What is a smart thermostat?

Written by | Updated May 9, 2019

A smart thermostat is responsible for controlling your home’s temperature. As with many smart devices, smart thermostats connect to your home network, giving you remote access and control over all the device’s functions.

These smart devices differ slightly from their programmable counterparts. The latter can merely be set to turn on or off at select times. A smart thermostat, by contrast, not only allows for easy scheduling and management but also studies your behaviors and adjusts settings accordingly.

How Smart Thermostats Work

When you initially buy and install a smart thermostat, you add your preferences and schedules. The thermostat uses the information as a baseline, and as you interact with the device more, it fine-tunes the initial settings.

Think of a smart thermostat like a fitness tracker. You input basic data, then after a couple of workouts, the tracker adjusts your exercise goals. The same process occurs with a smart thermostat.

How to Choose a Smart Thermostat

Nest and Ecobee3 tend to be the most well-known smart thermostats today. However, they are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Other contenders for your home include Honeywell and Emerson models.

Each smart thermostat comes with its own set of features, so you should research them before selecting one.

The Ecobee3, for example, comes with sensors that help the system address hot or cold spots in a home. That advantage is quickly felt if you’re living with roommates who fight over the thermostat settings or a partner who’s perpetually cold. A big part of the Nest Learning Thermostat’s strength, on the other hand, comes from integrations: it works with a vast array of smart home devices, including Philips Hue, Whirlpool, and Belkin WeMo.

In addition, the thermostats may use different protocols—many use Wi-Fi, but some could use Z-Wave or Bluetooth. The protocol matters because it affects how easy it is for your different smart home gadgets to talk to each other. As such, you should keep the protocol consideration in mind. You want to purchase products that use the same protocols to ensure easy communication and use.

For more information about smart thermostats, visit our Smart Thermostats Buyers Guide.