In this article, I review the 3 best smart thermostats for your home.
I also cover how these top 3 thermostats work, how they are different and why one of them may be better for you than the others.
Here are my top 3 picks for smart thermostats:
#1 - Google Nest Learning 3rd Gen.
#2 - ecobee Smart Thermostat
#3 - Google Nest Thermostat E
You might be asking why I ranked the Nest thermostat higher than the ecobee Smart Thermostat.
Well, I have a couple of reasons that I discuss in detail below.
Before I do, I’m going to briefly go over what the best smart thermostats (according to me) do and why it is important to have a smart thermostat in your home.
What smart thermostats do and why they are important
I have had a smart thermostat in my house for probably 5 or 6 years now, and I currently have the Nest 3rd Generation.
What a smart thermostat does, is it allows you to control your heating and cooling from your phone or with voice commands.
Voice command is often something people overlook but you can control any of the thermostats listed in this article with your voice using Alexa and/or Google Home.
There is nothing better than on a cold morning being able to tell Alexa to turn up the heat while you’re lying in bed so that your home is nice and toasty when you get out of bed.
Now, these smart thermostats (the Nest 3rd Gen, ecobee, and Nest E) have a ton of different features – all of them are packed with features.
That said, what they can do is pretty amazing.
All three have auto schedule functions, which will record how you use your thermostat or you can create your own schedule, and they will set those schedules.
There are even programs with these Nest thermostats and the ecobee smart thermostat where you can enrol with some utility providers to save even more energy during peak demand hours, which allows you to save energy or get discounts on your utility bill.
So, there are a ton of things you can do with these smart thermostats.
Let’s discuss each in more detail…
Best Smart Thermostats Reviews
#1 Google Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation
Easy to install
Let’s get into the basics of what the Nest Learning 3rd Generation Smart Thermostat is and why I like this thermostat so much.
The main reason that I give the Nest thermostat 3rd Generation the number one position over the ecobee is not its features.
The Nest and ecobee have comparable features.
Why I give the Nest 3rd Generation the number position is because it is the easiest smart thermostat to install for the average DIYer.
The reason for this is, the Nest 3rd Gen can work with only two wires, or with four wires, seven, even eight or nine wires – which is more than most HVAC systems have.
However, the big component of this is that the Nest 3rd Gen doesn’t always require a common wire.
Basically, a common wire is a neutral wire or a return path for current.
A common wire is sometimes needed for Wi-Fi thermostats because they use so much power to allow the battery in the smart thermostat to charge even when the HVAC system is not running.
Most people (80% to 90%) who use the Nest 3rd Gen Thermostat do not need a common wire, meaning that it is very simple to install it.
Simply take off your old thermostat, take a picture of the wiring, and plug the same wiring you had in your old thermostat into your Nest 3rd Gen smart thermostat.
No need to go into your HVAC system.
With the ecobee thermostat you do need to open up your HVAC system if you don’t have a common wire, and you’ll need to install a common wire adapter or power adapter in there.
While this isn’t too difficult to do – most people should be able to do it – it is a little more difficult for your average DIYer and it may intimidate some people.
So that is the main reason I am giving the Nest Learning 3rd Gen Smart Thermostat the top spot over the ecobee – in my opinion – it is easier to install for most people.
Don’t get me wrong – the ecobee is a great thermostat (as I’ll discuss below) but let’s talk more about the Nest Learning 3rd Gen and how you can use it.
The other thing about the Nest Learning Thermostat that I really like is that it has a beautiful design – it is made from stainless steel and it has a glass face.
Tony Fadell, who started Nest Labs, used to work for Apple and was one of the main designers of the iPod.
The design team took their time when designing the Nest, and it shows! It looks really good in your home.
Now, the ecobee also looks good. It has a more flat face and flat finish with plastic on the outside and plastic/glass screen. However, it doesn’t have the same aura as the Nest 3rd Gen smart thermostat does.
The other thing I really like is that it has a tactile feedback for how to change your temperature i.e. you rotate the outer ring to turn up or down the temperature, which makes it super intuitive to use.
You can control the Nest 3rd Gen thermostat with your phone or Alexa voice commands or Siri if you have the proper app connections.
The Nest 3rd Gen has an auto-schedule feature that creates a schedule based on when you typically use your thermostat.
It has a little motion sensor in there and works with your app and your GPS location to determine when you’re home (and not home) in order to save you energy while you’re away.
And it has a setting called eco-mode which basically turns down your HVAC system to a more energy-efficient temperature when you are away from your home and it no longer detects motion going in front of the sensor or detects that your phone is no longer in the house.
This is a really innovative way to help save you energy.
Another way that it uses its smart features to save you energy is via Nest Airwave, which is a way for you to continue to get cooling without running the most power-consuming part of its HVAC system (the A/C compressor).
So, what Airwave does is it runs your A/C compressor and then tells it to turn off a couple of minutes before the desired temperature is reached.
It then uses the fan inside the HVAC system to blow air across the cooling coils inside your HVAC unit.
In other words, it uses the high-energy-consuming function to get your home to just before the desired temperature then uses the less energy-consuming function to get to the desired temperature.
Traditional thermostats do not have this feature – you either have the A/C compressor on or off – there is no in between. This ultimately saves you on energy costs.
Another feature that a lot of people like on the Nest Thermostat is that you can use it with humidifiers.
And you can just run the fan for the system if you have a fan-wire or a G-wire, which circulates air throughout your house for different amounts of time depending on its setting.
This feature is useful especially if your house heats and cools unevenly as it helps move the air more evenly throughout your home without needing to invest in more vents.
Another feature that I really like about the Nest that a lot of people don’t know about is that it will connect with your Nest smart smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – the Nest Protect.
And if the Nest 3rd Gen is connected to those detectors, and it detects carbon monoxide or a fire it will switch off your HVAC system.
This can help you in two ways.
Firstly, a lot of times your furnace can be the source of a carbon monoxide leak (carbon monoxide is a deadly gas and it’s odorless) so you really need to have one of these smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors in your home regardless of Nest or anything else.
You need to have one to protect your home from fire and carbon monoxide. I discuss this in more detail in this article and this article.
But because an HVAC system can often be the source of carbon monoxide, the Nest will shut off the HVAC system and that can help save you because it is shutting off the source of the carbon monoxide poisoning.
Now, another source of carbon monoxide poisoning can be a fireplace or a gas stove that isn’t functioning properly or a water heater.
Essentially it is where you are getting improper combustion that can create carbon monoxide.
Now, on the fire side of things, if the Nest 3rd Gen detects fire it will also turn off the HVAC system.
This is a huge benefit because if you have a fire in your home and your HVAC system is running it is just going to suck in the smoke and spread throughout your house.
Shutting of your HVAC system allows you to have time to call, and have the fire department arrive, to extinguish the fire by preventing the spread of smoke as what gets people more often than not isn’t the fire but smoke inhalation.
#2 ecobee Smart Thermostat
Now, let’s get onto the ecobee smart thermostat.
I would say the ecobee thermostat has more features than the Nest 3rd Generation smart thermostat.
I don’t have a list of every feature comparing them but in my use of them and going through all the menus – and there are menus upon menus upon menus – and different settings you can tinker with on the ecobee.
I would call this the engineers’ smart thermostat.
If you like to tinker, if you like engineering, if you like precision – the ecobee smart thermostat has all those parts and pieces to it.
It also comes with room sensors included so it makes it a little bit of a better deal than the Nest 3rd Gen thermostat.
So, the Nest does have a room sensor that will work with it but you have to buy those separately.
The ecobee packages typically come with one or two sensors.
These sensors allow you to set different temperatures in different rooms.
This is a great advantage of the ecobee.
In terms of the look of the ecobee, it has a plastic shell with a glass or polycarbonate on the front.
Instead of having a ring to adjust the temperature, the ecobee has a touch screen, not too different to a smartphone.
The interface is pretty good on the ecobee – it’s very sensitive, it works how it should, and it is easy to go through the menu to adjust the temperature.
That said, it is a little different and properly not as intuitive as the Nest 3rd Gen.
A nice feature of the ecobee thermostat is that it has Alexa built in – there is an Alexa speaker and microphone built in to the device so you can directly issue voice commands to your ecobee thermostat.
You can actually use this feature for any Alexa voice command not just thermostat commands, meaning if you want to turn on or off your lighting you absolutely can – this is built into the ecobee smart thermostat.
Overall, the ecobee is a really good thermostat. Like I said it’s an engineers’ thermostat. It’s got every tiny little setting that you could want.
I actually really like it but realize that sometimes I just go into the features and the technical aspects so I, like most people, am happy with the Nest’s features, which are still quite substantial.
However, if you want to tinker around with it and be able to customize every aspect of your smart thermostat then the ecobee is the one for you.
I touched earlier that the ecobee is a little more complicated to install than the Nest 3rd Gen, however, it’s not super hard.
If you have common wire, it’s going to install just like a Nest thermostat.
If you don’t have common wire, you are going to have to open up your HVAC system, install a common wire adapter, wire it to the terminals in your HVAC system control board, and then install those wire into the common wire adapter, then connect it to your ecobee thermostat.
So, if you don’t mind some light electrical work, then you’ll find the ecobee smart thermostat easy to install.
It will work without a common wire, you’ll just need to install the common wire adapter first.
#3 Google Nest Thermostat E
Now, let’s get onto the third of the best smart thermostats.
Smart thermostat number 3 is the Nest Thermostat E.
Basically it has all the same features as the Nest 3rd Generation but a lower price point and I’d say lower finish quality.
The finish on the Nest E is all plastic. It has a white plastic screen. It doesn’t have that full color display – that nice LED display – it is kind of a frosted display.
That said, it is anywhere between $50 and $150 cheaper than the Nest Thermostat Generation 3. It just really depends on what sales are on.
Besides the finish on the Nest E, the only other feature it lacks is a feature called Farsight or the motion sensor.
The Nest E doesn’t have a motion sensor for the auto-scheduling capability – how it senses if you are home or not is through its app GPS signal rather than the motion sensor built into the thermostat.
Other than that, the Nest E has pretty much all the same features as the Nest Generation 3, however, at a lower price point and lower finish quality/look.
I wouldn’t say the Nest E is of a lower quality. It is just made from less expensive materials. It is all plastic rather than stainless steel and polished glass.