Thermostats Get Smarter with Apps and HD Screens

Today it seems that just about everything is getting “smarter.” The term has been thrown around as shorthand whenever any kind of modern convenience becomes equipped with a technological feature that it didn’t have before. An emerging area in this wave of innovation is the smart thermostat — devices that are defined by their colorful displays, web-based controls and ease of use.

Here’s a sampling of what’s on the market. Prices are approximate.

Nest Learning Thermostat ($249) Nest is designed to take the thinking out of programming by requiring relatively little of its users. After asking a few on-screen questions in the beginning, and remembering a week’s worth of dial turns made by the user to adjust the temperature, Nest will have learned enough of a daily routine to start applying it automatically. A mobile app allows users to make adjustments from anywhere.

Nest thermostat

Nest Learning Themostat

Venstar ColorTouch ($170) It’s not the only thermostat with a full-color screen, but it’s definitely among a select few that was created by designers who realized that such a vibrant display could be used for more than temperature readings. ColorTouch allows users to upload photos or choose from nature and holiday themes. But this unconventional photo frame is also regarded as a top performer, having earned the top score in a ranking of thermostats by Consumer Reports. It’s also web-enabled.

Ecobee Smart Thermostat ($326) What appears to set the Smart Thermostat apart from the competition is its Web Portal, which produces graphical reports on efficiency and weather forecasts in addition to allowing remote temperature tinkering. The portal can also alert users to potential HVAC problems. Ecobee offers business customers the option of creating custom scratch-resistant covers called GelaSkins to outfit office thermostats with a logo or a brand’s color scheme.

Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Comfort System ($250) With a relatively large high-definition screen and real-time temperature and humidity readings from outside, the Prestige wants to give the impression of being the mission control of heating and cooling. It also attempts to make programming easy by taking users through a series of easy questions to find out when to pull back on energy consumption. A wireless secondary controller resembling a smartphone is included.

INSTEON Thermostat ($150) While it doesn’t look nearly as high-tech as the others, this thermostat is unique for its ability to work within the broader INSTEON network. The company specializes in automating certain features within the home, including lights, sprinkler systems and pool heaters. Wireless INSTEON thermostats in other rooms can inform the main device when more heat is needed. A waterproof cable (sold separately) can monitor temperatures in pools and spas.

Nick Clunn is an award-winning journalist who has worked for several websites and daily newspapers, including The Record in New Jersey. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at Montclair State University. Follow him @NickClunn.

Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn is a journalist covering the tech beat and an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. He lives in New Jersey, where he had worked as a staff writer for several leading daily newspapers and websites.
Nick Clunn
Nick Clunn
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