These days, it seems like everything’s getting smarter — from light bulbs you can control with your voice to refrigerators that track your food inventory.
But among the most popular smart products available on the market, smart thermostats are near the top of the list. In fact, according to a recent report from Strategy Analytics, almost 50% of U.S. smart homes have a smart thermostat.
Just because it's popular, doesn't mean it's for you, though. Perhaps you're on the fence, wondering if you should get a smart thermostat. Read on for our coverage of how smart thermostats work, the features you can expect from most models, and a breakdown of the pros and cons of installing a smart thermostat in your home.
What Is a Smart Thermostat?
In the most basic sense, a smart thermostat is any thermostat that you can control via an internet-connected device, whether it’s a smartphone, computer, speaker, or otherwise. Smart thermostats work by connecting to the internet so you can access and control them from anywhere. Beyond that basic requirement, they can come with dozens of unique features, depending on the specific model.
Many smart thermostats come with adaptive technology that allows them to learn your heating and cooling preferences, advanced tracking features so you can tell how much energy you’re using at any given time, and diagnostic capabilities, which can detect when there’s a problem with your ducting or HVAC system. All of this is designed to make your home climate more convenient to control — and easier on your wallet.
Smart Thermostats: The Pros and Cons
Smart thermostats sound like the perfect investment for any home, but are they a necessary purchase for most homeowners?
Let's look at the pros and cons of installing a smart thermostat in your home.
Pro: They’re Convenient
One of the biggest advantages of smart thermostats is their ability to “learn” your temperature preferences and routines.
For example, if you like to keep the temperature cool at night but warmer as you get up for the day, a smart thermostat can learn these preferences and make automatic adjustments throughout the day.
In fact, over time, a smart thermostat will get smarter and smarter as it picks up your habits and behaviors.
Con: Programmable Thermostats Might Have All the Features You Need
While smart thermostats come with plenty of advanced features and capabilities, you may wonder if you really need all the bells and whistles?
As long as you take the time to set a schedule, any programmable thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature in your home throughout the day. Sure, it won’t come with any built-in learning algorithms to predict your temperature preferences, but it will get the job done.
That's true if — and only if — you take the time to program your thermostat. According to a study by Berkley Lawrence National Lab, however, nearly 90% of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it. A smart thermostat may remove this barrier because you can easily change settings via your smartphone.
Pro: They Can Help You Save Money
Beyond their convenience, one of their biggest benefits of smart thermostats is that they can help you save money.
As we mentioned earlier, smart thermostats will automatically make temperature adjustments throughout the day based on your habits and patterns. So, for example, if you leave for work by 8 a.m. and return home just after 5 p.m., a smart thermostat will reduce the temperature in your home during those “away hours” and therefore cut down on your energy consumption.
Most smart thermostats also come with advanced reporting features, allowing you to track your energy usage from your phone or desktop computer, and some will even offer tips and recommendations on how to lower your consumption.
But how much can you really expect to save with a smart thermostat?
According to a report from Research and Markets, Ecobee, one of the leading smart thermostat manufacturers, claims that customers can save 23% on their electricity bills, while Nest claims that savings can be between 10% and 12% on heating and 15% on cooling. But there are a number of factors that can impact your savings, such as your base household temperature, how often you adjust your thermostat, and more.
Con: They’re Less Cost-Effective if You Work From Home
As we mentioned above, smart thermostats can help homeowners save money by lowering the temperature when no one’s home. But if you work from home, this won’t really apply to you since you’ll likely want to keep the temperature at a comfortable level throughout the day.
This isn’t to say that buying a smart thermostat won’t help you reduce your energy bills if you work from home, it’s just that the savings may not be quite as dramatic.
Pro: They’re Compatible With Other Devices
Unlike programmable thermostats, which can only be adjusted manually, smart thermostats are, well, smart. They can be integrated into broader smart home systems, such as your mobile phone, desktop computer, and even voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.
Not only does this make smart thermostats more convenient (all you have to say is “Alexa, set the temperature to 78 degrees”), but it can also give you better insights into your home’s temperature, even when you aren’t physically there.
Con: Installation Can Be Tricky
If you’re dealing with an older HVAC system, installing a smart thermostat could be tricky or downright impossible.
This is simply to say that you need to be certain that your HVAC is compatible before you try to hook up a smart thermostat yourself (or hire a professional installation service).
Should You Get a Smart Thermostat?
It’s impossible for us to say whether a smart thermostat is a worthwhile investment for you personally — it depends on your home, your needs, and many other factors.
If you’re looking for a way to “smartify” your entire home and save even more money, consider installing Notion Sensors. Both programmed and smart thermostats only measure the temperature at the location where your thermostat is located. By placing Notion Sensors around your home, you can identify temperature differences across your home.
During the winter, your second floor may be warmer than the temperature on your main level, where a thermostat is located. When Notion detects a change in temperature, we’ll send you an alert on your smartphone that the room has become too hot or too cold based on your set parameters, so you can know to turn the cooling/heat on/off.
This means you can keep your home temperature comfortable whether you’re in or out of the house. It’s a great perk to have especially if you own a second home.
Placing Notion Sensors around the home can also help you recognize areas that need additional insulation or replacement - like windows and doors. Identifying and remedying these areas will help you save on your heating and cooling costs.
That’s a wrap! We hope you’ve learned all you need to know about smart thermostats in this handy article.