Save money on your heating with a smart thermostat
Take back control of your home heating bills with the latest generation of smart thermostats — devices you can easily control from your iPhone or iPad, even remotely
The possibility of saving some money on your heating bills meant that smart thermostats were among the first devices to emerge in the home automation market, and with energy prices rising all the time they continue to be a popular purchase.
There is plenty of choice these days, with a variety of different designs available. Most of these new thermostats will simply replace the existing thermostat on your wall, although some do include a separate wireless adaptor that allows you to move the thermostat from room to room. Some use high-tech touchscreen controls, while others opt for more old-fashioned buttons and dials that mimic traditional thermostats.
Yet these design features are often just skin deep, and most smart thermostats concentrate on providing the same core set of features, which are generally controlled by an app on your iPhone, iPad or other mobile devices. The majority of these apps will enable you to program daily and weekly schedules to turn the heating on or off at specific times, or set temperature limits so that your home is always kept at a comfortable temperature.
Having an app on your iPhone also enables the thermostat to monitor your location, so it can turn itself on and warm things up when it sees that you’re on your way home from work in the evening and within a defined distance (using a feature known as “geofencing”). Most apps can analyze your energy usage to help you save money, and can send notifications of unexpected events — so if the heating suddenly comes on while you’re out at work, say, then that might
mean someone’s left a window open. These similarities mean most of the smart thermostats now available will suit a variety of houses, condos and apartments. The only thing to watch out for is hidden costs, such as installation fees, which can add to the basic cost of some smart thermostats.
One of the first smart thermostats to arrive in the US was the Learning Thermostat from Nest, which boasts a stylish circular design. Available for $249, the third-generation model lacks HomeKit compatibility, but you can still control it from your iPhone or iPad using the free Nest app for iOS.
The Learning Thermostat is so called because it “learns” when you turn the temperature up or down (up during the day and down at night, for example) and then uses that information, built up over its first week, to automatically create a heating schedule for you — potentially saving you money in the process. The Learning Thermostat is also fully programmable, of course, and it includes a feature called Farsight, which automatically makes it light up and display the time or temperature whenever you walk into a room.
The Learning Thermostat works very well and has the advantage of working with other Nest products, such as the Nest security camera and its forthcoming video doorbell, called Hello. There was a rumor that the Nest thermostat might add support for HomeKit, but since Nest is owned by Google, and since the Google Home smart speaker is a direct rival for the new Apple HomePod, we’re not holding our breath on that.
If you want a smart thermostat that fully supports HomeKit — because you want to control it with an Apple TV, Siri or Apple’s HomePod smart speaker — then the $169.95 ecobee3 Lite is ideal. You can pair it with up to 32 separate sensors located around
Having a nap pony our phone also enables the thermostat to monitor your location
your home (sold separately in packs of two for $79) to keep tabs on the temperature in each room, and it’s easy to control, either using the free app for iPhone or iPad or via its touchscreen front panel.
Honeywell’s Lyric T5 is cheaper at $149.95, and also supports HomeKit. It’s sold on the Apple Store, so it’s easy to find, as is the more expensive Honeywell Lyric Round, which costs $249.95. The Lyric Round offers additional features, such as the ability to control humidity as well as temperature, automatically firing up the air-conditioning when needed. Like the other smart thermostats here, it offers geofencing, enabling it to turn on your HVAC system automatically as you get closer to home or shut it down as you get further away.
Also available on the Apple Store, the iDevices Thermostat costs a more modest $129.95. While it’s not as stylish as either of the Honeywells or the ecobee3, it’s fully-programmable and Home Kit-compatible, and can be controlled using your voice alone, thanks to Siri.
Last, but by no means least, is the Elgato Eve Degree — incredibly affordable at just $69.95, it’s ideal for renters because it’s battery-powered, it’s relatively portable, and it uses Bluetooth Low Energy technology to connect with your iPhone or iPad. It also works seamlessly with HomeKit. Nest’s Learning Thermostat is one smart device.
Whichever smart thermostat you choose, installation is fairly straightforward: you’re effectively replacing your existing thermostat with a new, smarter one. But if you have any doubts about your ability to do it yourself, ask a local electrician or HVAC engineer to do it for you.
The brilliantly designed ecobee3 Lite thermostat works with HomeKit.
Elgato’s Eve Degree is incredibly affordable — and portable.