The best smart thermostats for 2020

Michael Bizzaco

Smart thermostats are one of the most interactive, economic, and adaptive investments you can make in your smart home. While there’s nothing wrong with conventional thermostats, their smart brethren offer so much more. The very best smart thermostats use your home’s Wi-Fi and powerful sensors to respond to your daily routines, the time of day, and weather conditions. These impressive features all band together to regulate the climate inside your four walls, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the dog days of summer.

With so many different devices available, all promising to revolutionize your life, how can you decide which smart thermostat is best for you?

We’ve taken a closer look at all the top options from the leading manufacturers. Read on, and we’ll help you select the perfect smart thermostat for your busy lifestyle.

At a glance

The best smart thermostat: Ecobee SmartThermostat

$250 from Best Buy

Why we picked the Ecobee SmartThermostat:

There are a lot of reasons to love the Ecobee SmartThermostat. For starters, the install process is pretty painless. Even if you don’t have a C-wire, Ecobee has you covered with a power extender kit included. Plus, the installation instructions are easy to follow, and the setup process is quick.

The SmartThermostat has a responsive touchscreen display with a clean interface. It also has voice control built-in via Alexa, like the previous Ecobee. However, with the SmartThermostat, Alexa can play podcasts, playlists, news, and music from services like Spotify (and it actually has good sound). You can even use your thermostat for features like Alexa Calling, Messaging, and Drop In. However, if you’re not into Alexa, the Ecobee is also compatible with other platforms like Apple HomeKit, Google Home, SmartThings, and IFTTT.

The SmartThermostat also comes with a SmartSensor. If you have hot or cold spots in your home, the sensor can help even things out and make your home more comfortable.

Read our full review of the Ecobee SmartThermostat here.

The best budget smart thermostat: Nest Thermostat E

Smart Home Hubs

$169 from Lowes

Why we picked the Nest Thermostat E:

Nest was seeing a lot of price pressure from its competitors after nearly half a decade at the top of the heap, and that’s likely one of the main reasons the Nest Thermostat E came about. With a cheaper retail price than the Learning Thermostat, it retains a good deal of its functionality at the same price point as most mid-range competitors, even though Nest has ditched the iconic metal enclosure for cheaper plastic.

That’s not to say it looks cheap. If you have white or light-colored walls, the E blends in. The choice to place a diffuse plastic film over the screen gives an almost watercolor-like effect to the display, maintaining its overall subtlety. You won’t get some of the internet connectivity features, but to be honest, we don’t think you’ll miss them.

You’ll still get the learning features of the more expensive models. It works with other Nest and third-party devices. We firmly believe (at least right now) that the Nest Thermostat E is one of the best budget smart thermostats out there.

The best smart thermostat for Google Home: Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd generation)

$218 from Amazon

Why we picked the Nest Learning Thermostat:

We really like the Nest Learning Thermostat because of its learning capabilities. After you install the device and set the temperature you like, the thermostat does the rest. Nest takes note of how you move around your house throughout the week, adjusting the various temperature settings according to the time of day and your habits. With the third-generation model, a new set of sensors called Farsight makes this even more accurate.

Farsight detects when you enter a room or walk past it up to five meters away, a significant improvement over earlier models. Additionally, up to 10 additional sensors can monitor temperatures in other rooms, further optimizing your heating and cooling. You can monitor temperature from a much farther distance thanks to a 3.25-inch screen, a half-inch bigger than previous models.

Like any good friend, the device will offer suggestions designed to save you money. Its ability to adjust the temperature of your home a half hour before you arrive from work only furthers its intuitiveness.

Google and Nest are under one roof, and you can even find deals where you can get a

Nest Thermostat and a Google Home Mini

bundled.

The best Alexa-enabled thermostat: Ecobee4

Ecobee4 smart thermostat close

$241 from The Home Depot

Why we picked the Ecobee 4:

Ecobee 3 was one of our previous favorites for large homes, as it allows you to add up to 32 (no, that’s not a typo) sensors to monitor conditions in large spaces. The Ecobee 4 is essentially the same thermostat in functionality and design, but with an important addition: Amazon’s Alexa voice service. Sure, the newer Ecobee SmartThermostat has an edge over the Ecobee 4 in terms of its Alexa features, but this doesn’t mean the Ecobee 4 isn’t still a great option.

Where the Ecobee 4 still feels a step behind is in its learning capabilities, which is the reason why we’ll still give the edge to Nest. Yes, Alexa is a good feature, but you need to remember that the speaker itself is pretty small and on the back of the device, making it okay for voice queries but not an option to listen to music or anything like that.

We would recommend this unit over the Nest to those who might not already have an Echo. Digital assistant technology is one of those things that you just don’t know how convenient it is until you’ve tried it. Putting it in a thermostat is a neat idea since it’s always located in a central spot in your home.

Read our full review of the Ecobee 4 to learn more.

The best thermostat with HomeKit: Honeywell Lyric

honeywell-lyric-best-of

$189 from Amazon

Why we picked the Honeywell Lyric:

In a nutshell, the

Honeywell Lyric

taps into your location and local weather forecasts via Wi-Fi. The circular device will then anticipate potential temperature changes and compensate for the weather while offering a host of shortcut settings for straightforward programming and operation.

The thermostat features three standard modes — one for when you’re sleeping, one for when you’re leaving your home, and another for when you’re arriving — all of which you can adjust using the mobile app for iOS and Android devices.

The device will adjust accordingly to save you the maximum amount of money, but if you prefer to work outside the box, you can set custom settings to fit your household. Honeywell makes three of the five thermostats that work with SmartThings, including the Lyric. Much like the new Nest, it works with Alexa, but it can also work with HomeKit, which is something we can’t say for Google’s Nest thermostat.

Check out our full review of the Honeywell Lyric.

The smart thermostat with the most features: Johnson Controls GLAS

Terry Walsh/Digital Trends

Why we picked the Johnson Controls Glas:

Looking for a smart thermostat with the most features and flashiest tech? The Glas sets out to impress with a translucent OLED screen, incredible interface and app for control options, and a general design that looks about 100 years ahead of its time.

$220 from Amazon

However, as we noted in our review, the Glas has a great design, but many of these features only reach skin deep. Its actual thermostat features are more on par with the rest of today’s smart thermostats. The Glas offers schedule programming, occupancy sensors to detect people and set automatic schedules if you want, and compatibility with Alexa, Cortana, and Google Assistant. This compatibility includes built-in software, so you can actually talk to these voice assistants on the thermostat like Ecobee allows, although the quality won’t be as good as a dedicated speaker.

One of the most unique (although not unheard of) features Glas brings is indoor air quality monitoring to check not only humidity but also VOCs and CO2. Combine this with outdoor air quality reports on allergens, sunlight, and air quality (which Glas also provides), and you’ll have a great idea just how healthy your air is.

Read our full review of the Johnson Controls GLAS.

The best smart thermostat for window units: Cielo Breez Plus Smart AC Controller

Why we picked the Cielo Breez Plus:

$109 from Amazon

These days, smart thermostats aren’t just for homes with central HVAC systems. Thanks to companies like Cielo Breez, those of us stuck with window air conditioners, ACs on wheels, and mini-splits now have smart options for keeping the house comfy in the summer. The Plus works its magic by way of four infrared sensors that are built into the thermostat. These sensors interact with the infrared signals produced by your portable AC and its remote control, effectively learning the infrared language of your AC brand. All you have to do is mount the Plus module in the room your air conditioner is located in, connect to Wi-Fi, and your smart controls are up and running. Once you download the Cielo app (for iOS and Android), you’ll be able to power your AC on/off, adjust the temperature, set routines, and more, whether on-the-go or nestled on the couch.

Additional capabilities for Alexa and Google Home let you control your ACs with simple voice commands or with your Alexa and Google Home apps. You can even set temperature and humidity triggers that will automatically power your AC when things get too hot or muggy. The icing on the cake with this non-HVAC savant is that once you’ve registered your Plus, you can use the thermostat off-line to control power, fan speed, and temperature. Your bandwidth will sure be happy.

Research and buying tips

Can I install a smart thermostat myself?

Yes. If you have a bit of basic DIY knowledge (enough where you can install a basic light fixture), you can install most smart thermostats, provided you have the correct wiring setup. Here’s how to test your thermostat.

Do I have to have special wiring to install a smart thermostat?

Yes and no. Most smart thermostats require a common wire (C-wire), which allows for continuous flow of 24VAC power to the thermostat. If you have an older home, you may not have a C-wire. Some thermostats don’t require a C-wire; others, like the Ecobee SmartThermostat, include an adapter for homes that don’t have a C-wire. You can also run a wire between your furnace and thermostat or purchase a separate adapter if needed.

Do I need room sensors?

It depends. Typical thermostats measure the home’s temperature in one area of the home, like a hallway or entryway, and use that measurement to heat or cool the entire home. Room sensors are more specific. They measure the temperature in a specific room, like a bedroom or basement, and adjust the temp based on that individual area. If you have a relatively large home or if you have some rooms that don’t heat or cool as well as others, room sensors can help heat or cool your home better. On the other hand, if you live in a smaller space or a wide-open area, room sensors probably aren’t necessary.

What is the best smart thermostat app?

This depends on how advanced you want your system to be. If you want a simple and clean app where you can schedule your heating and cooling and perform basic functions, the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort app is a good choice. However, if you’re looking for something with more features, you may prefer the Nest app.

What is the best smart thermostat on Amazon?

Amazon sells our pick for the best smart thermostat overall, the Ecobee SmartThermostat.

What is the best smart thermostat to save money?

A smart thermostat can save you between 10% to 25% on your heating and cooling costs. Ecobee claims its thermostats save up to 23%. Our testing found the Honeywell Color Thermostat reduced total energy consumption by 15%. How much you’ll save depends on a variety of factors, including how you use your smart thermostat, your heating and cooling preferences, climate, your HVAC system, insulation, the age of your home, and more.

How we test

Smart thermostats aren’t just about how well they regulate temperature; they’re also about saving money and changing temperatures at the right time. When we test them, we take into account several factors, including ease of installation, ease of use, how well they do their job, and whether or not we saw any cost savings during testing.

There’s always a learning period with smart thermostats, so we take those into account and then see how well they do at tracking our comings and goings. Thermostats are often seen as the center of smart ecosystems, so we also test their integrations with lights, locks, and other devices they’re compatible with.

With the addition of compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, we also see how well the thermostats do with voice commands. Overall, we’re looking to see how well these thermostats do with cost savings and how often we have to interact with them once they’ve supposedly learned our habits.

If we’re unable to test a thermostat ourselves, we do our best to scour the web for other reviews and information so we can provide you the best recommendations.