5 best smart thermostats of 2020
Shopping for a smart thermostat can be overwhelming. There are a lot of things to consider, such as what features you want, what style you like, and if a smart thermostat is compatible for your home.
We took a look at some of the most popular smart thermostats on the market and found the 5 best smart thermostats based on their features and price to help make your shopping a little easier.
*All prices are accurate at the time of this writing.
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What is a smart thermostat?
Smart thermostats are the newest way to control the climate of your home.
Just like a traditional thermostat, a smart thermostat connects to your HVAC system to change the temperature of a room. However, smart thermostats have a long list of advanced features that allow you to conserve energy, and ultimately save money on your electric bill.
You can control the temperature of your home from your phone when you have a smart thermostat. Image source: Lowes
With most smart thermostats, you are able to program your schedule into them so the temperature of your home is a little cooler (or warmer, depending on the season) when you’re not home, and just right when you walk through the door.
What makes smart thermostats different from traditional programmable thermostats is that they have the ability to learn your behavior and adjust the temperature of your home based on your habits. This allows you to save even more on your electric bill.
5 best smart thermostats of 2020
The best smart thermostat for your home depends on what is most important to you. Is it smart home integration? Are you on a tight budget?
We’ve laid out the best smart thermostats no matter what your needs are.
1. Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat is best known for its advanced learning capabilities. Image source: Home Depot
Price: $248.00 Buy Now
Features: The Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd-generation earns the title of best overall smart thermostat for a few reasons. One of the biggest factors that puts the Google Nest Learning Thermostat above the rest is its advanced learning feature.
With advanced learning algorithms and geofencing, your thermostat learns your habits to create a fine-tuned heating and cooling schedule that’s just right for you after just a few days. Now that’s smart!
The Nest Learning Thermostat is also known for being the most stylish smart thermostat. With seven different colors to choose from and a stainless steel rim, there is bound to be a Nest that fits your home’s look. It also has a simplistic display, making it more aesthetically pleasing than some other brands.
The downside is that the Nest is not compatible with all smart home setups. So, if you’re looking to have a Google Home smart hub, the Nest is perfect. But if you have an Apple HomeKit setup, a Nest will not be compatible. And while it doesn’t come with additional sensors, Nest temperature sensors can be purchased separately.
2. ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat
The ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat is great for integrating into a smart home and is especially beneficial if you live in an area with time-of-use electricity rates. Image source: ecobee
Price: $199.99 Buy Now
Best: Smart home integration
Features: If you’re looking to integrate a smart thermostat into your smart home, or you want to make your house smarter in the future, the Energy Star-rated ecobee 4 smart thermostat with voice control is right for you. The ecobee 4 is compatible with most popular smart home systems, like Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT.
What makes this ecobee smart thermostat really unique is its ability to adjust how it heats your home based on the price of electricity thanks to its eco+ feature. If you live in an area with time-of-use (TOU) electricity rates, this can save you a lot of money. The thermostat will learn when energy is the cheapest, and turn your heat or air conditioner on during that time, saving you money.
Unfortunately, the ecobee 4 does not have advanced learning abilities. This means it relies more heavily on the schedule you input into the system. However, this smart thermostat does come with additional sensors, which allow for better control of the temperature in each room of your house.
It also has a geofencing feature, so it can adjust the temperature when you’re not home to save you money.
A huge bonus for the ecobee 4 is that it comes with an Amazon Alexa voice assistant built in that allows you to change your temperature settings with the sound of your voice, and works with Alexa devices you already have. Your thermostat can serve as a smart speaker, an intercom, and even make phone calls. That’s two smart home devices for the price of one!
3. Honeywell Lyric T5+
The Honeywell Lyric T5+ is the best smart thermostat if you’re on a budget. Image source: Honeywell
Price: $149.00 Buy Now
Best: Budget thermostat
Features: The Honeywell Lyric T5 doesn’t have as many features as some of the other smart thermostats on this list, but it comes in at a great price point for what it does offer.
The Honeywell Lyric T5 WiFi thermostat has a geofencing feature that will adjust the temperature of your house when it detects you're not home to save electricity. You can easily adjust what the temperatures will be by changing your “Home” and “Away” settings.
If you don’t want to use their geofencing feature, you can always opt to just have it programmed with your schedule, like a traditional programmable thermostat. However, the touch screen makes it much easier to use than a normal programmable thermostat.
You also have the power to pause your schedule. So, if you’re having a party at your house and you don’t want to adjust all of your settings for the week, simply pause your schedule and adjust the temperature exactly how you want it.
The Honeywell Lyric T5 is a little more limited in what smart home setups it is compatible with. For example, while it is compatible with AppleHome Kit, you can’t integrate it into a Google smart home setup. It also doesn’t have advanced learning capabilities. The look of it is a little outdated, as well.
However, its reliable geofencing and the ability to program your schedule is great if you're looking for a smart thermostat that can do the basics, without breaking the bank.
4. Nest Thermostat
The Nest Thermostat gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Image source: Best Buy
Price: $129.99 Buy Now
Features: Replacing the previous Nest Thermostat E, the new Nest Thermostat has a sleek design at a low price point - giving you the most bang for your buck. The Nest Thermostat has many of the same functionality as its more expensive version, just in different packaging.
Google was able to cut the price down by eliminating the signature moving wheel around the outside of the thermostat. Instead, it was replaced with a touch strip that allows you to adjust the temperature. It also runs on AAA batteries instead of a built-in rechargeable battery.
This Nest Thermostat has many of the advanced features you want from a smart thermostat, without some of the extra frills that inflate the price tag.
5. Mysa Smart Thermostat
Mysa Smart Thermostat is great if you have baseboard heating. Image source: Amazon
Price: $139.00 Buy Now
Best: High voltage smart thermostat
Features: Many of the more common smart thermostats are not compatible with baseboard heaters - and that’s what makes the Mysa Smart Thermostat stand out. It allows homeowners with high-voltage heating to move into the 21st century. It’s also compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit.
Mysa’s thermostat has a geolocation feature to adjust the temperature when you’re not home. You can also set it to vacation mode when you won’t be home for extended periods of time. Plus, the thermostat has a pretty sleek design!
What smart thermostat features should you look for?
Not all smart thermostats are created equal and the models on the market all have a variety of different features. Here are a few that you should look out for when buying a smart thermostat:
- Whether or not it’s compatible with your HVAC system
- Your home’s wiring
- Smart home integration
- Geofencing and remote sensors
- Advanced learning capabilities
Compatibility with your HVAC system
If you have separate cooling and heating systems, you might have to install an individual smart thermostat for each one.
Similarly, if you currently have an individual thermostat in each room, also known as a zoned system, you might need more than one smart thermostat. This could get a little costly, and a regular programmable thermostat could be better for you.
Zoned systems could require multiple smart thermostats to operate properly. Image source: Google Support
Many popular smart thermostat models cannot be used for homes that utilize baseboard heat, or other high-voltage heating and cooling systems. You also need to make sure the smart thermostat is compatible with heat pumps if you do not have a furnace.
There are some brands of smart thermostats made specifically for these types of systems, so keep that in mind when you’re looking to upgrade your thermostat.
The wiring of your home
This is one of the most important things to look for when buying a smart thermostat.
If you take a look at your existing thermostat, you can see what kind of wiring you have. Most smart thermostats require what is known as a C-wire, or common wire, which provides continuous power so your smart thermostat can show its screen display and stay connected to your home WiFi.
Some smart thermostats require a C-wire. Others have kits to connect to your heating and cooling system if you don’t have a C-wire. Image source: Google Support
Luckily, some thermostats are able to be installed without a C-wire. ecobee models can be installed without a C-wire using an adapter kit.
Other smart thermostats don’t require a C-wire, like Nest models. However, there have been warnings against installing a Nest without a C-wire, as it can cause your HVAC system and your thermostat to fail.
If you really want a smart thermostat and you don’t have a C-wire, the best thing you can do is get one installed by an electrician instead of opting for a DIY installation.
Smart home integration
If you have a smart home, or are looking to make your house smarter in the future, smart home integration is extremely important - and not all smart thermostats are compatible with all smart home setups.
For example, the ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat can connect to Apple HomeKit, while the Nest Learning Thermostat cannot.
Some smart thermostats are able to pair with your smart home security system. Both Nest and ecobee thermostats include motion sensors that can be integrated with smart security cameras and alarms to increase your home’s security.
More and more people are upgrading their homes to smart homes, making smart thermostat compatibility an important thing to consider. Image source: Futureiot
Geofencing and sensors
One of the more advanced features that you’ll see for smart thermostats is geofencing.
With geofencing, your thermostat can set up a perimeter around your home. By connecting to your smartphone, the thermostat will be able to detect when you leave or enter that perimeter.
It can then adjust the temperature to use less energy when you leave the perimeter, and make it just the right temperature when you are within it.
The ecobee 4 comes with room sensors to better regulate the temperature of your home. Image source: ecobee
Some smart thermostats also have smart sensors that you can place throughout your home to better regulate the temperature of your house. These sensors cannot only help heat cool spots in your home, they can also detect motion.
So if there is no motion sensed in a room for a duration of time, the thermostat will adjust the temperature of that room to use less electricity.
Smart thermostats with advanced learning capabilities take “smart” to the next level.
When a thermostat has an advanced learning feature, it can learn your habits and schedule. Then, it can make a heating and cooling schedule that is based around your everyday life.
Some thermostats, like the Nest, are able to learn your habits to create a custom temperature schedule. Image source: Greentech Media
For example, let’s say you set your initial schedule to have your home’s temperature at 70 degrees at 5:00 PM, but your thermostat recognizes that you don’t come home until 5:15 PM.
The thermostat will adjust itself to have your home at the perfect temperature at 5:15 PM, saving you some extra electricity in those 15 minutes.
How much can a smart thermostat save you on your electric bill?
Smart thermostats have the potential to save you a lot of money on your electric bill.
On average, a home’s heating and air conditioning costs make up about 44% of your electric bill. The easiest way to cut back on the largest chunk of your energy usage is with a smart thermostat.
We know that smart thermostats can heat and cool your home in a way that saves you electricity - but how much can a smart thermostat actually save you?
Nest conducted a study in 2015 that found smart thermostat users saved between 10% to 12% on their heating costs, and 15% on their cooling costs.
Let’s say you spend $435 every year on heating costs, and $195 on cooling costs with a regular thermostat. Based on Nest’s study, a smart thermostat would save you about $47.85 on heating and $29.25 on cooling, for a total annual energy savings of $77.10. This adds up over time!
However, you will only see these kinds of savings if you use your smart thermostat properly. It can take a lot of work and dedication to get your smart thermostat settings just right in order to save money.
If you want to see even bigger savings on your electric bill, consider installing solar panels.
Solar panels have the potential to wipe out your entire electric bill. Plus, if your utility offers net metering, they will pay you for excess electricity your solar panels produce that your home doesn’t use.
With a smart thermostat cutting down your electricity usage, you’ll have more solar electricity to sell back to your utility! Making energy efficiency upgrades, like a smart thermostat, along with installing solar panels, is a surefire way to get your electric bill lower than you’ve ever seen it!
- Smart thermostats are thermostats that can connect to your home WiFi and can be controlled through your phone, tablet, or other devices.
- You can program smart thermostats according to your schedule to get your home to the perfect temperature, all while saving money on your electricity bills.
- Before you purchase a smart thermostat, you need to make sure that it is compatible with your HVAC system, your home’s wiring, and your smart home setup (if you have one).
- When used properly, smart thermostats can save homeowners between 10% and 12% on their heating costs and 15% on their cooling costs.
Author: Catherine Lane | SolarReviews Blog Author
Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.