Wi-Fi thermostats aren't just the latest tech gadgets, although they certainly have plenty of cool functions. They are a great way to make your home more energy-efficient. We recently looked at the benefits of installing a Wi-Fi Thermostat as part of your heating system. But what if you want to buy one? We turned to our resident HVAC expert, Keith Hill, the technical support manager at Minnesota Air, for some of the best Wi-Fi thermostats to consider. But first, here are some tips on what to look for in the new generation of thermostats.
There are a lot of Wi-Fi thermostat options available today. Many have been added in the last year or so and more are being added all the time. Features vary from model to model, but here are some of the most common features to look for.
- Of course, the main feature of a Wi-Fi thermostat is its ability to be controlled remotely. That can mean from your smartphone, tablet, and/or desktop. Check to see which apply to the thermostats you’re looking at and know that you may need to download more than one app or program, depending on your devices and the interfaces that are offered by the thermostat itself.
- All Wi-Fi thermostats offer temperature control and basic programming features, like turning your heat down when you’re away and turning it back up before you return home. From there, different models can offer a range of sophisticated features, including the ability to control temperatures by room, alerts if temperatures fall below or rise above desired levels, or provide feedback on your energy usage. Some “smart” thermostats will actually learn your usage patterns and duplicate those settings automatically. Keep in mind which features are most important to you as you research your options.
Pay close attention to the app (or apps) you’ll use to control the thermostat. Keep in mind you’ll be using it for some time to come and you’ll want one that is intuitive and easy to use. It’s a good idea to download apps for the thermostats you’re considering (some even offer demo versions) and check them out before you buy. You can also ask for a demo from an authorized dealer as you close in on your decision. Some things to keep in mind:
- Does the app provide the control and monitoring features that are most important to you?
- Are the features you’ll use most often easily accessible and well labeled?
- Is it easy to read? Are the fonts large enough?
- Are you able to adjust any of the app’s features to suit your use and taste?
Before you make a final decision, make sure the thermostat is compatible with your system. Some staged and modulating furnaces must be paired with a specific thermostat. Also, since Wi-Fi requires more power than a battery can provide, most of these thermostats require extra wires to “power the thermostat” from the low voltage power supply at the furnace. You may want to consult with your heating professional to determine compatibility and whether or not you may need additional wiring.
Keith’s Favorite Wi-Fi Thermostats
We asked Keith which of the new Wi-Fi thermostats he liked best, and here’s what he had to say.
“The Carrier Côr thermostat is my favorite because it’s the most intuitive to use. It has the best app screen views and the most system features, like programmable reminders for maintenance, 'Touch and Go' instant scheduling, local weather on the screen, and alerts that are all customizable. It also has additional features that help with managing your energy costs — like energy analysis through a web portal."
“The very best in Wi-Fi thermostats is the Carrier Infinity I-Touch," he says. "However, it’s a dedicated thermostat that only works on an Infinity furnace. Besides precision temperature and humidity control, both in heating and cooling, it controls airflow, ventilation, indoor air quality, and up to eight zones. It also has several 'smart features' that maximize comfort and efficiency.”