There are a lot of really good SmartHome devices out there that are really useful, but the smart thermostat isn’t one of them.
Do not get me wrong; I’m someone who loves to have all kinds of technology around the house, even if it’s not necessarily necessary or helpful. I have a smart light, a video intercom, security cameras, door sensors and, yes, a smart thermostat. But out of all of this, my smart thermostat is probably the only smart home that doesn’t really have to be «smart».
When was the last time you touched the thermostat?
Thermostats are pretty simple devices, and they’re made so you don’t have to fiddle around with them all the time. Most «dumb» thermostats these days are programmable, meaning you can literally set them and forget about them — nothing else is needed.
Of course, this really depends on how you use your thermostat. If you prefer full manual control, chances are you are adjusting your thermostat a couple of times a day. And, of course, being able to control it from your phone can be useful and convenient, but in most homes it’s also not a real problem to just get up and use the manual controls.
However, if you set up a schedule on a programmable thermostat where the temperature is automatically adjusted at a specific time each day, you likely won’t even look at your thermostat, if you have one at all.
This is especially true for homes where there is someone around most of the day. In these cases, the thermostat usually stays at the same level most of the time, perhaps with small changes from time to time. And you might think this example is tiny, but the number of homeworkers is on the rise, and the same is true of stay-at-home parents.
Most of the features seem new and useful, but they really aren’t.
At first glance, smart thermostats have some really nice features. For example, geofencing adjusts the temperature depending on whether you are at home or not, and you can probably save a lot of money on your utility bills without even thinking about it.
But here’s the thing: Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to get up at the same time every morning, leave for work at the same time, come home from work at the same time, go to bed at the same time. Rinse and repeat. At this point, geofencing is really no different than setting up a simple time-based schedule on a traditional programmable thermostat.
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In addition, those remote sensors that you can place in different rooms of your house seem to be good at first glance. You can average the temperature so that no room is too cold or too hot. And in more advanced settings, you can even control the temperature in different rooms independently.
But here’s the thing. Even after using a manual thermostat for a while, you start to get a feel for where you need to place the thermostat in order to properly heat or cool different areas of your home.
For example, the entire top floor in my house is always about five degrees warmer than the bottom floor. While I could use remote sensors to tell my smart thermostat to heat or cool depending on the temperature upstairs, I could just set it to 70 degrees if I wanted the top floor to be cooled down to 75 degrees — in this point does not need remote sensors,
Get a cheap, programmable thermostat and be prepared
You can get a lot of thermostats for very little money, especially when compared to the price of a smart thermostat.
It’s from Honeywell for under $40 and can be programmed to various temperature settings. Plus, it even has the ability to automatically switch between heating and cooling — you simply set the temperature low and high, and your thermostat keeps your home within that range.
You can go even cheaper and get a similar model that doesn’t come with automatic shifting but can still be programmed. Of course, the interface of these cheaper thermostats is quite cumbersome compared to the user interfaces of smart thermostats, but as previously mentioned, you just set it up once and end up forgetting about it.
If you really want a smart thermostat, however, you can get one for relatively cheap. The Honeywell Lyric T5 costs $100, but it has everything you need in such a product. It may not be as sleek and fancy as the Nest Thermostat, but you can’t beat that price.
You can also try going through your utility company and see if they offer any of the smart thermostat discounts we talked about earlier. Usually your local utility company will offer you some kind of discount that can save you some money if you’re not willing to pay full price. In fact, a How-To Geek contributor was recently able to snag an Ecobee4 for as little as $100 — not too bad.
I mean, hey, of course, if you have extra money that you don’t know what to do with, by all means, buy a smart thermostat if you wanted it — remote control capabilities and other handy features, definitely are nice to have and they cause nothing. But obviously this is a luxury that not everyone can enjoy.