Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat

Photo of Smart Thermostats

As the weather starts shifting again towards the warm end of the thermometer, it is easy to find oneself too spent to bother locating the A/C remote. Most people would love to be able to keep their homes at a permanently perfect temperature – yet, this can easily cause outrageous electricity bills and a lot of confusion about the options in our HVAC systems.

Fortunately, there is now a simpler way to adjust the temperature in your home with a simple voice command and a well-placed temperature sensor. Automated “smart home” appliances can help us get our entire home working like a clock. Although fully-featured thermostats usually require a big investment, our team of reviewers has found a few inexpensive, yet reliable options online.

What’s the Point of a Smart Thermostat?

Just like any other smart home device, a smart thermostat allows you to control your home’s temperature using precise commands and room sensors.

Usually, a smart thermostat will create a Wi-Fi bridge between your existing temperature control system and your home’s wireless network. Depending on how you set it up, you can then use this connection to:

  • Keep your home’s temperature at a constant level
  • Turn on the A/C or heating remotely, to arrive at a comfortable home.
  • Set up automatic schedules
  • Monitoring energy consumption
  • Synchronizing the day’s settings with local weather apps

Not all these settings are available in budget smart thermostats. Many of these options may require you to get additional remote sensors. However, as they are geared towards energy efficiency, they will end up saving you money.

Our Picks for the Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat System

Honeywell Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (RTH6580WF)

As a company, Honeywell has always been at the forefront of home automation and environmental controls. With this thermostat, the company offers a very basic, but effective, control panel that can receive commands via Wi-Fi.

After installing this thermostat, you will need to install the Total Connect Comfort app to access most other features. From the app, you will able to schedule your A/C or heating usage up to a week in advance. In addition, you can also turn it off completely from your phone – which can help you salvage your bill if you ever leave town without double-checking your thermostat settings.

In addition, the app generates periodic reports on energy savings. Depending on where you live, this may help you access special rebates.

The main control panel is very simple, and it doesn’t look very different from “non-smart” thermostat panels. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant – and Alexa, in particular, will allow you to install many different voice commands. This includes a basic instant shut-off, but also turning off the fan or adjusting the temperature to a specific degree.

The simplicity comes with an extra perk: if your internet ever goes down, the panel will continue working, just without remote commands. However, the initial installation is not easy, as these thermostats require a C wire.

ProsCons
Simple and easy to use.Limited settings.
Offers energy savings reports.You may need an electrician if you don’t have a c wire installed.
Works with most existing HVAC systems.
Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat

Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat for Smart Home

Easy to install and to operate, the Emerson Sensi Smart Thermostat offers a quick way to control HVAC systems. However, it has a few limitations when it comes to heating systems.

The main control panel connects to your home’s Wi-Fi quickly. When connected to a conventional heating or cooling system (like an electric furnace or a split A/C unit), it will not require a C-wire. You can also use it to control a boiler or heat pump, but in such cases, the installation will be slightly more difficult.

The Emerson Sensi looks gives away its technological capabilities at first glance, as it looks decidedly different from most thermostats. However, the array of buttons and numbers will remain intuitive.

The paired smartphone app is decidedly more impressive, as it combines a remote control that is compatible with many appliances at once. It will also generate energy consumption reports on a daily basis. It can also create customized alerts for any significant energy fluctuations or ongoing extreme temperatures.

The app itself works with both Android and iOS devices. The thermostat works with Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, and the Apple Homekit. However, it doesn’t offer ITTT (If this then that) compatibility.

ProsCons
Can be installed in 30 minutes or less.It doesn’t have many available settings to control heating.
Doesn’t always need a C-Wire.It requires an additional hub to accept voice commands.
Compatible with many different devices.
Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat

Vine 5th Generation Smart Home Thermostat

The ultra-modern Vine 5th Generation uses a high-end chip and creative design to turn your regular heating and cooling systems into a fully-developed environmental control central.

At first glance, the Vine looks very similar to the early Nest learning thermostat models: on one side, it features a dark touchscreen that displays all the ongoing temperature control options, plus the current conditions at the house (temperature, humidity, and expected fluctuations for the day). Next is a touch dial, where you can adjust the temperature by sliding your finger up or down.

The installation is remarkably simple, especially if you already have a C-wire. However, most reviewers found that it took more than the promised 30 minutes. If you are synchronizing it with more than one A/C unit, or if you also want to pair it with an air purifier or dehumidifier, the installation time can easily double.

After installing the button pad, you will need to install the VINE app on your Android smartphone or iPhone. This app can act as both remote control and a way to monitor energy consumption. VINE claims that using this thermostat can shave off up to 20% of the total amount of energy used by your A/C. However, this promise only holds if you are actively checking the usage reports and acting on them.

You can also pair up this smartphone with Alexa and Google Assistant. Reviewers seemed mostly happy with the way the main panel looks and remarked that the app is very easy to use. Some users reported that the temperature displayed on the main screen and the one shown in the app can occasionally desync.

ProsCons
Looks very modern and elegant.Synchronization problems between the control app and the device.
Doesn’t require additional batteries.Pricey.
Easy to operate.
Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat

Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat

The Ecobee3 Lite is probably on the upper edges of what we would consider affordable. However, for those who are willing to make the extra investment, it offers a stylish way to control their home environment while saving energy.

At first glance, the Ecobee 3 looks nothing like the thermostats most people have – instead, it looks more like something the SS Enterprise ought to have. The sleek matte screen can easily switch between a “quick glance” that shows current temperatures, a full weather forecast for the entire week, or a thorough report on energy consumption for the month.

Under ideal circumstances, the ecobee promises to help each household save up to 23% of the total energy allocated to temperature control. This is further coupled with a custom system that can alert you of possible malfunctions in your HVAC or heating system – from a clogged filter to a wiring problem.

The Ecobee comes with its remote control app, which is available for both Android and iOS.

ProsCons
Incredibly pleasant design.Less affordable.
Through energy reports.Ecobee3 Lite does not support humidifier.
Very flexible touchscreen display.
Best Inexpensive Smart Thermostat

Is Your Home Ready for a Smart Thermostat?

If the possibility of savings and voice control sounds like something you’d be interested in, then go for it! Before you hit “order”, however, you should check whether your home is ready for a smart thermostat.

The first two requirements are a steady wireless internet connection and a good smartphone. Most manufacturers of smart thermostats have their app meant to help you control their products. The overwhelming majority of these apps are available for both Android and iOS – but if you have a slightly older phone, you should check your version compatibility.

Next, if you already have any other “smart home” appliances at home, look for something in the same brand first. This will prevent you from having to install any extra app for each device.

Then, check out the electrical components required by your heating and cooling appliances, as well as the model you want to get. Some models require a C wire – although as a general rule, any battery-powered control panels will likely not require this.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Final Thoughts

A thermostat can help you operate your heating, air conditioning, and dehumidifiers, all from one unified panel. Switching to a “smart” version will make all these controls simpler and more precise. This can result in greater convenience – after all, Alexa is the closest we will ever get to a robot butler – plus more efficient use of your resources.

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