Considering a thermostat upgrade? The buzz behind smart tech and home automation can’t be denied. But what’s the big benefit? How do smart homes work, and how exactly do today’s so-called smart thermostats and other devices really stack up against their predecessors? Do they really work that much differently?
“Smart” Thermostat, Defined
Since heating and cooling comprise about half of the typical electric bill, those looking to save an energy buck often look to smart tech: In fact, the first piece of every home is typically a new smart thermostat. What makes these tiny pieces of tech so intelligent? Smart thermostats, like other smart devices, allow you to remotely control your home’s temperature via mobile or internet-connected device. This unique capability makes operation more convenient, offering greater control of heating and cooling, and thus, energy savings.
How Does a Smart Thermostat Work?
Smart thermostats are comprised of 3 basic components: One part plugs directly into your HVAC system. This part communicates directly with the second component, the thermostat control itself. The third and last part that makes up a smart thermostat is the smart thermostat app, which is downloaded to your smartphone, mobile device or computer. This grand trifecta of tech allows you to adjust home temperatures from any location, from the couch to the coastline, given a wireless or internet connection. While these basic components are what makes a smart thermostat tick, some higher-end models may offer more, such as smart learning models, which require no programming; smartphone tracking, adjusting temperatures as family members get closer to home; or additional sensors, for zoned temperature control and improved energy savings.
What Makes Smart Thermostats Different from a Standard or Programmable Models?
What does all this added tech really offer, compared to older thermostat tech? Let’s look at thermostat offerings, through the years:
- Old Reliable — Analog (Mercury) Thermostats: The cheapest (and oldest) thermostat option, these devices only operate in-home, with the push of your finger. Temperature adjustments and readings are far from exact, hitting you where it hurts: Your energy bill.
- A Step-Up — Digital Thermostats: These thermostats offer slightly more control and improved temperature readings, with a digital thermometer that turns off your HVAC system when your desired temperature is reached, but providing no programming options.
- Good in Theory — Programmable Thermostats: Also digital, programmable thermostat are designed to offer better thermostat control whether you’re home or away, allowing for programming based on your schedule. Multiple options exist, including those offering different programming for each day of the week (7-day models), 5-day work week, 2-day weekend scheduling (5+2-day models), and 5+1+1-day models for a varying weekend schedule. Though programmable thermostats are purported to offer energy savings of 10–20%, studies have revealed that is only when homeowners select the right model for their lifestyle, and program it properly, a common issue among programmable thermostat owners.
- User-Friendly — Smart Thermostats: Like programmable models, smart thermostats can save you up to 20% on heating and cooling costs, and are an ideal option for those who are unlikely to ever program a thermostat, or do so correctly. Unlike programmable models, they offer remote operation from anywhere via smartphone, mobile device, or voice-operated home automation systems like Google Home and Alexa, and tons of added bells and whistles, including energy-usage reports to help you identify additional opportunities for savings. The best part? The latest smart learning models setup fast, requiring little to no user-input or programming.
Is a Smart Thermostat for Me?
If you’re sporting an analog relic or older digital thermostat model, live on-the-fly, or are forgetful and leave the AC or heater running on high even when you’re not at home, a smart thermostat could save you some serious dough.
This blog is made available by Mr. Electric for educational purposes only to give the reader general information and a general understanding on the specific subject above. The blog should not be used as a substitute for a licensed electrical professional in your state or region. Check with city and state laws before performing any household project.