Smart Thermostats 101: Do You Really Need One?

Smart Thermostat

The world is going ‘smart’ technologically, and when it comes to temperature regulation, a smart thermostat will make your home a paradise. These types of thermostats have gained a lot of popularity in the past five years. They have many benefits compared to traditional thermostats and can be installed in just about any home.

Do you really need a smart thermostat? If you want to save money on energy bills and keep your home comfortable at the same time, then you surely need one. Smart thermostats help you upgrade your energy efficiency and reduce your expenditure on power bills without jeopardizing the comfort you usually enjoy in your home. Moreover, it is very convenient to operate, since most of them are automated and can be controlled remotely.

This article will clarify why you need to switch to this smart technology for your home heating and cooling. Let’s take a look at why smart thermostats are the best, their various features and qualities, various types that are on the market, their estimated prices and how the devices work.

Also read: Do Smart Thermostats Require WiFi?

As an affiliate, I may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

Are Smart Thermostats Worth It?

Heating and cooling are the major energy consumers in our homes and comprise the highest energy bills. With the unpredictable climate change, these devices have come in the right era to help us save on energy. But are they worth it, given their high initial cost of investment?

The simple answer would be yes. Smart thermostats are expensive but very convenient. These devices are Wi-Fi connected and automated. They do most of the adjustments on their own without needing your attention.

They create heating schedules, learn your preferred temperature and your behaviors, and automatically adjust the temperature settings based on your needs.

Imagine heating and cooling devices that will know when someone is at home or not. Smart thermostats can detect when you are at home, awake or asleep. and when you are working out among other activities.

Additionally, these devices allow you to control your home temperature settings remotely. This is done by the use of your Smartphone or tablet. You can switch it on and off, adjust the temperature of your house to where you need it or direct it to heat or cool a particular section in your room from any part of the world.

When these qualities are utilized correctly, you will definitely save a lot of energy and thus a lot of money. In fact, it will take you a very short period to cover up the initial investment costs. So yes, making a switch to smart thermostats is worthwhile.

Even though other types of thermostats (like programmable ones) are capable of saving you energy too, smart thermostats are ‘intelligent’. They operate much better and save much more. Here are some of the qualities that make smart thermostats more advantageous compared to their counterparts:

Advantageous Qualities

1. Adjust automatically

Smart thermostats study your preferred home temperature and automatically adjusts to that condition. The device can sense the smallest temperature change and make adjustments. This saves you energy whether you are sleeping or out of your home.

Should there be a device in your home that emits a lot of heat, the thermostat will adjust and manage the heating from that particular device. If there is a drop in your outdoor temperature, a smart thermostat will maintain your house temperature where you need it.

Some smart thermostats have a built-in occupancy sensor. With this, you only need to do a week of manual adjustments after which, it will adapt and do the same on its own. This sensor enables it to recognize your presence or detect when you are asleep and adjust accordingly.

2. Spare your wallet

Who doesn’t want to save on bills? Installing this device in your home will save you a considerable amount of money within a few months of use.

Nest estimates that smart thermostats can help you save up to $140 every year on energy bills. Logically, this will depend on the size of your home so we cannot assume constant value.

3. You can adjust the temperature remotely from any part of the world

You can control the temperature using phone data. This can be done remotely from any location. Smart thermostats are paired with an iPhone or Android app that enables you to control both heating and cooling systems from wherever you are.

This makes it much easier to operate as you can turn off the device when you are away on your holidays, and you can turn it on when you are just about to get back home. This way, you will find your home at a comfortable temperature and you shall have saved a lot of energy.

4. You receive notifications

You can opt to be alerted any time the devices make adjustments. For instance, you can receive a notification when it adapts to accommodate the drop in temperature in your house. These alerts can be given along with explanations.

This will help you make corrections whenever you feel the adjustment is not necessary. The device can, therefore, help you to have temperature predictability in your home in areas where the temperature is unpredictable.

5. Provide energy usage data

Some smart thermostats give an outline of the energy usage report every month or yearly depending on how you want it. This offers you a platform where you can track and do the management of power usage.

From the data, you can depict why some days spiked and plan on how you can make your savings even greater the following month or year.

Also read:Do Smart Thermostats Work with Boilers?

Why are Smart Thermostats so Expensive?

Some find the high initial costs of purchase and installation to be intimidating. (Many models can cost you up to $400.) However, the overall value far exceeds the initial costs.

Once they are installed, they provide overall savings by allowing you to control the temperature throughout the day. There are several additional features that also make this device worth the money.

  • With the advanced technology used in building these devices, they can be controlled from your phone. 
  • They run on home Wi-Fi
  • They have an app for your smartphone or tablet enabling you to control your home temperature even when you are away from home. 
  • They are eco-friendly.
  • They give feedback on energy usage, run time and other notifications. (Ex. letting you know when your air filter needs replacement.) 
  • They detect and alert you when your water pipes are in danger of bursting. 

All these benefits are put into consideration by the manufacturers adding to the overall value of the device. Installation is an additional cost, but many are designed so that you may do this on your own and save money in this way.

Also read: How to deal with an inaccurate smart thermostat

What to Look for in a Smart Thermostat?

When you have decided to purchase this device, you have to understand its various features and what their specifications mean. This will help you to utilize it properly and save an amount worth its initial cost within a short time.

Here are some important features and qualities that you should look for when buying your smart thermostat.

1. Full-Color Touchscreen

Thermostats are appealing to the eye. The Full-Color Touchscreen is one of the features that contribute to this sleek look. They add beauty to your home and complement your interior decor. Most importantly, color screens are much easier to use compared to traditional buttons. Reading from such screens is also easier.

Touch screens are relatively common and easy to use in the modern world. We have them on our phones and tablets so having them on our thermostats makes the device very convenient to use.

2. Multiple stage system

These devices have multiple stage heating and cooling systems which is another energy-saving feature. It ensures that only appropriate energy is used in getting your home to the correct temperature and that little energy  is lost in the process. It works similar to a dimmer switch.

When used in a conventional system, most smart thermostats work with at least two stages of heating and cooling. However, the system works with three and two stages of heating and cooling respectively when used on a heat pump powered system.

3. HVAC Accessories

The smart thermostat you buy should be able to work with any HVAC accessories that you may have.

4. Remote control

These devices can be controlled via an app or an online account remotely. This can be done by connecting the device with a phone so that you may control it wherever you may be.

An online account can also be used with the top thermostats. Connecting the device via an online account makes it even more flexible as Windows and Mac desktops can be used as well.

5. Home automation

The device you purchase should be that which can interact with other smart devices such as smart lights. There are a lot of smart home systems in our market today. Just ensure you get a high profile one that is compatible with your smart thermostat.

You need a thermostat that can be compatible with devices such as Homekit, Alexa and Google home. Before you set the smart home system, just ensure you have their hub controller or you can buy if you do not have one.

6. Proximity sensor

This is not an essential feature of a smart thermostat, but it adds some value to the device. With this feature, you can set the device such that it has a dim function.

It will then go off after a short period of inactivity. As you approach, it will sense you, and the screen will light up.

7. System wiring using C wire

Smart thermostats, unlike traditional ones, need a constant dedicated power supply. They have to be constantly connected to your house Wi-Fi and also come with a big glossy screen. These two factors make the device itself power-hungry (although this will not run up your energy bill).

Most heating and cooling devices that have more than four wires will have a “C” wire. HVAC wiring systems do not have a standard coloring, so this wire cannot be identified by color. However, by verifying how the connection has been done to the terminal of the device, you can identify it.

C wire will ensure adequate and constant power supply. You can use an adapter to make the current system compatible with C wire. You can use other wires like G wire in place of C wire as long as the current system is compatible.

Not all smart thermostats need these wires, some can work without it. In case you purchase one with a C terminal without a wire connected, don’t panic. Just use it as it is designed to be used.

8. Easy programming

This is the quality that justifies the general name for these devices. You do not have to program them, as they program themselves. This technology is an improved version of a programmable thermostat.

Though programmable thermostats are capable of saving energy as well, you have to program them yourself. With this device, it is up to you to decide when the HVAC system switches on and off and set the temperature.

Smart thermostats, on the other hand, learn and do the adjustment on their own. Further, you do not have to be present to do the regulations, as you can do it remotely.

9. Thermostat app on your phone

You can have a smart thermostat app on your phone. This enables you to switch your device on and off wherever you are. Imagine switching your thermostat when you are leaving your house for the day. Then you switch it on upon your return so that by the time you arrive, your home is at your preferred temperature.

For this feature to work, all you need to do is create an electric boundary in your neighborhood within the app. Once you cross this boundary, your thermostat is switched on or off depending on how you set it. Commonly, you would set it “off” when you are leaving home and “on” when you are about to return.

10. Energy tracking and reporting

This feature is very useful in energy-saving and thus saving money as well. With the information provided through the reports, you can gauge where to make adjustments so that you conserve energy even more in the following weeks, months or years depending on the report schedule.

The information will be available on your online account or the app and you can check it whenever you want wherever you are.

11. Weather report

This feature is made possible through an internet connection. Smart thermostats can receive weather forecast information and display it. These 7 days forecasts are normally displayed on your thermostat.

12. Room sensor

These small plastic buttons are usually placed in homes or offices. They monitor temperature and motion in an area. Communication between the sensor and the smart thermostat is through a wireless connection. The sensors inform the device about the temperature and motion in the room, that is, whether the room is occupied.

The thermostat controls the temperature of the entire space in a house or an office. It can detect what the temperature is on the space directly around it, but not the whole house. This is where the room sensors are useful.

They detect the temperature of the remaining spaces of the room and inform the smart thermostat. The device thus becomes aware of the average temperature in the whole house and runs even more effectively.

Which Smart Thermostats are Most Commonly Used?

The thermostats we have on the market today vary in prices depending on the features and qualities discussed above. Moreover, they are the products of different companies.

Today’s market offers a variety that you can choose from. Here are some of the commonly used ones you can choose from, their features, qualities, and prices.


This device has a motion sensor that is built into it. With this sensor, it can notice when there is no one in your house and then automatically switch off the heating system.

It is designed to produce a heating plan based on your behavior and lifestyle by detecting and building data about the household. It takes into consideration when you are asleep, when you are in the house, and when you are away; then, the device adjusts the heat accordingly.

Your heating can also be controlled through a Smartphone. This smart thermostat offers a remote control system.

Nest-Google provides an energy usage report. This enables you to monitor how you spend energy, make necessary adjustments, and save more energy. Consequently, it indicates when your energy runs efficiently.

This type of smart thermostat costs around $325 or £249 including the installation.

Hive-British Gas

This smart thermostat from British gas is less expensive than the Nest-Google. It contains handy features and allows control of the heating manually.

This way, you can generate well organized and detailed heating schedules for your home. This will make it easier for you to maximize energy efficiency and reduce wastage.

Giving you control of your heating is one quality that makes it a more appealing option to some compared to the automated smart thermostats.

Other smart thermostats require very minimal input from you; they are designed to automatically create heating schedules. If you would rather not trust the data by the automated system, the Hive is for you.

It can connect to the app on your phone or tablet and can be controlled remotely as well.

Just like other smart thermostats, it also displays energy usage information on its dashboard. This will enable you to make appropriate adjustments.

This device cost around $259 or £199 including the installation charges.

Connect (Scottish power)

A smart thermostat from Scottish Power, this device is  only available to company customers. Just like the Hive-British Gas, it allows you to generate heating schedules for your house by yourself.

It aims at delivering your home heating system through manual control. It has a handy feature that allows you to stop your daily heating plan whenever you feel the heating will not be necessary. This is useful when you leave home for some time. You can pause your heating so that you do not incur unnecessary energy waste.

To purchase this device, you can opt to pay on a monthly basis or pay an upfront amount, then the rest as agreed. The payment includes the installation charges by the Scottish Power engineers.

The monthly payment is $12.69/£9.94 for two years. Or you can pay an upfront fee of $85/£66, then $12.69/£9.94 later as agreed.


The Tado is a German product very similar to the Nest. It is designed to offer you an automatically created heating schedule. Monitor your behavior and lifestyle and create a heating condition that you are comfortable with. 

It can be operated remotely using a Smartphone. It monitors the surrounding weather and adjusts the temperature to compensate for the cold and hot weather. This is one of the most perfect thermostats you need to consider when you are purchasing.

It cost just $259/£199 upfront or $6.49/£4.99 on monthly rentals.


This thermostat is one of my favorites due to its unique operations. It is designed so that you can use it to heat an individual part of the house.

Let’s say you only need the heating in your living room; you can direct the device to heat just that particular room. This can be done remotely allowing you to make adjustments from any part of the world. Clearly, this will save you a lot of energy and in the long run, substantial cash.

Just like other smart thermostats, Evonome has got a dashboard where the energy usage data is displayed. This enables you to create a daily heating schedule for temperature regulations so that you save on energy afterward.

It is a ‘learning’ smart thermostat as well. That is, it can learn the heating system of your home and adjust to reach the desired temperature efficiently.

It can also detect changes in temperature from openings of the house, that is, windows, doors or ventilation. It will then adjust and maintain your preferred temperature.

It cost $323/£249 for your base unit. This fee does not include installation charges. You can also decide to purchase just for a section or a zone, say living room. This cost $90/£70 for each zone.


This device allows you to create heating zones in your home as well. You can remotely use your Smartphone or tablet to set a timer for each room and adjust remotely. It has a sensor that detects your presence. 

Moreover, it can detect you when you are getting close to the house and make the adjustment. This way, you will find the house warm when you get into it. Just like other smart thermostats, the device provides data on energy usage as well.

Purchasing and installing this device cost $345/£265.


A new product in the market from EDF Energy. Though, unlike connect, it is available to anyone interested, not EDF customers alone.

It is appealing to the eye and often comes in a range of colors. This device allows remote control via an app on smartphones as well as tablets. It automatically creates schedules for your daily heating routine.

The device is also designed so that it adapts to weather changes and compensates for hot or cold days. It will detect the possibility of your pipes freezing and automatically turn your heating on.

What do Smart Thermostats do?

Smart thermostats are installed in our homes to regulate the temperature automatically without manual adjustment. With the device in your home, you won’t feel the effect of the changing seasons.

Let me briefly take you through on how this device works to achieve this.

Smart thermostats are made of three basic components:

  • One part plugs directly to the HVAC system
  • The thermostat control system
  • Smart thermostat app for remote control

Some higher-end models may offer more of the components. For example, ‘the learning models’ that require no programming may have an addition of the following components:

  • A sensor for zoned temperature control with better energy-saving capability
  • The component that makes it learn to automatically adjust the temperature when the family is about to come home, and also make sure your house is not heated when you are away
  • A Smartphone or computer tracking which provides data on energy usage to help you monitor adjustments

These components communicate and coordinate in their operation. Your thermostat has to be compatible with the HVAC system. The plug connected directly to the HVAC communicates to the thermostat control system.

The app is downloaded to your Smartphone, other mobile devices, or even your computer. These devices give an internet or wireless connection to your smart thermostat.

The technology allows you to adjust your home temperature from wherever you are. The device works with your Smartphone in these simple steps:

  1. Whenever you want to adjust the temperature, simply open the Smartphone app and set the temperature.
  2. The new temperature is sent via the internet to your home.
  3. The Wi-Fi router in your home transmits information to the device.
  4. The smart thermostat readjusts the temperature to where you want it to be. It also sends a signal to your boiler to turn off or on.

The devices connect to the boiler through an existing wire connection and your home Wi-Fi network. This is what makes them intelligent.

As long as your boiler is compatible, you should be able to connect the device. It doesn’t just have to work with the new boilers that have Wi-Fi embedded.

To turn the device on or off remotely, you need to create an electric boundary in your neighborhood within the app. Once you cross this boundary, your thermostat is switched on or off depending on how you set it.

Most users set it to turn off when leaving the house and on when arriving home.

The advanced technology used in designing smart thermostats makes it by far the device to go for as far as heating and cooling your home is concerned.

A smart thermostat offers energy efficiency, while still providing your usual level of comfort. This energy conservation helps reduce spending on energy bills. For this reason, its initial cost of purchase and installation is financially (among other reasons) worth it.