Best Wifi Smart Thermostats of 2017

The Nest took home the top award as the best wifi smart thermostat.
Struggling to pick the perfect smart WiFi thermostat? We are here to help. We spent close to 40 hours researching these products, combing through user reviews, forums, and advertising claims, ultimately buying the top 5 models available on the market today and then spent close to 100 hours testing them. We directly compared these products side-by-side to find you the best thermostat that will keep your home comfortable, warm, and cozy and provide peace of mind by allowing you to remotely check on things while you're away. We tested by heating, cooling, and ventilating various rooms, as well as rating how hard it was to install them, whether or not you could expect any help from the manufacturer, and their overall temperature accuracy, all to find you the perfect product that matches your needs and your budget.
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Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
David Wise and Austin Palmer

Last Updated:
Friday
March 10, 2017

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Updated March 2017
For 2017, we have been tracking the emergence of new products closely, scouring for a product to de-throne the Nest. While there have been a few new additions to the field, they have been generally poorly received and while the visual design is starting to converge with the Nest, it doesn't appear their performance can stack up. We'll update this review further if anything noteworthy emerges, but for now the Nest is still the best of the best, and the Honeywell 7-Day is still the best budget option. We've also added charts to better highlight how each model did and how they stacked up

Best Overall Thermostat


Nest Learning Thermostat


Nest Learning Thermostat Editors' Choice Award

$249.00
at Amazon


The best model that you can get today, the Nest Learning Thermostat received the highest score overall in our tests, leaving the rest of the competition out in the cold. This standout performance earned this model our Editors' Choice award and is our recommendation for those that want the very best. Scoring extremely well in each of our rating metrics, this model is accurate, easy to install and use, and is great for logging in remotely and adjusting or monitoring the temperature of your home. Though this model has a price a little on the higher side, the Nest is the absolute best that you can buy right now, offering a sleek design, high-quality screen, a variety of colors, and compatibility with any number of different trim plates to match your sense of style. In addition, this piece of technology perfectly integrates with the rest of your smart home through its "Works with Nest" program, allowing you to connect it to products like the Wink Smart hub, Phillips Hue lightbulbs, Amazon Alexa — even a fitness tracker (Misfit Shine 2). The Nest also include a built-in sensor to detect if you are home or not, ideally allowing it to "learn" your habits and adjust the temperature accordingly. It takes a significant amount of time in a home to adequately learn your habits, unsuitable for our ever-changing testing lab so this was not taken into account when scoring. However, the Nest still led the pack and outperformed every other smart thermostat on the market today.

Read full review: Nest Learning Thermostat

Best Bang for the Buck


Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable


Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Best Buy Award

$79.75
at Amazon

For those that find the idea of paying over $200 for a thermostat abhorrent, even if it does connect to the internet, there is the winner of our Best Buy award, the Honeywell 7-Day Programmable. This bare-bones model has a list price of $120, and usually, can be found for less than a hundred bucks at major retail places. This is something to take particular notice of if you have a house requiring multiple thermostats, as it will save you significantly. For example, a house needing 3 thermostats will save close to $400 using the Honeywell 7-Day models instead of the Nest. This model is essentially your standard, run of the mill, programmable thermostat with the addition of being able to remotely log in and adjust it. This is the perfect model for those that are simply looking to upgrade their current thermostat for the added benefit of being able to keep an eye on your home remotely. While lacking much of the flash and style of the fancier models we reviewed, this was a solid product that had the features that matter most and skipped the ones that don't. It scored at least average in every scoring metric, even tying for the top score when it came to accuracy with our Editors' Choice award winner, and surpassing it when it came to remote access capabilities. While this model was a little more difficult when it came to installation and ease of use, those are some sacrifices that have to be made, for a price tag that is less than half of the top models.

Read full review: Honeywell 7-Day Programmable


The top five thermostats  ready to go on our testing board.
The top five thermostats, ready to go on our testing board.

Analysis and Test Results


There are many reasons to consider purchasing a smart WiFi thermostat: these products can save you energy and money, integrate with existing smart home systems, and simplify your life. We took the top 5 highest-ranked thermostats currently on the market today and put them through a series of side-by-side tests to determine overall scores from 0-100. You can see the ranked results and overall scores in the table below.

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
70
$249
Editors' Choice Award
Best for the smart home, but may be underutilized in many homes
61
$160
The best for older homes, and while it can be difficult to use on the device, the app is great
60
$230
The largest screen, and the easiest to use by far
58
$120
Best Buy Award
A traditional thermostat with wifi and no extra fluff
52
$249
Remote sensor makes it the best for homes that have large temperature gradients throughout

Ranking them on 4 weighted metrics, we looked at the ease of installation as well as the ease of use, how responsive customer support was, the remote access capabilities, and the temperature accuracy of each model. The following sections give a detailed breakdown of which models did well in certain tests and which ones couldn't handle the heat.

Ease of Use


This is one of the most important metrics when it comes to thermostats, comprising 40% of our total scores. None of these models are remotely useful if they prove to be too difficult to operate for the average consumer. In fact, this is one of the reasons cited by Energy Star for the lack of savings found when using a programmable thermostat: 30% (potentially higher) were "unable, unwilling, afraid, uninterested, or otherwise reluctant" to use the scheduling feature, whether it was the default or custom. This will negatively impact the potential energy savings of the device, and can potentially negate the entire purpose of getting one of these in the first place. You can see how we ranked the thermostats in the chart below.


To test the ease of use, we looked at initial setup, setting the time and date, the ease of setting up a schedule, adjusting the temperature, and the difficulty in utilizing the advanced features. Comparing the thermostats side-by-side, we ranked them on each of the above attributes and determined scores based on their performance.

We found the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart to be the easiest to use out of all the models we tested, earning a solid 8 out of 10, closely followed by the Nest Learning Thermostat with a 7. These models delivered strong performances across the board, in all metrics. Features that really set these two models apart from the competition were the quick and easy prompts that guide you through the setup process, as well as the ease in scheduling. While the Nest wasn't quite as easy as the Honeywell Smart, it still scored above average in this critical metric. We felt that the wheel and single button interface were a little more difficult when compared to a touchscreen, especially the lack of a "Back" button.

The Nest interface is limited to a single button (the entire thermostat) and rotating the outer wheel.
The Nest interface is limited to a single button (the entire thermostat) and rotating the outer wheel.

We found it substantially more confusing to set up the Sensi WiFi — both with the initial set-up and creating a schedule. It was bad enough that we originally assumed that it was not possible to set up without the app, eventually determining that it is only possible to set the schedule without the app when the device is not connected to WiFi. These struggles were primarily on the device itself, where the setup was actually quite easy if done exclusively on the mobile app. This confusion and discrepancy earned the Sensi the lowest score in this metric, earning a 4 out of 10 on our tests. The Honeywell 7-Day Programmable fell right in the middle, using an interface similar to traditional thermostats to program a schedule, and did require us to dive into the manual to figure it out what we needed to do to set up the WiFi.

It was significantly easy on almost all the models to adjust the current temperatures, through either a wheel or up/down arrow buttons, but there were some discrepancies on the ease of holding the current temperature. The Ecobee3 and Honeywell Smart both offer the most options, allowing you to hold the temperature indefinitely, for a set amount of time, or until the next change in the schedule, while the Honeywell 7-Day limits you to either holding it indefinitely, or until the next schedule change.

The Ecobee holding the set temperature.
The Ecobee holding the set temperature.

The Nest will only hold until the next slot in the schedule.

In addition, there were a few other useful features that were scattered around to make them easier to use. For example, the Honeywell Smart will let you deactivate the screen for 30 seconds to clean it, and the Honeywell Smart,Ecobee3, and the Nest allow you to input maintenance reminders for things like changing the air filters.

Install & Support


While Ease of Use was our highest weighted metric, Install & Support was closely behind, making up 30% of the total score. This is an important metric, as it doesn't matter how amazing a wifi thermostat is, they are all totally useless if you are unable to use it, and being able to install it yourself is an important aspect of these products. These all have been designed with a DIY installer in mind and should be relatively straightforward to install, especially for those with the more commonly found HVAC systems. Doing a DIY install can save you anywhere from $100 to $300 dollars and is definitely something worth attempting. In addition to the install, we tested the customer support of each company, putting in a request and evaluating the responses, as well as rating the supplied documentation. You can see how each model scored in the graphic below.


The Nest Learning Thermostat and the Sensi both tied for the top score in this category, earning a score of 7 out of 10. While these models did not have the most responsive support, they both did an exceedingly good job of providing adequate, step-by-step documentation. The first test that we did was essentially a compatibility check, something you might consider doing before purchasing any of the models that we reviewed. We sent the following email in:

"Hi there. I am trying to install my new [thermostat model]. I just moved into a new home and the previous owners took out their thermostat and left these wires hanging out (blue, yellow, red, green). I have no clue as to which wire goes where. I only have a heating system, that seems to be electric. It gets very cold at night and I would love to be toasty warm. Thanks in advance for the help!"

With the following picture attached:

The photo we sent into each customer support service. We asked them to assist us in determining where to go from here if we did not know which wire controlled what.
The photo we sent into each customer support service. We asked them to assist us in determining where to go from here if we did not know which wire controlled what.

We then waited and looked at the promptness and helpfulness of the responses. The Ecobee3 was the first to respond, replying the following morning and opening a dialog that we felt was super helpful and would guide you through each step to get the thermostat installed. The Ecobee support team instructed us to locate the furnace control panel and check the other side of the wires, and then gave us direction on how to connect it. In contrast, the Nest support team stated that it would not be possible to determine by that picture alone, and recommended that we locate a Nest Pro to complete the install, but did respond almost as quickly as the Ecobee team. The other 3 companies all required a follow-up email after 7 days of no response but then responded within an hour after the follow-up was sent. We felt that the response from the Honeywell team was very helpful, though not as helpful as the Ecobee, while the Sensi response we received was short and curt.

Next, we looked at the actual difficulty associated with installing one of these models, in two separate configurations. We created a custom, testing setup, mimicking a single stage heating, single stage cooling, and auxiliary fan HVAC system, allowing us to easily compare the different products side-by-side.

The reverse side of our thermostat testing board.
The reverse side of our thermostat testing board.

The second was installing each thermostat in our building, with a single stage heating and auxiliary fan system. These are both fairly common systems. We found the Sensi was the easiest model to install, with the Nest following it closely. Both of these models came with a built-in level on the base plate, something that we found amazingly helpful. The Nest also came with a screwdriver — something that most homes would have — but it was exceedingly convenient that literally, everything you need comes right out of the box (and it should, for a $250 thermostat!)

Installation of these products essentially breaks down into checking if your system is compatible, through the online documentation, or contacting the customer service department of the manufacturers and then completing the actual install. For the majority of people — those with a commonplace HVAC — this should be a relatively painless process. For those with a unique system, special attention must be paid and at the very least, consulting with the manufacturer's prior to making a purchase.

Remote Access


Remote access, while being one of the cornerstones of wifi thermostats, ended up only meriting 20% of our total score. This rating metric was split into three major components: adjusting the temperature through the smartphone app, setting and editing the schedule remotely, and the ease of adjusting other, more advanced settings through the remote interface. While originally thinking this would be a much more substantial part of the scores, we found that most of the thermostats performed exceptionally well in this category, which you can see in the following chart.


The performance in this category resulted in a 3-way tie for first place, with both Honeywell models and the Sensi all earning a score of 7 out of 10. Both of the models made by Honeywell use the same application, and thus, performed identically in this metric. Based on input from various users and user reviews, we determined that adjusting the schedule remotely was the most important to the most people, and made up close to half of the score for this category.

Setting the schedule on the Sensi app.
Setting the schedule on the Honeywell app.
 

Both of the Honeywell models performed extraordinarily well, with it being substantially more user-friendly to set up the schedule, compared to the 7-Day Programmable, and similar, but slightly easier when compared to the Smart with WiFi. The Sensi also offered an easy setup, and an incredible amount of customization — allowing you to set the temperature in as little as 15-minute increments! There is also a calendar view where you can see the entire week and all the temperatures you set.

We felt that the Ecobee3 and the Nest fell somewhat short, with the interface through the application mirroring the interface on the device itself. We found the split between temperature and timing on the Ecobee3 the most confusing out of all the models, requiring you to set the schedule with "Comfort Settings", instead of a temperature and then adjusting the temperature of the "Comfort Setting" through a different menu. The Nest did offer an attractive amount of customization, like the Sensi, but the interface still felt substantially less intuitive.

However, when it came to adjusting the current temperature, the Nest was by far the clear winner, allowing you to either drag and drop the desired temperature, or adjust it through a set of up/down arrows.

Setting the Nest to heat on the mobile app.
The mobile app showing the Nest in cooling mode.
 

Something that we found as a critically important feature to look for in a wifi thermostat — at least in places the utilize both a heating and cooling system — is a fully automatic mode, where you simply set the desired temperature and the thermostat will determine whether or not it is necessary to heat or cool your home to reach that temperature. Both the Nest, Sensi, and the Ecobee3 all have this feature. However, we did feel that the Ecobee3 was our least favorite to use out of all the models when it came to remote testing, earning a score of 4 out of 10, lacking the ability to adjust some of the settings remotely, and just feeling less intuitive when it came to its interface.

We compared each thermostat to a lab-grade thermometer to test the accuracy of each model.
We compared each thermostat to a lab-grade thermometer to test the accuracy of each model.

Accuracy


One thing that we noticed throughout our testing, as we had all thermostats powered up and side by side, was that there was a discrepancy between the ambient temperatures across the thermostats, for the majority of the time. While these differences may be tiny, and a difference of a degree or two may seem like some trivial griping, accuracy is a very important aspect of this product. The most, energy conscious among us will have the temperature set based on the following guidelines , to maximize energy savings. An inaccurate thermostat can be a severe detriment to saving you money, and leave you guessing if your home and away temperatures are set anywhere close to where they should be. While not being the most important rating metric we looked at, this category still earned 10% of the total score. You can see the scores in the chart below.


We checked each thermostat against a lab grade thermometer, multiple times after allowing the temperature to settle, and compared the differences, conducting our measurements in Fahrenheit

The Honeywell 7-day was only off by 0.23 degrees F in one of our tests.
The Nest compared to our lab thermometer  showing a difference of only 0.23 degrees F.
 

Two of the models that we tested, the Nest and the Honeywell 7-Day did exceptionally well, both earning a fantastic score of 9 out of 10 in our tests. The Nest was typically within .5 degrees of our thermometer, with the Nest usually just rounding to the nearest whole degree. The Honeywell 7-day matched the performance of the Nest throughout our accuracy testing, maintaining the same margin of error. By far, the worst performer in our accuracy tests was the Honeywell Smart, earning a dismal 2 out of 10 in our tests.

There was close to a two degree discrepancy between the Honeywell Smart and our control thermometer.
There was close to a two degree discrepancy between the Honeywell Smart and our control thermometer.

This thermostat was consistently up to two degrees off, enough that we were concerned that we had purchased a defective model. Upon contacting customer service, we were informed that it is NORMAL for it to be off from the actual temperature anywhere between 2-4 degrees. The remaining two thermostats were decently consisted, averaging about a degree off of our reference thermometer.

The Nest took home the top award as the best wifi smart thermostat.
The Nest took home the top award as the best wifi smart thermostat.

Conclusion


Selecting the right thermostat for your home can be a difficult one, especially if you have an older home or an unconventional HVAC system. While all of these models should work with most systems in a DIY install, don't hesitate to contact a professional if you feel lost, or if your wiring system is drastically different than what is described in the model's installation guide. Whether you are looking for the newest piece of tech to integrate into your smart home ecosystem, or are simply looking for something to keep an eye on things while you are away, there is a product for you. Hopefully, this has helped narrow down your choices in your own quest to find the best. Still feeling left out in the cold? Then take a look at our How We Test article for a more detailed and thorough look at our testing practices and principles. If you are feeling unsure about wifi thermostats, and want a more broad overview: their purpose, their background, and how these products will fit into your home, then glance over our Buying Advice article.
David Wise and Austin Palmer

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