Eager to update your home's thermostat? We researched over 35 different models, then purchased the 14 best thermostats available. We then tested them side-by-side to see which products could take the heat. We have been testing, rating, and scoring these devices since 2017, comparing their installation processes, overall ease of operation, accuracy, smart features, and functions. Keep reading to discover which thermostat we determined to be the best overall, the best bargain, and the most compatible with smart home platforms.
Colors: Gray frame with white accents | Battery Backup: No
REASONS TO BUY
Easy remote access
REASONS TO AVOID
Screen shows fingerprints
The Honeywell WiFi Smart Color earned top marks in this review. It is a sleek and stylish device that is chalked full of features and functions that are extremely precise. This device is supremely programmable, allowing one to control its schedule and events settings on the device itself or through the accompanying app. We found the device easy to set up, program, and operate. The Honeywell has a large touch interface that is clearly legible at a distance and at night. The app follows suit as it is easy to navigate. The programming has few restrictions, allowing users to make settings on individual days or blocks of days. It also allows the user to set a "vacation mode" for improved economy, change the display color, monitor the weather, make temporary changes to the schedule, and access security features.
While we have very few complaints about the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color, we will say that it is a sophisticated and thus more complex device. As such, it may be more involved to program than some may prefer. Additionally, we noticed that the screen readily shows the finger smudged of the user, which can be easily cleaned. Finally, the Honeywell is surprisingly expensive despite its full specs list. That said, this device and its accompanying app are the best for customizing your HVAC system, whether at home or away.
The Orbit Clear Comfort is a top-performing device that is not WiFi enabled. This unit has all the features and customization options — however, they must be performed in person on the unit as opposed to an app. The elimination of this one feature results in tons of savings, making this highly programmable device relatively inexpensive. Aside from the savings, this unit has a nice-looking interface that sports bold, easy-to-read lettering and a nightlight. The interface makes programming the time and date, schedules, and events simple. Moreover, the 'copy' feature allows one to quickly transfer programming details to different days or blocks of days.
The obvious limitation of the Orbit Clear Comfort is that it does not have WiFi connectivity. The issues that this creates are not limited to having to make adjustments in the actual device; more consequently, you cannot monitor your home's climate while you are away. A feature we took issue with, albeit a minor one, was that the device's nightlight button is not illuminated, so you have to frisk around for it in the dark to find it if you want to make a change. That said, at least the Orbit has a nightlight — many units can't make such a claim. All told, our complaints are minimal, while our praise for the Clear Comfort is voluminous.
Editor's Note: The Orbit Clear Comfort we tested does not require a C wire. As such, it may be the best option for older homes.
The Amazon Smart Thermostat fully embraces the smart device design, relying almost entirely on its WiFi connection and app for setting up the device, programming, and monitoring. If this type of operation appeals to you, then this will be a great device for your home. The app fully guides the user through the setup process and offers a host of scheduling features, event settings such as vacation and sleep modes, and monitoring options. We also found that the screen was easy to read from across the room as it had big, bold characters. Finally, the thermostat is designed to integrate easily with Alexa if you use that platform to run your smart home.
While we are impressed with the Amazon Smart's features and, for the most part, the app, we do have reservations about a device that limits access to its features on the device itself. It is not hard to imagine that more than one person will want access to the HVAC controls and that having to sign in to an app or ask someone else to make changes would be irksome. Additionally, the device is white with white back-lit lettering — a difficult-to-read combination in bright or direct light. Finally, the Amazon Smart provides no human customer support. So, if you prefer that kind of help when troubleshooting problems, this might not be your device. That said, the help modules on the app and website are quite well-executed, addressing every conceivable issue with videos, animation, and text.
The Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Gen, is designed to integrate seamlessly with the Google Nest smart home ecosystem; however, it plays well with others, too. The thermostat has a phenomenal display that comes in a handful of colors to better match your home's decor. It allows you not only to control your HVAC system whether you are at home or away, but it can also interact with many other smart home devices, which means you can control your heater or turn on your A/C via your smartwatch or voice command. This device has both an occupancy sensor and geofencing, so it can turn down the heat when you leave the house and turn it up when you return.
The Nest Learning is one of the most expensive smart thermostats on the market. If your home has multiple thermostats, count on spending quite a bit on upgrading them. Additionally, we experienced mixed results with its learning capabilities — particularly if you keep inconsistent weekly schedules. These are minor drawbacks and shouldn't discourage you from considering the Nest so long as it fits your budget. Undoubtedly, this model is a top-of-the-line, fully-featured smart device worth the money for those invested in the smart home experience.
We used controlled side-by-side testing in our lab and installed these products in homes and offices to see how they performed in the wild. We informed this review by carefully testing the ease of use features, installation and customer support, remote access, and accuracy. At the same time, we augmented these controlled tests with our long-term experience with the products.
Our testing of air purifiers is divided into four rating metrics:
Ease of Use (40% of overall score weighting)
Install and Support (30% weighting)
Remote Access (20% weighting)
Accuracy (10% weighting)
Our testing and review team consists of Austin Palmer, Matt Spencer, David Wise, and Nick Miley. This group has extensive experience testing, analyzing, comparing, and rating smart home devices. They have reviewed hundreds of tech gadgets and home devices, including dozens of smart home-specific products. Critically, David brings his background in heat transfer and thermal fluids engineering as a former mechanical engineer to the design of our tests.
Analysis and Test Results
We split our tests into four weighted rating metrics. The metrics of ease of use, installation and support, remote access, and accuracy cover all the aspects of thermostat ownership that one will need to know before purchasing.
When picking a thermostat that offers good value — that is, a device with a relatively low price point and a relatively high performance — one should ask: What kind of a device am I after? Do I want a WiFi/app-enabled thermostat, a programmable model, or a good ol' fashioned push-button device? When it comes to a remotely accessible smart thermostat, the Amazon Smart offers consumers a whole lot for their dollar. Similarly, the Orbit Clear Comfort provides users with a great deal of programming flexibility but with significantly less reliance on its app for functionality. This product is remarkably low cost for what it offers. Finally, the Emerson NP110 offers simplicity and a rock-bottom price tag. All three of these devices offer consumers good values in their respective metrics.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is the most heavily weighted metric in our thermostat review. Back in the day of low-cost energy and manual thermostats, all the devices were easy to program—the user just turned the dial. Nowadays, smart thermostats allow users to schedule their air conditioning to maintain comfort, reduce energy use, and maximize savings. Yet, difficulties with programming smart devices are one of the reasons cited by Energy Star to explain why people do not see the expected savings when using a smart thermostat. In light of this research, we focused a great deal of attention on ease of use. We found several devices, such as the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color, Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium, Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced, and Orbit Clear Comfort, to be quite easy to set up and customize.
We designed our testing to simulate the process a consumer would go through when receiving their new thermostat in the mail. We begin with the device setup — specifically, getting the device to turn on and initiate the setup process. Most devices prompt the user with the next steps to take when connected to the HVAC system. However, the Wyze and Amazon required us to read the instructions. The next step is entering the time and date. However, many devices, like the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color, are now WiFi-enabled, and connecting them to the internet is the first step required in the scheduling process.
Several smart thermostats in this review effectively streamline the setup and scheduling process. The Orbit Clear Comfort allows one to bypass the setup and use the device manually. However, when one is ready to set up a schedule on the Clear Comfort, it's as easy as selecting a time and temperature for each day. Conveniently, a copy button allows one to paste one day's schedule elsewhere in the week. Alternately, the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color prompts the user with a display on its touchscreen saying, "guide me through scheduling." If you follow the steps, the process is relatively seamless.
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced have intuitive scheduling features. While we liked the setup process and the Home, Sleep, and Away program settings on these devices, we found the program menu a bit fiddly if we wanted to customize the device outside of these categories. For example, one has to go into the Comfort Settings and add a temperature setting, then add it to the schedule to make a customization of this type. That said, these units are "smart." As such, programming details like time and date are automatic when connected to WiFi.
The Nest Learning requires the user to set the device with a wheel instead of a more intuitive button. It was a little frustrating at first, but the scheduling process and features were satisfactory once we got the hang of it. All the devices following the Nest Learning drop considerably in their ease of use performance. All of these devices are cumbersome to program, or they lack programming altogether.
Another aspect of ease of use that we analyzed is the clarity or visibility of information. High-scoring devices have quality interfaces facilitating simple and satisfactory interactions. For instance, the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color's interface is easy to see at a distance due to its large lettering. It also works well at night because the screen has adjustable backlighting. The Orbit Clear Comfort has very similar properties. However, its screen brightness is not adjustable. The Ecobee devices also have large, easy-to-see interfaces, but we docked them some points as the glass shows smudges and catches glare, making them difficult to read.
Install & Support
When it comes to customer satisfaction, installation and support follow closely on the heels of ease of use. Several products in the class do well in this evaluation. However, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced set the bar for customer support and well-designed, easy-to-install devices.
The products in this review are designed with a DIY installer in mind. However, the installation process can become more complicated if you have an older home or a unique HVAC system. If so, you may need a professional to install your new thermostat. If you feel out of your depth, contact a professional.
What set the Ecobee Smart thermostats apart from their peers is the quality of their customer support, the supplied documentation, and the ease of installation. More specifically, Ecobee responded to our request for help installing their device within 24 hours. However, the requested help (and outstanding documentation) wasn't necessary as the Ecobee app walks the user through the installation process with pictures and prompts. These devices are so well-designed that they come with built-in levels and push-button wire ports to ease the burden of installation.
While not as high-scoring as the Ecobee Smart thermostats, the Honeywell WiFi Smart Color, Orbit Clear Comfort, Ecobee3, Amazon Smart, and Emerson NP110 did quite well in this evaluation. The Ecobee3 shares many of the characteristics of its siblings, though the installation was not as smooth. The Amazon and Honeywell have fantastic documentation and easy installs but marginal customer support. For instance, it took three days for Emerson to respond, whereas Amazon had no support service we could find.
While the Amazon device lacks customer support, it does an exceedingly good job of providing step-by-step documentation and helpful videos online. It is one of the few products where the help page is practical for solving complicated problems. In particular, we liked that there are modules designed for distinct HVAC systems.
On the other hand, the Emerson NP110 installation left something to be desired. The device lacked a built-in level, the documentation was very basic, and the wire ports required a small screwdriver. In contrast, the best-designed wire ports do not require a tool. That said, Emerson's customer service was on point. They responded immediately, saying they had received our query and had a helpful answer to our question within four hours.
Our evaluation of the Orbit Clear Comfort's support and installation is a mixed bag. Orbit is one of the few companies that will get on the phone to help their customers. However, as of this writing, they do not list an email for customer support. Additionally, the device came with a detailed, easy-to-follow instruction booklet that addressed our questions. Yet, the device requires some basic tools, such as a level and a small screwdriver for installation.
Connecting to WiFi and installing the companion app are now fundamental aspects of setting up a smart thermostat. Our testing revealed that these steps are pretty much uniform across all of the devices in the class. Installing the app is more demanding as the thermostat will not do it for you. However, these devices will prompt you to connect to WiFi and walk you through the steps.
The ability to remotely access one's thermostat through an app is one of the primary benefits of these modern smart devices. Never again will one wonder if they turned down the thermostat or if the house will be warm when they return home. While most smart devices have good remote access functionality, The Wyze and Honeywell WiFi Smart Color lead the class.
Our analysis of thermostat remote access looks at several features and functions. For example, we look at the app's layout and the location of key features. We also check if the app displays current temperate and recent highs and lows. Additionally, we look at scheduling management and how to make temperature adjustments. The Wyze and Honeywell WiFi Smart Color apps are straightforward to navigate—settings are clearly laid out and easy to read. The Smart Color suffered some in our appraisal because the thermostat has more setting features than the app. The layout of these two apps is pretty typical for the class; however, their scheduling functionality proves to be much better.
The Wyze has preloaded Home, Away, and Sleep schedules that facilitate quick scheduling. These presets can be overridden during scheduling without much fuss, though. Conversely, the Smart Color has a "Guide Me Through Scheduling" button that takes the user through the entire process using prompts. As part of this process, one can group days or program them individually. It's intuitive, with arrows for time, heat, and cool settings for each day's event. Finally, when making on-the-fly adjustments in the app, the Smart Color slightly outperforms the Wyze, not because it is easier to do but because it's so easy that one can over-shoot the mark when making a change. This is because the Wyze uses a digital dial to adjust the temperature, while the Smart Color uses up and down arrows.
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium, Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced, Honeywell 7-Day Programmable, Google Nest Thermostat, Sensi Touch, Sensi Programmable, and Amazon Smart Thermostat all followed with excellent remote access capabilities. The Honeywell 7-Day Programmable performed extraordinarily well and was substantially more user-friendly in setting up a schedule remotely than other devices. The Sensi thermostat apps also proved easy to set up, allowing temperature customization in 15-minute increments. We also liked the Sensi app's calendar view, which shows an entire week's temperature settings.
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced both have intuitive and effective apps that allow the user to quickly access information such as current temperature and humidity. All the relevant features, such as forecast, HVAC mode, fan mode, home, and away modes, are accessed through the appropriately labeled tabs at the bottom of the app screen. Adjustments throughout are very easy to make.
When one sets a temperature in their home or office, they want to know that their device will reliably keep it there. Most of the thermostats we tested are accurate within a fraction of a degree. However, some models show discrepancies of 2 or even 3 degrees. The most accurate in the class are the Google Nest, Honeywell 7 Day, and Nest Learning. These devices were within a degree (+/-) of their setting.
While differences of a few degrees may be tiny, these products are not cheap, and one should expect them to be precise. Moreover, if one selects temperature settings based on the Government EnergySaver guidelines, an inaccurate thermostat can offset the savings expected on the next bill. To ensure consumers know the possible margin of error in these devices, we use a lab-grade thermometer to monitor the temperature at 15-minute increments over several hours.
As has been said, the Nest Learning, Google Nest, and the Honeywell 7-Day did quite well in this evaluation. The Honeywell WiFi Smart Color, Orbit Clear Comfort, Amazon Smart, Emerson NP110, and Honeywell Home CT87N1001 were close behind. However, we are splitting hairs here, as all these devices were within a degree of the control thermometer.
Finding the perfect thermostat to match your needs, budget, and HVAC system can be difficult. However, our side-by-side comparison and practical analyses will prove helpful. Whether it's a top-tier smart thermostat that will slot into a smart home platform or a simple budget option, we have it covered. Finally, as a reminder, don't hesitate to enlist a professional to install these products if there's a question or concern with the installation. The goal is to improve the home or work environment, not cause damage with a simple mistake. That said, these devices are reasonably easy to install, and many companies provide great support should you have a question.
Nick Miley, Austin Palmer, Matt Spencer, and David Wise
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.