The smart home market continues to evolve but WiFi thermostats remain a very common entry point for newcomers to domotics. The adoption rate of smart thermostats continues to rise just as surely as the utility bills of millions of users keep falling. A Parks Associates 2017 study showed 13% of all American homes now have smart thermostats. With Nest alone selling over 10 million devices since 2011, there’s no slow-down in sight for WiFi thermostats so what should you look out for if you’re curious and ready to invest? We’ll highlight 5 features to look for in a WiFi thermostat after a quick glance at why you should bother automating climate control in the first place.
What Is a WiFi Thermostat and Why Should You Use One?
WiFi thermostats, also known as smart thermostats, are programmable alternatives to conventional thermostats. You simply hook up your smart thermostat to your home WiFi network then you can take remote control of your heating and air conditioning in-app on your smartphone. Functionality varies tremendously from model but the twin benefits remain the same: you’ll get absolute convenience married to potential savings on your electricity bill. Imagine coming home on a freezing winter’s day, snow falling as you edge toward home. You hit the garage door opener to avoid getting out of the car, and step inside your house congratulating your home entry system… But it’s bitter cold indoors so your joy is short-lived. Why endure waiting and shivering for the heating to kick in when you can program it instead and return to a toasty, welcoming house? We’ll set aside the broad reasons of convenience and savings and double down on 5 features to look for in a WiFi thermostat so you can separate the wheat from the chaff and get the most appropriate home automation for your needs.
5 Features to Look For In a WiFi Thermostat
1) Algorithmic-Based Learning
You’ll be spoiled for choice when you’re looking for WiFi thermostats, and there’s no shortage of intelligent models capable of learning your routines. Once you start setting the thermostat at a particular temperature in the morning, the thermostat soon starts to take action independently. With smart homes, imagination is your only limitation when it comes to combining technologies to achieve new levels of convenience. You can use sensors so your thermostat can make automatic adjustments to the temperature based on your location through your cell phone. As the name suggests, the Nest Learning Thermostat can accustom itself to your routines and regulate the temperature in your smart home even when you’re away. You can see the tangible benefits with reports on your daily energy consumption indicating any flashpoints and how to maximize efficiency to pay less when your electricity bill hits the mat. The Honeywell WiFi Thermostat is another beneficiary of algorithmic-based learning. While this level of intelligence in a WiFi thermostat is by no means essential, if you feel you’d benefit from this greater degree of streamlining, shoot for a model that will learn and apply your habits. You’ll enjoy the advantage of inputting the parameters of your basic schedule but the flexibility of your thermostat adapting to both routine and change.
2) Climate Zoning
If you’ve got a bigger home and you find your HVAC system struggles to deliver a consistent temperature throughout, it might be time to look for a smart thermostat that allows you to implement a zoning system. Perhaps your teenage kids love their rooms stiflingly hot, and you prefer an iced office with a slightly warmer but still cool bedroom. Whatever your reason, if you want to avoid the wasted energy of heating unused rooms and make sure everyone in the house is at their preferred temperature, smart thermostats supporting zoning systems are the obvious solution. In a zoned system, every thermostat controls the heating independently so you can precisely heat various areas of the house. With this type of smart thermostat, when a given area needs heating, the valves to that zone open up so hot water can be guided through the radiators accordingly. Unless zone valves are calling out for heat, the boiler goes off layering savings on top of convenience.
3) Geofencing, Remote Sensors, and Energy Reports: Do You Really Need These Extras?
A common mistake people make when looking for new smart home appliances is to obsess over features without taking into account whether they’ll actually use them. When you’re looking for the best WiFi thermostat, you’ll be barraged with benefits… How about geofencing, the creation of virtual boundaries to trigger a response? With the Honeywell Lyric, the thermostat can detect when you’re coming home through the geofencing on your cell phone. You can tweak the range from a few hundred feet to several miles. Once you go past the marker on your way out in the morning, the thermostat will enter Away mode automatically. Breach the threshold on the way back from work, and Home mode kicks in. With geofencing, you should think about whether it will be useful and practical for you and your family rather than considering it a good thing by default. How about if you’ve got multiple people with the Lyric app all triggering Home and Away modes? What if you routinely forget your phone? As with every element of home automation, ask yourself what specific features will do for you and how you will personally benefit, if at all. How about remote sensors? If you want the benefits of these geographic boundaries without being tethered to your smartphone, the ecobee3 Thermostat makes use of proximity sensors to determine when you’re leaving home in the morning or returning later on that day. Whichever way you go about it, ask yourself if you really need this in a thermostat rather than assuming it’s a must. The same applies to thermostats that deliver detailed energy reports in-app. Ask yourself if you’re really going to analyze and use this information. What we’ve tried to illustrate with these examples is that there’s plenty WiFi thermostats can do beyond regulating the temperature. Take the time to think which of these extras would be genuinely beneficial and you’ll end up with the best thermostat stress-free.
How devices and appliances within your smart home communicate with each other is key to its success. With so many protocols, from Zigbee and Z-Wave through to WiFi and Bluetooth, it’s essential you ask yourself a couple of questions before launching in and buying the first thermostat you see…
With an integrated system, you’ll be able to control the thermostat along with other areas of your smart home in-app. If you plan to link your lighting to your thermostat, you need to make sure you won’t get any clash of communication. Not all smart thermostats will connect to WiFi so bear this in mind. If you’re going the Insteon route or you’re considering the Honeywell Z-Wave Thermostat, you’ll need to make sure you have the hub in place. Your smart home set-up will be unique so think of it that way in advance… Take the time to consider exactly how you want things to work together then you can achieve this more easily without wasting money on incompatible appliances or spending a fortune on professional installation.
- Will your WiFi thermostat be part of a broader home control set-up?
- If so, are the devices you have in mind compatible?
5) Think About Mobile Access
It goes unsaid you want to be able to control your WiFi thermostat from your smart phone. This remote control is one of the key selling points. So it’s not a question of whether your WiFi thermostat will work with a phone, but whether or not it will work with your phone. While this might seem blindingly obvious, all too many people buy an iOS-only thermostat when they’ve got an Android handset so don’t make this schoolboy error.
When digging up 5 features to look for in a WiFi thermostat, we overlooked the obvious benefit of using your favorite digital assistant to control the temperature in your house using voice commands. Whether you like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant, voice control is enabled as pretty much standard in the best smart thermostats. Hopefully, the other areas have given you a few pointers to take into account so you can get the best WiFi thermostat for your specific situation.