Programmable thermostats (by these we mean thermostats which can be programmed but are not connected to the Internet) have been around for a long time now. And they have many advantages over standard models. For one thing, they save money on your utility bills by allowing you to set different temperatures for different times of the day and/or day of the week. You save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat lower when you are not at home or sleeping, and set it to a warmer temperature when you are awake. Of course, the inverse is true in the summer.
However, many people have found them too hard to program; some estimates state 40% of programmable thermostat owners did not actually program them. As a result, Energy Star stopped certifying these products many years ago.
Now, however, there are “smart” thermostats connected to the Internet and accessible through an app on your mobile phone which have significant advantages over more traditional programmable thermostats:
- They are much more convenient and easier to operate. You can control your heating and cooling with little manual input, and can adjust them remotely from your mobile phone – anytime and anywhere. Many apps have voice-activated capabilities.
- “Smart” thermostats contain advanced features that automatically adjust the temperature without your having to do anything.
- As a result of the convenience and advanced features, “smart” thermostats can lower your heating bills compared to more traditional programmable thermostats.
Here are a few of those key features:
- Algorithmic learning. Smart thermostats “learn” about your heating and cooling preferences and automatically adjust settings based upon those preferences.
- Sensing. Many “smart” thermostats can detect when you are at home and automatically adjust the temperature based on that.
- Geofencing. The thermostat can sense how close your smartphone is to your home. So you can actually set preferences for the thermostat to adjust if you are a given distance from your home.
- Environmental adjusting. “Smart” thermostats can sense environmental factors such an increased humidity or extreme hot or cold and make adjustments “on the fly.”
- “Smart” home integration. Many “smart” thermostats can be integrated with other automation systems such as lighting.
Two caveats before investing in a “smart” thermostat.
- Price. “Smart” thermostats are more expensive than standard programmable thermostats. So even though you will save money on your utility bills, they you will have to pay more up front.
- Not all “smart” thermostats work with every HVAC system. So if you are considering one for your existing system, make sure it is compliant.