What Are the Main Features of a Smart Thermostat?

HVAC Logo IconBy Tom MoorMarch 1, 2024
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Woman adjusting smart thermostat

Thermostat technology has come a long way in a short time, evolving from simple manual controls to programmable options, and finally to smart thermostats, which have become increasingly popular over the past decade for their enhanced comfort, convenience, and energy-saving capabilities.

But what do smart thermostats do exactly that elevates them above their manual and programmable thermostat counterparts? HVAC.com offers a comprehensive guide highlighting their unique features and benefits.

What Is a Smart Thermostat?

Smart thermostats offer capabilities above and beyond that of programmable thermostats, keeping homeowners connected and aware of their comfort and energy settings with little effort involved.

Smart thermostats offer a variety of useful features, such as Wi-Fi connectivity, maintenance alerts, data on energy use, and even the ability to learn your family’s comfort needs.

What Do Smart Thermostats Do Compared to Other Types?

Let’s explore in greater detail some of the features that smart thermostats provide to homeowners.

Wireless Connectivity

One of the coolest features about a smart thermostat is its Wi-Fi capabilities, which allow you to control the unit from your smartphone or tablet from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. If you forget to adjust the temperature before you leave for work or vacation, simply pull out your smartphone and adjust it accordingly.

Effortless Programming

Like a programmable thermostat, a smart thermostat also allows you to pre-schedule the thermostat based on the time of day and the day of the week for increased convenience and energy savings. For example, during the summer, you can set the temperature to 75 degrees from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while you’re at work and have it automatically lower to 68 when you return home. This feature keeps you comfortable without the need to manually adjust temperatures or set schedules on your part.

Utilizing Data

Many smart thermostat models compile monthly data reports regarding your energy usage. The information tells you when you’re using the most energy so you can make necessary adjustments to your HVAC system usage to maximize savings.

Maintenance Alerts and Diagnostics

Smart thermostats provide alerts about maintenance and repairs by monitoring system performance and detecting any irregularities or malfunctions, such as unusual energy consumption patterns or HVAC equipment malfunctions. These alerts can help homeowners address issues promptly, potentially preventing costly repairs or untimely system breakdowns.

Learning Capabilities

Modern smart thermostats can even learn your family’s temperatures over time and make automatic adjustments for increased convenience and savings. You won’t even need to lift a finger!


Smart thermostats with geofencing capability use the GPS location of your smartphone to detect when you enter or leave a predefined area around your home, automatically adjusting temperature settings accordingly.

Voice Control Capabilities

Most smart thermostats allow homeowners to adjust their thermostat using voice commands through virtual assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Is a Smart Thermostat Worth the Cost?

It’s no secret – a smart thermostat costs more than manual or programmable models. Some smart thermostats feature easy installation that a homeowner can complete on their own, while others require professional smart thermostat installation, further raising your costs.

Installing a smart thermostat can lead to significant energy savings over time, potentially allowing the device to pay for itself. Whether you currently have a manual or programmable thermostat, upgrading to a smart thermostat can be worthwhile due to its ability to optimize system adjustments and reduce energy waste.

Actual savings will vary from home to home based on factors such as temperature preferences and energy costs. However, according to ENERGY STAR, upgrading to an ENERGY STAR-certified smart thermostat can save you about 8% on your heating and cooling costs per year.

Top-rated Smart Thermostats

Some of the top-rated smart thermostats include:

  • Google Nest Learning Thermostat
  • Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat
  • Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium
  • Amazon Smart Thermostat
  • Google Nest Thermostat
  • Honeywell Home T9 Smart Thermostat
  • Wyze Thermostat
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