For many years, thermostats were one of the simplest parts of home heating and cooling systems. In the past, a person would dial a manual thermostat to the temperature of his or her choosing, and the furnace or A/C would click on at approximately the given temperature. More recently, digital thermostats have succeeded their manual predecessors, as they offer more precise temperature settings and more programming options. With the influx of smart technologies, you can now elect to control your temperature changes via a mobile app or through your home’s Wi-Fi network. At Bradley Mechanical, we are often asked about the difference between programmable thermostats and smart thermostats. The following explains the features of programmable thermostats and then describes the added advantages of smart thermostats, so you can decide which is the best way to regulate the HVAC system in your home.
The first digital thermostats improved on older manual models by offering a digital display. While manual thermostats gave a ballpark estimation, the digital display allowed you to choose when you want your heater or your A/C to turn on with an accuracy of around 1°F. A programmable thermostat improves on the digital thermostat by allowing you to turn on and off your HVAC at different temperatures throughout the day. For instance, you can set your heater to run minimally during the work day, then have it warm up in anticipation of your return. In summer, you can cool your home in the morning and the evening, and let it be warmer during the middle of the day when nobody is home, This makes a programmable thermostat more energy efficient, while keeping your house comfortable when you are home. The main drawback to programmable thermostats is that they are unwieldy, difficult to use, and even more complicated when they offer more features.
Like programmable thermostats, a smart thermostat gives you total control of your home’s heating and and air conditioning system. While programmable thermostats have a cumbersome interface with features that are difficult to use, a smart thermostat can be likened to a smartphone: it is intuitive, it offers you more control, is more fully-featured, and integrates into your daily life seamlessly. A smart thermostat also allows you to:
- Control your heating and cooling remotely. You can adjust the temperature of your home on the go with a mobile app.
- Make heating and cooling changes simply. The interface of a smart thermostat is intuitive and easy to navigate.
- Monitor your energy usage. You can get information about your energy consumption and home climate in real-time, wherever you are.
- Use “adaptive technology.” Some smart thermostats have technology called advanced learning, which remembers your previous behavior and makes adaptations for the future.
The main detraction for smart thermostats is their price. Programmable thermostats run at about $90-$150, while smart thermostats run at about $200-$300. That said, the intuitive design and real-time stats can help you optimize your energy usage and help you save that extra cost within a couple of years. Ultimately, it comes down to your budget, your lifestyle, and your comfort with technology.