Smart thermostats are better now than at any time in the past. In fact, some thermostats are so smart that after you install them and they learn your preferences, you may never have to touch them again. Of course, such sophistication brings with it a high price tag. Here are a few reasons you may want to install a smart thermostat and a few reasons you might opt not to.
Smart Versus Programmable
Before jumping into the benefits of smart thermostats, it is important to explain the difference between “smart” and “programmable.” A programmable thermostat is one that allows you to set it to maintain different temperatures at different times of day and different days of the week. A smart thermostat does the same thing, but you don’t have to program it – it simply learns your needs on its own (though you can program it if you want to).
If energy savings are what you are interested in and cost is not issue, then a smart thermostat may save a bit more energy than a programmable thermostat and almost certainly more than a standard thermostat. The savings really come down to how you set the limits on the smart thermostat, how much you fiddle with it, and how attentive you are to the feedback it provides.
It is important to note that a great deal of research has gone into investigating whether smart/programmable thermostats live up to their claims. The truth is that you can save 5-15% on energy use by turning down your thermostat by 10-15 degrees for eight hours. Smart thermostats simply help you maximize the amount of time your heating system is turned down. You could do it all on your own, but smart thermostats make it easier.
It is claimed that smart thermostats pay for themselves after just 2.5 years. Whether that is true or not, however, depends on how you use them. Generally speaking, you can save about 1% off of your energy bill for each degree that you lower your thermostat and maintain that setting for eight hours . In other words, if you lower the temperature from 68 to 67 for 8 hours, you’ll save 1%. If you do the same thing, but leave it that way for 24 hours, you’ll save 3%.
Making the Choice
If you haven’t noticed already, the IQ of your thermostat has less to do with saving energy than the actual temperature. In fact, if you are diligent about your heating system, then a plain old manual thermostat is the cheapest way to go and will save you just as much as a smart or programmable thermostat. What makes smart thermostats so nice is that they do everything for you. They know when you are home, when you are awake, can be manipulated from a distance through apps, and track your energy use. If you are busy or simply don’t want to bother with your thermostat, then a smart thermostat is probably worth the investment. For everyone else, programmable or manual thermostats will do the job for far less money.