Best Cheap Thermostats

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Our Picks

Lux TX9600TS Review

(From $41.00 Best)

Users love the high-end features of this thermostat, such as a large touchscreen and individually programmable days. It's also compatible with a wide range of heating and cooling systems.

Pros: One of users' favorite features on the Lux TX9600TS (starting at $41; available on Amazon) is its easy-to-read touchscreen display, which reduces the need for squinting with large numbers and bright blue backlight. A vast majority of reviews on Amazon and Lowes.com report quick, painless installation and also say this thermostat does a great job of regulating the temperature. Another feature that draws raves is the adjustable temperature swing, which can be set in 0.25-degree Fahrenheit increments. It allows up to 2.25 degrees of variation around a set temperature before the system kicks on again. Users really appreciate that this keeps their heating and cooling systems from wasting energy cycling several times in a short period. The ability to individually program each day of the week adds even greater control to temperature monitoring, and setup is made easier via the "copy" feature, which quickly replicates preferred settings on each day of the week.

Cons: Complaints about the Lux TX9600TS are limited, but a smattering of users say there's a learning curve to operation and they wish better instructions were included with the unit. A few users report compatibility issues, often with heat pumps. Others note that the thermostat makes an annoying buzzing sound when the backlight is on, or complain of difficulties reading the display because there is not enough contrast. Some also say the backlight doesn't last long. Owners who have called customer service report mixed experiences.

Features: The Lux TX9600TS is a highly programmable thermostat: Not only can users program two or four temperature periods for each day of the week, they can put the settings on temporary hold or override them. Considered a "universal" model, this thermostat is compatible with conventional heating and cooling systems including single-stage heat pumps; two-stage heat, one-stage cool; gas millivolt systems; and three-wire heat-only hydronic systems. It does not work with two-stage cooling systems or electric baseboards. It runs on two AA batteries and signals when to replace air filters. It's backed by a three-year warranty.

Takeaway: For the money, it's hard to do better than the Lux TX9600TS. Although some models may be easier to use, this is a good pick for anyone who wants a feature-filled thermostat without spending a ton.

Where to buy

Honeywell RTH6350D Review

(From $43.00 Best)

Ease of use is the hallmark of this 5-day/2-day programmable unit, which has a bright backlight and smooth installation that users appreciate. It will work with most systems, including multi-stage.

Pros: Consumer product experts give the Honeywell RTH6350D (starting at $43; available on Amazon) high marks for ease of use, and users mostly agree. In reviews on HomeDepot.com and Amazon, consumers report few problems with installation. Even those with little prior experience say clear instructions make the process very easy. They also say the thermostat is simple to program and control, with an easy-to-read LED backlit screen and large, intuitive buttons. Most users say the thermostat helps their homes maintain an even temperature, and some report tangible savings on their heating and cooling bills.

Cons: Many users wish they could set a larger temperature swing range than 1 degree, to keep their heating and cooling systems from kicking on too often while trying to maintain a precise temperature. Others say they dislike the "smart response" feature, which may turn on the heat or air too early in an effort to reach a set temperature by the exact time that's been programmed (however, this feature can be disabled). There are also a couple of reports on Amazon from users who complain of huge inaccuracies in temperature. But while it's typical to find some quibbling with every model's accuracy, large discrepancies, such as the 8-degree differences claimed here, suggest faulty units or faulty installation, as opposed to problems with this generally well-rated line. Finally, a handful of owners complain that there's a loud "click" when their heating and cooling systems turn on or off. For most, this is a minor annoyance, but it might be a bigger consideration in a bedroom.

Features: The Honeywell RTH6350D has 5-day/2-day programming functionality, which lets users set the thermostat to one schedule on weekdays and another on weekends. Each day is made up of four temperature periods. Users can also temporarily or permanently override the schedule. This universal thermostat is a good option for most heating and cooling systems: single- or multi-stage heating and cooling, including gas, oil, hot water, or electric; heat pumps with or without auxiliary heat; steam or gravity systems; and some gas fireplaces. It does not work with electric baseboards. It requires two AA batteries, and the interface can be removed from the wall for programming. The Honeywell RTH6350D is backed by a one-year warranty.

Takeaway: It's not a perfect thermostat, but the Honeywell RTH6350D should be satisfactory for users who want something that's low-fuss and versatile enough to work with most heating and cooling systems.

Honeywell RTH2300B1012 Review

(From $23.00 Good)

This 5-day/2-day programmable thermostat touts a backlight, easy-to-use controls, and simple installation, but for the ultra-low price, users sacrifice compatibility with multi-stage systems.

Pros: Consumers who are fine forgoing extras appreciate the simplicity of the Honeywell RTH2300B1012 (starting at $23; available on Amazon). In reviews on Amazon, users say this thermostat is extremely easy to install and set up, with straightforward instructions. They say it keeps their homes at a consistent temperature without much fuss. Reviewers also contend that it's quite easy to program, with intuitive buttons and a "hold" option that allows them to easily override any programmed settings and instead use the thermostat manually. Users also appreciate the backlit display, which makes low-light viewing a squint-free affair.

Cons: The Honeywell RTH2300B1012 does not have an adjustable temperature swing, which can lead to more frequent cycling of heating and AC units, and its system compatibility is slightly more limited. Aside from these deficits, a handful of users report quality-control issues with this thermostat. Several warn that they received displays with visible black smudges inside, and some say the display went out after a short period of use. A few even report units that arrived defective. Customer service receives mixed reviews.

Features: Like many budget-friendly thermostats, the Honeywell RTH2300B1012 has 5-day/2-day programming functionality that allows one program for weekdays and another for weekends. Each day is made up of four temperature periods. Users can also temporarily or permanently override the schedule. Potential buyers should note that this thermostat is compatible with only single-stage central heating and cooling; heat pumps without auxiliary or backup heat; millivolt systems; hot water systems; and gas, oil, or electric furnaces. It cannot be used with any kind of multi-stage system or heat pump with backup. It requires two AAA batteries and is backed by a 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: Anyone who wants a basic programmable workhorse that still has helpful features such as a backlight should check out the Honeywell RTH2300B1012. Apparent quality-control problems and a lack of compatibility with multi-stage systems keep it from a higher ranking.

Where to buy

Lux TX9100U Review

(From $34.00 Good)

This thermostat gives users individually programmable days at a budget-friendly price, and it manages to include other conveniences, such as a backlight and an adjustable temperature swing.

Pros: The Lux TX9100U (starting at $34; available on Amazon) has a large, backlit LED screen, but it does not have the touchscreen functionality of its pricier sibling, the Lux TX9600TS. Most users reviewing the thermostat on Amazon don't mind the lack of this feature, saying it's easy to operate and copy one daily program to the next in case they don't need different settings each day. They also like the lock option, which prevents anyone from making changes unless they know a four-digit code, and the adjustable temperature swing, which can help keep heating and cooling systems from coming on too frequently.

Cons: A handful of user reviews complain that the Lux TX9100U feels cheaply built, and some say it can be tricky to pry open the front cover. Others complain that the unit buzzes when the backlight is on, and a few consider the controls a bit fussy and less than intuitive, especially during setup. Several express annoyance that full instructions are available only online. Buyers should also note that some older models labeled TX9100Ua replaced the adjustable temperature swing with a cycle-duration feature. It was poorly received by users, and Lux includes the swing adjustment on newer models.

Features: The Lux TX9100U allows users to program each day of the week individually with two or four temperature periods a day. Temporary holds and overrides are also available. The adjustable temperature swing can be programmed in 0.25-degree Fahrenheit increments up to 2.25 degrees. This thermostat is compatible with multi-stage heating and cooling systems (up to two stages each); heat pumps with one- or two-stage heat and one-stage cool; heat-only hot-water systems; and gas millivolt heaters. It does not work with line-voltage systems such as electric baseboard and wall heaters. It runs on two AA batteries and signals when to replace air filters. The thermostat is backed by a three-year warranty.

Takeaway: There are some questions about build quality and fussy setup with the Lux TX9100U, but all in all, it's a nicely priced thermostat for users who want a fairly full-featured unit and individually programmable days.

Where to buy

Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E Review

(From $45.00 Good)

Users say this 5-day/2-day line-volt programmable thermostat is a big upgrade for finicky electric baseboards. They report that it's easy to install and smooths out temperature swings.

Pros: It can be hard to find programmable thermostats that are compatible with electric baseboard heating at any price, let alone a low price. Fortunately, the Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E (starting at $45; available on Amazon) helps fill that void. Users say this line-volt thermostat helps ease the more painful aspects of having baseboard heaters: namely, waiting forever for a room to heat up, and paying very high energy bills. Reviews on Amazon and Home Depot.com say it's much easier to maintain an accurate, consistent temperature with the Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E than the manual, knob-style control found on many baseboard units. Like most other Honeywell thermostats, this one gets high marks for easy installation and clear instructions. Users say it's easy to program, and they like the clear display and backlight.

Cons: Some homeowners with fan-forced heaters complain that their systems cycle on and off too much with this thermostat, but other users say this problem is easily fixed by paying attention to a certain setting that applies only to fan heaters. Most other complaints center on occasional defective units and subpar customer service.

Features: The Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E is a 5-day/2-day thermostat that allows users to set temperatures for weekdays and weekends separately. Each day is made up of four temperature periods. Users can also temporarily or permanently override the schedule. Buyers should note that this is a line-voltage thermostat for homes with electric baseboards, convectors, radiant ceilings (two-wire), and fan-forced heaters. It's not compatible with hydronic baseboards or more common central heating and cooling systems that work with low-voltage thermostats. No batteries are required for this unit. It's backed by a 1-year warranty.

Takeaway: The Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E is one of the best programmable line-volt thermostats on the market. It's fairly basic, lacking some of the bells and whistles found on thermostats designed for more common heating and cooling systems, but many consider it invaluable in terms of convenience, comfort, and energy costs.

Where to buy

Hunter 44157 Review

(From $20.00 Think Twice)

Though it's appealingly cheap and has an adjustable temperature swing, this 5-day/2-day programmable thermostat has settings that may not function reliably, users say.

Pros: One of only three thermostat models currently offered by the well-known brand, the Hunter 44157 (starting at $20; available on Amazon) is inexpensive and programmable, and users appreciate getting a backlight for their bottom dollar. Several customer reviews on Amazon say it's easy to set up and install. Users also like being able to adjust the "swing," or the amount the temperature is allowed to go above and below a set point. They say this feature keeps their heating and cooling systems from coming on and shutting off too frequently. However, praise seems to end there.

Cons: While it's rare to find reviews of budget thermostats from consumer product experts, CNET conducted a comparison of a handful of units, and the Hunter 44157 did not fare well. CNET's reviewer didn't find the unit easy to use, saying the buttons could be more responsive. The Hunter 44157 also ran 2 degrees cooler than other inexpensive programmable thermostats the site tested. Several users grumble that setting the thermostat to hold a temperature temporarily affects permanent settings instead. Other reviews say the unit seems to reset itself at random, leading to frustrating swings in temperature. Finally, a couple of user comments on Amazon complain of a "high-pitched noise" that comes on when the backlight is in use. The CNET reviewer had noted this annoyance, as well.

Features: Like many budget thermostats, the Hunter 44157 has a 5-day/2-day programming schedule that allows users to set the weekdays one way and the weekends another way. It comes pre-programmed, for ease, but these presets can be changed. Users can also hold or override their programmed settings. The adjustable temperature swing, called "span" for this model, has three settings that can alternate for a 0- to 3-degree Fahrenheit differential. It is compatible with electric air conditioning; gas, electric and oil furnaces; gas and oil-fired boilers; two-wire hot water/radiator systems; and 24-volt and millivolt systems. But it does not work with electric baseboards, heat pumps with auxiliary heat, or multi-stage systems. It requires two AA batteries and signals when batteries are low and air filters and air filters need to be replaced. It is backed by a one-year warranty.

Takeaway: There are simply too many questions about the reliability of the Hunter 44157 to merit a recommendation. Although it has a good number of features, the jury is out on whether the controls actually accomplish what they're supposed to. There are better, more widely compatible cheap thermostats that get the job done without drawing as many complaints.

Where to buy

Buying Guide

Programming a thermostat is a simple way to cut energy costs. It can automatically lower the temperature in the winter and raise it in the summer, to save energy when you're sleeping or away from home, and kick up the heat or AC when you need it again. The Environmental Protection Agency pegs yearly savings at about $180 for the "average" U.S. household. Frugal consumers who don't want to pay a lot upfront to realize long-term savings can find a cheap programmable thermostat that reliably maintains a consistent temperature, within a degree or so, and is a cinch to use. We scanned thousands of expert and consumer reviews to find the best candidates for your wall. Our top picks include models between $20 and $50 that allow for weekend vs. weekday adjustability or even seven individual days of set-it-and-forget-it temperature control. We also recommend a couple of pricier but relatively affordable "smart thermostats" that can be remotely controlled.

Choosing a Cheap Thermostat

Our top picks reflect the dominance of two thermostat brands: Lux and Honeywell. Both produce a wide range of models, from inexpensive manual thermostats starting at less than $20 to higher-priced and higher-tech units. Robertshaw, Carrier, and Emerson are a few other big names that make thermostats in most price ranges (some Emerson products bear the White-Rodgers brand name). Hunter also manufactures a small line of budget and mid-tier programmable thermostats. Other major names, including Venstar, Trane, Nest, and Ecobee, focus on higher-end thermostats, which fall well outside the Cheapism price range.

More expensive thermostats offer a few more frills -- larger displays, touchscreens, or more programmability -- and the priciest ones typically have Wi-Fi or other smart-home capabilities. But the reality is that these higher-end models are no more favorably reviewed than their budget counterparts. Bottom line: A cheap programmable thermostat offers potential energy savings without a high upfront cost or the hassle of constant manual adjustment.

In the sea of choices, five programmable thermostats under $50 floated to the top during our research. Our recommendations for best cheap thermostat are the Lux TX9600TS (starting at $41) and the Honeywell RTH6350D (starting at $43). Both keep home temperatures at an even keel with easy-to-use features. We also like three slightly more basic models that still meet performance expectations: the Lux TX9100U (starting at $34), the Honeywell RTH2300B1012 (starting at $23), and the electric-baseboard-compatible Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E (starting at $45). Despite its ultra-cheap price tag, we weren't impressed with the Hunter 44157 (starting at $20) given user complaints about performance issues.

Our focus on thermostats under $50 didn't allow for a full investigation of smart thermostats, which can easily top $200. However, many consumers want an affordable model with Wi-Fi connectivity. We found two smart thermostats that are comparative bargains: the Honeywell RTH6580WF (starting at $83) and Emerson Sensi UP500W (starting at $110). They allow consumers to control their home's climate remotely, whether from the couch or while out and about, without forcing them to overspend on features they may not want, such as touchscreens, self-scheduling functions, multiple temperature sensors, or compatibility with a host of other smart-home devices.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

(from $41.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility Yes (two-stage heat only)
Programmability 7-day individual
Power 2 AA batteries
Adjustable Swing Yes
Backlight Yes
Warranty 3 years
(from $43.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility Yes
Programmability 5-day/2-day
Power 2 AA batteries
Adjustable Swing No
Backlight Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $)
Multi-Stage Compatibility Yes (two-stage heat only)
Programmability 7-day individual
Power 2 AA batteries
Adjustable Swing Yes
Backlight Yes
Warranty 3 years
(from $23.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility No
Programmability 5-day/2-day
Power 2 AAA batteries
Adjustable Swing No
Backlight Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $45.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility No (electric baseboards, convectors, radiant ceilings, and fan-forced heaters only)
Programmability 5-day/2-day
Power Wired to heating unit
Adjustable Swing No
Backlight Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $20.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility No
Programmability 5-day/2-day
Power 2 AA batteries
Adjustable Swing Yes
Backlight Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $83.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility Yes
Programmability 7-day individual
Power C-wire
Adjustable Swing No
Backlight Yes
Warranty 1 year
(from $110.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility Yes
Programmability 7-day individual
Power 2 AA batteries (may require C-wire in some instances)
Adjustable Swing Yes
Backlight Yes
Warranty 3 years
(from $36.00)
Multi-Stage Compatibility No (space heaters and window AC units)
Programmability 5-day/2-day
Power 2 1.5-volt G13 batteries
Adjustable Swing Yes
Backlight No
Warranty 3 years

Thermostat Reviews: What We Considered

In our search for the best cheap thermostats, we relied mainly on consumer reviews found on retail sites including Amazon, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Walmart. Reliable expert reviews featuring head-to-head testing of thermostats, from sources such as The Wirecutter, tend to focus on higher-end smart thermostats. We did find one excellent exception at CNET, which tested several budget-friendly programmable thermostats. Consumer Reports has also tested a range of programmable thermostats, although many also fall outside the Cheapism price niche.

Thermostat reviews typically focus on performance, programmability, ease of use, system compatibility, and extra features. Users comment on the pleasures of waking to a comfortably warm home in the dead of winter or, less often, returning from work to a comfortably cool home at the height of summer. Many consumers write about stepping up from old-style manual thermostats to programmable models, because doing so promises the end of constant fiddling and adjusting. Thermostat reviews also indicate that consumers appreciate the modest pricing, no-frills feature sets, and user-friendly operation of the models we researched.

One factor that didn't heavily figure into our recommendations was durability. Happily, most cheap thermostats give their owners several years of trouble-free use, and reviews show a lot of brand loyalty: Satisfied customers often move to updated devices by the same manufacturer when older models finally conk out. While there are, of course, exceptions to this rule, they are spread among thermostats at all prices.

Compatibility.

Despite their low prices, the best cheap thermostats work with most heating and cooling systems. In particular, most of the models on our list are compatible with central heating or central heating/air-conditioning systems powered by electricity, gas, or oil. These systems typically require a low-voltage thermostat, and all but two of the home thermostats we researched are low-voltage models.

Users with multi-stage systems should be careful to note any compatibility issues, however. For example, the Honeywell RTH2300B1012 works only with single-stage systems, and the Lux TX9600TS and TX9100U work with two-stage heating but only single-stage cooling. Some thermostats are incompatible with heat pumps that use an auxiliary or emergency heat source. The Department of Energy explains that compatible thermostats minimize the use of these backup systems in order to maximize efficiency.

Low-voltage thermostats don't work with every type of heating and cooling system. Electric baseboard heating systems run on 220 volts, so users need a line-voltage model such as the Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E, one of the best-reviewed models we found in the Cheapism price range that's compatible with electric baseboards. Another model we researched, the Lux WIN100 (starting at $36), is a portable, plug-in thermostat compatible with 120-volt space heaters and window air conditioners, giving users of those appliances the programmability they often lack.

Consumers drawn to a smart thermostat should note whether it requires a C-wire, or common wire, for compatibility with their home heating and cooling systems. The C-wire is often tasked with supplying the steady supply of power that these devices demand to support Wi-Fi connections and display screens. The Honeywell RTH6580WF requires a C-wire in all cases. The slightly pricier Emerson Sensi requires it only when used for heat-only, cool-only, and heat-pump installations, which is a selling point for many but a source of frustration for Programmability. Programmable thermostats offer different settings for different days of the week. Some of the best cheap home thermostats let users program each day individually, allowing the most flexibility for homeowners with variable schedules. More standard is a 5-day/2-day system, which allows one program for five consecutive days and a different program for the remaining two days -- a good option for people who have a predictable workweek schedule and tend to pass the time at home on weekends. Other budget thermostats feature a 5/1/1 mode that allows one setup for a five-day stretch and separate programs for Saturday and Sunday. There are also thermostats that follow a single program for the entire week, without any daily variation, but we found enough cheap models with more flexibility to avoid putting any of those on our list.

Among the models we researched, the Lux TX9600TS and TX9100U offer the most flexibility, as users can program each day individually, with up to four temperature periods (for instance, they can be programmed to maintain a specific temperature while you're sleeping, switch to another before you wake up, change again when everyone leaves home, and adjust yet again when someone is due to return). The pricier smart thermostats we recommend, the Emerson Sensi and the Honeywell RTH6580WF, also have this capability. The more basic Honeywells (RTH6350D, RTH2300B1012/A, and RLV4305A100/E) and the Hunter 44157 allow a less flexible 5-day/2-day program. Still, these might be fine for anyone with a more consistent schedule.

Temperature Regulation.

The thermostats that made our list largely meet consumers' performance expectations. Programmable thermostat reviews indicate that these models typically keep indoor temperatures stable and adhere to the programmed day and hour settings.

Users praise the Honeywell RTH6350D, in particular, for its ability to maintain even heating and cooling levels, and some confirm that their energy bills have gotten smaller as a result. Reviewers say the Honeywell RLV4305A1000/E helps tame the inefficiency that can plague homes with baseboard heaters, convectors, radiant ceilings, and fan-forced heaters. Users are similarly complimentary of the Lux TX9600TS and TX9100U, though a few are concerned that the latter model feels a bit cheaply built. An exception to these generally positive performance reviews is the Hunter 44157, which users say is prone to random resets, wreaking havoc on their temperature settings.

Users particularly appreciate being able to deviate from the programmed settings when they want to, and most cheap thermostats offer temperature overrides or holds. The terms seem to be used interchangeably, but the important distinction is whether the adjustment is temporary or permanent. A temporary override allows the user to adjust the thermostat until the next programmed setting kicks in, while a manual hold keeps the thermostat at a specific temperature until a user tells it to resume its normal program. The best thermostats, such as the Lux TX9600TS, offer both features. Still, reviewers seem to thoroughly appreciate the permanent hold offered on the Honeywell RTH2300B1012. Here, again, the Hunter 44157 falls short, as this model's temperature hold function may malfunction: One consumer reports in a review on Amazon that using the hold option reconfigured permanent temperature settings, defeating the purpose of that feature entirely.

Many users like having the option to adjust the "swing," or the amount the temperature is allowed to fluctuate around a set point before the heating or cooling system is triggered. A tighter swing can maintain a more even temperature but cause the system to cycle on and off more often, whereas a wider range allows more temperature variance but also results in less cycling. The Honeywell models on our list have a 1-degree Fahrenheit swing that is not adjustable. However, both Lux thermostats, the TX9600TS and TX9100U, let users adjust the swing in .25-degree Fahrenheit increments up to 2.25 degrees. One owner of the Lux TX9600TS says on Amazon that it's more energy efficient for his oversize air conditioner to come on less frequently but stay on longer -- and the thermostat's adjustable swing makes that possible.

Some thermostat users complain of clicking noises every time their heating or cooling systems cycle on or off. While this is fairly common to most thermostats, users of the Honeywell RTH6350D find the clicking particularly loud and annoying in bedrooms.

Ease of Use.

Consumers who aren't technically inclined may be a little intimidated by the notion of a programmable thermostat, but it's clear from reviews that most have little trouble programming the units we've picked. For the most part, these cheap thermostats are simple to use, with streamlined interfaces and few bells and whistles to complicate matters. Here and there we heard a few groans, but never so loud as to warrant a return to a manually controlled model.

Reviews also indicate that all our picks are easy to install. Consumers seem relieved that the wires often come with helpful labels but caution that it may take some cinching to get everything safely secured behind the unit and tucked into the wall. Most users say DIY installation can be accomplished in 20 minutes or so, although some -- especially those who are upgrading from old-style manual thermostats -- prefer to delegate the job to a professional.

The Honeywell models we researched are particularly easy to set up, in part because of excellent, thorough directions, according to most reviews. On Amazon, for instance, one consumer says installation of the Honeywell RTH6350D is extremely simple, thanks to step-by-step help and diagrams for different types of systems. Users posting reviews on HomeDepot.com agree, reporting 10- to 15-minute installations and just a few minutes for programming. The Lux thermostats we looked at get slightly lower marks for ease of use, mostly because those who bought them didn't like having to track down more complete installation instructions online. Programming these models may also take a bit more time, but as one user notes on Amazon, they're fairly low-fuss, and provide significant savings, once temperatures are set.

Smart thermostats can be slightly less wieldy because they add Wi-Fi to the equation. While most users enjoy having Wi-Fi connectivity once everything is up and running, getting there may demand a little more know-how. For example, Honeywell RTH6580WF users report some head-scratching over whether their home had a C-wire, or common wire, to power the unit. The Emerson Sensi gets better marks for installation, particularly because it doesn't always require a C-wire, but still suffers from reports that the Wi-Fi connection isn't always reliable.

Display.

Although cheap home thermostats lack some bells and whistles, many do boast a few helpful features when it comes to display functionality. All our top picks include a backlight, a feature that users really seem to appreciate. Many comment about the convenience of being able to check the current temperature or override a program without having to turn on a light. The Lux WIN100 is the only thermostat we researched without a backlight, and several reviewers wish for one. That said, a minor performance qualm reported with several cheap thermostats is a buzzing sound when the backlight is on. We saw this complaint in reviews of the Lux TX9600TS, Lux TX9100U, and Hunter 44157, in particular.

While touchscreens are not common below $50, the Lux TX9600TS is an exception. Users love getting a touchscreen at such a low price, and while some note that it's not as responsive as the mobile devices they're used to, they say it still adds a level of ease and refinement. The pricier Wi-Fi-connected Emerson Sensi and Honeywell RTH6580WF can be controlled via apps on a smartphone or tablet screen, but unlike other smart thermostats such as the Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell Lyric, these two models don't have touchscreens themselves.

Filter Change Indicator.

A handful of thermostats we looked at -- the Lux TX9600TS, Lux TX9100U, and Hunter 44157 -- remind users when it's time to change the filters that attach to forced air systems. Clogged filters can dramatically reduce efficiency and, potentially, increase the amount of dust and other allergens being circulated. This is a helpful feature absent from the Honeywell models on our list, although a replacement schedule can obviously be tracked without reminders from a thermostat. Also, cheaper alert systems are pre-programmed based on monthly/annual schedules, or runtime in hours; they don't actually monitor air flow. This leads some users to question how reliable the notifications are, especially since localized environmental factors might affect the rate at which filters become ineffective. The air filter reminder alert on the Hunter 44157 is set at 400 hours of system usage. Both Lux models schedule filter replacements based on runtime, as well, but these units allow the time parameters to be set manually. Lux owners also like that these models display the filter life remaining. On the Hunter 44157, the filter change indicator flashes when the allotted time has been reached.

Additional Products We Considered

Honeywell RTH6580WF Review

(From $83.00 )

Pros: Although smart thermostats have exploded in popularity, they aren't cheap. Still, the Honeywell RTH6580WF (starting at $83; available on Amazon) shows that consumers can get a Wi-Fi-compatible unit without spending more than $100. In reviews on Amazon, users say they love being able to check and control their homes' temperatures remotely with this thermostat, which is supported by a smartphone app that works with Apple's iOS or Android. Several reviewers say the app is so much easier to use than the thermostat's push-button controls that they never use the latter. One particularly lauded feature is the ability to receive alerts if the temperature strays outside a certain range or the power goes out. Users also appreciate the backlight on the display.

Cons: Most complaints about the Honeywell RTH6580WF have to do with erratic Wi-Fi connectivity, and users say it's inconvenient to reset the thermostat once it's been knocked offline. Several users who've called customer service to fix the issue report subpar experiences. This thermostat also does not have an adjustable temperature swing.

Features: The Honeywell RTH6580WF is a good pick for anyone with an erratic schedule. That's because users can program each day of the week individually with up to four temperature periods a day, then remotely alter those programs with permanent or temporary holds for more flexibility. It also utilizes Honeywell's "smart response" technology to adjust if necessary to reach set temperatures by the precise times that have been programmed. In addition to sending temperature variance alerts, the unit notifies users if the Wi-Fi connection is lost. The Honeywell Total Comfort Connect app allows the unit to work with voice commands. This thermostat is compatible with most heating and cooling systems that contain a C-wire. It is not compatible with non-C-wire systems or electric baseboard heat. No batteries are required, because the thermostat draws power from the C-wire. It is backed by a one-year warranty.

Takeaway: While it doesn't have as many features as pricier smart thermostats, the Honeywell RTH6580WF still offers Wi-Fi compatibility at a low price. It's a great deal for buyers willing to skip some self-programming abilities or greater compatibility with other smart-home devices.

Emerson Sensi UP500W Review

(From $110.00 )

Pros: The Emerson Sensi (starting at $110; available on Amazon) isn't the cheapest smart thermostat on the market, but it's still a good value considering how easy it is to use and the extras it offers for its comparatively "budget" price. While smart-home products sometimes require tricky installation and some technical know-how, customer reviews on Amazon say that's not the case with the Emerson Sensi, thanks to clear step-by-step instructions, some of which even include how-to videos, on the thermostat's app. The app also wins praise for its smooth interface (once the thermostat is up and running). Experts with The Wirecutter appreciate that it lets users see the essentials (humidity, temperature, time) on the display and alter settings both basic and complex. Users also say the thermostat's button controls are simple, but using the app allows more command. Another bonus: Unlike many smart thermostats, this unit doesn't always require a C-wire for installation, as the screen is powered by two AA batteries.

Cons: Some Sensi owners say their thermostats don't consistently maintain a Wi-Fi connection -- a universal complaint with smart thermostats. Others take to Amazon to grouse that they purchased this model thinking they didn't need a C-wire, only to find out that they still did for their specific type of system (heat-only, cool-only, or heat pumps).

Features: Users can program the Sensi to adjust the temperature differently for each day of the week. Instead of a temperature swing function, it has an adjustable "cycle rate" that can be set to slow, medium, or fast. It also has a couple of smart-home bonuses: It can integrate with Amazon Echo, giving users the option to control it by voice command, and it's also compatible with the Wink smart-home hub. The Sensi works with up to four-stage heating and two-stage cooling systems, heat pumps, and cool- and heat-only systems. It does not work with millivolt heating (although additions can make it compatible), electric baseboards, or other two-wire line-voltage systems. It is backed by a three-year warranty.

Takeaway: Unlike some higher-tech smart thermostats, the Sensi doesn't learn users' habits automatically, but its compatibility with several types of HVAC systems and other smart-home devices may make it worth the small price premium for many consumers.

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Lux WIN100 Review

(From $36.00 )

Pros: Many consumers turn to space heaters and window air conditioners to help save money, and an outlet thermostat like the Lux WIN100 (starting at $36; available on Amazon) can bring even greater savings by adding the programmability these appliances often lack. Customers reviewing the Lux WIN100 on Amazon praise the versatility of this unit, which gives them a break from constantly fiddling with the settings on their heaters and air conditioners. Others are relieved they don't have to babysit those appliances in areas where they spend limited time but still want to maintain a certain temperature, such as a garage workshop or even a chicken coop. Most users say the thermostat is easy to program, and they like being able to override settings or hold a certain temperature as they see fit. Another favorite feature is an adjustable temperature swing, which allows as much as 2.25 degrees of fluctuation above and below a set temperature. For some, this helps keep appliances from turning on too much; for others, it helps correct an overly wide temperature swing normally allowed by a space heater or air conditioner. Countless reviewers say the unit has saved them significant money.

Cons: There may be some quality-control issues with the Lux WIN100, as a significant number of negative reviews reference units that either didn't work from the outset or stopped working after a short period. Others dislike being able to set the temperature only in a specified range (45 to 90 degrees), saying they need a lower or higher threshold. Finally, some users wish for a more readable display with larger numbers and a backlight.

Features: The Lux WIN100 is 5-day/2-day programmable, allowing users to set different temperature schedules for weekdays and the weekend with up to four temperature periods per day. This thermostat is compatible with most 120-volt space heaters and window air-conditioning units up to 15 amps with automatic restart. It does not work with central heating and air, hydronic systems, heat pumps, or space heaters and air conditioners without automatic restart. Although it plugs into the wall, it also requires two 1.5-volt G13 button batteries, which are included with purchase. It's backed by a three-year warranty.

Takeaway: While the Lux WIN100 is a fairly basic thermostat, it's impressive in its ability to regulate temperatures for consumers using space heaters and window air conditioners, and it fills a useful niche.

Where to buy