There has never been a better time to upgrade to a top-of-the-line smart thermostat. By utilizing the energy-efficient capabilities of a top-tier thermostat, your electricity usage will drop while your level of comfort will increase. The savings on your monthly electric bill will be immediately noticeable. In addition to the monthly savings, many electric companies are offering free smart thermostats and/or rebates to their customers.
Although quite a few new smart thermostats have recently become available, there are two that are hands-down the leaders in both market share and capabilities. Both of these thermostats have the ability to pay for themselves within the first year, so don’t let the sticker shock be a cause of concern.
Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation ($249)
PROS: ease of installation, unmatched learning capabilities
CONS: Higher price tag, relatively short warranty
The Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation is the current offering from the company that kicked off the smart thermostat revolution. It’s been 8 years since the original Nest Thermostat was introduced to the market. In that time, the company has managed to stay ahead of the competition in almost every aspect. With this latest offering, they continue to lead the charge with their award-winning connectivity, control and convenience.
Installing the Nest thermostat is a breeze. It comes with all the tools you will need to remove your existing thermostat and install the new one. The included instructions are very easy to understand. There are also numerous instructional videos on the Nest website to help with the installation and usage of the thermostat. If you need one-on-one assistance, you can contact customer service via live chat, email and phone.
The Nest also has a built-in level to help you achieve a perfect installation. Like the included screwdrivers, this forethought to the owner’s needs is greatly appreciated.
The Nest has a built-in battery that stays charged via your HVAC’s wiring. This means you do not need to have a C wire installed for the Nest to operate. And unlike other thermostats, you will not need to routinely replace the batteries.
Because installation takes less than 20 minutes, you can quickly get an idea for just how easy it is to use the Nest thermostat. By tapping the face or turning the dial, you can now set your desired temperature.
From this point on, the Nest will remember every time you adjust the temperature. After 7 days of learning your schedule, the Nest will begin to proactively adjust the temperature for you. You can always set high/low limits or even override a current setting, but you will find that the Nest is extremely accurate in dialing in your comfort zone. As more time goes by, the system will perfect its calibration to your specific situation.
By connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi system, the Nest can monitor your local weather conditions, and then make adjustments based on the current exterior temperature and humidity levels in your area.
The Nest also has light and motion sensors that are used to activate the Auto-Away functionality. This allows the system to enter in to an energy-savings mode, saving you even more on your monthly electricity bills. It can even track when your cell phone is approaching the house, so the system can go back into comfort mode in anticipation of your arrival.
Like most high-end smart thermostats, The Nest can seamlessly connect with all of the major smart home systems like Google Home and Amazon Alexa. There are also hundreds of other third-party aps and smart home programs that the Nest smart thermostat can connect to.
The only negative to the Nest is its $250 price tag. Even though it sells for $70 above the average price of competing thermostats, we think it is worth it.
The Nest comes with a 2-year warranty. While this should be more than enough, it is shorter than that of competing thermostats.
PROS: includes 1 remote room sensor, comes with built-in Amazon Alexa
CONS: does not automatically learn your patterns, requires a C-wire
Although the Nest is currently the biggest name in the smart thermostat arena, Ecobee has proven it deserves to be in the same spotlight. With the release of its new Ecobee4 model, the playing field has shrunk considerably.
Installation is fairly straightforward, but it does require a C-wire. If your current HVAC system does not use a C-wire, don’t worry. The unit comes with a Power Extender Kit (PEK) what will need to be used in place of the C-wire. The PEK will need to be installed on the furnace. While this can be a bit daunting, there are videos that can show you exactly how to do it.
For the faceplate installation, you will need to provide a phillips head screwdriver, and the unit does have a built-in level to make sure you get proper alignment. The printed instructions are super easy to understand. If you do get stuck, there are numerous videos that can walk you through the installation.
If your existing system has a C-wire, you should be able to get the unit installed and set up in about 30 minutes. If you do not have a C-wire, you are probably looking at closer to 90 minutes. Either way, this is a project you can more than likely do all by yourself.
Unlike the Nest, you do need to program 3 sets of desired temperatures: one for when you are awake at home, one for when you are asleep, and one for when you are away from home. This only takes a minute, but these settings will determine how the system functions. Of course, you can always temporarily override the comfort settings, or alter them if your needs change.
Because the Ecobee4 comes with a remote sensor, you get a higher level of control and comfort than homes using other thermostats. You now have 2 rooms that you can control, and you can decide which room has the most importance.
Once you have completed the installation, it’s time to connect the unit to your Wi-Fi and download the app to your phone. Now would also be a good time to create an account with Amazon so you can use the Alexa speaker functionality.
You now have multiple ways to adjust the temperature in your home. You can manually tap the faceplate, or just say, “Alexa, lower the temperature by two degrees.” If you are away from home, use your phone or a computer to change the current settings, or to check the current temperature and humidity in both rooms.
Now that the Ecobee4 is setup and connected, you can ask Alexa anything you want. She can tell you a joke, read the latest headlines, or make a dinner reservation for you.
Like the Nest, the Ecobee4 keeps informed of the local weather. It uses this knowledge to maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system. It also knows when your cell phone is approaching your home, and it will make sure your preferred temperature is present when you walk in the door.
The Ecobee4 comes with a 3-year warranty, which is 50% more than the Nest offers.
Our Top Pick for Best Smart Thermostat
As you can see, there is a reason these two smart thermostats are leading the pack. They are highly capable systems, each with their own strengths and weakness. After weighing the Pros and Cons of each, we have selected the Nest Learning Thermostat as our smart thermostat of choice.
We felt the Nest was the easiest to install, especially for houses that didn’t have a C wire present. It also was easier to set up, as you do not need to program multiple settings. Once you have adjusted your Nest for the first 7 days, it learns your preferences and takes it from there. If you want to program comfort settings, you can. But why bother? It truly is a plug and play.
While both thermostats will save you money by making your HVAC system work more efficiently, we have awarded the Nest Learning Thermostat with the highest marks.