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Best Wifi Smart Thermostats of 2018

The Nest took home the top award as the best wifi smart thermostat.
Thursday October 4, 2018
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Looking for the latest and greatest WiFi thermostat to make your smart home even smarter? We have spent the past two years or so buying the best smart thermostats out there and comparing their performance head-to-head, updating the review as newer models have been released. Currently, we have the 9 best options you can buy, with their performance ranked and scored in the review below. We compared how easy each one is to use, how much of a hassle the installation process is, the various remote access functions, and the accuracy of each product to determine our scores, with our top recommendations highlighted below.


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Awards Editors' Choice Award Best Buy Award    
Price $249 List
$179.99 at Amazon
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$298.27 at Amazon
$179 List$170 List
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Pros Sleek, easy to install, accurateVery accurate, subdued design, very easy to set upStylish, accurateEasy to use, good remote accessFantastic mobile app, a breeze to install
Cons Expensive, support just refers you to a Nest ProLimited color options, display is harder to readVery expensive, seemed a little buggy to usExpensive, inaccurate, voice control through the app is sillyStill not the easiest to use
Bottom Line Best for the smart home, but may be underutilized in many homesThe Nest Thermostat E is a fantastic product for those that want most of the features of a premium product without paying a premium priceThis exceptionally expensive thermostat looks great but its performance left a bit to be desiredThe largest screen, and the easiest to use by farAll the benefits of its predecessor, while being easier to use with a sleeker design
Rating Categories Learning Thermostat Nest Thermostat E GLAS Wi-Fi Smart Sensi Touch Wi-Fi
Ease Of Use (40%)
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Specs Learning Thermostat Nest Thermostat E GLAS Wi-Fi Smart Sensi Touch Wi-Fi
Colors Stainless Steel, Copper, White, Black, Mirror Black, Brass, Polished Steel Frosted White Transparent screen with silver base Silver Black
Battery Backup Built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery Built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery No No No
Learning/ Adaptive Controls Yes - "Nest Sense" Yes - "Nest Sense" No Yes - "Smart Response Technology" No

Updated October 2018
Finally, after almost a year of waiting, the GLAS by Johnson Controls is finally available. We had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this product, as it is the first totally new wifi thermostat we have seen in a while that showed any sort of potential at claiming an award, rather than an update of a previous award winner. Unfortunately, we came off slightly disappointed. This thermostat did well in our tests, but finished quite far from the top and is quite expensive. It does have a handful of unique features, but we found these didn't quite redeem its less than stellar showing and its high price tag. Keep reading to see exactly how the GLAS stacked up and where it fell short.


Best Overall Thermostat


Nest Learning Thermostat


Nest Learning Thermostat
Editors' Choice Award

$179.99
(28% off)
at Amazon
See It

Colors: Stainless Steel, Copper, White, Black | Battery Backup: Built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Exceptionally accurate
Sleek and stylish design
Very easy to install
Pricey

Taking home the Editors' Choice award and the title of Best 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 thermostat is definitely on the pricey side, with the chance to skyrocket even higher if your home has multiple thermostats. Additionally, we have also heard some complaints with the learning feature from some users, especially those that 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 full review: Nest Learning Thermostat

Best Bang for the Buck


Nest Thermostat E


The Nest Thermostat E.
Best Buy Award

$169
List Price
See It

Colors: Frosted White | Battery Backup: Built-in, rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Extraordinarily accurate
Stylish but subtle design
Easy to install
Limited color options
The display isn't the easiest to read

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 the $250 of Nest's 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 of these products.

Read full review: Nest Thermostat E

Best on a Tight Budget


Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable


Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable
Best Buy Award

$69.00
(31% off)
at Amazon
See It

Colors: White | Battery Backup: No
Very accurate
Inexpensive
Good for remote access
Harder to use
Uninspiring appearance

Searching for a minimalistic smart thermostat that forgoes all the bells and whistles? Shopping on a budget? If either of those are 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 options 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 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 9 best thermostats currently on the market today and put them through a series of side-by-side tests to determine overall scores from 0-100.

Some of the top thermostats  ready to go on our testing board.
Some of the top thermostats, ready to go on our testing board.

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.

Value


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, retailing for about $225 and $170 respectively. 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 offering from Nest are still to 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.

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 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.

The Nest Thermostat E, Johnson Controls Glas, and the Ecobee4 all scored slightly above average, with this trio of devices all meriting a 6 out of 10 for this set of assessments. The Ecobee4 — the 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 Learning Thermostat.

The setup prompts on the Ecobee4 were a vast improvement to the Ecobee3.
The setup prompts on the Ecobee4 were a vast improvement to the Ecobee3.

Only a tiny bit more difficult to use that its sibling, 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 have the ability to 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.

The setup process  once it is mounted  is made quite easy with a series of prompts.
The setup process, once it is mounted, is made quite easy with a series of prompts.

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 can definitely pick up fingerprints and require semi-regular cleanings. We also weren't huge fans of the scheduling, as you don't have the options 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.

The scheduling isn't the most intuitive.
The scheduling isn't the most intuitive.

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 touchscreen interface makes this Sensi easier to use than its predecessor.
The touchscreen interface makes this Sensi easier to use than its predecessor.

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 it out what we needed to do to set up the WiFi. It is relatively easy to use the mobile app, but is far from intuitive when trying to configure anything on the device itself.

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

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 both see and understand the information that is displayed.

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 actually 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.

It was significantly easy on almost all the models to adjust the current temperature setpoint, 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, while the Nest thermostats 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 products 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 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. 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, which are both fairly common systems.

The Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Thermostat E both tied for the top score overall in this category, earning an 8 out of 10. These models did not have the most responsive support, as mentioned above. However, they both 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.

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 out 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.

The white trim plate can be used to hide imperfections on your wall.
The white trim plate can be used to hide imperfections on your wall.

Next, both of the Ecobee models earned a 6 out of 10. Ecobee was the first to respond to our customer service inquiries, 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. The installation isn't too bad, but the WiFi setup can occasionally troublesome.

Finishing out the group, both the Honeywell models 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 — 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 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.

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, 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 GLAS, Ecobee3, Ecobee4 and the Nest's fell somewhat short, with the interface through the application mirroring the interface on the device itself. Both Nest models and the GLAS merited a 6 out of 10, while the Ecobee's earned a 5 out of 10. We found the split between temperature and timing on the GLAS, Ecobee3 and Ecobee4 to be 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 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.

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 Learning Thermostat, GLAS, Nest Thermostat E, 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, 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 the wifi 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.

Three of the models that we tested, the Nest Learning Thermostat, Nest Thermostat E, and the Honeywell 7-Day did exceptionally well, all earning a fantastic score of 9 out of 10 in our tests. The Nest models were typically within .5 degrees of our thermometer, with the Nest rounding to the nearest whole degree. The Honeywell 7-day matched the performance of the Nest's throughout our accuracy testing, maintaining the same margin of error. The GLAS was right behind, usually only showing a slightly larger discrepancy than the NEST models. 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.

The Ecobee4 was usually within a degree of the control thermometer.
The Ecobee4 was usually within a degree of the control thermometer.

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 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