Smart Thermostats—The Smart Choice

If your home is anything like the average American home, 48 percent of your energy expenses comes from heating and cooling.

Keeping the temperature of your home is a large expense, so trying to be smart about how you control your temperature settings can save you a hefty chunk of energy––and money.

Of course, you could try to take control by using a standard programmable thermostat to set a daily pattern, or by manually turning the temperature up or down when you need to. Chances are, though, that you won’t. It’s easy to forget!

In fact, a survey from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered 89 percent of people admitted they rarely to never used their thermostats to set a weekday or weekend program.

But, what if your thermostat could adjust your home’s temperature settings automatically? A smart thermostat can.


What is a ‘smart thermostat’?

1. It’s automatic

A smart thermostat is a device that automatically adjusts the temperature in your home, according to your needs. The idea is to run the heating or air conditioning only when you need it, and to turn them down when you’re away or in bed. This kind of variable pattern is called a setback––and it saves you money.

Some smart devicescan learnyour daily schedule and adjust the temperature in your home automatically based on your habits. Others use occupancy-sensing technology to ‘watch’ for your motion (or lack of it) in a room. If there’s no movement for a while, they assume you’re away and ‘set back’ your HVAC system accordingly.

Internet‐connected smart thermostats might use geofencing to detect when you’re not at home. That means that, when your mobile device leaves the house, it triggers a setback. When the thermostat senses your device within a certain range of the home, it adjusts the temperature at the right time to have the home comfortable upon arrival.

Automating energy‐saving setbacks is what smart thermostats are all about––taking human error (and forgetfulness) out of the control equation.        



2. It’s controllable 

With a Wi‐Fi enabled smart thermostat, you can control the temperature of your home remotely from your internet‐connected mobile device or computer so you can save energy by turning down the heat or AC while you’re out. You can also make sure the temperature is just right by the time you arrive home.

You can even connect some smart thermostats to your home automation system so when you’re in the house, you can control the temperature effortlessly using voice commands.

3. It keeps you informed with graphs, data and reports

Another bonus of a smart thermostat is the regular energy use reports it provides, which you can monitor and manage to maximize your energy savings.

You may also get email alerts when your home’s temperature falls or rises outside of the ideal range you’ve set. If your thermostat is disconnected from its network––because of a power outage, for example––you can be notified of that, too.


So how much energy will I save with a smart thermostat?

Smart thermostat manufacturer Nest did some studies to see what savings people achieved with their smart thermostat, comparing utility bills before and after installation. They found savings of about 10 to 12 percent for heating and electric savings equal to about 15 percent of cooling costs in homes with central AC. In an online forum, Nest users reported savings of $10 to $20 per month.

At that rate, you could recoup the cost of a smart thermostat in less than two years. According to data from an internal analysis in 2013, ecobee customers in the United States saved even more on their HVAC costs—up to 23 percent.

When it comes down to it, yourparticular energy savings will depend on many things like where you live, your daily routine and what type of home you have. One of the biggest factors is how much energy you’ve used in the past.

Historically, if you’ve kept your HVAC system running all day and night, then introducing automatic setbacks using a smart thermostat will likely yield big savings. On the other hand, if you don’t run your HVAC system much—or if you’ve been vigilant about adjusting your system manually—then you’ll see less savings.

But the extra benefits that you get with smart thermostats, like regular energy reports and remote access, might still make the switch worth it for you.


How do I make sure my thermostat will work for me?

There are a growing number of smart thermostats on the market, so here are a few tips to make sure you’re buying the best one for you and installing it correctly.

1. Ensure the smart thermostat is compatible with your HVAC and electrical systems. Many of the most popular models have compatibility checkers online that you can evaluate before buying.

2. Most smart thermostats are designed to be easy to use, with intuitive screen designs and highly rated companion apps. We recommend choosing one that is ENERGY STAR® certified.

ENERGY STAR® smart thermostats have had their potential energy savings independently verified based on actual field data and have also been third‐party certified to:

  • measure temperature accurately
  • rapidly enter low‐power standby mode when inactive
  • efficiently track and report heating and cooling trends
  • provide tailored functionality and service for the user


If your smart thermostat uses Wi‐Fi, make sure you install it reasonably close to the router–– or consider using a Wi‐Fi range extender—so you have a reliable connection. While most smart thermostat companies will say you can install a smart thermostat yourself, it is wise to utilize a certified technician to ensure safe installation. Smart thermostat owners also need to have access to a smartphone, tablet or computer to get the most out of its remote monitoring and control capabilities.

Once your smart thermostat is installed, you need to adjust it manually to your comfort levels a few times a day for the first week or so—when waking, leaving the house, coming home and going to bed, for example. The thermostat then learns these preferences and automatically makes adjustments that save you money on heating and cooling—even if your schedule changes.

Bottom line

Installing a smart thermostat could bring big savings for your family—and for the planet.

If everyone in the United States used a smart thermostat, ENERGY STAR® estimates energy savings would grow to $740 million and 56 trillion BTUs per year, offsetting 13 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.

Get started on getting smart by shopping smart thermostats!