With the winter chill just around the corner, it’s time to get your home heating system in order. A great way to start is to install a smart thermostat. Boost your home’s energy IQ with a digital thermostat that can be pre-programmed to control the times your heat is turned up and down. A smart thermostat can store six or more daily settings, automatically adjusting the thermostat without you being there to monitor it.
By reducing the temperature on your thermostat by 10° to 15° for 8 hours a day (like overnight or when you’re at work), you can save 5% to 15% per year on your energy bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Here’s what you need to look for when shopping for a programmable thermostat:
- Temperature control. Choose a unit that includes control of programmable fans, like the air conditioner’s fan, so that it can better manage the temperature.
- Keypad lock. Protect your settings so that unauthorized people in your home (kids, in-laws) can’t mess with your energy controls.
- Wi-Fi enabled. The software that drives the smart thermostat should allow you to program it from your smartphone or tablet. Make sure the mobile app is supported by your technology.
- 7-day scheduling and away controls. A smart thermostat should include programming for at least seven days, as well as the ability to pre-program the temperature control when you’re away from home for days at a time.
- User-friendliness. Simplicity is the key to effectiveness. If your thermostat is too hard to program, you’ll probably lose energy savings.
- Some smart thermostats will let you know when you have an equipment malfunction or just need routine maintenance.
- Before you buy, be sure the unit will work with your HVAC system.
- Easy installation. Installation shouldn’t require a Ph.D. in rocket science. A good programmable thermostat can be set up without a pro, using online tutorials. Of course, hiring an installer is always an option!
Here are three models that fit this criteria:
The Nest Learning Thermostat
is one of the most popular smart thermostats. Now available in version 3.0, the Nest’s intelligent programming learns your habits, and the “Heads Up” feature lets you track your furnace’s automatic shutoffs. You can also check your home’s energy usage via your smartphone.
The ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat
is consistently rated with The Nest. The ecobee3 measures temperature and room occupancy, adjusting the heat where it’s needed. You can add more remote sensors to cover a larger home.
The Homewerks Radio Thermostat CT-80
can set seven different temperature points during one day, features a large display, works with most HVAC systems, includes a built-in battery backup, and monitors both your humidity and temperature. Admittedly, the Homewerks model doesn’t have the sleekness of the Nest or ecobee3.
Depending on the model you choose and your current energy bill, the cost of the smart thermostat might deliver return on your investment in one year or less.