We researched over 30 different models, then bought the 9 best smart thermostats you can get in 2020 and tested them side-by-side to see which products can really take the heat. We've been rating and scoring these products for close to 4 years now, comparing their installation processes, overall ease of operation, accuracy, and smart features and functions. Read on to find out which thermostat took the top spot, which is the best value option, and which product is compatible with the widest variety of smart homes.
The Best Smart Programmable Thermostats of 2020
Best Overall Wifi Thermostat
Nest Learning Thermostat
Taking home the Editors' Choice award and the title of Best Wifi Thermostat, the Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Gen. earned the highest score we have seen from one of these products. This sleek and stylish product is jam-packed with features and functionality, all while being extremely easy to use and highly accurate. It has a phenomenal display and is available in a handful of colors with different trim plates to match the style of any home. In addition to allowing you to control your HVAC system both when you are at home and when you are away, the Nest can interact with many other smart home devices, allowing you to control your heater or turn on your A/C by voice command or from your smartwatch. For those that are looking to save on their energy bills, this model utilizes both an occupancy sensor and geofencing to turn down the heat when you leave and turn it up when you get.
However, this wifi thermostat is definitely on the pricey side, with the chance to skyrocket even higher if your home has multiple thermostats. Additionally, we have mixed reviews of learning features, especially if you keep relatively inconsistent schedules week to week. These are minor drawbacks and shouldn't dissuade you from the Nest too much, as long as you can afford it, as the Nest is your best bet if you want the most top of the line, fully-featured smart wifi thermostat on the market today.
Read review: Nest Learning Thermostat
Best Bang for the Buck
Nest Thermostat E
Meriting the second-highest score overall, the Nest Thermostat E earned the Best Buy award for offering fantastic performance at a great price. This newest addition to the family of Nest thermostats is only available in frosted white, providing an overall muted appearance when compared to the Nest Learning Thermostat. This allows the E to be much less obtrusive and more casually blend into your existing decor — a great option for those that prefer to camouflage their thermostat, rather than make a style statement with it. This model still maintains Nest's high level of accuracy, is very easy to use and install, all at a price that is much more palatable than their flagship product.
However, this thermostat doesn't quite have the striking looks of the flagship Nest Learning Thermostat and isn't compatible with as many types of HVAC systems, so you should double-check that your system is compatible before purchasing. In fact, you should do this before you buy any thermostat.
Read review: Nest Thermostat E
Best Budget Option for Smart Home Integration
Sensi Touch Wi-Fi
If you are looking for a new smart thermostat that can integrate with your existing smart home and won't break the bank, then the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi is a great option. This wifi thermostat can integrate with Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Wink. On top of that, the Sensi did quite well across the board in our tests, earning one of the better scores when it came to installation and remote access functionalities. It also has a great display that looks fantastic in most homes and clearly shows what the thermostat is currently doing.
While the initial installation went fairly easily, we did find it to be a little more difficult to do the initial software and scheduling setup. It wasn't too bad, just took a bit more time than some of the other models. It also is only available in a single color but it is one of our favorite models to recommend if you are trying to save some cash and still want your thermostat to interact with your existing smart home.
Read review: Sensi Touch Wi-Fi
Best on a Tight Budget
Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable
Searching for a minimalistic smart thermostat that forgoes all the bells and whistles? Shopping on a budget? If either of these is true, then you can't go wrong with the Honeywell 7-Day Programmable. This product is a fantastic value, earning the Best Buy Award, and offers reliable remote access to adjust the temperature or monitor your home while you aren't around. This model is accurate, easy to use, and retails for less than half of what the top products go for, making it a great option for homes with multiple thermostats.
This product, in all honesty, is a standard, run-of-the-mill programmable thermostat with the ability to be remotely adjusted — nothing more, nothing less. The appearance and setup process isn't quite as polished as some of the other models but it gets the job done and is a fantastic value. It is a bit harder to operate and install, so expect to be looking through the manual a bit more than simply following guided tutorials and flashy prompts, but it is by far the best option if you have multiple thermostats and don't want to spend a fortune replacing them.
Read review: Honeywell 7-Day Programmable
Best for Integrated Alexa Capabilities
Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control
Earning one of the better scores overall, the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control not only impressed us with its solid performance across the bulk of our tests but also with its superior set of smart functions. This thermostat doubles as a fully-featured Alexa device and has an upgraded microphone and speaker compared to its previous versions. The SmartThermostat matches the abilities of an Echo or any other Alexa home speaker, allowing you to use calling, messaging, and Drop-In features right on the thermostat. This thermostat is a breeze to install, solidly easy to use, and a great way to add voice control abilities to your smart home right on the wall.
Regrettably, we didn't particularly like the way you set up a schedule on the Ecobee SmartThermostat. It wasn't the most user-friendly process we have seen and offered less customizability than other competitors. We also found this product to be a bit inferior in terms of aesthetic appeal and overall ease of use but these flaws can be trivial if you are very excited about having an Alexa device integrated right into your thermostat.
Read review: Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control
Why You Should Trust Us?
We bought all of the smart WiFi thermostats in this review at the normal price just like you would. TechGearLab won't ever accept any evaluation models for free or at a significantly reduced cost for our reviews, to ensure that our review is completely unbiased and we have no financial incentive to pick one product over another.
Our testing and review team of Austin Palmer and David Wise have extensive experience comparing and scoring smart home products, having reviewed hundreds and hundreds of different tech gadgets and home products, including dozens of smart home specific ones.
In addition to controlled side-by-side testing, we also installed these products in various homes and offices and have used them for extended periods with all sorts of different HVAC systems, updating the review with any new information or opinions gleaned from long term real-world use. 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.
Related: How We Tested Wifi Thermostats
Analysis and Test Results
We used a series of side-by-side tests to determine overall scores from 0-100. Our tests were split into four weighted rating metrics, with the results of each thermostat discussed below.
Related: Buying Advice for Wifi Thermostats
Both our Editors' Choice Award winner and our Best Buy Award winner, the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E are excellent products, but can still be a bit pricey. This can get especially expensive if your home has multiple heating zones, and thus multiple thermostats. The E offers almost the same functionality as the Nest Learning Thermostat, having a slightly lower-quality, muted display and slightly fewer features, but is a bit friendlier on your budget. If both of these offerings from Nest are still too expensive, you may want to consider the Honeywell 7-Day Programmable. It doesn't have anywhere close to the same functionality as our top models, but if you want a bare-bones programmable thermostat that allows for remote access without breaking the bank, this is the model for you. The Ecobee SmartThermostat isn't an amazingly good deal on its own but it can be a smart budget choice if you take into account the fact that you don't have to buy an additional Alexa device if you want to add voice control to your smart home.
Ease of Use
This is one of the most important metrics when it comes to wifi 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, as a programmable thermostat that is too difficult to program isn't any better than a single-temperature model.
To test the ease of use, we looked at the 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 wifi thermostats side-by-side, we ranked them on each of the above attributes and determined scores based on their performance.
The Nest Learning Thermostat earned a 7 out of 10. This thermostat guides you through the entire setup process with questions and prompts but we found it to be a bit of a hassle to set a schedule on the Nest, mainly due to its single-button and wheel interface. This can also make it a bit annoying to enter your network password.
However, it still is fairly intuitive to scroll through the menus for additional options and exceptionally easy to adjust the temperature by rotating the dial. This will also override the schedule and hold the temperature you set manually until the next change in the schedule. The display on this product is particularly vibrant and displays information very clearly, even from a distance away.
Next, the Nest Thermostat E, the Ecobee SmartThermostat, and the Johnson Controls Glas all earned a 6 out of 10 for their ease of use. The setup process on the Ecobee SmartThermostat is just as easy as the Honeywell Smart and the Nest Thermostat, again utilizing a series of guided prompts to walk you through the various tasks.
It also is very easy to scroll through the different menus and set things like the time and date but we aren't huge fans of the scheduling system on the SmartThermostat. You set different comfort zones for each block of time and then separately set the temperature for each comfort zone, which just doesn't seem as user-friendly and is more restrictive than setting a temperature for each chunk of time directly. We didn't think the display on this model conveyed information quite as clearly as the top models and the touchscreen slider that adjusts the current temperature isn't our favorite interface, keeping this thermostat out of the top tier when it comes to ease of use.
The Nest Thermostat E essentially matched the performance of the Nest Learning Thermostat only falling a little short when it came to the display. The initial setup and scheduling are identical to the original Nest, with a helpful series of prompts to guide you through the process. It's also very easy to adjust any of the advanced settings and you can hold the temperature until the next slot in the schedule. However, the frosted display pales in comparison to the high-definition display of the Learning Thermostat and is much harder to see when viewing it from an angle.
The GLAS by Johnson Controls also makes it exceptionally easy to complete the first-time setup process, with simple and easy to follow prompts that lead you through the entire process.
This thermostat will also automatically set the date and time when connected to WiFi, though you do need to set the time zone manually. There aren't a ton of other settings to adjust, but they are fairly intuitive to find and alter, without a ton of submenus hiding them.
It's fairly easy to adjust the temperature setpoint by selecting it and then using the up or down arrows on the touchscreen to change it. The information of display is very clean and easy to read — even from a fair distance — and you have the option to adjust the brightness of the screen.
However, this can be a bit dependent on what type of walls you have, do to the transparent nature of the GLAS. We also noticed that the screen almost instantly picks up fingerprints and require semi-regular cleanings. We also weren't huge fans of the scheduling, as you don't have the option to set a specific temperature for different times, only set "Home" and "Away" temperatures and set what times you are expecting to be present for.
This thermostat did stand out by having built-in air quality measuring capabilities, as well as being directly compatible with Alexa voice control and having Cortana voice control built-in as well.
The Sensi Touch Wi-Fi, the Honeywell 7-Day Programmable, and the Ecobee3 are all about average to use, earning this group a 5 out of 10 in this set of tests.
The Sensi Touch Wi-Fi is a little more difficult to schedule than some of the other models in the pack, only offering a limited set of scheduling abilities on the device itself, as well as possessing the odd quirk of needing the WiFi turned off. This model at least informs you that this is necessary, compared to being forced to figure that out on your own with the original Sensi. The same goes for setting the time and date.
This thermostat has a decent suite of advanced features and functions that can be adjusted, such as enabling "Safe Mode", where the thermostat will ignore rapid commands — a great option for families with children that are prone to playing with the thermostat.
This model makes it easy enough to adjust the current temperature, using the touch screen instead of buttons. The current temperature is displayed prominently, with the set temperature shown in smaller text off to the side. We did wish that the screen brightness could be adjusted.
The Honeywell 7-Day Programmable uses an interface similar to traditional thermostats to program a schedule and did require us to dive into the manual to figure out what we needed to do to set up the WiFi. It is also very easy to adjust or hold the current temperature using the arrow keys but it can be a bit difficult to access the menus for advanced settings. It takes a combination of button presses — think video game cheat code — to get to these menus, which is a handy way of preventing unauthorized access but we did find that we had to consult the manual every time we needed to adjust something to look up the appropriate code.
The Ecobee3 Lite also relies on a series of guided prompts to complete the initial setup process, but we didn't find them to be as intuitive or informative as the prompts for some of the other products we tested. The rest of the settings are pretty straightforward to adjust, but we did find that adjusting the current temperature and setting a schedule to be far less user-friendly than the top models. The display also makes it a little harder to see and understand the information that is displayed.
The Ecobee3 offers 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 Nest thermostats will only hold until the next slot in the schedule. There were a few other useful features that were scattered around to make them easier to use. For example, the Ecobee3, and the Nest products allow you to input maintenance reminders for things like changing the air filters.
We found it substantially more confusing to set up the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable — 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 quite easy if done exclusively on the mobile app. This confusion and discrepancy earned the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable the lowest score of the entire group in this metric, a 4 out of 10 on our tests.
Install & Support
While Ease of Use is our highest weighted metric, Install & Support was close behind, making up 30% of the total score for each wifi thermostat. While all of these products are designed with a DIY installer in mind, the installation process can get a bit more complicated if you have an older home or a particularly uncommon HVAC system. If that's the case, then you may need to have a professional installation completed. 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.
To rate the quality of the customer support, we sent the following email anonymously to each manufacturer, then awarded points based on the timeliness and quality of the response we received:
"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 this picture attached:
To compare the ease of installation, we hooked each thermostat up to both our custom testing board and installed them in our office. 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. Our building has a single-stage heating and auxiliary fan system, which is a fairly typical configuration.
The Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Thermostat E, the Ecobee SmartThermostat, and the Ecobee3 Lite all tied for the top spot in this rating category, each earning an 8 out of 10.
The Nest customer support wasn't exceptionally helpful for a DIY install, repeatedly referring us to a Nest Professional instead of walking us through the steps to solve our issue. However, both Nest thermostats did an exceedingly good job of providing adequate, step-by-step documentation, as well as helpful videos online. We also particularly liked that there is a built-in level and an included screwdriver to make the installation process even easier.
The Ecobee support team was the exact opposite, walking us through the process of identifying which wire went where over a series of emails. The SmartThermostat and the Lite also has extensive documentation — both in the companion app and in written guides — that walk you through the physical install. There are plenty of instructional videos if you get lost and both have an integrated level in the trim plate, so you can easily make sure you aren't hanging it crooked.
Following these top two thermostats, the Glas and the pair of thermostats from Sensi all earned a 7 out of 10. We found the customer support from the GLAS to be very helpful in resolving our issues, particularly with the GLAS-specific smart functions. The team from Sensi wasn't quite as helpful, usually requiring a follow-up email to get our issue fully resolved.
However, we did find the Sensi and the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi were the easiest models to install. These models came with a built-in level on the base plate, something that we found amazingly helpful. There is also extensive documentation if you get stuck.
The GLAS is a little bit more difficult to install, lacking a built-in level and has a much smaller base to cover up imperfections on your wall, which may mean some drywall repair or touch-up painting is in order if you had an existing thermostat already installed or you can use the included white trim plate if you prefer that look.
Finishing out the group, the Honeywell 7-Day Programmable merited a 5 out of 10. Customer service was fine, though not overly helpful, and the installation process took a bit longer than the others. 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 system --, 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 manufacturers before making a purchase.
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.
The Honeywell 7-Day Programmable, the Sensi Touch, and the Sensi Programmable all received a 7 out of 10 for their top-notch remote access capabilities. The 7-Day Programmable performed extraordinarily well, being substantially more user-friendly to set up a schedule remotely than other products. The pair of Sensi thermostats 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.
The Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest Thermostat E, the Ecobee SmartThermostat, the Ecobee3 Lite, and the Johnson Controls GLAS all earned a 6 out of 10 for their solid remote interfaces.
The Nest app 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's were 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.
The Ecobee apps essentially mirror the display on the actual thermostat, which means that it is substantially less user-friendly to set a schedule or adjust the temperature than many of the other products. However, we did find that we usually preferred to use the app to set the schedule or change the temperature because the adjustment slider has a larger range per screen on your phone than the thermostat.
Unfortunately, you are locked out of adjusting any of the advanced settings remotely.
The GLAS app also mirrors the device in terms of layout, but you get the added benefit of not smudging or leaving fingerprints on the display of the GLAS. This thermostat shows smudges or fingerprints much more than the others and we found ourselves almost perpetually cleaning it, so using the app was a welcome reprieve from wiping it down. The scheduling system doesn't change on the remote app — even though we wished it did — as setting the temperature for home or away and then setting times seems much more difficult than just designating a temperature for each chunk of time.
We immediately noticed discrepancies in the measured ambient temperatures when setting up multiple models side-by-side, with some even showing a discrepancy of up to two degrees. While these differences may be tiny, and a difference of a degree or two may seem like some trivial griping, accuracy is an incredibly important aspect of this product. The most energy-conscious among us will have the temperature setting based on the Government EnergySaver 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. Overall, our accuracy tests account for 10% of each product's score.
To test this, we compared each thermostat against a lab-grade thermometer multiple times after allowing the temperature to settle and compared the differences. All of our measurements were taken in Fahrenheit.
Three of the models that we tested, the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Thermostat E, and the Honeywell 7-Day did exceptionally well, each earning a fantastic score of 9 out of 10 in our tests. The Nest models were typically within 0.5 degrees of our control thermometer, with the Nest rounding its measurement to the nearest whole degree. The Honeywell 7-day matched the performance of the Nest's throughout our accuracy testing, maintaining approximately the same margin of error.
The GLAS was right behind, earning an 8 out of 10. It was close to the top products, but usually showed a slightly larger discrepancy than the Honeywell 7-Day and the Nest models — closer to a full degree off.
Both Sensi models followed, usually differing from our control by just about a degree or a little more, earning them a 7 out of 10.
The Ecobee SmartThermostat and the Ecobee3 were anywhere from a half a degree to two degrees off, but these thermostats do give you an option to calibrate the temperature if it is consistently off by the same amount. This earned them a 5 out of 10.
We hope that this review has been helpful in your search for a new smart wifi thermostat to augment your existing smart home or as an initial foray into a connected dwelling. We know it's a difficult choice to find the perfect model that not only matches your needs and budget but also works with your existing HVAC systems. We also want to reiterate that while most people should be able to install one of these products themselves, you shouldn't hesitate at all to contact a professional installer if you have an older home or an atypical heating and cooling system.
— Austin Palmer and David Wise