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Smart Thermostat Comparisons

November 15, 2014

It is easy to be overwhelmed with the many different thermostats on the market and all the features!  Which one is right for you?  We’ve taken three of the top thermostats and done a comparison for you: the Honeywell WiFi, the Nest (now owned by Google), and the Honeywell Lyric. All tout easy installation and setup, and all allow you to control the thermostat remotely from a smartphone via a free downloadable app.  All will save you money on your utility bills if used appropriately.  Each of these thermostats uses different programming methods – or better said, what triggers the change in temperature settings – is quite different among the three.  So, depending on your habits, one might be better for you than another.

Honeywell WiFi

User ratings of this thermostat are very high, and higher than the user ratings of the Honeywell Lyric and Nest in most cases.  Users like the smartphone app a lot, and you can operate it from a website, too. You can schedule temperature changes for waking, leaving, returning, and sleeping.  Programming is a matter of setting up a 7-day schedule for each of these changes.  You can override the schedule at any point, but this method works well if you have a fairly predictable schedule most of the time. Temperature control is spot on, within +/- 1 degree. The touchscreen wall unit offers a multitude of preferences: colors, displays (Fahrenheit/Celsius, 12/24 hr. time, temp/humidity, etc.), brightness, auto/manual, keypad lockout, hold temperature option, and much more.  Plus, there is a smart mode whereby it learns how long it takes to reach a desired temperature and proactively adjusts, and it reminds you when it’s time to change your filters. The cons were few:  If your internet connectivity is down, you can only control the thermostat from the wall unit (same as a traditional thermostat), your color preferences cannot be saved, and circulate mode (fan) is preset at 35%.  Depending on the retailer, the cost for this unit varies from $193-$230 (not including installation).

Google Nest 

By comparison to the Honeywell WiFi, the Nest is more simplistic. The display only offers temperature, and not the multitude of preferences (colors, etc.) like the WiFi does.  Also, unlike the WiFi, you cannot do all the functions from the thermostat wall unit that you can do from your smartphone. There is no hold temperature option, and the temperature control was only +/- 3 degrees (a 6 degree swing is enough to make it feel too hot or too cold). Like the WiFi, it learns how long it takes to heat up and cool down to your set temperatures and proactively adjusts.  There is no need to enter a 7-day program, though you may.  You can merely set target home and away temperatures (for cooling and heating) for a single day or week, and it uses that as a starting point.  Then, the Nest “learns” your patterns by having a sensor that senses when someone is home.  So, if you have an erratic schedule, this feature might be ideal.  However, user reviews say if you have a big house, its line of sight will not cover the entire house, so you may be home but in another room where the sensor can’t sense you, and thus the “away” mode kicks in.  Many users found the “learning” was imprecise at times, and some gave up on it and opted for straight programming of temps at specific times.  The thermostat is accessible via the internet and the unit itself maintains connection to an internet website to tell you the outdoor temperature.  Nest offers usage reports and shows you, via a green leaf on the display, when you’re saving energy.  Users reported many frustrations, including software updates that wipe out your settings and any “learning” that was done, and time changes (for Daylight Saving Time) did not update the temperature settings, but many problems have since been fixed in newer updates. The Nest’s construction is solid (glass and stainless steel vs. the Honeywell’s plastic) and costs for the “second generation” of Nest units vary from $249-$300 (not including installation).

Honeywell Lyric

The design of this unit at least on its face is similar to the simplistic display of the Nest.  But its geofencing feature represents a totally different programming alternative. It uses your smartphone’s location to determine whether you are home or away, and sets the temperature accordingly.  If you’re the type of person that doesn’t go anywhere without your smartphone, this might be for you, but be aware that everyone in the household must have the app installed on their smartphone.  Multiple thermostats can be controlled from the same app.  Users say the Lyric does a better job than the Nest at fine-tuning the temperature: it considers both indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity to reach a set point. Users found the software app with the Lyric more clunky than the Nest, and some functions can only be done from the smartphone or web, not from the wall unit. Many reviewers reported the geofencing was not reliable, problems working with iOS 8, multiple manual resets when internet connection was lost, and other frustrations causing them to set up shortcuts or do manual overrides or to swap out the unit due to frequent breakdowns.  Others reported poor experiences with Honeywell’s customer support, or that they did not like the wobbly plastic feel of the device.  As with the Nest, there is both an older and newer model, plus there is a retail and contractor’s version.  Costs for the newer retail model range from $219-$280 (not including installation).

With all smart thermostats, you’ll want to check compatibility with your home’s HVAC system before purchasing one.  Some do not work with baseboard heat, for example, and if you have multiple zones in your house, you’ll need multiple thermostats.  Installation can be done by the homeowner, but know that we are happy to help you install any thermostat of your choosing.