In the middle of a cold, unforgiving winter, a thermostat may be the most crucial device in any New England home. Modern technology provides a wealth of products when it comes to heating controls. Recently, smart thermostats have risen in popularity and have proven to be a valuable choice for homeowners that seek efficiency and convenience.
For some, a smart thermostat makes perfect sense. For others, it may be more of a hassle than it's worth. Before deciding to install a smart thermostat, it's important to take a look at their pros and cons.
What is a smart thermostat?
A smart thermostat integrates with WiFi and your smartphone device in order to control your heating system remotely. Like a programmable thermostat, a smart thermostat gives you the option to set up scheduled temperature changes. However, it also takes that capability a step further by allowing you to make changes from anywhere at any time.
Smart thermostats can provide information such as external temperature and the length of time your HVAC system has been running. In addition, it can notify you when your air filter needs replacement.
Benefits of a smart thermostat
- Convenience. Convenience is one of the central benefits for most smart thermostat users. Smart thermostats can be particularly helpful when you’re on vacation, at work, or even lazily lounging on your couch. If you’ve ever come home to a chilly or sweltering house, you can understand the benefits of adjusting the temperature from the road. A smart thermostat can ensure that your home is always at a comfortable temperature, even you're just coming through the door.
- Cost savings. Smart thermostats mitigate the risk of forgetting to turn down the heat or AC when you're away. With a smart thermostat, you'll essentially never have to pay to cool or heat an empty home. Wifi-enabled thermostats can cut between 10% and 20% of your annual electricial bill. A smart thermostat may be more expensive than a traditional one, but that upfront price quickly pays for itself in savings.
- Prevent disasters while away. Some of the most damaging incidents can occur when you're away from your home, such as frozen pipes. A failed heating system that results in frozen pipes can cause thousands of dollars in damage. Smart thermostats allow you to monitor your home remotely, preventing these issues. That's why a smart thermostat is perfect for a vacation home or summer home.
Considerations for a smart thermostat
A smart thermostat installation isn't always as simple as vendors make it out to be. A lot of people call us having already purchased a smart thermostat, only to find that it is not compatible with their HVAC system or wiring. Many people have separate heating and cooling systems, making wiring complex and not every thermostat applicable.
Many smart thermostats require a common wire, also called a c wire. A common wire provides continuous electricity to a thermostat by connecting it to your home's HVAC system. If you have an older home, chances are that you don't have a c wire. That's because older, traditional thermostats didn't need continuous power -- you simply turned them on and off.
There are certain smart thermostats that claim to not require a c wire, such as Nest Thermostat E, but many of these thermostats come with their own issues. Without a c wire, you'll need to constantly swap out the batteries of your smart thermostat or purchase a power extension kit to circumvent the issue, but this isn't something we recommend. Tinkering with the wiring of your home is dangerous, and is something that only a licensed electrician should do. One bad move could result in a blown transformer -- or worse, an electrical fire.
It's important to call a licensed electrician like HomeWiz to walk you through the options. We've installed hundreds of smart thermostats, and we can explain what will the be the best option given your HVAC system and wiring configuration.
Is a smart thermostat worth it?
A smart thermostat is worth it in almost every situation because of the convenience and cost savings that you'll enjoy. It's important that you're willing to work with a licensed electrician so that the installation does not become more complicated than it needs to be.
The only instance in which a smart thermostat would not be prudent is for older people that do not want to work with a more technologically advanced system. Although the interface of most smart thermostats is relatively easy to use, it can be a learning curve for elderly folks. A smart thermostat also doesn't make much sense for people that do not have access to a smartphone.
Smart thermostats will likely be the standard moving forward, so it's a good idea to upgrade to a smart thermostat to start experiencing the benefits.