A Thermostat is a device which senses the temperature in a given area and can perform an action, based on the temperature you set it to, and can then control the furnace, air conditioner, fireplace or baseboard heaters, by turning them on or off.
The earlier thermostat models, see picture at right side, such as the round Honeywell type models, would turn “on” or “off” as the desired temperature is reached, very basic mechanical device. No control as to how long the temperature should be left at the desired set point. So if you wanted the temperature to be reduced to a lower value say when everybody leaves the house for work and or school then the basic model would not give you that option, possible energy loss (heat or A/C).
The programmable thermostat was then developed, see picture at right side. This thermostat was designed to allow you to set the temperature to different values based on different times of the day. So for example when your family left in the morning for work or school, your furnace or A/C could be set to a lower value, and the temperature would adjust when your not home. This could save you money in heating or cooling a house nobody is occupying. And maybe 30 min before people start coming home the thermostat could be set to turn on to a higher temperature so the house is nice and comfortable.
Today you can find smart Digital/WiFi programmable thermostats which are energy efficient (more info at Energy Efficient Building Section, item 6 Thermostats), and more advanced in design and connectivity then previous models, where the thermostat can also be controlled and monitored by your smart phone. Consumer Reports Buying Guide.
Thermostat – Compatibility/Installation – So you’ve decided to update to a programmable or even a smart programmable thermostat. First you need to make sure the thermostat you are looking to purchase is compatible with the one you have at home today. The wiring is what is important. The wiring which connects your thermostat to the furnace is what will need to be checked. All of the major manufacturers appear to have installation notes and videos and or compatibility sections on their website. I recommend you review them. If you have no clue what to do or if you feel you don’t have time to mess around then I highly recommend you hire a licensed or qualified specialist.
Nest – Which appears to be one of the most popular manufacturers – Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E models are the two current models available, at the time of this writting. There is also a Nest Temperature Sensing Model (not compatible with Nest 1st and 2nd gen models) which can be combined with either thermostat to monitor the temp in individual rooms and adjust accordingly. Nest also has several other products – Smoke/Carbon Detectors, Cameras, Door Locks, Video Doorbell and other manufacturers are bringing out products which are Nest compatible. Nest is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT.
Nest – Product Info
Nest – Installation Info
Nest – Can’t install yourself – Qualified HVAC Specialist
Nest – Pricing – Home Depot.
Eccobee – Also a very popular manufacturer which appears to be a Canadian Company – Eccobee 3 lite and Eccobee 4 are the two current models available. Like Nest they also have room sensors. The Eccobee 4 also has Amazon Alexa Voice Service built in so you can control the unit by voice (hands free) and also find recipes and music playlists. Eccobee is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Wink.
Eccobee – Product Info
Eccobee – Installation Info
Eccobee – Can’t install yourself – Qualified HVAC Specialist.
Eccobee – Pricing – Home Depot
Emerson Sensi – Traditional thermostat design but missing advanced features like room sensors and ability to learn but has the basic smart functionality with a lower cost. The Touch WiFi Thermostat and the WiFi Thermostat are the two current models. Emerson is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo and Wink.
Sensi – Product Info
Sensi – Installation Info
Sensi – Can’t install yourself – Qualified HVAC Specialist
Sensi – Pricing – Home Depot
There are other manufacturer’s of smart programmable thermostats available (Honeywell, Dimplex, Lennox, Schneider Electric etc.), were the features and add ons may be different. Those features and add-ons do come with a cost, do you really need the top of the line with the latest and greatest features…it’s up to you to do the homework and figure out what is best for you. But a programmable thermostat whether it’s one of those fancy smart learning units or a basic programmable unit can save you money!