With innovation in personal-use technology clipping along at an unbelievable rate, it’s no surprise that more and more homeowners are buying smart features to bring their homes into the digital age.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reports high-tech household devices “have a big effect on the way we build and renovate homes, and their impact is only going to get bigger.” The association predicts that “within three years, some 43% of homeowners will likely have numerous connected devices in their homes.”

Smart thermostats, thermostats that automate the job of temperature regulation in your home, are one of the most popular smart home upgrades. These devices use modern technology to provide a more comfortable household environment while saving you serious money on your energy bills.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of going digital with your AC and installing a smart thermostat, you’re in luck. We’ll get you up to speed on all the relevant info with this comprehensive overview of smart thermostats and their benefits.

A person using a phone to regulate a smart thermostat.
Source: (Sarah Brown / Shutterstock)

Smart thermostat 101: Here’s how this device works

A smart thermostat’s interface connects to your home’s HVAC system and receives and sends information directly to and from your home’s thermostat control. This interface is typically mounted on your wall and may look like a higher-tech version of your home’s existing HVAC panel. Be wary that these components are usually only compatible with low-voltage HVAC systems. Smart thermostats typically pair with an app for your smartphone, laptop, or other device.

Between the interface and app, you can control your home’s temperature from anywhere with internet connectivity. That means you can keep your plants warm on ski trips or give your pet some cool air while spending time at the beach without running your heater or air-conditioner the entire time.

Higher-end smart thermostats may include other desirable features like AI software that learns your preferences and tracks energy usage and average temperatures to program itself. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reports that these AI-enabled thermostats can calculate the most efficient way to keep your home at a comfortable temperature within a matter of weeks.

Some models track your smartphone and turn on heating or cooling when you’re heading home. Others employ additional sensors throughout your home to achieve better zone control and, consequently, energy savings.

Smart thermostats tend to cut down your energy bills — here’s how much you could save

Apart from convenience, a huge benefit of smart thermostats is energy savings. The average American household spends nearly half of its annual energy bill on heating and cooling — more than $900 a year on average.

Often, residents attempt to cut down on this bill by running their HVAC systems only when necessary, making estimations about the cost of maintaining a comfortable temperature versus heating or cooling the whole house when needed.

A smart thermostat automates this process, taking into account the effects of your home’s insulation, outside temperature trends, and other factors to run your HVAC precisely as heating or cooling is needed.

The result? Significant energy savings. Data from EnergyStar.gov shows that EnergyStar-rated smart thermostats save homeowners an average of 8% annually on their heating and cooling bills. A similar Nest whitepaper including independent studies indicates that homeowners save even more — 10% to 12% on average.

However, both these reports also note that savings depend on your preferences, the average energy costs and temperatures of your region, and the model of your smart thermostat. Even so, it’s reasonable to expect that your smart thermostat will pay for itself in a matter of years.

A home for sale that has a smart thermostat.
Source: (Jonathan Borba / Unsplash)

Your smart thermostat is also likely to incentivize buyers at resale

Although you might not plan on selling your home soon, another major advantage of installing a smart thermostat is that it makes your property more attractive to buyers.

According to a 2018 report from Coldwell Banker, 40% of real estate agents and brokers believe smart homes sell faster, regardless of price. A 2017 study cited in the report indicated that more than four in five brokers and agents surveyed agree that smart home technology streamlines a home sale, and 78.8% say that buyers are willing to pay more for smart homes. According to Consumer Reports, the increase in price could reach as high as 5%.

A smart thermostat may entice younger buyers in particular, who represent a growing portion of homebuyers. According to a 2021 report from the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), millennials now make up the largest share of homebuyers, accounting for 37% of those purchasing homes. Smart home technology, including smart thermostats, appeals to younger buyers who are generally already comfortable with tech and are more interested in saving energy for both ecological and financial reasons.

These smart thermostats are among the most popular options

If these benefits are sounding good to you, it’s time to explore your smart thermostat options. To help you out, we did some research and rounded up a few options with high ratings from customers:

Nest Learning Thermostat 

Price: $250
Customer rating: 4.8/5 on Best Buy

  • A sleek, minimal design
  • Easy integration with products like Alexa and Google Home
  • AI-assisted programming for maximum efficiency

Ecobee Smart Thermostat

Price: $250
Customer rating: 4.5/5 from Reviews.org

  • Built-in Alexa speaker
  • Works with Google Assistant and Siri
  • Compatible with iOS and Android devices

Resideo Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat

Price: $176
Customer rating: 4.5/5 on Amazon

  • Neutral design similar to normal thermostats
  • Option for multiple sensors to improve zone control
  • App available on both Google Play and Apple Store
A google assistant device that is connected to a smart thermostat.
Source: (Sarah PflugBurst)

Compatibility: Connecting your smart thermostat to your other devices

One of the top questions homeowners have when considering upgrading to a smart thermostat is whether or not their new thermostat will work with the devices they already own. Can a smart thermostat readily connect your iPhone? How about to your Alexa, laptop, or even your router?

The answer is probably a “yes.” It’s in the best interest of smart thermostat manufacturers to ensure their devices are compatible with as many devices as possible so that they can sell more units to more people.

However, if you’re concerned about connecting to a particular device, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick Google search to check for compatibility. Just type “Is [name of thermostat] compatible with [name of device]?” into your search bar. If you can’t find the answer, consider calling or emailing the smart thermostat manufacturer to double-check.

One final note on compatibility: If your smart thermostat uses Wi-Fi, make sure it’s close enough to your router. A smart thermostat located too far from the routers may have connectivity issues and fail to auto-regulate the temperature in your home, defeating its entire purpose! If installing the thermostat near a router isn’t an option, consider using a Wi-Fi range extender to improve connectivity.

Altogether, smart thermostats are a smart move

Looking at all of the information holistically, buying a smart thermostat comes with many pros and little to no downside. With the average cost of a smart thermostat sitting between $250 and $350, energy savings of up to 12%, and increased sale prices reaching 5% of pre-existing home value, the investment is a solid investment for homeowners. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the comfort and flexibility of a modernized, high-tech HVAC system keeping your home at the perfect temperature all year long.

Header Image Source: (Maridav / Shutterstock)