Thermostat Buyer's Guide
CHOOSE THE THERMOSTAT THAT MEETS YOUR NEEDS
It shouldn't come as a big surprise that heating and cooling are the largest energy users for most homes in our area. And while your thermostat might seem like a pretty basic feature of your home, it can have a big impact on reducing your energy consumption – especially with recent advances in thermostat technology. But how do you know if your current thermostat needs an upgrade?
To help you understand the benefits of a new smart thermostat and to help determine the thermostat that best suits you and your home, we've created this handy, simple, but complete thermostat buyer’s guide. Let’s get started!
THE BENEFITS OF A NEW SMART THERMOSTAT
There are a number of practical reasons for getting a new thermostat:
Reduce your energy usage.
New smart thermostats can potentially reduce how much energy you consume, which keeps both your wallet and the environment happier. How much can you save? According to the Department of Energy, when programmed properly, you can reduce your energy bills from 5% - 15% per year by using a set back method (programming your thermostat to change the temperature setting automatically during set times like at night or during the work day). To put that in terms of dollars and cents, ENERGY STAR® estimates you could see as much as $180 in savings per year on your energy bills, depending on your thermostat.
Plus, smart thermostats like the ecobee4 Thermostat can learn your schedule to automate savings for you. It's one of the reasons ecobee4 is one of the first thermostats in America to receive the ENERGY STAR® certification since the EPA sunsetted the label for programmable thermostats in 2009.
Operate with ease.
With a smart thermostat (also known as a Wi-Fi, connected or communicating thermostat), you can control your temperature on-the-go from a variety of smart devices, like your smart phone or tablet, or you can simply program the temperature once and let the thermostat take over from there. Here are a few examples of how a smart thermostat can make managing your home energy use and comfort that much easier:
- Not sure when you will be home after work on a cold winter day but want your home to be warm and comfortable? Set your smart thermostat temperature before you leave and it will start warming up your home, or potentially even a specific room!
- Cozy on the couch and don’t want to get up to adjust the thermostat? Adjust your temperature from your smart phone or tablet and enjoy a more comfortable temperature without setting foot on the floor.
- Did you forget to adjust the heat on your thermostat before you left on vacation? Update it from the airplane’s Wi-Fi and truly start your vacation.
- Driving home and want to adjust your temperature but don’t want to be a distracted driver using your smart phone? Some thermostats, like the ecobee3, can use geofencing to tell when you are on your way home. Other thermostats work with additional products to connect your car so your vehicle can let your thermostat know when you are on your way home and automatically adjust your home’s temperature!
Most new smart thermostats offer touchscreen displays, which many homeowners find more attractive and modern, and also easier to use. In the past, you had to deal with a bunch of buttons, dials and levers that were difficult to see in the dark and could be imprecise. Touchscreen displays allow you to quickly choose an exact temperature. Some devices, like the ecobee4 light up when it senses you've entered the room, making it easy to find in the dark.
Help keep your heating/cooling system(s) healthy.
Many new thermostats provide a slew of useful info about your HVAC system, such as indicating the status of your filter or alerting you to problems with the system. These insights enable you to take immediate corrective actions that could help avoid problems before they happen and may save you money by ensuring your system is running as efficiently as possible.
The benefits to upgrading to a new thermostat are pretty obvious, but knowing all of this, what's next? Now let's take a look at how to choose the right thermostat for you
SELECTING THE RIGHT THERMOSTAT
If you like the sound of a smart thermostat, we can help you choose the one that is best for your home. To start, we've done the research, combed through the products on the market and narrowed it down to a small group of recommended thermostats. Next, review three basic steps pertaining to your home and your personal preferences that you need to take into account.
STEP #1: DECIDE WHICH SMART THERMOSTAT FEATURES BEST SUIT YOUR NEEDS
Ready to upgrade to a smart thermostat? Now it's time to figure out which device is best for your home. There are a number of factors to consider when comparing devices and manufacturers so take a look at the side-by-side comparison of recommended models and refer to the product feature descriptions below.
|ecobee4 with Voice-enabled Technology||ecobee3, HomeKit-Enabled with Remote Sensor||ecobee SmartSi Wi-Fi Thermostat||Honeywell Wi-Fi 7 Day Thermostat||Honeywell Wi-Fi 7 Day Touchscreen Thermostat||Honeywell Wi-Fi Color Touchscreen Thermostat|
|Learns Over Time|
|ENERGY Usage Report|
|Comes with Remote Sensors||
|Maintenance Alerts / Reminders||
|Access to Installation Services||
Smart thermostats generally range from $100 to $265, with price varying due to feature sets and brand popularity.
All smart thermostats have the ability to communicate over Wi-Fi with your smart phones and tablets, giving you many options for advanced controllability.
Learns Over Time
Some smart thermostats, like the ecobee4 or ecobee3, come with advanced learning capabilities, allowing them to automatically adjust themselves after your initial programming. This feature means these thermostats rapidly learn your schedule, habits and temperature preferences all on their own, and can adjust the temperature in your home as you come and go – saving energy and money without any programming changes or intervention from you.
ENERGY Usage Report
Ecobee offers you insights about the energy you use to heat and cool your home. Customers with an ecobee have access to the “Home IQ,” an online web portal dashboard which shows you how much energy you conserve each month and lets you know more about your heating and cooling equipment. If you love acting on data, then this is a key benefit for you.
Comes with Remote Sensors
Most smart thermostats only read the temperature in one room, and adjust temperatures around the whole house based on that sole reading. The ecobee3 has remote sensors that communicate back to the thermostat to know which rooms are occupied and to deliver the right temperature across multiple rooms.
Maintenance Alerts / Reminders
Ecobee and some Honeywell smart thermostats have the ability to set alerts to notify you via email or an online dashboard when there is a problem with your heating or cooling equipment, and if your home is getting too hot or too cold as a result. They can also send you automatic service reminders, like to change an air filter, to help you properly maintain your equipment and avoid future problems.
Access to Installation Services
All smart thermostat device manufacturers on the store offer you access to a network of certified contractors to help you install your new device, if you choose not to do so yourself. Xcel Energy too has a network of certified contractors to help with your smart thermostat installation. Simply search for a contractor near you using Xcel Energy’s search tool.
Still not sure which smart thermostat is right for you? Hear what other customers think of their smart thermostats with product ratings and reviews. Simply click on any of the linked product names in the table above and scroll down the product page to read recent product reviews from customers like you.
STEP #2: CHECK IF YOUR PREFERRED THERMOSTAT IS COMPATIBLE WITH YOUR HOME HEATING/COOLING SYSTEM
The next step in fitting your home with a new thermostat involves figuring out whether your heating and cooling system(s) are compatible. Many device manufacturers have an easy way to check your compatibility before you purchase.
First, remove the cover from your current thermostat and make a list or take a picture of the different colored wires.
Second, open up one or more of the following links to check compatibility:
- ecobee Compatibility Check
- Honeywell Instructional YouTube Videos: Identify Your Heating-Cooling System Type & DIY Wi-Fi Thermostat Wiring & Installation
IMPORTANT: Some Honeywell thermostats require a C-Wire to power the device. If you do not have a C-Wire on your existing thermostat, there are products in the market that act as an adapter (type “thermostat c-wire adapter” into your favorite search engine), or a contractor can help you install the device. Make sure to check your current wiring before purchasing a Honeywell thermostat. Have more questions on Honeywell compatibility? View Honeywell’s Wi-Fi thermostat support page to contact a Honeywell customer service representative.
Need more help? If you are unsure of your system compatibility or are looking to upgrade to a compatible system, consult an Xcel Energy-certified contractor near you to help with your installation, should you choose to use one. Be sure to review available Xcel Energy rebates and information on various heating and cooling systems, as well as other home energy efficiency products before talking to an Xcel Energy-certified contractor.