Best Wifi Smart Thermostats of 2017
Searching for the best WiFi smart thermostat around? We bought the top 7 products on the market today and put them through a series of head-to-head challenges. In total, we spent over 160 hours analyzing and evaluating these products, testing them in a handful of different locations, as well as on a custom testing board to directly compare their accuracy side-by-side. We compared how difficult the installation of each model is, their ease of use, and the quality of their remote access, so you don't have to. With the myriad of smart home products available today, it can be exceedingly difficult to find the perfect product. Check out the complete review below to see which thermostat came out on top, and which model is the best value.
Read the full review below >
Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Updated August 2017
Throughout the summer, we have been constantly monitoring the field of smart thermostats for any potential award winners. We found a new model, the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi, to add, but while this model is an improvement on the previous Sensi model, it still didn't outperform the Nest Learning Thermostat and is a little too pricey to be a better value pick than the Honeywell 7-Day. We'll keep a lookout for anything else that looks like it can take the heat, but for now, the following models are the best you will find and our top recommendations.
Best Overall Thermostat
Nest Learning Thermostat
Read full review: Nest Learning Thermostat
Best Bang for the Buck
Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable
Read full review: Honeywell 7-Day Programmable
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 7 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.
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 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, 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 Ecobee4 scored above average, earning a 6 out of 10 for this metric. This updated version of the Ecobee3 substantially improves on the initial setup process, with a much better series of prompts to guide you through the process, similar to the Nest.
The Sensi Touch Wi-Fi is about average in terms of our Ease of Use metric, earning a 5 out of 10. This model 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.
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 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, Sensi Touch Wi-Fi, 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:
We then waited and looked at the promptness and helpfulness of the responses. Ecobee was the first to respond, replying the following morning for the Ecobee3 and the same day for the Ecobee4. The support team opening a dialog in both cases 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 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 and the Sensi Touch Wi-Fi were 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, 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 4-way tie for first place, with both Honeywell models and both Sensi models 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.
Both of the Honeywell models performed extraordinarily well, with it being substantially more user-friendly to set up the schedule, with the 7-Day Programmable model slightly easier to configure than the Smart with WiFi model. 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.
We felt that the Ecobee3, Ecobee4 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 and Ecobee4 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.
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, Ecobee3, and the **Ecobee4* all have this feature. However, we did feel that the Ecobee3 and Ecobee4 were 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.
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
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. Both the Ecobee3 and the Ecobee4, as well as the Sensi models, were about average, usually within a degree. These models did have the option to add a temperature offset to correct this.
By far, the worst performer in our accuracy tests was the Honeywell Smart, earning a dismal 2 out of 10 in our tests.
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.
Selecting the right wifi 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.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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