The Best Smart Thermostat

This is intelliGadget’s WiFi Thermostat / Smart Thermostat rundown. There are quite a few smart thermostats on the market today but only a handful that are worth the money. Our personal choice is the Nest Learning Thermostat but the Ecobee3 is a close contender. Below you’ll find our 4 picks along with a brief summary. Further down the page you can read the full write-up on each.

The Best Smart Thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

The Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd generation rates 4.5 stars on Amazon with a whopping 9,700 reviews. That should tell you something. In the world of WiFi thermostats / smart thermostats Nest is a dominant force. As the name implies, this is the 3rd generation of a product they’ve continuously improved upon since the first generation models were released a few years ago.

So, what sets the Nest Learning Thermostat apart from others on this list? Customer service, ease of installation and a sleek, modern look.  This is our pick for best thermostat and the rest of the internet seems to agree with us. Like the others on our list, it’s also Alexa compatible.

$249 @ Amazon

Our Runner Up…

Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation

The Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat is next on the list. While it’s not our favorite it’s been winning over nest users for awhile now. It hasn’t been around quite as long as nests offering but it’s been a solid performer right out of the gate and is comparable to the Nest offering in almost every way. The only thing it does differently is “Learning”. It can and will adjust the environment in a smart, energy saving manner, like the nest. It takes a different approach than nest however.

Ease of installation is again a factor here. If you can change a light fixture you can install the Ecobee3. It fully integrates with Amazon’s Alexa which allows you to control it via voice commands.

$247 @ Amazon

3rd Place WiFi Thermostat Pick…

Honeywell Smart Thermostat

The Honeywell Smart Thermostat is a lower priced alternative to the Nest or Ecobee3. It’s compact and looks good, but it doesn’t look like an apple product. Not as smooth and futuristic looking as the other two is what I’m trying to get at. Still an attractive addition to the home though for sure. It’s a highly rated alternative to the higher end thermostats according to it’s 4.2 star rating on Amazon and its 2500 reviews.

One cool feature that’s unique to the Honeywell is the ability to customize your screen color to match any decor

$171 @ Amazon

A Lower Priced Alternative…

Sensi Smart Thermostat

The Sensi Smart Thermostat is another highly rated option for those looking for something a little less costly than the Nest or Ecobee3. Like our previous contenders, the Sensi Smart Thermostat is WiFi enabled and works with your Smartphone to allow remote temperature adjustments.

The Sensi is a less intelligent than the previous entries. It doesn’t do much in the way of learning but it does allow for 7 day scheduling which you can program yourself. Once the unit is programmed let the energy savings begin! It will adjust itself based on the home and away times you’ve set. No point in heating or cooling more than required if you’re not around right?

$129 @ Amazon

Smart Thermostat / WiFi Thermostat General Info

 

WiFi Thermostats in General

Setting your home up with various smart technologies can be a help or a hindrance when it comes to saving money. Sometimes you’re better off with what you’ve got or a low-tech solution. This is not the case with learning thermostats. These are definitely a money saver and offer a great return on investment for budget conscious homeowners.

When engineers decided the standard thermostat needed an upgrade they came up with a winner in the learning thermostat. Smart Thermostats, Smart Enabled Thermostats, Learning Thermostats…they’re sold under a variety of names. Regardless of what they’re called, they have a couple of important features in common. Let’s have a look at them.

 

 Smartphone connectivity / Wi-Fi Connectivity

Learning Thermostats have a wireless component and usually some form of app. They can be controlled remotely any time, from anywhere, via a Smartphone, tablet or a desktop computer. This feature alone offers potential savings in my opinion.

Let’s say you leave your home expecting to be back shortly. Your inside temperature is set to a comfortable 70. Unexpectedly, your short trip turns into a long one. If no one is home to enjoy the heat, you’re now wasting money. Wouldn’t it be nice to lower the temperature until you’re ready to head home? Sure it would. You could connect 20 minutes prior to heading home and put your temp back to its usual setting. Your temperature will be perfect when you get in and you’ll have saved some money by not keeping an empty house warm while you were away.

 

Ability to Learn

Another feature common to learning thermostats is…you guessed it…the ability to learn! These miraculous little devices are designed to learn your daily patterns of coming and going over time. Once they’ve dialed themselves in, with a little help in some cases, automatically in others, they’ll offer continuous savings on heating and cooling by adjusting the climate to your schedule. When you’re home, they’ll keep you comfortable. When you leave for work, or while you’re out for your regular Saturday outing, the learning thermostat will adjust your climate for the best possible savings. When it expects you home soon, the learning thermostat will adjust everything back to comfort settings. You wouldn’t know anything had changed while you were out, but you’ll benefit from the savings.

All of this can be over-ridden any time via the remote app from your Smartphone if your schedule changes so you don’t have to worry about coming home to a cold home. The programming can be changed anytime to whatever you prefer. But for the average user who keeps a fairly regular schedule, the thermostats learning mode is something you can forget exists while cashing in on continuous savings.

 

Why would I want one?

Why wouldn’t you? Most of us set our thermostats to a comfortable setting and forget about it. If we mess with it at all to save some money, we do it at night. That’s it. Whether you’re home during the day or not, your heating or AC are running at their usual settings costing you money. If you do the math and take into account the amount of time you spend AWAY from home in the average week it becomes apparent that you’re wasting a lot of money over the course of a year. Most folks reading this page are looking to save.

Now that we’ve gotten that bit out of the way, let’s check out the four best smart thermostats on the market today!

 

Nest Learning Thermostat

 

Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

 

NOTE: The only real contender for Nests top spot in our eyes, is the Ecobee3, and it is a serious contender. You can read about it below. We chose the nest for our top-spot due to it’s learning capability which currently seems to be the best in the biz. That being said, some users are making the switch because they get what they want from the Ecobee and they like the external room sensors.

The Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd generation rates 4.5 stars on Amazon with a whopping 9,700 reviews. That should tell you something. In the world of WiFi thermostats / smart thermostats Nest is a dominant force. As the name implies, this is the 3rd generation of a product they’ve continuously improved upon since the first generation models were released a few years ago.

So, what sets the Nest Learning Thermostat apart from others on this list? Customer service, ease of installation and a sleek, modern look. This is our pick for best thermostat and the rest of the internet seems to agree with us. Like the others on our list, it’s also Alexa compatible.

The only real contender for Nests top spot in our eyes, is the Ecobee3, and it is a serious contender. You can read about it below. We chose the nest for our top-spot due to it’s learning capability which currently seems to be the best in the biz. That being said, some users are making the switch because they get what they want from the Ecobee and they like the external room sensors.

How does it look?

The Nest Learning Thermostat is beautiful to look at and makes a great addition to your homes decor. It has the same appeal as an apple product. It’s minimalistic in its appearance but offers an abundance of functionality. It’s about 3 inches round and consists of a stylish stainless steel outer ring surrounding a 24-bit color LCD. That’s all there is to see until you turn it on. Minimalist.

Compatibility:

According to Nests documentation, the 3rd generation of their smart thermostat works with approximately 95% of heating and cooling systems. This iteration of the product is also designed to work with or without a common “C” wire in your home. The “C” wire or common wire provides a stead 24 volts of power for your thermostat. As for the app you’ll use to control your new thermostat, there are IOS and Android versions available.

Sensors:

The 3rd Generation Nest WiFi Thermostat comes equipped with a variety of sensors including 10 sensors dedicated to accuratley detecting the temperature of your home. It also has sensors to detect humidity levels, near and far field activity (movement, etc) and ambient light.

Operation:

Once it’s installed the Nest Learning Thermostat is a breeze to use. Turn the outer dial up to call for heat, turn it down to lower the temperature. You can tell what your Smart Thermostat is doing at a glance thanks to Nests color codes. An orange background indicates it’s heating, blue is for cooling. If neither heating or cooling are currently being called for the background will be black, which indicates idle.

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Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor

Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation

 

The Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat is next on the list. While it’s not our favorite it’s been winning over nest users for awhile now. It hasn’t been around quite as long as nests offering but it’s been a solid performer right out of the gate and is comparable to the Nest offering in almost every way. The only thing it does differently is “Learning”. It can and will adjust the environment in a smart, energy saving manner, like the nest. It takes a different approach than nest however.

Ease of installation is again a factor here. If you can change a light fixture you can install the Ecobee3. It fully integrates with Amazon’s Alexa which allows you to control it via voice commands.

The other big selling point of the Ecobee is the addition of room sensors. Most thermostats deliver the temperature in a single room. Ecobee3’s main display can receive temperature information from different areas in your home via wireless temperature sensors. These sensors can also tell when a room is occupied or not. Empty rooms are automatically given a lower priority for heating and cooling, saving you money. The main Ecobee3 unit comes with one room sensor. You can purchase more separately. It’s a well engineered piece of energy saving hardware to be sure.

How does it look?

The Ecobee3 is another minimalist offering. For the main, wall mounted unit (the wall mounted thermostat / display) again, think apple product. It’s sleek and shiny with rounded corners. The entire unit consists of a rounded-square LCD display with a white backing plate. It’s just under 4 inches square. No buttons mar the surface, hence the minimalist description. It’s thin too, at under an inch thick.

The separate wireless remote temperature sensors share a similar look. They’re smaller, about 2 inches square. They come in white and can be either wall mounted or free standing on the bases they come with. Both the main unit and the temperature sensors were designed to be aesthetically pleasing in any home. It shows. All of the hardware blends well and looks sharp.

Compatibility:

The documentation boasts similar compatibility to the Nest Learning Thermostat. It should work well with conventional heating and cooling systems, heat pumps, etc. It is also advertised as working well with Humidifiers, dehumidifiers and ventilator systems. This system is designed to work with a “C” wire to power the unit. Those of you who haven’t got a “C” wire (which is fairly common) Ecobee3 has you covered. It comes with a power extender kit for just this situation which will allow you to power your thermostat without running a new wire. The Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat App is available in both Android and IOS versions.

Sensors:

The EcoBee3 WiFi Thermostat has a decent compliment of sensors built into the main wall mounted unit. These consist of sensors to detect Temperature, motion, proximity and humidity. This is fewer than the Nest Smart Thermostat but the only ones missing are the ambient light sensor and a far-field motion detector. Not exactly a deal breaker in our eyes. The addition of the Ecobee3 Remote sensors more than makes up for this. Each remote sensor can detect both temperature and motion. Very slick.

Operation:

Once the Ecobee3 is up and running, adjusting the temperature is simple. The LCD display with show the current temperature. Next to this is a stylish touch slider. Drag up to call for heat, drag down to cool. It’s as simple as that. Everything else is available at a glance on the LCD including indoor temperature, system mode (whether the thermostat is set for heating, cooling, automatic, or off) and live weather.

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Honeywell Smart Thermostat

 

Honeywell Smart Thermostat

 

The Honeywell Smart Thermostat is a lower priced alternative to the Nest or Ecobee3. It’s compact and looks good, but it doesn’t look like an apple product. Not as smooth and futuristic looking as the other two is what I’m trying to get at. Still an attractive addition to the home though for sure. It’s a highly rated alternative to the higher end thermostats according to it’s 4.2 star rating on Amazon and its 2500 reviews.

One cool feature that’s unique to the Honeywell is the ability to customize your screen color to match any decor. It’s easy to setup and fully programmable. You can schedule your heating and cooling to maximize savings.

The Honeywell Smart Thermostat is Amazon Alexa compatible, Wi-Fi Enabled and can be controlled remotely from anywhere via a Smartphone app. It’s also the most affordable option with a Touch-Screen.

Another nice feature is its ability to learn your heating and cooling cycle. It will learn exactly how long it takes to reach your desired temperature so you’re always comfortable without wasting energy!

How does it look?

A silver colored bezel surrounds the touch screen LCD. The thermostat itself is 4.5 x 3.5 inches and rectangular. It’s less than an inch thick which is nice. It barely protrudes from the wall. The Honeywell Smart Thermostat has no noticeable external buttons. Everything you do is controlled via the touch screen or remotely via Smartphone app. It’s attractive enough on it’s own but it really stands out when you customize the LCD color to match or compliment your homes color scheme.

Compatibility:

The Honeywell Smart Thermostat should be compatible with most standard heating and cooling systems as well as heat pumps. Not compatible with electric baseboards rated 120-240 volts. The Honeywell Smart Thermostat also relies rather heavily on the “C” wire, or common wire which we described in the Compatibility section for the Nest thermostat. You can check Honeywell’s site for workarounds but in many cases, no “C” wire means it’s not compatible with your system. Apparently if you have a “G” wire there is a workaround. Again, visit Honeywell’s site for details on this one.

Sensors:

The Honeywell is a bit light on sensors when pitted against the Nest or Ecobee3. That being said, this Smart Thermostat costs less and does a great job without being able to detect light and motion. It has the standard temperature sensor as well as a humidity sensor. That’s it, but that’s all you really need to have your smart thermostat competently control your environment. The others, while nice, aren’t required. For remote control you’ll make use of the Honeywell Smart Thermostat App which is available for both IOS and Android phones and tablets.

Operation:

Operating the Honeywell Smart Thermostat is pretty easy. Once you’ve gotten it installed you’ll be presented with your home screen. The screen allows for adjusting temperature. Simply touch the up or down arrows to increase/decrease the temperature. Fan controls are located on the second tab at the top of the screen along with system controls(to set your mode, cooling, heating, etc.) and the Menu tab for adjusting various settings. Remote control is much the same but done via the Smartphone app. You need to register the Honeywell during setup for remote access to work.

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Sensi Smart Thermostat

Sensi Smart Thermostat

 

The Sensi Smart Thermostat is another highly rated option for those looking for something a little less costly than the Nest or Ecobee3. Like our previous contenders, the Sensi Smart Thermostat is WiFi enabled and works with your Smartphone to allow remote temperature adjustments.

The Sensi is a less intelligent than the previous entries. It doesn’t do much in the way of learning but it does allow for 7 day scheduling which you can program yourself. Once the unit is programmed let the energy savings begin! It will adjust itself based on the home and away times you’ve set. No point in heating or cooling more than required if you’re not around right?

Installation is straight forward and can be accomplished in about 15 minutes using simple tools. The Sensi app contains a step-by-step installation guide and video which is a great addition.

This WiFi Thermostat is also Amazon Alexa compatible meaning you can control it via Alexa using voice commands. For the price, it’s really hard to beat this thermostat.

How does it look?

Another entry that DOESN’T look like an apple product. This Smart Thermostat has a more traditional look. It’s rectangular in shape, about 6 by 4 inches and under an inch thick which is pretty slim. The unit has a small digital readout on the front, but rather than a full size touch screen this is a more modestly sized non-touch display. This is not a Nest or Ecobee3 after all.

Instead of the ubiquitous touch-screen, the Sensi makes use of a variety of buttons that surround the display. Overall the thermostat is attractive enough and white tends to work anywhere. Not quite as attractive as the more expensive options but since it’s significantly cheaper than the bigger names this is to be expected.

Compatibility:

The documentation for the Sensi Smart Thermostat declares compatibility with 4 stage heating systems and 2 stage cooling systems. It’s heat-pump compatible and will work with cooling only systems or heating only systems.

They go out of the way to mention what the unit doesn’t work with as well which is nice. The Sensi will NOT work with Line Voltage rated electric baseboard heaters. It won’t work with Millivolt heating systems or proprietary systems either though these are admittedly uncommon.

Sensors:

According to the docs, this one is temperature only. No humidity sensing, ambient light, proximity etc. This one won’t walk the dog and vacuum the carpets but at the end of the day a lot of homeowners aren’t after these features. They want a thermostat that can detect and adjust temperature. One that allows scheduling, so they can save some money. Which is exactly what the Sensi Smart Thermostat delivers. A 4.3 star rating on Amazon with almost 3000 reviews proves this point.

Operation:

Using the Sensi Smart Thermostat is a breeze once it’s been installed. The up and down arrow buttons, to the right of the display adjust your temperature up and down. No fancy touch screens here. The three buttons along the bottom of the display control system mode(heat, off, cooling), fan(Auto,On) and scheduling (On, Off) respectively.

All of these features can also be adjusted wirelessly / remotely via the Smartphone app. The app is available for both Android and IOS.

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