It’s hard not to crank up the heat when it’s 10 degrees outside ⏤ especially with kids in the house. The mere thought of little ones shivering in their cribs makes even the most miserly (and/or eco-conscious) parent throw caution to the wind when adjusting the thermostat. The problem, of course, is that the utility company doesn’t care about your parental responsibilities ⏤ and your family’s finances may be strained when that outrageous heating bill finally comes due.
So, how can you keep kids cozy during the winter (and cool in summer) without going broke ⏤ other than sweaters, space heaters, and good insulation? Being mindful of how you use your heat and air conditioning, especially when asleep or away from the house, is key. And one way to fine tune that usage is by installing a smart thermostat, which do far more than simply run the furnace on a set schedule. Most of today’s smart ‘stats work over wifi, are controlled (from anywhere) using a smartphone or tablet, and can be integrated with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homekit. They learn your daily schedule, detect movement in specific rooms (and adjust the temp accordingly), and can even turn down the heat when the lights go out. And in the process, they save you real cash on your bills. Plus, you never have to worry about accidentally leaving the heat or A/C on when you go on vacation.
But which ones will pay for themselves over time and/or are worth the effort to install? Here are five we think fit ⏤ and will lower ⏤ your bill.
Works With: Amazon Alexa/Echo, Google Home
Nest Labs Learning Thermostat debuted in 2011 and was an immediate game changer ⏤ so much so that Google eventually bought the company. Now in its third generation, it only takes the Nest a couple of days to learn your schedule before automatically adjusting the temperature based on your comings and goings. It uses geofencing to turn down the heat when you leave, looks fetching on the wall, and claims to have “saved people an average of 10% to 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills.” One of the Nest’s only downsides is it doesn’t work with Apple Homekit.
Mysa Smart Thermostat
Works With: Amazon Alexa/Echo, Google Home, Google Home, Apple Homekit
The idea behind Mysa is that by equipping different areas of your home with multiple Mysa thermostats, you create zones that can be heated or cooled independently to save money. Mysa learns your schedule and keeps the playroom warm before bed but turns it down when the lights go out ⏤ a feature that is especially useful for large homes in which certain areas may not be in use around the clock. Mysa offers a comprehensive approach to home heating a home but requires buying several units and may call for a little extra electrical work.
Works With: Built in Alexa, Google Home, Apple Homekit
Instead of relying on a learning algorithm like Nest, the Ecobee employs sensors to detect which rooms are in use and then adjusts the heat accordingly. That way the temperature reading in a hallway (where the thermostat is traditionally mounted) isn’t controlling heat in the living room or kitchen, which may be decidedly cooler. Also, rather than just syncing with Amazon’s Alexa like some other companies, the Ecobee has it built right in ⏤ so it can both keep you warm and add hot cocoa to your shopping list.
Honeywell Lyric Wifi Thermostat
Works With: Amazon Alexa/Echo, Google Home, Apple Homekit
Honeywell has been a trusted name in home electrical, heating, and security systems for years, so it’s not surprising that they got into the smart home market. Its thermostat, the Lyric, uses geofencing to adjust where and when you need heat and is compatible with nearly every smart home ecosystem on the market. Heads up, though: It does not work with electric baseboard heating systems.
Hive Active Thermostat
Works With: Amazon Alexa/Echo, Google Home
The Hive active thermostat might not be as feature-rich as some of the other models, but it does a nice job and looks good to boot ⏤ the sleek style will match any modern home. In addition to setting daily schedules and special rules for when you’re on vacation, what’s nice about Hive is that it’s sold in full smart home bundles. And depending on the pack, you get everything⏤ from light bulbs and plugs, to cameras and sensors⏤ needed to update the entire house quickly and without a lot of guesswork or extra syncing between ecosystems.