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Tips for Choosing the Best Smart Thermostats

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You will agree with me that a Smart thermostat is the way to go in 2018 if you want to save on energy costs. However, shopping for the best devices remains a problem as this is a pretty new technology so not everyone knows what to look for when shopping. To help you get value for your money, here are 5 tips that will help you big time when considering investing in a Smart Thermostat.

1. Consider your HVAC System
The first thing I normally advise homeowners is to check the compatibility of the preferred thermostat with their HVAC system. I know several guys who ended up with incompatible thermostats; they had to dispose them at throwaway prices.

Different homes and regions have varying HVAC systems. For example, the 1st Generation Nest Learning is said to be compatible with 75% of American homes while the 2nd and 3rd Generation is compatible with 95%. Maybe your home is the 25% or the 5%.

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In addition to this, we have gas, oil, solar, electric baseboards, dual fuel, and millivolt HVAC systems. It is imperative to note that not all Smart thermostats are compatible with these systems. Even though most of them are compatible with gas, oil, electric and solar systems, there are strict limits on millivolt and electric baseboard HVACs. For example, while Ecobee is not compatible with millivolt systems, Honeywell Lyric T5 can work with it.

Another important consideration here would be installation. For HVAC techies, this is quite easy but for amateurs, installing a Smart thermostat may be quite tricky because of C wires. If you are totally green, I would recommend you go for a thermostat that has a Power Extender Kit. With such a thermostat, you can work around it without necessarily needing the C wire. If this sounds like rocket science, you can still seek the services of a technician.

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2. Go for the Highest Energy Savings
Even though they offer convenience, Smart thermostats are primarily geared towards energy savings. They intelligently adjust the heating and cooling system to match the set temperature. This saves a lot of energy that would have otherwise gone into waste. One important thing to note here is that accuracy really varies from one thermostat to the other.

Consequently, the amount of energy saved will be different as it is entirely dependent on accurate temperature readings for accurate adjustments. From a Nest Labs white paper, Nest thermostats saved 10% – 12% on heating and 15% on cooling. However, on forums, an average of 20% is reported. On the other hand, Ecobee saves around 23%, a figure that has been backed up by online reviews. If you are a real energy saving aficionado, you know very well that Ecobee is the best in terms of savings compared to Nest. Here is a great comparison review and infographic which help you see more details.

3. Think about Smart Integration
Smart thermostats, just like many other Smart appliances can be integrated with voice control, home automation systems and other devices. Not all thermostats are compatible with all assistants and integration platforms. In this regard, make sure that your preferred thermostat is compatible with what you have. Even though most Smart thermostats are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Skybell HD, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, Wink, it is very important to confirm compatibility before buying any thermostat. For example, if you are an Apple user, the Nest won’t be a great purchase because it is not compatible with HomeKit or Siri. This is an area where Ecobee beats Nest as the former is compatible with Alexa, Assistant, HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, IFTT, Wink, and many other integration platforms.

Regarding Smart integration, I will always go for Ecobee4 for one reason; this is a thermostat with built-in Alexa. Literally, it does everything Alexa does; talk of killing two birds with one stone.

4. Focus on Long-Term Value as Opposed to Short-Term
From a narrow perspective, a Smart thermostat is not a real nag considering it’s quite expensive and the regular thermostats just work fine. However, from a bigger picture, Smart thermostats make a huge difference in your monthly budget. In as much as it is an expensive investment from a short-term perspective, its value is felt later on. I have used the Ecobee3 the longest, from September 2015.

From my calculations, I had already recovered the initial $200+. From January 2018 onwards, I’ll be saving $8 – $12, hopefully, if it doesn’t malfunction along the way. Looking  short-term, investing $250 in just new technology doesn’t seem to be a ripe idea. But two years down the line, you will see the value. So, if you have not made up your mind on whether this is a worthy investment or not, my example says it all. Nest and Ecobee are the biggest names in the industry; here is a head to head review their top products – Ecobee3 and Nest, their top products.

4. Set Your Budget and Do Some Window Shopping
One thing many people fail to do is set up a budget. In the market, you may find some thermostats with some irresistible fancy features that you may end up buying thus straining your budget. Even though there are a lot of cheap Smart thermostats, I recommend that you set a budget of $150 – $250.

Once you have a budget, do some window shopping, make a shortlist of the features you envy. Not all will come with the features you want. It will be a matter of compromising A for B. Sample as many thermostats within your budget and settle on what makes you feel contented both in terms of price and features.

Wrap Up
A Smart thermostat is quite expensive when you look at it in regards to the initial cost. However, from a long-term perspective, it is such a clever choice. If this sounds like a great idea, set your budget and head out to the market but always, remember these 5 tips.

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Paschal Okafor is NaijaTechGuide Team Lead. The article Tips for Choosing the Best Smart Thermostats was written by Ali Dino. The article was last modified: March 13th, 2018

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