Smart Thermostats: Are They Worth the Cost?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated January 20, 2022
Man using smart home screen
Photo: .shock / Getty Images


  • Smart thermostats typically cost between $130 to $500.

  • Studies show that smart thermostats may save around 10% to 12% on heating usage and 15% on cooling usage.

  • Micromanaging smart thermostats could erase any potential savings.

  • Some smart features increase the initial cost but also increase your thermostat’s efficiency.

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After rushing out the door, jumping in the car, and heading down the highway to work, you remember that you forgot to lower your thermostat settings before you left. Does this scenario sound familiar?

That’s where smart thermostats come in to save the day with the ability to control your thermostat settings from your smartphone or voice-activated assistant. But while smart thermostats have many desirable features, they cost more than traditional thermostats. If you’re on the fence about installing a smart thermostat, use this guide to help you determine whether they’re worth the cost.

What Is a Smart Thermostat?

A smart thermostat is a thermostat that’s controlled by a smartphone, tablet, computer, or other device using a Wi-Fi connection. You can adjust the thermostat with a few taps on your device, making it possible to change the settings when you’re away from home. 

You can also program some smart thermostats to change the temperature based on a timer or weekly schedule. When beginning your search for a smart thermostat, keep in mind that the price tag will be higher than non-programmable or programmable models. Smart thermostats cost anywhere from $130 to $500, depending on the manufacturer and the device’s features.

Smart Thermostat Features

While all smart thermostats have the ability to connect to a device through an internet connection, each model has its own features for customizing and regulating your home’s indoor temperatures. Keep in mind that the more advanced the features, the higher the cost of the smart thermostat.

Here are a few features to consider when browsing through your smart thermostat options:

  • Keyboard locks: These special locks are designed to keep children from playing with the temperature settings.

  • Vacation mode: This feature allows you to lower your energy usage while you’re away from home for an extended period.

  • Auto-schedule: You can program your thermostat to automatically adjust its settings based on tracking your daily schedule.

  • Alert warnings: This emergency feature alerts you of extreme temperature changes inside the house.

  • Encryption coding: This additional security feature protects the software you use to manage your thermostat.

  • Energy profile: This system will create a detailed map of your home’s energy usage throughout the day. 

  • Room sensors: You can place individual monitor systems in each room to send information to your thermostat that lets you know if there are major temperature differences.

  • HVAC compatibility: This feature connects with your HVAC system to adjust your home’s humidity levels and other aspects.

  • Geofencing: You can set your system to track when you depart and change the temperature before returning home.

How Are Smart Thermostats Different From Non-Programmable and Programmable Models?

A black smart thermostats
Photo: Maridav / Getty Images

When comparing smart thermostats to more conventional thermostats, keep in mind that there are three types of thermostats: non-programmable, programmable, and smart thermostats. 

Non-Programmable Thermostats 

The most basic thermostat on the market is a non-programmable thermostat, also known as a manual thermostat. These thermostats are the most affordable option but they have limited features, meaning you’ll have to manually change the thermostat every time you want to increase or decrease your home’s temperature. 

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats, or digital thermostats, can be set to specific temperatures at certain times of the day, such as when you leave for work or when you arrive home. You can choose from a wide variety of programs, with some devices featuring more customizations than others.

Smart Thermostats

Smart thermostats are a level up from the previous thermostats, with more customization, better features, and the ability to change temperature settings from afar through a Wi-Fi-connected device. In comparison to non-programmable and programmable models, smart thermostats stand out for their convenience, advanced features, and higher price tag.

How Can I Save Money With a Smart Thermostat?

Since smart thermostats allow you to closely regulate your home’s temperature, you’ll likely save money on your monthly electric bill. Though there’s limited data on how much you can save with a smart thermostat, Nest, the makers of the Nest Learning Thermostat, conducted three case studies that show that you can save around 10% to 12% on your heating consumption and approximately 15% on your cooling usage. 

Since heating and cooling account for about 55% of the total energy used in a typical house, shaving off a few percentages of energy consumption can result in noticeable savings on your electric bill.

However, frequently adjusting the settings according to your behavior patterns may nullify any potential savings. The easiest way to achieve energy savings is by setting your smart thermostat on a daily or weekly schedule, and then letting it complete its work uninterrupted.

4 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Smart Thermostat

If you’re not sure whether a smart thermostat is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. If your Wi-Fi or smart thermostat develops a problem, do you know how to troubleshoot and repair it yourself? If not, you’ll need to hire a local HVAC company or thermostat repair service to fix the problem.

  2. Do you enjoy using smart home gadgets? Some people love using smart home technology to maximize home efficiency and cost savings, while others don’t.

  3. Do you often forget to adjust the thermostat? If adjusting your thermostat is part of your daily routine, a programmable thermostat—or even a manual one—may be as economical as a smart thermostat for you. But if you constantly forget to adjust your thermostat or don’t want the daily hassle, a smart thermostat could work for you. 

  4. Do you own or rent your home? If you rent your home, you’ll have to consult your landlord about installing a smart thermostat and potentially pay for the system yourself. 

How to Install a Smart Thermostat

If you consider yourself as an average handyperson, installing your smart thermostat should be a snap. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any roadblocks. If you’re not experienced in installing smart home technology, you can hire a thermostat installer near you to tackle the project and ensure the system is set up correctly.

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