Like any good investment, spending money to get the right smart thermostat is rewarding. Smart thermostats save money. Just look at Nest’s white paper statistics, which show that Nest users save an average of 10%-12% on heating and about 15% on cooling. This isn’t proof that Nest is the best thermostat, but that smart thermostats can save money. With that kind of savings, a $250 thermostat will pay for itself in approximately two years.
There are other reasons why smart thermostats are alluring. They are easy to use, convenient, allow for automation, give you smartphone control, and increase your comfort. But the question remains: Who’s the best?
Keeping Your Electric Bill Low
3rd Generation Nest Thermostat
Nest Thermostat learns how it can help you save energy. It learns by observing your schedule, your preferred temperature at different times, and how to optimize your savings. Once it knows enough about you, it starts making adjustments. If it notices that you like it warm during breakfast, it will raise the temperature every morning. However, it also factors in energy savings. So, it may not give you the exact temperature you want if it thinks it’s not helping you save energy. For example, if your desired temperature is 72 degrees but Nest thinks lowering it by 2 degrees is the best way to save energy, it will do so. The difference in the temperature is barely noticeable to some, but the difference it makes to your electric bill is quantifiable.
Nest also saves energy using the Eco Temperature feature. This new feature replaces Nest’s Away and Auto-Away Mode. When set to Eco Temperature mode, Nest maintains a temperature range that saves energy while keeping your home from getting too cold or too hot. If you’re new to Nest, you will get to choose the temperature range. For heating, you can set it anywhere between 40° to 70°F; for cooling, 76° to 90°F. But if you’re an existing Nest user, the Eco Temperature range will be the same as your Away Mode settings. However, you can still reconfigure it using the app.
Eco Temperature activates based on your presence. Nest detects your presence using its built-in Activity Sensor and geo-fencing. If the last person in the house leaves, Nest automatically shifts to Eco Temperature mode. And when you come home, Nest will go back to Home mode. Alternatively, you can manually change Nest to Eco Temperature using the Nest app or the thermostat’s interface. If set manually, Eco Temperature won’t deactivate until you do it manually.
Nest can teach you as well. It’s inevitable that you will have to set your thermostat manually. And while doing so, you may notice a leaf logo on Nest’s display. That logo, the Nest Leaf, is its way of saying “Good job! You’re saving energy on your own!”. So next time you set the temperature manually, wait until that logo appears for energy savings.
At the end of every month, Nest sends a Home Report to their users through email. This is another way they help you learn to lower your energy consumption on your own. The report shows your month-to-month heating and cooling use, any observations as to why your cooling and heating use changed, energy tips and facts about your HVAC, a look at how many Nest Leafs you achieved, and a Furnace Heads-Up report.
Furnace Heads Up is Nest’s way of looking out for your HVAC system. It looks for shutoff patterns in your furnace. By doing so, it helps you diagnose problems with your HVAC system before it gets out of hand. Other than that, it reminds you to keep your HVAC system well-maintained, making it more efficient.
Nest keeps your electric bill low as it learns through observation and overrides your preferences for maximum energy savings. It also knows to save energy while you’re away using Eco Temperature. Finally, iy teaches you to lower your consumption through the leaf logo and reports.
Ecobee3 and Ecobee3 Lite
Ecobee3 and the new ecobee3 Lite save energy not by taking over your thermostat like Nest, but by letting you decide everything and then doing the magic in the background. By programming your schedule alone, you save energy. And you save even more energy if you create setbacks and setforwards, but before you can do anything, you’ll have to teach it.
Ecobee3 needs to know your home’s building information, like the age of your house, the number of people living there, and the material used to build it. These questions are asked when you set up ecobee3 in the web portal. It also needs to know how the outside weather impacts the inside temperature and the time it takes to cool or heat your house. Finally, it factors in the performance of your HVAC system. With all of this knowledge, ecobee3 can calculate the runtime it needs to reach the desired temperature on schedule. By doing so, it avoids energy-waste in pre-heating or pre-cooling, without sacrificing comfort.
ecobee keeps your electric bill low through setbacks, setforwards, and scheduled. By learning how long it takes to heat and cool your home, it can help you achieve your desired schedule with maximum energy savings.
Ecobee’s latest thermostat is the $249 Ecobee4. When it comes to energy saving features, this thermostat follows Ecobee3’s footsteps. Like it’s older brother, it is capable of creating smart setbacks and setforwards. It also uses its knowledge of your home’s thermal profile to know when to start pre-heating or pre-cooling.
Ecobee4 uses the same techniques as Ecobee3.
Honeywell Lyric Round 2nd Generation
Lyric uses simple common sense to save energy—an empty house doesn’t need to be cozy. It knows when you’re home or not by using geofencing. For it to work, every smartphone in your home must be paired with Lyric and must have location services turned on. You’ll be asked to set a geofence area, a virtual circle around your house that needs to be between a quarter mile and 2,000 miles in radius. If everyone in your family is outside the geo-fenced area, Lyric automatically sets itself to Away mode and saves energy by turning down the thermostat. Once a family member re-enters the area, Lyric goes back to Home mode, where comfort is its priority.
Lyric helps you save energy by monitoring your home’s occupancy.
Honeywell Lyric T5 and T6 Pro
Lyric T5 and T6 Pro are brothers of the Lyric Round. The T5 is a self-installed version, while T6 Pro is exclusive to Honeywell dealers. Both thermostats have the same energy-saving features as the Lyric Round. You can manually adjust the temperature by tapping the + and – icons on the touch-sensitive screen. Or you can make it automatically set itself by setting up geofencing. Both are also programmable thermostats.
Lyric T5 and T6 Pro use geofencing to detect your presence.
Hive Active Heating
Hive, from the UK company British Gas, is a thermostat and water heater (for those who have heating tanks). It saves energy the way most thermostats do, by letting you set schedules. Hive allows you to have up to 6 time slots per day. You can also set it to Holiday Mode when you’re on vacation.
Aside from that, Hive offers geofencing. It doesn’t turn your heating system on or off automatically, but it reminds you to turn your system on or off based on your location. For instance, if it notices that you’re heading home, it reminds you to start warming things up.
Finally, Hive helps avoid expenditures due to frozen pipes by warming them up when the temperature gets too low. Of course, this feature only works if you have the device connected to a hot water tank.
Your energy savings with Hive depends mainly on how committed are you in setting schedules and following its reminders.
According to Sensi’s website, it can help you “save as much as 30% in energy costs each year”. But your savings will depend on one thing—how you program Sensi. Sensi relies on your schedule and your schedule only. While it may sound like this thermostat is no different than an ole’ programmable thermostat, there is one thing that makes Sensi better—smartphone control. You can change Sensi’s schedule anytime and anywhere using your smartphone. With a programmable thermostat, you’re stuck with the original schedule you’ve set. With Sensi, you can keep its schedule in sync with yours.
Sensi helps you save energy by using a schedule, much like a programmable thermostat.
Wiser Air uses various methods to help you save energy. First of all, it works like a programmable thermostat with the ability to create schedules. You can also create a year-round preset temperature preference for when you’re home, away, or asleep. These preferences (modes) are accessible with the touch of a button and based upon a temperature bracket. For example, you can set the thermostat to not to go over 76° or below 68°.
Wiser also uses a learning algorithm called EcoIQ™. This feature learns your preferences, your home’s thermal profile (i.e. How fast your home cools or heats), how the weather affects your home’s temperature, and your overall heating/cooling energy cost. It then uses what it knows to help reduce energy consumption. However, EcoIQ can become Nest-like, taking over your settings instead of obeying them. On the bright side, you can turn EcoIQ off if you want to. With the feature turned off, Wiser Air still factors in what it knows about your home, but it won’t override your settings.
Wiser Air can work like ecobee, functioning in the background, or like Nest by using smart features to override your settings in the name of energy savings.
Tado offers two products. One is the Tado Smart Thermostat, which has geofencing features like Lyric and can learn your home’s profile like ecobee3. However, the Tado Smart Thermostat is only sold in the EU. Bummer. Unless you live in the EU.
Their second product is the Smart AC Control and is available in the US. However, it can only connect to IR remote-controlled air conditioners. Like the other product, you can create schedules, or it can use geo-location. When you’re outside the geo-fenced area, Tado will automatically prompt your AC to save. When you are back inside the area, Tado will again control your AC to cool your home. The problem is, you can’t adjust the size of the geo-fenced area yet. It is on the roadmap, but that doesn’t help you out now. Does it?
Tado can only help you save when running your AC. It uses schedules and geofencing to make sure your AC isn’t running when it isn’t needed.
Who Wins the Electric Bill Game?
The answer depends on what you’re looking for.
Nest is smart and will use every opportunity to save energy. The problem with Nest is that you’re not in complete control, and it may make small adjustments to your settings without consulting you.
Ecobee3 and Ecobee4 put you in the driver’s seat, then they make your HVAC more efficient in the background.
Lyric Round, T5, and T6 don’t have many smarts, but they knows whether or not you’re home using your phone’s location to save energy.
Hive saves energy by letting you set the schedule and reminding you to take action based on your location. It also takes care of your pipes.
Sensi requires that you program your schedule. Otherwise, you won’t be saving anything.
Wiser Air gives you the option to be more or less involved in setting your system.
Like Lyric, Tado uses geofencing + schedules. The problem is, it only saves energy when running your AC. If you want all-year round savings, you’ll need the other Smart Thermostat Control, which is not available in the US.
I’m calling Nest the winner of this round. While their solution may not be 100% focused on your comfort, it is 100% focused on saving energy.
Comfort When You Need It
Nest’s ability to learn allows it to be aware of your daily routines and schedules. It can learn how warm you want it when you wake up and how cool you want it when you go to bed. It can learn which days you are home and which days you stay out late. It can even learn how toasty you want it during winter and how cool you want it on summer days.
But what about those with no fixed schedule? Nest can still keep up. First, it uses its built-in Activity Sensor to know if you’re home. However, Nest can only detect you if you are in the same room as the actual thermostat. The solution? Put Nest in a high-traffic area or buy third-party certified Works with Nest devices that can detect activity. (e.g. Nest Cam, Zuli smart plug) Second, Nest can use its Smart Home/Eco Temperature feature. This feature is similar to Lyric’s GeoFencing. If you’re within your home’s parameter, Nest automatically sets to Home. If you’re away from home, it will set itself to Eco Temperature mode. Both the Activity Sensor and geofencing feature can override your routines, so if you’re ever home early, Nest makes quick adjustments to your schedule.
Nest will make sure you’re comfy by learning your schedule and preferences. But remember, it may override your need for comfort in the name of energy savings.
Ecobee3 and ecobee3 Lite also use geofencing to know when it should make your house comfortable, but there are restrictions. Geofencing is a native feature in ecobee3’s iOS app, but not on Android phones. So if you’re an Android user, you’ll have to use a third-party app called IFTTT. IFTTT is an automation service that helps you create rules. If you have a SmartThings system, you can also hook up ecobee3 and use SmartThings’ geofencing feature.
Aside from that, ecobee3 has a feature called Smart Home/Away which involves Remote Sensors. These sensors tell the thermostat if you’re home by sensing activity. As long as they can sense activity inside the house, ecobee3 will keep your home cozy.
The Follow Me feature also works to keep you comfy. Unfortunately, this feature only works as intended when you’re the only person home or if your entire family prefers to stay huddled together in one room. If you turn Follow Me on, the sensors will tell ecobee3 which room you are in and the temperature in that room. It will then adjust the temperature until the temperature is right in that specific room. That may either raise or lower the temperature in other rooms, but the point is you’re getting the correct temperature in the room that matters most.
Ecobee will keep you comfy by monitoring room occupancy and make sure the right temperature is achieved in the rooms that matter most.
In terms of making you comfortable, Ecobee4 still follows Ecobee3’s footsteps. It works with IFTTT, Stringify, SmartThings, Wink, and HomeKit so that you can make it a part of your automated home. In addition, Smart Home/Away and Follow Me also work with Ecobee4.
What makes Ecobee4 different is its access to Alexa Voice Service. With the help of Ecobee4’s speakers and far-field microphones, you can speak with Amazon’s smart voice assistant, Alexa, via your thermostat. This allows you to not only control your HVAC system using Ecobee4, but also voice control your entire smart home. If that doesn’t make life a lot more comfortable, I don’t know what will.
Ecobee4 uses the same features as Ecobee3 to keep you comfy but with the added benefit of built-in Alexa Voice Service.
Obviously, Lyric also uses its geofencing feature to make sure your house is comfortable when you’re home. But Lyric has another feature that can keep you comfortable. Lyric knows that many factors play a part in how you feel. For example, the outside temperature and humidity may affect how you feel during winter even if the temperature is already set to an ideal temperature. Using Lyric’s intelligent comfort control, it can make adjustments to make the temperature feel “just right.”
Lyric takes into account the outdoor temperature as well as humidity to make sure you’re comfortable as temperature isn’t the only factor in comfort.
Lyric T5 and T6 Pro
Aside from geofencing, you can program T5 and T6 Pro to learn your schedule and automatically set the temp you want. This is similar to Nest’s ability to learn. Unlike Nest, the feature is optional. You can turn it on or off as needed.
Lyric T5 and T6 Pro can learn your preferences and schedule.
Hive provides comfort by giving you total control over your system. You can easily adjust the temperature using the app. You can even extend your heating for a few minutes beyond the set schedule by Boosting your system.
Hive works with multi-zone systems as well, but you’ll need to add another piece of hardware called Hive Multizones. You can have up to 2 Multizones is one house. That’s a total of 3 zones including the Active Heating. Multizones and Active Heating sync with one another to give you total control over your zones.
Hive doesn’t provide many automation features, but if you’re looking for a thermostat you can have total control over, it is one of your best options.
Sensi does not offer much when it comes to delivering comfort. It allows you to create schedules and manage your HVAC using the app. If you want your home comfortable, be sure to program your Sensi.
Sensi doesn’t have any comfy features. Shameful? I think so.
Wiser Air doesn’t put a number on your comfort. During really cold days, 78° may be comfortable to you, but during warmer days, it may be too hot. So instead of asking you to set a comfortable temperature, it learns what “comfortable” means to you. It does so by asking for your feedback. For example, it will ask you how warm or cold the temperature it set (when EcoIQ is turned on) feels to you. Based on your feedback, it will adjust accordingly.
Without EcoIQ, Wiser Air can still provide comfort. For instance, it uses its knowledge of your home’s thermal profile to know exactly when to fire up your heater or AC. Aside from that, it also tolerates guilty pleasures with Comfort Boost. Imagine bringing your friends home for dinner, then suddenly your house is too packed and too warm. You can activate Cool Boost, and your AC will keep your temperature low for 15 minutes before reverting to its normal settings.
When it comes to comfort, Wiser Air can be a good friend. Whether you are using it with its automatic settings or setting it manually, your comfort is its top priority.
Tado makes sure you’re comfy through geofencing. When you’re approaching home, it starts pre-cooling. That way, your house is the perfect temperature before you arrive. One Tado controls one IR AC unit. If you use multiple Tado’s at home, you’ll be able to control the temperature in multiple rooms using one Tado account. In addition, Tado is planning to add an indoor location feature which uses Bluetooth Low Energy to your smartphone to know where you are at home. That might make it possible for Tado to know which rooms should be cooled and which should not, similar to how ecobee works with sensors.
Tado delivers comfort based mainly on your location.
Who Wins the Battle of Comfort?
It’s a tie between Nest and ecobee3. Nest because it’s smart, it uses an activity sensor, and it uses geofencing. However, I would call Ecobee3 the overall winner in this category. It offers multi-room detection using remote sensors.
Nest vs. Ecobee vs. Lyric vs. Sensi vs. Tado vs. Wiser
|Price||$249.00||$249.00 ($169.00 for Lite)||$249.99||$129.99||$199.00||$169.00|
|Cools and Heats?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||AC Only||Yes|
|Works with Nest||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
|Windows Mobile||Third-Party Apps||Third-Party Apps||Third-Party Apps||No||Yes||Yes|
|Learn More||HIVE ACTIVE HEATING||Lyric T5||Ecobee4|
|Cools and Heats?||Heating Only||Yes||Yes|
|Amazon Echo||Via IFTTT||Yes||Yes + Alexa Voice Service|
|Works with Nest||No||No||No|
|Windows Mobile||Yes||Third-Party Apps||No|
No single thermostat can give us everything we need. We can’t recommend a thermostat and expect everyone to agree. But we can give you a few tips. Do you want a smart thermostat so you won’t need to program it ever again? Nest and Lyric (Round, T5, and T6 Pro) are your options. Or do you prefer to be in control of your schedule? If so, you can choose between ecobee4, ecobee3, ecobee3 Lite, Hive, and Sensi. Sadly, Hive only sells in the UK for now. A third option is a thermostat that can do both, including Lyric T5, Lyric T6 Pro, and Wiser Air. Notice, no tado. Right now, tado is best for those with air conditioning units controlled via IR remote control. For those that have central heating/cooling system in the US, you’re out of luck as tado only sells their smart thermostat in the EU.