A SMARTER WAY TO HEAT AND COOL YOUR HOME
Thermostats used to be pretty humdrum as home gadgets go, until smart thermostats like the Nest and Ecobee came along about a decade ago. These days, smart thermostats dominate the market, but you can still find programmable thermostats that do the job just about as well (and cost a lot less). Smart thermostats range from about $100 to $250; programmable thermostats can cost as little as $15. Many utilities offer rebates that can mitigate some or all of the price of a smart thermostat, an added incentive. We've looked at professional hands-on testing by reliable sources, like Wirecutter, CNET, Top Ten Reviews, and Tom's Guide, and pored over hundreds of consumer reviews on major retail sites to identify the best programmable and smart thermostats, including best-value and budget models.
Both standard and smart thermostats do the same thing: regulate the temperature of your home and control your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Which is best for your needs, experts say, depends on how much you want to spend and whether or not you want your thermostat to be part of a fully-fitted "smart home" system. Smart thermostats can save you more money on your utility bill over the long term as they monitor energy use and automatically adjust to maximize efficiency. They can also be controlled remotely via smartphone and other wireless home devices. But there are a few drawbacks: If you don't use the preset options, it can take a long time to program a custom HVAC schedule. You'll also need to find out whether or not your existing HVAC system has something known as a "common wire" or "C wire," one of five wires that connect most newer HVACs to these thermostats. If it doesn't, DIY types can install a power-extender kit (PEK); some models, like the Ecobee, come with PEKs included.
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