Smart thermostats are convenient and claim they can save you a lot of money on your energy bills. But is a smart thermostat worth the price and effort?
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What smart thermostats do
If you don’t know much about smart thermostats, you might think that they are magical devices that can completely change the way you heat and cool your home. That’s… a bit true, we suppose.
Smart thermostats allow you to change various thermostat settings from your smartphone, and in some cases via a web browser, computer, or by voice using a device like the Amazon Echo. This adds a whole new level of convenience as you can turn on the air conditioner when you get home from vacation so it will be nice and cool by the time you walk through the front door. Or you can turn on the heat while you curl up on the couch without having to walk around the house.
Most smart thermostats also let you view usage history and see when heating or cooling started and at what time it happened, giving you a better idea of how often your system is running.
Perhaps the biggest feature of smart thermostats, at least in some cases, is the ability to learn your adjustment habits. For example, the Nest thermostat can learn over time when you’re home or away, and how warm or cool you like your home at different times during the day, without having to manually program it. You simply adjust the thermostat whenever you want and it will learn those habits.
So how does it «save money»?
This all sounds great, and if you’re looking to buy a new thermostat or just want to make your life a little easier, then a smart thermostat looks simple. But there are a few more things to consider.
Cost is probably the biggest downside, as most smart thermostats are priced around $250, while a traditional basic programmable thermostat can be had for as little as $25.
That means those extras — smartphone access, usage history, the ability to set the thermostat for you, and other settings — cost $225 or so.
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Of course, the extra money you spend on a smart thermostat will end up saving you more money, right? Smart thermostats are marketed as having the ability to easily save you money on energy costs, and they certainly do. may .
However, this is only true because the thermostat can learn your settings and optimize heating and cooling by turning the air conditioner off during the day when you’re at work and turning it on when you get home. A basic programmable thermostat can do the same, but it’s much harder to program with those clunky buttons. Smart thermostats are much faster and easier to program, and some (like Nest) can do it all automatically by doing this even easier .
So on their own, smart thermostats probably won’t save you more money than a simple programmable thermostat. And, if your home isn’t optimized for airflow and ventilation, then you have much bigger problems than just the thermostat.
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But if you’re not going to spend time programming your existing thermostat — because it’s too much of a pain — a smart thermostat can be a smart investment, as it can program itself for you (or at least do so). much easier than a traditional thermostat). Separate remote access capabilities can also cost extra money. Many people, including myself, prefer to have full (or at least most) manual control of the thermostat, and remote access is convenient — I can just open the smartphone app and change the temperature on the thermostat wherever I am.” m in the world.
After all, you probably don’t needed a smart thermostat, and it won’t necessarily save you more money on your energy bills on its own (unless your current thermostat is so dumb that you don’t program it optimally). But they are certainly more convenient, and if you don’t take the time to use your thermostat the way it was designed, a smart thermostat can save you a few bucks by making your life easier.