In the “old days” operating a thermostat was simple. You’d go to the thermostat and, using a dial or switch, you would set the temperature in your home to the desired level. If you wanted to change the temperature, you’d have to go back to the thermostat and repeat the process.
Enter the programmable thermostat. You could go to the thermostat and set it to different temperatures based on the time of the day. For example, you could set it to one temperature when you were home and awake, and to another temperature if you knew you would be at work, or asleep. These thermostats were great for making sure you were comfortable while lowering your utility bills, but you still had to go to the thermostat.
Today there are smart thermostats. These thermostats can be accessed and adjusted remotely from your smart phone or tablet. For example, if you set the thermostat down before you travel, you can turn it up via your phone or tablet while you are on the way home. These thermostats also have numerous features that can do even more to maximize comfort and lower utility costs. Here are a few.
- Motion sensors. Some thermostats have remote motion sensors that will detect whether you are near. If the sensor does not detect you, it will assume you are not around and will adjust accordingly.
- Geofencing. Some smart thermostats use your phone’s geofencing feature to tell whether you are home or away, and even how far away you are. For example, if the thermostat detects that you are far away from your home at a time you usually are home, it can adjust to a more energy-efficient temperature. Of course, this assumes you have your phone with you.
- “Learning”. Some thermostats go even further and are smart enough to “learn” your habits and schedule over time and can adjust the temperature based on those habits, even if that contradicts its settings.
- Integration. Many models can be integrated with other smart devices in your home. For example, some allow you to voice command via a device such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Some can also link to your smoke detector and will shut off if a fire is detected.
Here are two other things to keep in mind when considering a smart thermostat.
- Check with your HVAC contractor to make sure the smart thermostat you are considering will be compatible with your furnace. Some furnace manufacturers offer thermostats that are compatible with the unit. Also, if your home uses baseboard or radiant heat instead of a furnace, you will need a thermostat compatible with that.
- While you may be tempted to install it yourself, it might be better for you to have an HVAC contractor do it. This is especially true if you bought the thermostat with the furnace.