Technology has already upgraded the most fun elements of our lives: mobile phones, gaming devices—even our cars. And now tech companies (and traditional companies trying to defend their turf) are beginning to turn our mundane “dumb” items—like thermostats and refrigerators—into “smart” Internet-connected powerhouses.
But there’s more to it than that. Only a relatively small group of tech-obsessed hipsters and early adopters would buy a smart thermostat “just because” it looked cooler and connected to their phones. For mass market appeal, smart thermostats need to actually improve a person’s situation—and so they do. Smart thermostats—led by early pioneer Nest (now owned by Google)—can help lower your energy bills. Some, automatically.
While the Nest is definitely the most well-known of the smart thermostats, you might be surprised to find some solid, innovative competition waiting in the wings.
The ecobee3 sets itself apart from the pack in a few ways. The biggest bonus are the remote sensors. Other thermostats listed here—though smart—aren’t this smart; they only read the temperature in 1 room. With ecobee3’s remote sensors, the system can tell which rooms are occupied and can tell when someone is home or away. The ecobee3 also has an Apple Watch app and a very sleek, non-circular (i.e. non-Nest) design that is minimal and beautiful all at once.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is the original WiFi thermostat that everyone became all excited about; and for good reason. The Next Learning Thermostat gets smarter as you use it. The design and controls are simply incredible—and can’t be beat, in my opinion. There’s a leaf icon that will show up to help you consciously conserve energy and—this is so cool—the Nest knows when you are on the way home and will start heating or cooling the house appropriately.
The Venstar ColorTouch WiFi thermostat uses it’s massive touchscreen to differentiate itself. If you would prefer the option to use themes and wallpapers on a large color display rather than a minimalistic and to-the-point interface then this is the right thermostat for you. You can even turn the Venstar ColorTouch into a digital picture frame when not in use. Security minded people will appreciate the ability to add a passcode and even restrict the temperature range.
The Lyric thermostat, by Honeywell, is, well, there’s no other way to say it: a bit of a Nest ripoff in terms of design. Sort of. There’s no beating the Nest’s ingenious design. Still, if you’re looking for a Nest alternative the Lyric does offer many compelling features: easy 4-step (app-based) install, geofencing, Smart Cues (alerts that can let you know when to change a filter or when extreme weather hits) and the ability to take into consideration humidity as well as temperature.
The iComfort also ditches the small circular design of the Nest and instead opts for a larger color screen. Like the Venstar above, the iComfort (by Lennox) wants to appeal to your decorative side. But rather than just offering themes and wallpapers for the screens, the iComfort also offers skins for the plastic of the device itself. If that appeals to you then this thermostat might be right up your alley, although the interface seems a bit clunky if you ask me.