How to Choose the Right Smart Thermostat for Your Home
Smart thermostats are fast becoming a fad among homeowners, especially those who are in the process of constructing their own home or renovating them to make them so-called “smart” homes. A smart thermostat, linked to your air-conditioning unit or furnace, can control the temperature in your home and can be programmed to automatically adjust the temperature depending on the time of the day. Some models can now memorize settings over time and program itself, and can even be remotely controlled and programmed, from a computer in the office, or from your smartphone or iPhone.
Smart Thermostats are basically energy-saving devices, invented when people were looking for some way to control the way their air-conditioning units operate so that they don’t use up too much electricity. Older models had to be manually set so that they reduce the air-conditioning unit’s electricity use at night when it was cooler, or maximize use during the day.
Later on, smart thermostats were invented. These devices can still be manually preset, but now they can also read the temperature inside and outside the house, and can automatically program the right settings for the convenience of the resident. What a smart thermostat offers is the convenience of installing it in the house near your cooling or heating unit, and then forgetting about it. It does its work largely on its own.
If you are planning to buy a thermostat, you might as well know what kind of features you need on the device and what models are available in the market today.
The word “smart” actually refers to the thermostats being automatic and programmable. Manual thermostats had to be set and reset at different times of the day, or if the homeowner has to leave the house and wants the air-conditioner on throughout the day. Smart thermostats can actually determine whether it’s time to keep the cooling effect at a maximum because there are people in the house or minimize it because everybody is either at work or in school. This is done by using different kinds of sensors.
That works the same way with heaters during winter. These thermostats can actually stop the heater when nobody’s home, and then restart it a few minutes before the residents arrive home.
This type of thermostats can also help give energy savings for homeowners. It can automatically reduce your heating or cooling when you need it least, maintaining the highest or lowest required temperature for limited hours of the day or night only instead of maintaining a constant temperature 24 hours a day. Knowing how they work, it is important to know what other features should be found on the best smart thermostats.
The ideal thermostat should be easy to install, easy to use, and easy on the budget as well. You have to have some kind of balance here, because if you’re looking for something so smart that it could actually act on its own once installed, then you might have to pay more for it.
Before making your purchase, ask the following questions:
Is the smart thermostat easy to use? By ease of use, ask yourself what kind of controls would be on the device and would they not be too complicated. What you’d commonly see on these devices is a digital display that shows you temperature and time settings or real-time displays. The controls are mostly push-button, although some thermostats feature a hybrid system where you have both digital and manual knobs and slides for more flexibility.
What other information can you see on the thermostat control panel? Most smart thermostats should be able to display not only the temperature but also the humidity inside and outside the house. It’s one feature that tells you whether it’s okay to go outside and enjoy the weather, or it is best to stay indoors.
How is it controlled? The other feature that most modern thermostats now have is their remote controllability – not by a home remote control device alone, but through the internet. These thermostats can be programmed from your computer in the office of even from your smartphone or iPhone, and can be very useful when, for example, you forgot to turn your cooling or heating off, or if you wanted to postpone the cooling or heating because you won’t be coming home early.
Does it come with connectivity options? Most modern thermostats today come with WiFi connectivity features. This will allow your device to link to weather services and send you information when you check the device online.
Does the smart therstat have activity and light sensors? There’s another unique feature on some smart thermostats that sense light inside the house. When the device senses unoccupied conditions because of low light, it automatically allows temperatures to fall below occupied temperature settings, maybe by 10 to 15 degrees. When lighting levels are back to normal, it reads that there are people in the house, and orders your heating or cooling back to normal conditions.
More Smart Thermostat Features
These thermostats are just getting smarter and smarter actually. Now there are devices that remind you to clean or replace the air filter on your air-conditioning, there are those that warn you of a malfunction in the cooling or heating, and those with motion sensors that, like light-sensing devices, tell the device that someone is present in the home and it’s time to cool things down.
One other thing that you have to ask yourself when buying a thermostat is, could you install it yourself, or would you need to call an HVAC contractor to do that for you? Most of these devices attach to the cooling or heating unit by one or two wires, so it’s quite easy to install them yourself. Or better still, have the supplier send a technician over to deliver, install, and program it for you and save you the hassle.
So, does the smart thermostat really save money? Energy Star says the average household spends about $2,200 on electricity bills per year, and half of that goes to cooling and heating. Smart thermostats could help you save $300 to $400 a year. Now that can be considerable savings by any standard. And besides, it brings your home closer to smart-home standards, too.