The New Wave of Programmable Thermostats

Aside from the price of your own renewable energy, the cost of anything used to heat or cool the home is largely non-negotiable and headed in one direction only: up.

That’s why startup Nest Labs developed its elegant programmable thermostat, the Nest. It’s also why Honeywell is pushing its Prestige, a programmable, high-definition (!) touchscreen thermostat. And indeed, it’s why Lennox International has come out with the icomfort Wi-Fi touchscreen thermostat.

Lennox iComfort Home Thermostat

Lennox iComfort

The Lennox icomfort, which sells for $300 to $400 and works with Lennox Wi-Fi infrastructure, has a lengthy feature and capability list:

• Temp and humidity can be programmed for daily and seasonal schedules
• One-touch “away” setting
• Remote access via free smartphone app and website
• Five-day weather forecast
• Maintenance alerts for you and your dealer
• “Skins” you can place over the thermostat’s frame to make it blend with the room
• You can put a digital picture of your choice on the screen

Wood grain skin for Lennox comfort

A woodgrain "skin" camouflaging the Lennox icomfort

It’s easy to go overboard here (skins and photos), but there’s no argument against a penny-pinching attitude towards energy. Manufacturers cite double-digit energy savings, but it’s safe to assume that thoughtfully managing your heating and cooling will save money. Here’s a quick comparison of the icomfort to the Nest and Prestige:

- The icomfort uses programming menus, and menus are almost always tedious and confusing. Both the Nest and Prestige ask you questions, which can be less flexible.

- The icomfort stands out from the wall the way most wood picture frames do. The Prestige and Nest are like blisters, flush against the wall.

- The icomfort and Nest are programmable via smartphone, but not the Prestige, which comes with an in-house remote (one that may escape with all the other remotes you can’t find).

One word of warning regarding all remote-controlled utility services. Read the privacy policy before you buy. You might be shocked to learn what vendors consider their information when it comes to your home life. Given the mixed feature sets, it’s worth researching this trio to see which capabilities will save you the most money (as opposed to those that are like whistles on a lawnmower).

For more on HVAC, consider:

Nest Learning Themostat: Digital-Age Home Temperature Control
Winterize Your Home on a Budget
Wiring a Thermostat