SALT LAKE CITY — As the weather warms up, you may be wondering whether a smart thermostat is worth the investment. And with the ever-changing landscape of home automation, there are myriad options from which to choose.
What does a smart thermostat do?
What do smart thermostats provide that the old-fashioned dial on your wall does not? Proponents of the device would say convenience, energy efficiency and peace of mind. These intelligent devices connect to an app on your smartphone, allowing you to control your home’s climate from anywhere.
You can choose from different brands and styles, including everything from smart thermostats that come with home security packages to models that can tell when the house is occupied.
Here are the four, main types of smart thermostats currently available to consumers:
These not only report on energy usage statistics, weather alerts and air quality, but they also learn how to heat and cool your home based on your habits.
For instance, if you go out for a jog every day at 6 a.m. and adjust the heat when you return at 7:15 a.m., your smart thermostat will learn your routine and change the temperature itself so it's ready when you get back. When you walk inside sweating during summer or with a chill in winter, your home will be your ideal temperature.
The most popular of these is the Nest thermostat.
These can be controlled through an internet connection (often with the use of a smart phone), but won't necessarily provide the same analytic information as a learning thermostat.
Zone systems can control the temperature of individual rooms, rather than heating or cooling the whole house to the same temperature. Often, these systems increase energy savings because they can focus on specific areas of the house at different times.
Learning zoned systems
These are arguably the most sophisticated type of smart thermostat on today’s market. They combine the qualities of both the learning thermostats and zoned systems to learn when each room of the house is normally occupied and automatically heat or cool the room according to schedule.
Currently, the only available learning zoned system is the Heat Genius.
The pros of installing a smart thermostat
Smart thermostats can save customers significant money on energy bills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. These savings depend, however, on the type of thermostat you buy and whether you pay attention to energy stats.
Learning thermostats adjust the heat or air conditioning to help save on utility costs and will automatically turn off if they detect an empty house. According to a study by Nest Labs, smart thermostat owners save about 10-12 percent on heating, 15 percent on cooling or about $131-$145 in a year.
Whether you leave for vacation and forget to turn down the heat or you’re worried about the comfort of your furry family members while you’re at work, you can ensure your home’s environment is ideal by checking your smart thermostat app. The app will tell you the humidity, temperature and air quality of your home. Some apps will even tell you if you left any windows open. Depending on your home’s status, you can make necessary changes on the go.
Learning thermostats geolocate your phone (if you opt into this feature). If you leave your house, the thermostat will adjust to save on energy. Once it sees you’re coming home, it’ll turn the heat up or down based on your preference, so you walk into a perfectly warm or cool atmosphere.
Smart home synchronization
Some may say your home is only as smart as your weakest appliance. Upgrade your house’s intelligence — and the efficiency and convenience of your smart thermostat — by installing compatible smart devices like smart smoke alarms, smart plugs, smart doorbells and smart door locks. Then, you’ll be master of your domain.
Smart thermostats don’t just keep your house pleasantly cool or cozy, they also alert you to severe weather in your area. Smart thermostats can shut off the furnace if a smart smoke alarm indicates fire, warn you if your pipes are in danger of freezing and monitor your air quality to keep you safe.
Many utility companies offset the price of smart thermostats with a hefty rebate. Before you buy a smart thermostat, see if you can find incentives in your area.
Tons of smart thermostats are currently on the market that offer minimalistic or fresh, updated designs. If you don’t like the traditional thermostat look, you can find a modern option to match your home.
The cons of installing a smart thermostat
Depending on the brand, smart thermostats may cost you upwards of $300, so you’ll want to compare smart thermostats to find an option that best fits your budget.
Required smart home security systems
If you fall in love with a certain smart thermostat, it might require you to purchase an entire home security system. Some view this option as a plus, however, despite the costs. There are other smart home thermostat options that don’t require monthly monitoring or larger home security packages, though those systems might not be your top choice.
Most smart thermostats come with easy instructions to install them yourself. However, researching and installing a smart thermostat will cost you either time or money. Hire a professional if you aren’t into DIY and don’t mind spending a little more to get the job done right. Or, set aside a few hours so you can get it up and running.
If you’re teetering on the edge of your smart home decision, take a moment to look at your financial situation and decide whether the energy bill savings are worth the initial cost and time it may take to install, as well as other pros and cons that relate to your situation.
Comment below on your opinion or experience with smart thermostats.
Sarah Brown is a business student with a love of outdoor adventures. You can reach her on Twitter @SarahDBrown136.