Over the last few years, more than a few smart thermostats have been introduced. The main benefits include automatically adjusting the temperature to maintain indoor comfort, setting back the temperature when you are away from your home, and optimizing energy savings by enabling you to control the temperature from anywhere by using an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. But these features only brush the surface of a smart thermostat’s capabilities. Here’s a look at some of the top new features being incorporated into smart thermostats today.
The ecobee 3 smart thermostat allows you to wirelessly connect sensors in different areas of your home to monitor not only the temperature in those areas, but also the humidity level and motion. The latter ensures that your home’s heating and cooling system delivers the right amount of warm or cool air based on where you and your family are located in your home–not just according to the setting programmed into the thermostat. You place the small sensors where your family spends most of its time, and the sensors detect when there is motion in these areas. The thermostat then adjusts so that you have the right temperature and humidity level where you are, not just in the hallway where the thermostat is located.
“Customers consistently share with us that ecobee3 and its room sensors have improved the comfort of their home,” says Stuart Lombard, president and CEO of ecobee. “With a simple at-home installation and set-up, the room sensors allow users to be comfortable in the rooms that matter most to their family–whether it’s their baby’s nursery or the master bedroom–and address hot and cold spots.”
Building Better Habits
To reinforce energy savings, manufacturers of several smart thermostats have engineered their products to indicate that you have selected an energy-savings setting. For example, on the Nest thermostat, a small green leaf appears on it and its companion mobile app when it is saving energy. If you want, Nest will send you an email each month to see how your energy savings compares with other homes with Nest thermostats.
Digital Photo Frame
Like most smart thermostats, the Venstar ColorTouch series of thermostats, pictured at top, boasts an attractive color LCD touchscreen that can display various thermostat settings. A bonus feature: When you aren’t actively interacting with the thermostat settings, the Venstar’s screen can display a favorite photo, so instead of looking at buttons and temperature readings on the wall, you can enjoy a digital photo frame.
Honeywell’s Lyric thermostat includes a feature called geofencing that works with your smartphone. When your phone is a predetermined distance away from your home, whether 500 feet or seven miles, the thermostat goes into its Away mode. This setting reduces unnecessary heating or cooling when the home is unoccupied to maximize energy savings. When you and your phone come back across this “fence,”’ the thermostat goes back to its normal setting.
Home Automation Hub
Part of Nexia Home Intelligence’s family of home automation products is the dealer-installed Trane ComfortLink XL824 smart thermostat. Its first distinctive feature is the Nexia Home Bridge, which can wirelessly control Z-Wave devices in your home, including, among others:
- Light switches and dimmers
- Electronic door locks and garage door openers
- Security devices, including motion sensors, and indoor and outdoor security cameras
- Motorized window treatments
- Pool and spa controls
The XL824 can also display weather information, complete with color radar and a five-day forecast. Another perk: A professional installer can remotely diagnose the thermostat to see if there are any problems, often before you are even aware that there is an issue with your heating and cooling system. “Nexia is focused on making our users’ daily lives more convenient, more comfortable, and more efficient,” says George Land, general manager at Ingersoll Rand Nexia Intelligence. “By integrating the Nexia Bridge right into the Trane XL824 thermostat, we can offer our smart home gateway and advanced HVAC diagnostics in one elegant and powerful package. Nexia users have the peace of mind knowing that their dealer can remotely catch HVAC issues to ensure optimum system performance at all times.”
From functioning as a home automation hub to posing as a digital photo frame, smart thermostats are bundling in more than just energy savings and comfort features. This new generation of smart thermostats can handle all the traditional heating and cooling functions you’d expect, but with some fun, convenient, innovative perks that’ll enhance your lifestyle in ways you may have never imagined. EH
Bob Gatton has been involved in the consumer electronics industry for over 20 years. His experience includes working for retailers, manufacturers, as a custom installer, and a writer for a wide variety of publications.