Home & Garden

‘Smart’ is not the only thing to consider for today’s automated thermostats

As the temperature drops in January and February, we’re more likely to nudge the thermostat a little higher here in the Piedmont. Of course, some of the newer thermostats on the market can make most of those adjustments for you and do other tricks, too.

Here’s a look at some of those newer designs:

Nest Learning Thermostat

CNET rating: 5 stars out of 5 (Spectacular)

The good: Easy to install and easy on the eyes, the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your heating and cooling preferences over time, so you don’t have to program it. Wi-Fi networking and tasteful apps let you control and monitor your Nest from afar. Saves money … eventually.

The bad: At $250, the Nest is so very expensive, and large homes may need more than one.

The cost: $240.48 to $249.99

The bottom line: The second generation of the energy-saving Nest Learning Thermostat puts this device even further ahead of the (nearly nonexistent) competition.

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: Along with straightforward management software, the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat quickly learns your energy usage habits and adapts accordingly.

The bad: Ease of installation will vary widely depending on your experience with wiring and the type of heating and cooling system you have.

The cost: $196.95 to $229.99

The bottom line: Honeywell’s Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat can compete directly with the Nest Learning Thermostat on features, but it doesn’t match the Nest’s intuitive design.

Honeywell Lyric Thermostat

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)

The good: Whatever your schedule, the Lyric can use its 500-foot or 7-mile adjustable geo-fencing feature to adapt to it. The thermostat and app are clear design upgrades from the brand’s Wi-Fi Smart thermostats.

The bad: The thermostat isn’t compatible with certain routers, it periodically shifted to Away mode when I was home, and the app doesn’t always label your heating and cooling status, making at-a-glance monitoring of your Home or Away settings a real challenge.

The cost: $243.80 to $254.47

The bottom line: While the Lyric has a ton of potential, the app needs some major updates to make its usability and performance on par with the Nest.

Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

CNET rating: 3 stars out of 5 (Good)

The good: The $249 Ecobee3 comes with an installation workaround in case your system doesn’t have a C wire a for continuous supply of electricity. It also has a remote sensor that extends its temperature-and-motion-sensing range.

Both the Web and mobile iOS apps frequently returned error messages that logged me out and/or required a complete thermostat reset. Its touchscreen interface occasionally takes more than one try to respond. Many existing HVACs don’t have or need a C wire, and Ecobee’s fix isn’t for novices.

The cost: $254.00

The bottom line: The Ecobee3’s sluggish touchscreen and glitchy apps hold it back, but fixes are in the works that might soon make this smart thermostat worthy of your consideration.