February 27, 2020

Smart Thermostats Are A Wonderful Solution To Crazy Bay Area Winters

When it comes to adding intelligent thermostats to your home, there’s quite a lot to think about.

With cold winter nights bearing down on many San Francisco Bay Area cities last month — along with 80 degree temperatures somehow in the forecast for this week, thermostats are in high demand. We’ve all had to fiddle with temperature settings on ancient thermostats, but thankfully there’s no longer a need to. Believe it or not, your phone can do it all with the proper smart home equipment. All you need is a smart thermostat device, and there are many options popping up in the new decade.

When weather can vary this much between years, you need a thermostat that can do it all. (NBC)

How smart do you want your smart thermostat?

It’s possible to do nearly anything with a smart thermostat in 2020. That being said, a very good question to ask yourself is what features do you need when it comes to yours. Some people have full-fledged smart home systems augmented with every home automation device imaginable. For those homes, it’s possible to get an app-controlled smart thermostat that can be programmed to do any number of functions. These additional options cost a bit more, however.

Why a smart thermostat?

You may ask yourself why you need to add a smart thermostat in your home. After all, thermostats all have the same basic function. Have you ever come home after a trip to a home that feels sub-zero when the fog has drifted all the way to Atherton? With a smart thermostat, the pain of a cold home is gone. During a heat wave, trying to suffer through waiting for the AC to turn on after you get home from your nice and cool office can feel like torture, but you don’t want to keep the air on all day because of the astronomical bill that will come at the end of the month. The ability to simply set your home’s temperature while you’re sitting in traffic is a blessing that once you get to enjoy, you’ll never want to give up.

"Have you ever come home after a trip to a home that feels sub-zero when the fog has drifted all the way to Atherton?"

Which smart thermostat do I choose?

Savant Multistat

Savant is a company that can really do it all. Because Savant does so much in terms of whole-home connectivity, the Savant Multistat is a must have addition to everything the Savant app allows a homeowner to do. A perfect option for a fully automated home, a Savant thermostat offers unparalleled functionality. Offering full WiFi and Bluetooth functionality, there’s a lot that the Savant Multistat offers that competitors do not. If you want to expand on something like the Savant scenes, which allow your home to turn on various components and change settings specifically for a certain need — the thermostat is a must have. For example, most people have a “good morning” mode on their Savant app. Turning this scene on not only turns on shades, lights, and more — it’ll adjust the temperature accordingly with a thermostat in place. This ability is extremely useful, and many other smart thermostat brands do not include this advanced functionality. Savant is a very proprietary system though, meaning that it doesn’t work well with generic WiFi and other network settings. You’ll need to either use the full range of Savant products or ones that provide integration to Savant’s technology such as Lutron — making for a very expensive combination. If you can afford it however, the system will always work perfectly for your every need.

Savant can be controlled from wall mounted iPad's, offering even more functionality in addition to their thermostats.

Ecobee

An interesting alternative to the well known brands of Savant and Google is the simple and powerful Ecobee smart thermostat. If you’re looking for something with functionality with multiple devices, then the Ecobee is right for you. It integrates harmoniously with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT (among many others). It also doubles as an Alexa speaker instead of requiring integration with an additional Amazon Echo, Dot, and any other Amazon smart home product. Currently two different versions of the speaker are available, the Ecobee3 Lite — which drops a few features with a bonus drop in price, and the Ecobee4 fully featured flagship model.

The Ecobee3 Lite offers a lot less functionality than their flagship option — not coming with a remote and what’s known as “smart adjustments” which change temperatures to better accommodate your daily routines. That being said, it still offers full compatibility with any Amazon, Apple, or Samsung product. At $169, it’s the cheapest option available to give your home a smart thermostat feel, although we have to be fair and say that it’s only about half as smart as the Ecobee4.

The Ecobee4 is the prized possession of Ecobee’s thermostat line — offering quite a lot in comparison to competitors. Many people who’ve installed it in their homes have found it to be a secondary hub for their everyday activities even. Considering the integrated Alexa speaker can do just about as much as any other — there’s very little reason to not use it. At $249 it is priced the same as the Google Nest Learning Thermostat. The Ecobee4 however offers quite a bit more in terms of functionality, making it the leader for a do-it-all thermostat option. The entire Ecobee thermostat device is very easy to set up and connect to your existing devices as well, something that the competitors haven’t quite figured out yet.

Tons of functionality on the Ecobee dash (via cnet)

Google Nest Learning Thermostat

Google’s own smart thermostat option, known as the Google Learning Thermostat, offers a natural extension of their own smart home system. As mentioned previously, in terms of functionality, the thermostat works with Google Assistant along with Alexa, however it does have one major drawback: It doesn’t work with the Apple HomeKit system. For some this won’t matter, but for others this might be a deal breaker. Considering the price of this thermostat is the same as the Ecobee flagship model, despite having a much more well known branding, many people might want to take the leap of faith and try that system out instead.

Because Google is a more established brand, people may take solace in knowing that their support needs will be easily met by the Google support team if they have any issues in their thermostat and network. If you already own the Google Nest WiFi system which currently is called the “Google Nest Mesh Router System” (previously known much more simply as Google WiFi), then your system will integrate with WiFi easier than a third party option. Knowing the capabilities of your existing system is a very good indicator for if the Google Nest Learning Thermostat is right for your home network.

Simple, and effective.

Which smart thermostat is right for you?

Depending on your individual home needs you’ll be able to make the decision much easier. Homes already outfitted with Savant and things like wall-mounted iPad's will much likely enjoy a Savant system that talks to the rest of the home, instead of throwing an entirely new system in there. For those with Lutron integrated in their Savant system as well, you’ll find the switches will work with the Savant Smart Thermostat much easier than anything else. For all the rest of you, between the Ecobee and the Nest Learning Thermostat — there’s a lot to think about. The Ecobee’s ability to integrate seamlessly with multiple home systems, along with doubling up as its own Amazon Alexa, may make it the most versatile yet. Beyond that, the Google Nest system will play well with a home outfitted in other Google products, and may make for less of a headache when it comes to syncing everything together. The Google name offers strong product support and replacement in case anything goes wrong. Make sure do some research, and decide which option sounds best for keeping your home comfortable. Depending on what part of the Bay Area your home is located, the weather can go between some real foggy-cold and blazing valley heat extremes, so a smart thermostat in your Hillsborough or Palo Alto home can be a lifesaver on some of the craziest Bay Area seasons.