If you’ve been considering adding a smart thermostat to your home this Winter and are looking to do some research into the advantages and implications of such, you have certainly come to the right place, because today we investigate and examine all of the features and benefits of smart thermostats and why you should definitely get one. To learn all about these amazing temperature controlling home automation products, just keep on reading and prepare to take some notes.
What are Smart Thermostats?
Smart thermostats are pretty much exactly what they sound like—thermostats that have been given the smart home treatment: home automation devices that allow you to control your temperatures (just like regular thermostats) and reduce your energy bills by giving you a greater level of control over the heating and cooling of your home. Key brands of note in the smart thermostat realm include Nest, Honeywell, and Ecobee, among a variety of other small and one-off brands.
The key ingredient in being a smart product of any kind is having and being controlled by a dedicated app that works with smart phones and/or tablets. Smart thermostats are no exception to this rule. You simply download the free app that applies to your type of phone (typically iOS or Android) by visiting the Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store, create a unique login account, link your phone/device to your smart thermostat, and begin using it just as you would any other app controlled device.
This type of control gives you the ability to adjust your home’s temperatures remotely from virtually anywhere in the world. All that’s needed is Wi-Fi access for your device so you can connect to your thermostat via the internet and begin making adjustments. In many cases, app control also gives you the ability to see things like your home’s real-time energy usage and power consumption history, which can help you to evaluate your energy usage habits and make adjustments to its consumption as needed.
Smart thermostats are also programmable, and in many cases can even program themselves. This means that you can set your thermostat to do different things at different times of the day, such as lowering the temperature throughout your home at night when you’re sleeping cozily in bed, or having your heat come on somewhat aggressively just before you get up in the morning so that you won’t have to endure an uncomfortably cold home in the first few minutes of your day.
What smart thermostats essentially do is provide users with a much more effective climate control system than do traditional thermostats. They give you greater access to the control of your furnace and provide a broad range of feedback data to help you better manage its energy output. Not only can this help you to be more comfortable with the temperatures in your home more often, but it can also save you big bucks on your power consumption bill each month.
Key Features of Smart Thermostats
The following list of smart thermostat features may not constitute an exhaustive inventory, but it does include as many of the major features as possible. Do keep in mind, however, that not every feature will apply to every thermostat. For this reason, it is imperative to do your own individual research on any smart thermostat that you may be considering buying so as to determine whether or not your desired model offers all of the key features you’re looking for. Among the major features of smart thermostats are the following:
App Based Control – While app based control is a necessary condition of any product wishing to claim “smart” status, the level of control you may get from particular apps can vary. For instance, any smart home app worth its salt will allow you to turn its corresponding device on and off, make changes to its settings, and generally check in on the product from virtually anywhere in the world with access to Wi-Fi. But not every app will necessarily allow you to set timers on your devices from within the app, or view the history of the product’s usage via your smart phone. Thus, when considering which smart thermostat you may wish to buy, investigate the capabilities of that product’s app to ensure that it has and does everything you’d like it to do—some apps are just more advanced than others.
Energy Cost Reduction – One of the best features of smart thermostats is their ability to help you keep your energy costs down. This is because they give you a variety of ways to better manage your heating and cooling usage, such as being able to log into their smart phone app to turn your thermostat down or off when you realize that you won’t be home at your usual time (or something similar). However, in the case of the Nest Wi-Fi Smart Learning Thermostat, there’s also another major way that your thermostat will help reduce your energy bill, but we’ll cover that in a separate bullet point.
Wi-Fi Connectivity – By connecting to your home’s existing Wi-Fi network, smart thermostats are not only able to communicate with your other smart devices, but they can also do really amazing things such as using the internet to your home’s advantage. Smart thermostats, for instance, can actually check the internet for the latest weather forecast and conditions in your area (such as finding out how cold it’s going to be over the next few hours) and adjust themselves accordingly to prepare for those conditions. Thus, if there’s a cold snap coming later tonight before you’re going to get home from work to be able to prepare for it, don’t worry, your smart thermostat has you covered. (Note: This feature may not be available on all smart thermostat models.)
Learning Capabilities – This particular feature, which was alluded to above, is specific to the Nest Wi-Fi Smart Learning Thermostat. It is due to Nest’s development and implementation of “smart learning technology,” which allows your thermostat to learn your regular schedule of comings and goings (as well as your habitual heating and cooling preferences over time) to better manage your energy consumption. Using the data it has collected, the Nest Learning Thermostat is able to program itself in such a way that it will be on when you want it on and off when you want it off. In this way, it will reduce your overall energy consumption by as much as 20% (according to Nest’s own claims).
Integration with Other Smart Home Devices – I mentioned above that smart thermostats can communicate with your other smart devices. This allows for control possibilities that most of us never could have imagined. For example, via the Works with Nest initiative (which we’ll get deeper into in its own section below), compatible smart home devices can communicate with and even control their smart home counterparts, such as when the Nest Protect sends a message to your smart thermostat to warn of a CO2 leak, thus turning off your furnace (which is the most likely culprit for the leak). But more on how this amazing system works later in the guide.
Nest Protect and Works with Nest
Although Nest Protect and Works with Nest are obviously not smart thermostats themselves, they do all work closely enough together with Nest thermostats (and other Nest products) to deserve some discussion in this buying guide. In fact, they deserve an entire section of the guide to be properly and fully explained.
The name Nest Protect refers specifically to the Nest Protect Wi-Fi Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm, which is a potentially life-saving detector that comes in both battery powered and hard-wired forms. Just like other Nest smart home devices, the Nest Protect is app controlled and can be managed from virtually anywhere, in addition to a variety of other smart features that it carries. But what’s particularly impressive about the Nest Protect system is the way that it works in tandem with your Nest smart thermostat to turn off potential dangers when it detects them.
Consider, for example, the case of a carbon monoxide leak in your home. Where is such a leak most likely to come from? Your furnace is a pretty good bet. But what the Nest Protect system can do is directly and automatically communicate with your Nest smart thermostat and tell it to turn the furnace off in the event of a CO2 leak. This seemingly small act could potentially save the lives of you and all of your family members. Similarly, in the event of a fire, Nest Protect can also shut down your furnace to reduce the overall heat in your home at such a dangerous time.
What makes Nest Protect such an effective partner of Nest’s smart thermostats is the powerful Works with Nest initiative. Works with Nest is the smart home ecosystem that provides the communication link between two or more Nest smart home devices so that they can all work together to make your smart home even smarter.
Better still, Works with Nest isn’t solely limited to products manufactured by Nest itself. Works with Nest is a constantly expanding smart home ecosystem that can communicate with ever more smart home devices from a variety of different manufacturers. Today there are literally hundreds of smart home devices from dozens of different manufactures that are Works with Nest compatible.
These include smart locks, smart lights, smart plugs and switches, smart security cameras, smart doorbells, smart voice assistant speakers, and even smart sprinkler systems, just to name a few. But just what exactly can you do with Works with Nest?
Well, imagine you’re going out for a while in the evening and don’t want to spend 5-10 minutes running all through your house turning off lights, unplugging things, turning down thermostats, and the like. Well, with Works with Nest, all you’d have to do is set your Nest smart thermostat to its away mode (which can be done via the app), and all of your compatible and connected devices will also switch to their respective away modes: lights will go off (or on, if they’re meant for security), smart cameras will activate, alarm systems will arm themselves, thermostats will reduce the temperatures in your home—you name it!
As you can see, there’s no limit to the ways that your Nest smart thermostat and Works with Nest can make managing your home and all of its smart devices more convenient. You could even set your LIFX Lightbulbs to flash red in the case of a specific emergency, such as your Nest Protect detecting smoke in the house.
If you’re wrapped up in a movie or video game with your noise canceling headphones on at a time like that, you might not hear an alarm or even smell the smoke yourself, but just try to ignore a barrage of brightly flashing red lights all throughout your home. At a time such as this, the Nest Protect, Works with Nest, and Nest’s various partner products could literally save your life, and that’s no joke!
Take the Next Step
By now you’re probably feeling a bit more confident about taking the next step and beginning to shop for your own smart thermostat. You’ve learned what smart thermostats are, what they can do, and how they can benefit any modern home.
Of course, no buying guide can answer all of your questions—there’s always more to be learned—so we suggest looking at several smart thermostat product pages at Best Buy to see which thermostats have which features, and also to root out additional benefits that may not have been covered here.
And remember, this document is a resource that you can revisit as often as you like. It’s not going anywhere. There are many other smart thermostat and smart home articles right here on the blog that are packed with valuable information. Bookmark the blog and come back as often as you like to learn all about today’s amazing smart home products.