Automated Heating and Cooling

Your HVAC is likely responsible for the largest part of your energy bill.

For the average American, it comprises 35-40% of the bill. There are many ways to lessen this cost, replacing your air filter every month, ensuring your home does not have too much air leakage, and regularly getting maintenance are just a few examples — but one of the biggest is by installing an automated heating and cooling system. When your heating and cooling system is automated, it increases the control you have over the temperature of your home. This can increase efficiency, and depending on the nature of the smart temperature regulation device that you choose, you may be able to change the temperature of your home when you are not there, change the temperature of a specific room or program the unit to work only during certain hours.

Aprilaire’s Touchscreen Wi-Fi Thermostat

For decades, Aprilaire has created HVAC products that go beyond simply changing the temperature in a room. Their products monitor and regulate the quality of the home’s air, its humidness and the way that it is ventilated. Their products have always been for homeowners who want complete control over every factor of their home’s air, and their Wi-Fi Thermostat is no different.

Many of the automated heating and cooling products on this list are able to change the temperature of your home, but Aprilaire’s Touchscreen Wi-Fi Thermostat is able to use the company’s experience in air quality control to let you schedule and regulate all the factors impacting your air. If it looks like the weather is going to be particularly humid for the next few days, for instance, you can schedule your smart thermostat to accommodate for this ahead of time.

The variety of features is nice, and it costs less than $200. The main drawback users have noted is that the interface is intimidating: if you are looking for simple home automation, this product will not be for you, as its many capabilities make it more confusing than the typical smart thermostat. Instead, this product will be ideal for users who are unafraid to study the manual and understand exactly what abilities the smart thermostat possesses.

Nest’s The Learning Thermostat

Nest’s Learning Thermostat is perfect for people who want a simple temperature regulation system. When you purchase the product, it comes prepackaged with all the equipment you need to set it up. Installation is relatively painless compared to other smart thermostats, and after that you merely need to answer a few questions that the thermostat asks to understand the home it will be regulating the temperature of.

The thermostat has a large screen, so that you can clearly read the information it provides regarding the weather and its relationship to your home. As well, it is designed to stay on even if it is in the path of direct sunlight: a feature that some other thermostats unfortunately do not have.

Its most prized feature lies in its learning algorithms. Essentially, you spend a week adjusting the thermostat to accommodate your needs. It then learns your schedule, understanding when you are most likely to be at home. There are many thermostat that turn on and off based on whether you are home, but they will sometimes have trouble because they rely on a technique known as “geofencing.” This means they use your phone to understand if you are at home, but if there is any problem with your phone’s Wi-Fi, this can also mean the temperature of your home drops to uncomfortable levels. Its learning algorithm helps The Learning Thermostat predict your location with more accuracy, and it uses motion sensors to ensure the device is on when you are home.

This smart thermostat is affordable at $199, and it is the most popular device of its kind in Amazon’s store. The two biggest complaints are that it has stopped working for some users during cold spells: this has only been the complaint of a small percentage of users, but it is still a problem to consider when buying the thermostat. As well, it does not vary temperatures from room-to-room, functioning only by regulating the temperature of your entire home. It is also important to note that the product is not compatible with Apple’s HomeKit products.

Ecobee3 Thermostat

Much like Nest’s Learning Thermostat, ecobee3 is designed so you can program the temperature of your home to suit your needs. However, there are several areas in which ecobee3 outperforms The Learning Thermostat. These areas are:

  • Homekit Compatibility
  • Room-to-Room Temperature Control
  • More intuitive programming

Homekit is Apple’s smart home platform, which makes it the go-to system for iOS users. Though Nest has indicated that they may offer Homekit compatibility in the future, they currently do not. That makes ecobee3’s thermostat more appealing.

The ability to control the temperature of an individual room will not be useful for all users, but for those with pets or larger homes, it can make a big difference. With most thermostats — smart or otherwise — the temperature of your home is determined based on the temperature of the room where your thermostat resides. This is fine for smaller homes, but for larger homes, or ones that have certain rooms with big windows, the temperature discrepancy can be significant. This can be particularly concerning if you have a pet in a room that is hotter than what you set the thermostat to.

This is not the most important aspect of a smart home thermostat, but it is good to consider programming the ecobee3’s thermostats does not require inputting specific temperatures every time you want to make a change to the program. Instead, you can set varying comfort levels once, then choose them when you want to indicate a change to your normal routine. This means you can simply hit “Home” to indicate the temperature you have set as comfortable for when you are at home, and “Away” to indicate the temperature you want the home to be set at when no one is home.

The biggest complaint regarding ecobee3 Thermostats involves the difficult process of setting them up. This occurs mainly because the ecobee3 needs what is called a C-Wire connection. This connection is not found on all HVAC units, but that does not mean they are incompatible. Instead, you can ask for an Extender Kit that makes the units compatible. If your HVAC unit is particularly old, it might not have the controller board that is needed to make this hookup simple. In that case, it gets even more complicated, as you have to rewire the HVAC system to make it work with the ecobee3. If you have a 5-wire HVAC or a newer system, it is not difficult. However, the setup may not be worth it for those with older, 4-wire systems.

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