and extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling equipment. For more information, read our articles on programmable thermostats. To see how a thermostat works with a smart home, visit our home automation systems review.
When choosing a programmable thermostat, focus on your ideal comfort level and how you want to improve energy efficiency in your home. Next, choose a thermostat with an easy-to-use design and reliable technical support. Above all, choose a thermostat that thoroughly meets your needs.
The best programmable thermostats excel in terms of temperature control. When choosing a smart thermostat, you should look for a unit that supports multistage heating and cooling. Multiple stages allow your thermostat to, for example, switch between a furnace for quick heating or a radiant system to maintain a more stable environment.
Temperature swing is another important feature in most thermostats. A small temperature swing of a degree or less provides for optimum comfort but may result in more frequent heating or cooling cycles. However, a large swing might use less energy since it allows your home's temperature to vary up to three degrees between cycles.
Look for a unit that supports programmable fans, which lets the thermostat run your air conditioner's fan for a short while after the compressor turns off to more effectively use of leftover cold air in your system or to draw fresh air into your home. Auto changeover allows your thermostat to shift between heating and cooling when needed. A keypad lock helps prevent unwanted changes to your home's temperature.
All of the digital thermostats in our review have seven-day scheduling and away features so you can decide which heating patterns work best for your schedule. The away feature allows you to override the thermostat's preset plan to save on utilities when you're on vacation. Many programmable thermostats have auto-scheduling abilities that observe your habits, local weather patterns or ask you simple questions to help determine your preferences.
The best thermostats use your smartphone's location data in a process call geofencing. This allows the thermostat to begin to make your home comfortable when it detects that you've left work. Top thermostats also tell you how long it takes for your home to reach a target temperature so you know when your ideal level of comfort is ready. Some units display instant feedback about how much you're saving on your energy costs.
Sensors are integral to any programmable thermostat. You want to look for a thermostat that detects and informs you of equipment problems or regular maintenance needs. Thermostats with humidity sensors can work with your home's humidifier or dehumidifier so your main system runs more effectively. Motion sensors allow the unit to detect and react accordingly if you come home outside your regular schedule.
Design & Setup
When choosing the right thermostat for your home, you should look for one that lets you easily change settings using the thermostat's screen or accompanying mobile app. Home automation systems are becoming more prevalent in homes, so it's good to check if a thermostat works with your smart home. A thermostat's Wi-Fi enables it to connect to your tablet or smartphone over the internet so you can change settings while on vacation.
Though you can always opt for professional installation, you can self-install many of the best thermostats. Look for a company that offers installation tutorials so you don't get overwhelmed. If you're unsure about system compatibility, many companies provide an online tool to check if a wireless thermostat works with your HVAC system. A built-in level makes installation easier and prevents your thermostat from being crooked on the wall.
Help & Support
Look for a Wi-Fi thermostat with complete customer service options, such as email, phone and live chat support. Some companies provide online forums so you can talk with technical support or other users about problems or how you use your thermostat. The best programmable thermostats come with a warranty of two or more years.
Programming a thermostat is an affordable way to keep your home comfortable for your family. By choosing the right thermostat, you can make sure you never spend money on wasted energy. Using less energy allows you to help the environment and may even qualify you for added financial incentives from the government or your utility company.