While the Nest Learning Thermostat may have paved the way for smart thermostats from other manufacturers, there is no shortage of competition for Nest in 2015. One of these new products is the Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat and although in many respects it seems to pay homage to the Nest unit, Honeywell has added a few features of its own to stand out in an increasingly crowded home automation marketplace.
For a head to head comparison of the Nest versus Lyric, see my article here.
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First Look at the Lyric
Similar to other smart thermostats, the Lyric is connected to the home Wi-Fi network; allowing homeowners to change air conditioning and heat settings remotely via an Android or iOS app.
The unit looks sleek – boasting a center LCD screen, a smaller secondary display, a rotary dial, touch sensitive buttons, and LED lighting. The Lyric is also equipped with a motion sensor that lights up the screen when the unit is approached.
Although the Honeywell Lyric offers quite a few high-tech features for the price (special promotional price here), does it have what it takes to give the Nest Learning Thermostat a run for its money in 2015?
The short answer is that it depends on what you expect the unit to do for you. In some cases, the Lyric may be the better choice. For others, however, the Lyric may be lacking the “learning” functionality that made the Nest such a popular home automation product upon its release.
Overview of the Lyric – Key Features
- Intuitive App Control: Like many technology products, the Lyric doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Rather, users download an app (available for iOS and Android) that explains the installation process and allows the device to be registered. The app walks users through the installation and setup process although depending on the exact configuration of the existing thermostat, the installation of the Lyric may not be entirely clear – especially to novices unaccustomed to installing a thermostat.
NOTE: The Lyric does not work with 110/240 volt systems like those used to control gas fireplaces and baseboard electric heat.
- No Mains Power Needed: Unlike some other smart thermostats, the Lyric does not require the use of a separate power wire to operate. The power from the HVAC connection, combined with a single AAA lithium battery, provides enough power for the unit. In most cases, this makes installation relatively simple.
- WiFi Communication: Once the unit has been physically mounted and connected to the HVAC system, users connect to the thermostat’s Wi-Fi signal to configure the unit prior to switching back to the home Wi-Fi network. The Android or iOS app makes this process simple as it guides users through each step of the installation and initial configuration of the unit.
- Geo-Fencing: One of the most significant differences between the Honeywell Lyric and the Nest Learning Thermostat (see my review) is that the Lyric does not attempt to learn when you are home or not to create a schedule. Instead, the Lyric uses geo-fencing technology to know whether or not you are home. Using the mobile app, the geo-fence can be set for various distances ranging from ¼ mile to 7 miles. Once this range has been set, the Lyric uses its internal map to detect when your mobile phone leaves the area predefined by the range setting chosen. Once a user travels outside of this invisible circle, the Lyric puts the HVAC system into “Away” mode to conserve energy.
- “Pays for Itself”: According to Honeywell, the use of this geo-fencing technology can save the average homeowner over $100 per year (this means that the unit should pay for itself within two years). In my experience, this is broadly true but not guaranteed. The larger point is that ANY smart thermostat will likely save you money.
- Testing: During testing, the geo-fencing feature worked very well. If multiple people live in the household, all smartphones can be registered with the Lyric so that the unit only goes into “Away” mode when the last person leaves the home. The problem is if someone without a smart device or one that isn’t registered to the thermostat is left in the home as the Lyric will automatically go into Away mode. This person can override the automatic climate control settings although this setting needs to be switched back on in order for normal operation of the Lyric to resume.
- Smart Phone Dependent: Perhaps the only other problem with using a geo-fencing-based system is that the Lyric will not know to turn the system back on if the connected smart phone dies while away from home. Obviously, if the phone is powered off for any reason, it will not notify the Lyric that you have come back within the geo-fenced area meaning that the unit will stay in Away mode until you return home and manually turn on the HVAC system.
- Not for Everyone: As a final note about geo-fencing, it is difficult to customize. For example, the learning feature of the Nest model can be turned off for those users who wish to manually program the thermostat. On the other hand, Honeywell has put so much faith in geo-fencing technology that there are very few options available to change this functionality if you were so inclined. In other words, if geo-fencing doesn’t work in your household, the Lyric may not be the best choice for your next home automation addition.
- Web Control Enabled: Unlike many other smart thermostats, the Lyric does not offer a Web interface for remote control of the HVAC system using an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. The only way to control the Lyric remotely is by using the mobile app with a device that has already been registered with the Lyric. In some cases, this could present a problem for homeowners (if, for instance, the mobile device is misplaced or the battery is dead when a change to the HVAC system needs to be made remotely).
- Humidity Monitoring: The Lyric monitors humidity levels in the home and can automatically start the air circulation system as needed to manage the humidity level and prevent the growth of mold that can occur when humidity levels are too high. The bright LCD display allows reports the local weather in real-time; a feature that makes it easier to accurately program the unit for both Home and Away temperature settings.
The Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat takes a slightly different approach to home automation and in many cases, it works extremely well. Geo-fencing allows a homeowner to save on energy costs without doing anything other than remembering to take the registered smart phone with them when they leave the home. That said, the geo-fencing technology does provide some limitations when compared to other smart thermostats in the same price range.
Pros of the Honeywell Lyric
- Geo-fencing technology senses when people are home and away
- Reports weather and measures indoor humidity levels
- Easy installation
Cons of the Honeywell Lyric
- Plastic construction feels and looks cheap
- Lack of a Web portal for remote management
- Priced higher than other smart thermostats with similar functionality
Comparing the Lyric to the Competition
I don’t like to evaluate any of the devices I review in a vacuum. The following are a few other comparisons I’ve written about the Lyric:
Final Take: Worth the Investment?
The Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat offers a unique take on the idea of home automation by incorporating geo-fencing technology into a package that can be setup and configured successfully by just about anyone.
Unfortunately, geo-fencing does have its limitations and the fact that Honeywell has made customization of the geo-fencing functionality almost non-existent may not go over too well with some consumers.
In short, it’s a competent smart thermostat and one of the top 3 currently available, but it still has some drawbacks.
UPDATE: Since original publication of this review, Honeywell has released the Lyric 2nd Gen which features a few minor improvements. Most interesting, is the addition of Apple HomeKit certification, meaning it can “talk to” other HomeKit devices (of which there are many). This helps make the Lyric a more smarthome friendly addition. It even features integrations with popular home controllers like the SmartThings Hub and Wink Hub.
You can see my overview of the top 3 smart thermostats currently available, right here. The Lyric is included in this list, but there are two other big players that are discussed as well.
If you are looking for a set-it-and-forget-it smart thermostat, the Lyric is an excellent choice. If, however, you want more customization from a smart thermostat, there are other options in the same price range that may suit your needs better. Either way, the Lyric is a powerful home automation tool that should significantly reduce energy expenses when properly used and is a valuable investment for your home or apartment.
One of the nice things about the Lyric is that it is among the more affordable smart thermostats. For example, this listing here has them on sale for a steep discount right now.