The Best Smart Thermostats for the Home

Learn what to look for when you're shopping—and what sets our recommendations apart from the rest—so you can be sure to make the right choice for your home and everyone in it.

Best Smart Thermostats for the Home

Photo: istockphoto.com

Smart thermostats go far beyond their programmable predecessors to offer a whole new level of residential climate control with the added bonus of energy savings. Features vary from unit to unit. Some track and analyze your HVAC’s energy usage, monitor humidity, and notify you when it’s time to change your air filter. Others sense when you are at home and automatically adjust the temperature accordingly. Still others know when you’re on your way home and adjust the temperature so that your home feels comfortable upon your arrival.

By switching out your thermostat for one that offers so much control that you’re only heating or cooling your home when and as needed, you could save 20 percent or more on your utility bill. Eager to see those savings? We’d start with these favorites among the best smart thermostats, each tailored to slightly different consumer needs:

  1. BEST OVERALL: Google Nest Learning Thermostat
  2. BEST TOUCH SCREEN: Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat
  3. BEST VALUE: Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi

Read on to understand the criteria used to designate these models as the best smart thermostats, so that you can make the right choice for your home and your family’s needs.

Five Considerations When Choosing a Smart Thermostat

When shopping, consider the following criteria to help you choose the best smart thermostat for your home and lifestyle.

  • Occupancy sensing. This is a smart thermostat’s ability to detect when someone is in a room and automatically adjust the temperature to suit. This is done by installing remote sensors in different parts of the house. When a sensor detects movement, the smart thermostat adjusts the temperature to a comfortable level. Remote sensors can be used with standard HVAC systems and also with zoned HVAC systems that permit heating of selective rooms in a house. The majority of smart thermostats feature occupancy sensing.
  • Geofencing. This GPS-based detection system saves on utility costs because it doesn’t start heating or cooling until you’re on your way home. Geofencing works via a downloaded app on your smartphone. All you have to do is program a radius around your house—of, say, three miles—and when your smartphone enters the radius, it signals your smart thermostat to start heating or cooling in preparation for your arrival.
  • Mobile apps. All smart thermostats can be controlled from smartphones by the use of downloadable apps. Most smart thermostats have apps that work with both iOS and Android devices, but not all, so check before buying.
  • Smart home integration. Smart thermostats are designed to integrate with popular home automation systems, such as Amazon Alexa, Wink, Vera, SmartThings, and Logitech Harmony. Some, however, are compatible with only one or two systems, so you’ll want to ensure the thermostat you buy will integrate with the system you’re using.
  • Power needs. Smart thermostats require more electricity than either manual or programmable thermostats to power their network connections and GPS functions. This means the model you select may require a common wire (also known as a C-wire) that runs from the thermostat to the HVAC system. If your home is less than 10 years old, it probably already has a C-wire. If not, you can have one installed, or you can purchase a smart thermostat that doesn’t require a C-wire to function. Some thermostats come with a power extender kit (PEK) as an alternative to a C-wire.

Our Top Picks

Best Smart Thermostat Options for the Home: Nest Easy Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation

Photo: amazon.com

1. BEST OVERALL: Google Nest Learning Thermostat

One of the most popular smart thermostats around, the Nest integrates with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and syncs with other Nest Home Smart devices for complete smart home integration. When you perform repetitive tasks, such as turning down the heat at bedtime and turning it up the next morning, the thermostat learns and remembers your choices and begins changing the settings for you. The Nest features occupancy sensing and geofencing (sensors sold separately) as well. Buyers tend to rate it very highly for its easy setup, high-resolution screen, and its uncanny ability to learn family patterns. The thermostat operates on either a rechargeable lithium-ion battery or by connection to a C-wire.

Best Smart Thermostat Options for the Home: Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat

Photo: amazon.com

2. BEST TOUCH SCREEN: Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat

In addition to both iOS and Android connectivity, the Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat allows users to easily control all thermostat functions via a large high-definition touch screen panel. It requires a C-wire for operation (no other option) and integrates with many smart home systems, including Alexa, HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Wink. The thermostat features smart alerts, designed to detect temperature or humidity extremes and alert you via your smartphone. Other favorite features include energy usage reports, seven-day scheduling, and geofencing. Only note that occupancy sensing is not available on this model.

Best Smart Thermostat Options for the Home: Sensi

Photo: amazon.com

3. BEST VALUE: Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi

This nicely priced smart thermostat offers geofencing, seven-day scheduling, temperature and humidity alerts, and energy usage reports. Easy to install thanks to step-by-step video instructions, the Emerson can be powered by either a C-wire or a Power Extender Kit, and it integrates with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Wink, and Apple HomeKit (a C-wire is needed for Apple HomeKit).