Smart thermostats are probably one of the most well-known and widely owned pieces of smart home technology after smart meters and smart speakers. While smart speakers are incredibly useful and fun, the reason why the other two are so popular is simple: They save significant amounts of money when used right. As an added bonus, the smart thermostat also makes your home more comfortable, especially in cold weather. This is why we would recommend them as one of the first pieces of smart home technology for people to consider. If you don’t have one, get one.
Why do I need a smart thermostat?
Let’s look at why we’re so confident in saying this.
One-time investment for long-term savings
Smart thermostats, like smart meters, are one-time investments that save you money in the long term and pay for themselves quite quickly. This is part of the reason why we recommend buying one. They cost anywhere from £50 to £250+ and estimates of the annual savings they offer range from £40 to £110, or from 8.4% to 31% of your bill. Of course, the amount saved is different for everyone depending on their home, and current and future heating use. The more luxuriant you are already with your heating, the more you will benefit from a smart thermostat’s savings without having to give up on those creature comforts.
Did someone mention creature comforts? They are another big part of the smart thermostat’s attraction.
When was the last time you had to do that freezing cold, early-morning run to the thermostat to switch the heating on? Smart thermostats make that as much a thing of the past as is possible, thanks to remote controls and links to phones and smart speakers, as well as the ability to learn your schedule and needs. You can turn your heating on from the comfort of your bed before pressing snooze on your alarm and relaxing until the house warms up. The smart thermostat makes many other small changes to your day-to-day life, too. All of these can add up to a big improvement in your lifestyle.
What does a smart thermostat do?
A smart thermostat is a network-connected device that allows you to control your heating system remotely, as well as automatically adjusting your heating system. The network connection allows it to connect to other devices in your home, such as smart speakers and phones, allowing you to conveniently control your heating using voice commands and mobile apps.
Automation and artificial intelligence
Some smart thermostats are automated using settings you input combined with a simple computer program. Meanwhile, some throw artificial intelligence (AI) into the mix so they can learn what you want and need from your heating and how best to deliver it.
For example, many thermostats learn how fast your home heats up, then turn the heating on at the ideal moment to be at the perfect temperature when you need it to be. Some also turn off when not needed in a particular area, or at a particular time, to conserve energy. This can provide significant savings and peace of mind. No more wondering if you turned the heating off before you went away for the weekend.
Energy Star Rating
With all of these functionalities and AIs, smart thermostats can get awfully … well, smart. But it’s important not to forget to do the basics well. This is where the Energy Star rating comes in. It is awarded to smart thermostats (and old-fashioned ones) that provide all essential functionalities and do the basics well. It’s the most definitive unofficial thermostat standard. It’s not essential, and lots of great smart thermostats don’t have it, but it is a good indicator of basic quality.
The organisation’s site says the following:
ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostats are required to:
- Work as a basic thermostat in absence of connectivity to the service provider.
- Give residents some form of feedback about the energy consequences of their settings.
- Provide information about HVAC energy use, such as monthly run time.
- Provide the ability to set a schedule.
- Provide the ability to work with utility programs to prevent brownouts and blackouts, while preserving consumers’ ability to override those grid requests.
They must also achieve a temperature accuracy of within 2⁰ Fahrenheit and meet criteria relating to low power consumption and percentage energy savings. These requirements are too complex to lay out here, but they can be found on the site.
Smart thermostat drawbacks
There are some drawbacks to smart thermostats. First, they are more expensive than manual thermostats. However, the difference is small at the lower end and the premium thermostats often do justify the extra outlay in terms of the extra comfort they bring to your home life.
Perhaps more relevant, smart thermostats can be complex to choose, set up and familiarise yourself with. Not every smart thermostat works with every heating system. Systems with in-line voltage thermostats and ones without C-wires (common wires) can be particularly hard to replace.
Not every thermostat works with every smart control system and smart speaker, either. Ones manufactured by companies who also make the smart controllers and speakers can be particularly incompatible. For example, Amazon’s thermostats only work with Amazon Alexa products.
Of course, these drawbacks are far outweighed by the significant home comforts and financial savings offered by smart thermostats. If you can replace a light switch and install a computer app, you can probably manage the installation. If you’re not into taking on the installation and familiarisation process though, it’s probably worth calling in an installer and integrator like us. We pride ourselves on picking the perfect solutions and working personably with our customers to ensure they are happy and familiar with the systems we fit. Take a look at our heating page or book a support call to find out how we can help.
There are a range of great smart thermostats. However, Baker Stone recommends the Zentium and Ursium thermostats by Polar Bear Design. These thermostats bring the best of classical design to smart thermostats. This means they look good, but it also ensures that everyone who is familiar with old-fashioned thermostats can learn to use them easily. With their big, chunky dial and smooth screen, they combine the best of smart thermostats with the best of traditional ones. You can learn more about them on our Baker Stone Recommends blog.
That warm feeling you get when you work as a team
Like many pieces of smart home technology, smart thermostats work well on their own, but they provide the greatest benefits when paired with other pieces of smart technology. We’ve already covered the benefits of pairing them with a smart speaker or control hub. This allows you to turn the heating on and off conveniently from the warmth of your bed or on the way out of the door.
Connections to phones, smart doorbells and security systems lets the system know where you are in your home and turn different heaters on and off accordingly, as well as closing down the moment everyone leaves. This can save significant amounts of energy easily. Curtain and blind automation pairings can make your home even more energy efficient while smart lighting linkups can allow you to create the perfect sensory ambience in your living space.
When they’re made, these links can change your life, making it easier, more comfortable and less awkward. They may sound complex. With the help of Baker Stone though, creating a smart heating system that works well on its own and in harmony with other smart systems is simple and rewarding. Look at our smart heating page and book a design call with us to start planning yours today.