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Ranking Thermostats by I.Q.

Nest, owned by Google, generated quite a bit of publicity this winter— the hard way. Due to a software bug introduced in its latest upgrade, Nest thermostats quit on some customers. The company hastened to fix the problem with its nine-step re-programming instructions, and they even sent an electrician if the customer could not spend the time or energy to do it themselves. 

Clearly, Google believes that programmable thermostats have a future. Analysts say sales of Nest units were running at about 1 million in 2013, and have been doubling each year. Now the company has a new sales strategy: Customers in Ireland can get a free Nest thermostat if they sign a two-year contract with Electric Ireland.

Nest isn’t the only company to bet the ranch on smart thermostats. The Lyric Learning Thermostat, made by Honeywell, and ecobee, which uses Apple’s HomeKit software, are the other two leading brands. 

In a review posted on Tom’s Guide (http://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-smart-thermostats,review-2751.html), the three are ranked #1 (ecobee), #2 (Nest) and #3 (Lyric). The review lists some differences. Lyric costs quite a bit less— $138 on Amazon compared with $242 for the Lyric and Nest— but only earned 7 out of 10 points while Nest and ecobee got 9 out of 10. Why the difference? 

Nest Learning ThermostatEcobee works with multi-zone systems, that’s one reason. The reviewer also liked the fact that the ecobee uses sensors that are placed in individual rooms. This feature helps deliver a more consistent, even temperature.

Each of the thermostats had ‘motion activation’ which means it can sense when there are bodies in the room. The reviewer was impressed with the Nest’s ability to interact with other devices such as a security cam. Lyric, on the other hand, has geofencing— an efficient feature that alerts the HVAC system when your cell phone nears the house or drives away. 

But we would add a caveat. This reviewer writes that all the thermostats can be self-installed. Not a good idea. For one thing, the manufacturers’ warranties are not activated unless the device is professionally installed. For another thing, you will hear horror stories about handy homeowners who lived to regret fiddling with their heat pump or air conditioning system. If you are willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a programmable thermostat, our advice is to call a pro to make sure it’s properly installed.

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