Thermostats were designed to help us save energy without sacrificing comfort. While many of them do a decent job at that brief, some are better than others. This is why we have the distinction between a smart thermostat vs. regular thermostat.
Regular thermostats need manual control to function effectively. They have on-device buttons to adjust the temperature. But smart thermostats offer a hands-free solution by learning your heating needs and patterns and setting everything automatically when necessary. They’re also more expensive.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at how both of them work and how you can choose the best one for you.
What Is a Regular Thermostat?
A regular thermostat is the standard thermostat in most homes, controlling the heating and cooling systems. With a regular thermostat, you have to manually input a baseline temperature at which it should turn on your heater or the AC.
So, in the summer months, you’ll set the thermostat to only turn on the heat if temperatures drop below a certain lower boundary and to turn it off at an upper boundary.
If the weather drops below the lower boundary, the thermostat will trigger the heating system. Of course, once it reaches the upper boundary, it’ll shut off the heating (and maybe turn on the AC). The reverse scenario plays out during the colder months.
Also known as programmable thermostats, regular thermostats provide better control than old mercury-based systems, delivering much better temperature readings. However, you have to control everything on your own.
You have to walk to the thermostat to program your chosen temperature ranges.
Working out the ranges is also strictly your responsibility as the system doesn’t offer any help.
What Is a Smart Thermostat?
A smart thermostat is similar to a programmable thermostat, but it offers more control to the user. Not only does it allow you to set your preferred ranges, but it can also control your heating/cooling by learning your specific needs.
Besides, you don’t need to go to the smart thermostat to make any changes, as everything can be completed remotely from a mobile or web app.
These devices are designed to collect a lot of information about your energy usage to make your HVAC system more efficient.
For instance, they can pick up on variables like when you get home from work, parts of the house that get the most foot traffic, your preferred temperatures for specific times of the day, and more.
This means you can program the thermostat to closely match your schedule. When you need to break from established patterns, all you need is to open the app from anywhere and send the right instructions to the thermostat.
So, for example, you can switch on the AC earlier if you’re headed back home earlier than usual. You can also set the thermostat to reflect more people in a room.
Check out my review of the smart thermostat I recommend.
Smart Thermostat vs. Regular Thermostat – Which is Better?
Smart thermostats are better than programmable thermostats in terms of customizations. However, some people might prefer the simplicity that comes with regular programmable thermostats.
The Case for Smart Thermostats
Looking at everything I’ve highlighted about smart thermostat vs. regular thermostat, it’s easy to lean towards smart models given the myriad of customization options available. However, that’s not all they can do.
These units can also help you improve your energy consumption beyond just turning on the heating at specific times. They provide key insights into your energy usage patterns, showing you how much energy you’re using to heat or cool your home.
This will help you see if you can improve your energy spending. You also don’t have to worry about customizing some smart thermostats, as some of them can learn your usage patterns on their own within a couple of weeks of installation.
However, they’re not without downsides. Firstly, your smart thermostat turns to a regular thermostat if something’s wrong with the internet.
Secondly, they give you yet another connected device to worry about security-wise. Of course, most manufacturers do their best to prevent security incidents, but they still happen.
You also have to account for the higher costs. These are affordable (under $100), but they still cost almost double the price of regular thermostats.
The Case for Regular Thermostats
Regular programmable thermostats are affordable and very easy to use. You don’t need an app to control them. Just walk up to the unit and set your desired temperatures. Again, since your thermostat isn’t connected to the internet, that’s one less possible attack point in your house.
They’re also fairly efficient since they help you keep energy bills down. You can ensure the heating and cooling comes on or goes off when necessary, with very little energy wasted.
On the flip side, you have to deal with manual controls. These systems won’t let you adjust the thermostat without leaving your room, never mind remotely controlling it. Also, its approach to conserving energy and preventing wastage means you may get uncomfortable from time to time if you miscalculate the temperature ranges for any day.
Both smart and regular thermostats do a great job at helping you save energy overall. The choice should come down to your unique needs. If your home already features a few smart devices, adding a smart thermostat is a good way to make your home even smarter.
However, if you want no-frills control over your heating and cooling, regular programmable thermostats are your best bet.