Smart thermostats are sexy. When you think about home automation and smart devices, smart thermostats would surely come to mind.
These devices are inherently useful because they can keep you comfortable, while also taking care of the budget side of things. With smart thermostats, gone are the days when you would need to adjust room temperature manually. You can even forget all about adjusting your AC or heating and still enjoy substantial savings at the same time.
It is not surprising that there are a lot of smart thermostats available in the market. However, which ones are the best? Read on!
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 #3 – Tie between Honeywell Lyric T5 and Emerson Sensi: The most affordable smart thermostats
- 2 #2 – Nest Learning Thermostat: The only learning thermostat you should know
- 3 #1 – Ecobee4: The best smart thermostat overall
- 4 Side by side comparison of Ecobee4 vs Ecobee3 vs Ecobee3 Lite
#3 – Tie between Honeywell Lyric T5 and Emerson Sensi: The most affordable smart thermostats
Honeywell Lyric T5: Low price, great features
In our previous list, Honeywell’s Lyric smart thermostat was ranked third:
Honeywell is catching up fast with the nimbler competition, and its Lyric thermostat, launched last August, is a direct response to the likes of Nest, with similar styling and features. It is easy to set up, and it works on the users’ presence rather than learn about their comings and goings through direct sensor readings. This makes it theoretically simpler to operate, with the ‘away’ mode turning the heating off when you’re out of a certain range and then kicking back in as you near home to make things comfortable by the time you arrive.
Naturally, not all homes are the same, and not everyone in the house may have a smartphone, so there are weaknesses here. The display is also a bit more minimalist compared to some rivals, with just the current temperature shown by default on the main screen and the target temperature plus operating mode on the secondary screen. Tap the weather button to see the local forecast and conditions, while the Home button triggers ‘away’ mode.
Physically, the device is attractive with an easy-on-the-eye display. However, the turning ring is rather stiff, not ideal if you have a poor wall mounting, or if you have stiff fingers or joints. Its Wi-Fi module might not work with older routers, or it might need a router setting adjustment, so be aware of that.
Honeywell has since come out with the Lyric T5.
The Honeywell Lyric T5 still relies on your smartphone’s GPS to know if you are at home or not. The geofencing feature works remarkably well and is very reliable in changing the settings to either Home or Away. It will send you alerts when the settings have changed. In fact, compared to the original Lyric thermostat, the geofencing on the Lyric T5 is much better and more reliable.
It has an eye-catching design. Lyric’s original round form factor has been replaced by the squarish black device with grey bevels. It looks like an updated digital clock with a retro design and a general “throwback to the 90s” look.
It has a companion mobile app that can help you set up seven-day schedules, manually adjust the temperature, and set up the geofencing radius. You can also use the Lyric T5 with Apple HomeKit, allowing you to control the thermostat with Siri.
If you do not like Siri and you have Amazon Echo, Amazon Tap, Echo Dot or Echo Show, then you can also use Alexa to control your Lyric T5. The Lyric T5 now works with IFTTT recipes.
But what makes the Honeywell Lyric T5 stand out is the price tag. At launch, it cost $150, a good $100 cheaper than both Nest Learning Thermostat and Ecobee4. As time passed, there are now new Lyric T5s available on Amazon for less than $120.
With its lower price tag, the Honeywell Lyric T5 does not have native integrations with other smart home automation platforms. It would be nice if it could work with SmartThings, Wink, and even Google Home. Apart from that, the reliable geofencing feature is good enough for you to think twice about spending $100 more for Ecobee’s room sensors and Nest’s learning algorithms.
Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat: Lowest priced smart thermostats that do not scrimp on the features
Between the Honeywell Lyric T5 and the Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Thermostat, you would find that the Emerson Sensi offers a much cheaper unit. At launch, the Emerson Sensi had a suggested retail price of $130, and now it is down to less than $110 on Amazon.
Even at that price, the Sensi has more integrations than the Lyric T5. It works with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Google Home, and Wink. It is also easy to install and uses geofencing to help adjust your thermostat. The mobile app is one of the best-rated mobile apps both on the Google Play and Apple Appstore. Further, you can create a schedule for every day of the week, and even get weather updates on the mobile app.
As you can see, the Sensi does not differ much from the Lyric T5 in terms of connectedness and integration, as well as the features it offers to help you automate temperature control for the home. It would seem that the lower price is due to the fact that the Emerson Sensi is quite plain-looking. It looks like traditional thermostats with its white plastic build and boring digital display.
However, if you do not mind the utilitarian looks of the Emerson Sensi, and you are in the market for smart thermostats that offer more integrations than the Lyric T5, then the Sensi would be a logical choice as it is the most affordable.
How do the Honeywell Lyric T5 and Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi stack up against each other?
Lyric T5 vs Emerson Sensi Compared
|Honeywell Lyric T5||Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi|
|Manufacturer’s Price||$150 (see here for latest)||$130 (see here for latest)|
|iOS mobile app||Yes||Yes|
However, if you can spend some extra dough to get the best in smart thermostat technology, then look at Nest Learning Thermostat.
#2 – Nest Learning Thermostat: The only learning thermostat you should know
Any list of the best smart thermostats would undoubtedly include Nest Learning Thermostat. It was the pioneer device in the smart thermostat space and has been constantly updated. The fact that the company making it is now partly owned by Google is also a bonus.
In our earlier list, the second generation Nest Learning Thermostat was on top. This is because:
Even though the second generation Nest was launched a couple of years back, it remains the leading smart thermostat, thanks to its well-planned and well-implemented design.
With a small central 320 x 320 pixel display, it packs temperature, humidity, light, and activity sensors. It can control three-stage heating and two-stage cooling systems, plus fans and humidifiers for total climate control. Learning your usage patterns, there is no real need to program the Nest, as it will work around how you use it, and the second-generation model better understands the HVAC system you connect it to.
Nest’s research claims that its thermostats can save users around 15% on their cooling bills and between 10% and 12% on their heating bills, which sounds more realistic than some maker’s own claims.
Now on its third generation, Nest Learning Thermostat again makes it to our list. The third generation Nest Learning Thermostat is not that much different from the second generation. So much so, that it may not be worth replacing your thermostat if you already have the second generation.
It does, however, have a bigger display with a better resolution, and a thinner profile. Plus, it now has a far-field sensor that allows you to see temperature information and time even when you are far away. Nest Learning Thermostat can now be controlled through voice commands using Amazon Alexa.
The latest Nest Learning Thermostat still relies on its sensors and algorithms in order to control your heating and cooling even when you do not program it. It will learn your usage patterns to know when best to turn your air conditioning or heating up or down. And if you find it too cold or too hot, you can manually adjust your Nest.
Nest Learning Thermostat works with other Nest products such as the Nest Protect and the Nest Cam, as well as a range of products that are certified under the Works with Nest program.
Overall, Nest’s unique feature is the learning algorithm. Couple that with an eye-catching design and it is easy to understand how Nest Learning Thermostat has dominated over other smart thermostats through the years.
Nest’s reign as number one, however, has now ended with Ecobee’s latest offerings.
* * *
In the previous list, the Ecobee3 figured prominently as our second most favorite smart thermostat. Ecobee3 made it to the list because:
The Ecobee3 tries to one-up Nest through the addition of room sensors around the house that can help monitor who’s around and manage the heating accordingly. However, given that Ecobee is already on its third generation smart thermostat, it should still be more user-friendly than it currently is, from installation and setup, to use.
Part of the issue is the company moving from its original market for professional installers to the consumer market. The Ecobee3 can be wired in to most current 24V HVAC systems, via its wiring adapter, but it still sounds more daunting than its rivals. It uses an impressive 3.5-inch, full-color LCD touch screen, remote sensors, and free app.
It is the remote sensors that give the Ecobee its key feature, as it can work out how hot or cold the various rooms in your house get and it can try to balance the heating or cooling. The standard Ecobee package comes with one sensor, but you can add up to 32 to cover different rooms, or distinct areas of large spaces.
On the software side, Ecobee is also trying to keep up with the latest tech trends. Its most recent iOS update adds support for the Apple Watch and you no longer need to launch the app to get information; it can all be found in the Notification Center on your iPhone. Add in the provided energy reports and a three-year warranty and there is little to choose, between the Ecobee and our number one pick (the Nest Learning Thermostat).
Bonus – Ecobee3 Lite: The best programmable thermostat
Ecobee3 Lite works the same way as Ecobee3 in that it uses room sensors to cool different rooms in your house without wastage. It also has a highly responsive 3.5-inch color display, and can be controlled through your smartphone. The only difference is that Ecobee3 Lite retails for significantly less here while the Ecobee3 sells more for more than $200. Furthermore, the Lite version does not have support for whole home accessories such as dehumidifiers, HRVs and ventilators.
If you do not have these accessories, the Ecobee3 Lite is a great smart thermostat that is innately compatible with Amazon Alexa, IFTTT, HomeKit, Wink, and SmartThings. This wide range of compatibility is not seen in other more expensive smart thermostats.
#1 – Ecobee4: The best smart thermostat overall
For the longest time, Ecobee has played second fiddle to Nest Learning Thermostat. For 2017, Ecobee4 has finally introduced the features that enabled it to overtake the Nest Learning Thermostat! The Ecobee4 has all the things you love about your old Ecobee thermostats, only better. It has a very responsive touch screen display, room sensors, Web and mobile apps that are actually intuitive and easy to use, and a whole range of integrations with SmartThings, Alexa, IFTTT, and HomeKit.
In fact, the Ecobee4 also works as an Alexa speaker, which might be a bonus if you do not already own Amazon Echo, Dot or Echo Show.
Apart from all of these features, Ecobee4 was able to beat Nest Learning Thermostat because Nest has not come out with its fourth generation thermostat. As it is, Nest still has a better design that is sleeker and more eye-catching. And Ecobee4 still does not have Nest’s learning algorithm and ease of installation. Ecobee4 still relies on a C-wire or its power extender kit.
Even so, Ecobee4 replaces Nest’s learning capabilities with remote sensors. Why predict cooling and heating needs when you can get accurate readings in real time? The mobile app is still very intuitive and easy to use, and the Web app gives you another way to interact with your thermostat. Add in the smart integrations, the ability to double as an Alexa speaker, and you have a winner!
Ecobee has always been the best choice for larger homes. With its room sensor having the ability to detect which rooms are occupied and need to be cooled or heated, it makes more sense for those with big houses than a learning thermostat. With all of these improvements, the Ecobee4 is now the smart thermostat to beat.
Ecobee4 is our top smart thermostat for 2017, and it is priced reasonably at this listing (relative to the value you are getting).
Side by side comparison of Ecobee4 vs Ecobee3 vs Ecobee3 Lite
|Built in Alexa voice service||Yes||No||No|
|Number of included room sensors||1||1||1|
|iOS mobile app||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Android mobile app||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Uses local weather to adjust temperature||Yes||Yes||Yes|
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The thing about smart thermostats is that the best ones for this year might not be the best next year. Manufacturers are always developing their smart thermostat offerings, adding in new features, new functionality, and new integrations. Ecobee is a prime example of this, having come up with four models in less than three years since the first generation Ecobee3 was announced in September 2014.
It is worth noting that Nest may be the runner up now, but being the best is something that it could easily take back. The company released the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat in September of 2015, so the next generation is due.
The problem is that Nest seems to be focused on other Nest products such as their security camera and smoke alarms. In March 2017, Nest came out with the news that they are currently working on a cheaper Learning Thermostat, which is expected to sell under $200. The company is expected to come out with probably the same smarts and technology you find in the third generation Nest Learning Thermostat, but would use cheaper materials instead of the metal casing that we see now.
Nest, without question, still has the prettiest thermostat in this group.
Would Nest be able to cut the price drastically and perhaps add more integrations and features to unseat Ecobee4 from the top?
Or could we expect Ecobee4 to reign as the top smart thermostat for quite some time?