Money will likely be the driving reason to invest in one of our best smart thermostats. That and reducing your carbon footprint. And yes, you can achieve both with an intelligent thermostat, which will make your investment doubly green, because you’ll be reducing the amount of energy that you or your family consumes and all the while keeping more “green” in your pocket.
With that in mind, a smart thermostat is, well, smart, because it requires little to no input to operate. However, if you do need to make adjustments to the timing or temperature, you should be able to do so via an app on your smartphone or tablet, or directly on the unit via its touchscreen.
The best smart thermostat for multiple zones can automatically control the heating and cooling to affect individual rooms that are occupied. For an even more automated performance, these devices will learn some of your habits and automatically make changes to yield the best energy efficiency possible in your home, while maintaining your comfort level. (And don’t tell this to anyone who is particularly serious about saving energy, but they’re also a lot of fun to use!)
- 1 Top Smart Thermostats in 2019
- 1.1 #1 Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)
- 1.2 #2 ecobee4 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat
- 1.3 #3 Honeywell Lyric Thermostat – Best Geofencing Thermostat
- 1.4 #4 Emerson Sensi – Best Smart Thermostat in a Traditional Design
- 1.5 #5 Lux GEO-WH – Best Thermostat for Battery-Only Operation
- 1.6 #6 Lux Kono – Best Smart Thermostat for Compatibility
- 1.7 #7 Vine Wi-Fi Thermostat 2nd Gen – Most On-Screen Information
- 1.8 #8 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control
- 1.9 #9 Schneider Electric Wiser Air Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
- 1.10 #10 Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (1F86U-42WF)
- 2 What to Look for in the Best Smart Thermostat
- 3 Mistakes to Avoid
- 4 Most Important Smart Thermostat Features
- 5 Which Best Smart Thermostat Is Right For You?
Top Smart Thermostats in 2019
#1 Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Sharp touch screen display gives this unit a tremendous look.
- Clear and minimalistic interface
- Plenty of help and options for installation
- Easy eco mode and energy savings
- Controls take a little practice
- No Google Assistant built in (yet)
- No extra information about humidity, etc.
Nest was one of the first companies to offer smart thermostat devices, and it continues to be at the top of the market. The third generation of the Nest Learning Thermostat is the latest version, offering a sharper and larger touchscreen display compared to its predecessor. It also makes use of the 5GHz band for Wi-Fi in an effort to avoid interference in the previously used 2.4GHz band.
The Nest Learning Thermostat’s best feature is its ability to make changes to the home’s energy efficiency settings automatically, based on the way you live. It will take several days for the thermostat to determine your patterns, but this feature makes being energy efficient effortless.
Another new feature is the unit’s ability to figure out when you’re home and when you’re out, adjusting the settings to provide comfort when people are in the home and energy savings when no one is home. This device’s smartphone app and touchscreen interface are easy to use.
This Nest unit will provide energy efficiency reports through the mobile app, calculating how much money you’re saving. And it can alert you to any odd patterns in the performance of your furnace or air conditioner.
The price for the Nest Learning Thermostat is at the high end of the smart thermostat market, but it’s a strong performer. It also has Bluetooth and Zigbee capabilities built into it, but neither is activated currently, as Nest is including these features for potential future usage. Nest doesn’t have the individual room sensors that you’ll find with the ecobee3, but this model is much easier to install yourself.
If you want to compare Nest vs. programmable thermostats, Nest can set itself apart with the way the Nest Learning Thermostat works with other Nest products. If you have Nest Protect (smoke alarm), for example, it can work with the thermostat to turn off the heating and cooling systems when you’re not home. Moreover, if it measures high levels of carbon monoxide or smoke, it will shut down your HVAC’s fan system in an effort to prevent spreading the toxic fumes. Alerts of high levels of CO or smoke will appear on the face of the thermostat too, as well as through the mobile app.
And if you’re using Nest Cam, you can tell the camera to begin recording for purposes of home security whenever you set the Nest Learning Thermostat to the Away setting. Dozens of companies offer hardware that will work with the Nest system, such as door locks and home appliances.
#2 ecobee4 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Multiple sensors allow for temperature control in individual rooms.
- Traditional touchscreen with lots of information
- Full-featured app with plenty of settings
- Room sensor for more accurate readings
- Built-in Alexa isn’t an ideal voice assistant arrangement
- Some screen data is too small to be useful
- App can be tedious to navigate
If your heating and cooling system struggles to keep all of the rooms in your home at the same temperature, the ecobee4 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat can help you deal with this problem.
Nearly tied with the Nest, the Ecobee4 is a more full-featured smart device. It offers an extra room sensor so the thermostat gets more accurate temperature readings, and has a built-in Alexa that allows you to ask the thermostat for news, set timers, play music and so on.
This smart thermostat uses wireless sensors in multiple rooms that connect with the main thermostat. These sensors can determine when a room is occupied and then adjust the temperature for the home until the occupied room has reached the desired temperature.
So if the kitchen is normally too hot, the system can lower the temperature in the entire home to compensate when you’re in the kitchen (provided you have zones cooling/heating). If people are in multiple rooms, the system takes an average of the individual rooms’ temperatures to determine the best settings. By using the individual sensors in each room, the ecobee3 sets itself apart from the Next smart thermostat. Of course, this aspect of the ecobee3 system is designed more for comfort level than energy efficiency.
Installation of this device is more difficult than with some other smart thermostats, as you’ll have to connect it to your home’s heating and cooling system’s C wire. (The C wire provides continuous 24V power from the heating and cooling system to the thermostat; if your temperature control system doesn’t have a C wire, the installation becomes more complex.) Other systems have built-in batteries. The ecobee3’s 3.5-inch touchscreen looks great with a sharp display of 320×480 pixels. Or you can use the system’s mobile app for full control from anywhere you have an Internet connection.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Ecobee shows extra, handy information on the screen, like humidity and weather, but these icons are so small you have to be very close to the thermostat to read them, which sort of ruins the point.
The ecobee4 will work with a host of home automation options, including Apple HomeKit, Logitech Harmony, SmartThings, and Wink. The unit is also Zigbee compatible.
#3 Honeywell Lyric Thermostat – Best Geofencing Thermostat
- Geofencing capabilities
- Alexa compatibility
- Both indoor and outdoor temperature functions
- App can be difficult to use at times
- Alerts from the app may annoy some users
- Some connectivity problems have been noted with features
The Honeywell Lyric is an excellent alternative if neither the Nest nor the Ecobee are exactly what you want.
It offers a lot of unique features, particularly the ability to both show the outside temperature (albeit in small numbers) and use outdoor temperature readings to more accurately set indoor temperatures. There’s also geofencing capabilities that allow the thermostat to sense the presence of your phone (say, when you are coming home), and automatically start your “at home” temperature settings.
However, other features aren’t quite as useful. The Smart Cues are a nice idea in theory, but in practice, they just send annoying maintenance and weather condition alerts to your phone – which is probably already cluttered enough.
The app, while offering multi-schedule customization, is also a little difficult to learn, and features like geofencing are needlessly opaque. Note that there are a couple different models for the Lyric.
#4 Emerson Sensi – Best Smart Thermostat in a Traditional Design
- Geofencing capabilities
- Compatible with Apple Homekit, Google Assistant, and Alexa
- Handy app-based installation instructions
- The traditional interface may not be what you are looking for
- Installation requirements are more stringent than other options
- Some connectivity issues reported
The Sensi has a very traditional screen interface for controlling your HVAC system. Some people might like that, especially if they want some app controls and voice control features without giving up the familiar on-thermostat controls that they already know. Others may prefer that a smart thermostat has an updated interface with better controls so they get what they paid for.
But old-school interface aside, then Sensi does have quite a few useful features. It features board voice command compatibility for a variety of systems and geofencing for changing the temperature based on whether or not you’re home.
However, despite the handy app-based installation instructions, the Sensi does typically require a system-power C-wire to properly manage wireless connections. Not all thermostats have the right wiring, and without proper setup, the Sensi may not spend much time online.
#5 Lux GEO-WH – Best Thermostat for Battery-Only Operation
- Extra features for air quality and geofencing
- Multiple power options
- Alexa Compatibility
- Design is a little weird
- Smart features greatly limited with certain power options
- Cannot be installed on two-stage heat pumps
This Lux GEO model tries to find ground between new designs like the Nest and traditional designs like the Sensi. The result is a little odd.
The thermostat can be mounted vertically or horizontally, but either way, you have a tiny screen with a lot of tiny text, and a control knob without much clear direction. We aren’t quite sure who would be a fan of this setup.
On the plus side, there are three power options – one for USB, one for the C wire, and one for battery-only. It’s the battery-only feature that makes this smart thermostat unique because it allows for setup in areas where other smart thermostats just can’t be used.
Of course, the battery option comes with some downsides, too – it’s not a source of power that can manage dependable wireless connections, and compatibility with things like Alexa won’t be possible on battery power.
Think of it more as a niche thermostat, a potential smart upgrade in tricky situations where other thermostats may not work.
#6 Lux Kono – Best Smart Thermostat for Compatibility
- Interesting modern design
- Broad compatibility with HVAC systems
- Compatibility with Alexa and Apple Homekit
- Controls aren’t for everyone
- Instructions aren’t very user-friendly
- Some customer service complaints
Lux does a much better job on the design of the Kono than the GEO-WH – everything has been streamlined and simplified, and there are a number of plate colors to match many different homes.
However, the separated tiny screen and knob are still present, and still a little weird to use. But interface aside, the geofencing, air quality checks, and voice command compatibility are all welcome features. Plus, you get most of the smart home thermostat benefits at a much lower price than something like Nest or Ecobee, making the Kono a great budget model for people who still want it all.
While the Kono has good HVAC compatibility, even with older systems (and includes its own power converter for installation), the instructions are sparse and not particularly helpful. Experience with your thermostat wiring is particularly helpful.
#7 Vine Wi-Fi Thermostat 2nd Gen – Most On-Screen Information
- Easy-to-understand interface
- Alexa compatibility
- App provides extra features like weather forecasts
- Lacks some advanced features of other smart thermostats
- Lack of guides for installation and use
- Too much effort on random features like night-light mode
We like how easy the Vine thermostat is to understand. One look at the interface and you can see exactly what it does – it’s really more of an app built into the thermostat than anything else. And while the touchscreen may be more awkward to use than your phone’s screen, this basic layout will still be familiar to many people.
Despite the Alexa compatibility, however, there aren’t a lot of advanced features here beyond the typical scheduling and remote control. Weather forecasts and night lights may be handy for some, but they don’t exactly set the Vine apart from the competition. The friendly thermostat layout has to do a lot of work for this model. Luckily, you can find this Vine for around $100, making it one of the most affordable home thermostat options.
#8 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control
Price: $225.00 | Touchscreen: Yes | Smart Home Compatibility: Yes
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: You can control temperature settings using voice commands with this unit.
The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control’s touchscreen isn’t quite as sleek looking as some of its competitors. But at least you can control this smart thermostat with basic voice controls. Some people might feel like the voice control is more of a gimmick than a useful feature, but it can be a time-saving option versus older Honeywell smart thermostats. If you choose to use the touchscreen, the Honeywell model’s screen is sharp and responsive to commands. It’s also a bit larger than some of the other options discussed earlier. Like the ecobee3, installation of this model can be tricky, as you’ll have to connect it to a C wire. If you make use of the Wink home automation system, this Honeywell model is compatible.
#9 Schneider Electric Wiser Air Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
Price: $212.00 | Touchscreen: Yes | Smart Home Compatibility: No
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Includes app for communicating with the utility company for best energy efficiency.
Schneider Electric has a strong app for use with its Wiser Air Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, even allowing for communication with the utility company when demand/response programs are in effect, offering advice on when you can save money by changing your energy usage patterns. The touchscreen display is quite a bit smaller than the overall unit, which means it isn’t as sharp looking as the Nest or ecobee3 options. You also can use a feature called Comfort Boost with the Wiser Air system, which allows for quick bursts of heating or cooling for a 15-minute period, such as when you initially wake up in the morning.
#10 Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (1F86U-42WF)
Price: $129.00 | Touchscreen: No | Smart Home Compatibility: No
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Offers a good set of basic thermostat controls at a low price point.
The Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat isn’t the most modern looking unit on our best smart thermostat list, but it is inexpensive compared to the others and does the basic job of monitoring and controlling your home’s energy usage. This Sensi unit’s display screen is not touch-enabled, but it is easy to use, as is the smartphone app. Installation is easy too (with no C wire connection required). You won’t have the ability to generate usage reports with this model, which makes it a little less appealing than the other smart thermostat options. It’s compatible with the Wink home automation system.
What to Look for in the Best Smart Thermostat
Energy Usage Reports: The primary reason to purchase a smart thermostat is to see your energy usage patterns, helping you to understand where you can save some money. While every smart thermostat on this list can connect with a mobile app, allowing you to make changes to the unit’s settings remotely, not all of them can generate useful reports.
Motion Sensors: The best smart thermostat for multiple zones is going to include motion sensor technology, which will determine whether someone is home, adjusting the heating and cooling settings automatically.
Design and Size: While it may seem silly to worry about the design and size of a unit you’re purchasing because of its technological advantages, the look of the device matters. After all, the thermostat for most people is located in a position in the home where it’s in constant view. Although the appearance isn’t the most important factor in a smart thermostat, you will want a good-looking unit that isn’t too bulky.
Mistakes to Avoid
Not Using the Unit Properly: The best smart thermostat for 2019 has a host of great features, designed to help you save energy in your home, while also living in comfortable temperatures when you’re there. But they’re also much more costly than a simple thermostat. Take the time to learn to use all of the features of the smart thermostat you’ve chosen, so you can receive the best value for your money.
Not Compatible with Existing Smart Home Automation Systems: If you have a smart home device or network already installed, you will want to select a smart thermostat that is compatible with it, just so you can control everything at once. The compatibility options for each smart thermostat constantly change, so be sure to check with the manufacturer’s Web site for the latest list of compatible smart home devices.
Most Important Smart Thermostat Features
- While most heating and cooling systems will work with most smart thermostat devices, if you have an older system, you may have incompatibility problems. The smart thermostat manufacturer should provide a list of compatible systems.
- The size of the touchscreen can make it easier to make the changes you want to the unit’s settings. And a full color touchscreen will look better than a monochrome screen.
Size of Unit
- Because the smart thermostat will be visible in your home, the size of the unit is important. You don’t want something that’s too bulky or that looks out-dated.
- The best smart thermostats will be able to make a wireless connection to your home Wi-Fi network, allowing them to send and receive data.
- Some units also offer Bluetooth wireless connections for communicating with remote devices.
- You can make use of a smartphone or mobile app to control the smart thermostat’s settings from any location in the home or outside the home.
- A motion sensor on the main thermostat unit allows the unit to sense when someone is home, adjusting the heating and cooling systems accordingly.
- Some smart thermostats offer additional sensor units, allowing for individual room temperature measuring.
Smart Home Compatibility
- If your smart thermostat can make a connection with your entire smart home network, each component will work better.
Which Best Smart Thermostat Is Right For You?
The smartest way to pick a smart thermostat is to find a unit that has the features you want and that can communicate with your current devices, such as your smartphone or smart home network. While every unit on this list has some strengths, the best programmable smart thermostat choice for most people nearly always comes down to ecobee3 vs. Nest. Those two smart thermostats offer the most features, great mobile apps, helpful energy usage reports, and sleek looking designs. However, they also carry prices that are at the high end of the market, meaning you’ll have a large outlay of cash initially that you should receive back in energy savings within a year or two.