10 Smart Thermostat Features You Should Be Using

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Ecobee

Upgrading to a smart thermostat is great, but if you’re not using all the features, you’re leaving a lot of benefits on the table. Be sure to take full advantage of these smart thermostat benefits.

Your thermostat can’t do everything automatically

Many people get a smart thermostat because one was offered to them as part of an energy rebate from their utility company or, in newer homes with more advanced HVAC systems, it simply came with the house or apartment.

If you haven’t put in the effort to research everything there is to know about smart thermostats and your particular model, chances are you’ve missed a feature or three. (And honestly, there are so many features to smart thermostats, even if he did his homework, he probably missed a few!)

In addition to reading our list of features here, now is the perfect time to check which smart thermostat you have and read the manual or online help files. That will help you identify all the features and learn how to use them.

Increasingly, many of these great features just happen automatically in the background once you’ve installed your thermostat, but many of them require you to opt-in, change a setting, or enable the feature to get the full benefits. Don’t assume a feature is on by default just because it’s advertised as available on your particular smart thermostat.

Use smart scheduling

There are two big ways that smart thermostats make it easy to set a schedule. First of all, if you want to manually set a schedule (or multiple schedules!), it’s much easier to do with the app or web interface than it is with clunky old programmable thermostats.

I have more than a few unpleasant memories of hunching over an old-fashioned programmable thermostat clicking little buttons to set a program. With the app, it’s trivial to set a schedule and change the schedule if the need arises.

Better yet, many smart thermostats have smart scheduling features that adapt over time to the patterns in your home. Without lifting a finger, your thermostat can learn your work and play schedule, adapting accordingly.

Read on, though, because there are a variety of ways you can make your smart thermostat smarter, and in the process, improve the smart scheduling feature.

Enable smart home integration

We are slowly moving towards a future where all the different smart devices and sensors in our homes work together in useful ways. To take advantage of the best aspects of your smart thermostat, you need to install the app, set up the necessary accounts, and link your thermostat to your smart home.

Doing so opens up a world of possibilities from the simple, like controlling your thermostat from a smart display in your kitchen, to the more advanced, like integrating your smart thermostat into more complex routines with IFTTT routines.

And, with the launch of the Matter smart home standard just around the corner, the smart thermostat will play an even bigger role in the emerging smart home ecosystem of sensors.

Take advantage of Away mode

A Nest thermostat in auto-away mode.
Google

Away mode is closely related to the smart scheduling feature. One of the downsides of old-fashioned fixed schedules and programmable thermostats is that, while they were an improvement over never adjusting the thermostat, they weren’t adaptable.

Smart thermostats offer an adaptive system where the home heats and cools not based on a schedule or manual setting, but based on physical presence in the home.

It may not sound like much, but let’s take a simple example. Say, with an old programmable thermostat, you set the temperatures for Saturday and Sunday to be very comfortable in the middle of the day because you anticipate being home on the weekend.

Would you remember to play with the thermostat every time you end up going somewhere on a Saturday afternoon? Probably not. But with occupancy detection, your smart thermostat can automatically adjust the system when it detects that the house is empty. No input on your behalf is necessary.

Thermostats that support this feature typically have a motion sensor built into the front of the thermostat. Others will have that, plus smart sensors for better home coverage (more on that in a bit). There is also usually the option to use geofencing with your smartphone: the smart thermostat will use the presence of your phone to determine if the house is occupied or not.

Use smart fan circulation and humidity settings

The name of the features varies from brand to brand, but most smart thermostats have a bunch of efficiency and comfort features related to optimizing airflow and humidifying (or dehumidifying) your living space.

Look through the settings for options that run the fan for a period of time after each heating or cooling cycle to help circulate air and even out the temperature in your home.

There are also usually options to meet dehumidification goals in the summer and humidification goals in the winter to keep your living space comfortable.

Don’t Forget Smart Sensors

Smart sensors aren’t a replacement for a true multi-zone HVAC system, but they offer enough benefits that it’s worth considering smart sensor options for your particular thermostat.

Some sensors function as (and are directly marketed as) temperature and humidity sensors that are added to extend the range of your thermostat. Several of the Ecobee smart thermostats ship with an additional sensor, and you can choose extras to expand the system.

Ecobee SmartSensors not only monitor room conditions, which is useful if you want to make sure a particular room, like baby’s nursery, stays comfortable, but also home occupancy for smart home and smart home modes. outside.

In other cases, the sensors are more limited but still useful. If you have a Nest thermostat, for example, each Nest smoke detector in your home also does double duty as an occupancy sensor. If your thermostat is in a less used room, it’s incredibly helpful to have a sensor somewhere else that gives a more accurate view of whether or not someone is home.

In my house, for example, the thermostat is on the wall in the living room, and the living room just isn’t part of the normal flow of traffic. But there is a sensor near the stairs, a very busy area, which ensures that the status of the thermostat is much more accurate.

Turn on “Feels Like” temperature optimization

You may have noticed that your favorite weather app or local news station uses terms like “Feels Like” or “Feels Real” when describing weather conditions. Those “Feels Like” temperature readings use variables like actual temperature, humidity, wind speed, and dew point to give you an approximation of what the outside weather actually feels like rather than just the raw temperature reading. .

Some smart thermostats have a similar feature, but it works, more or less, in reverse. With the thermostat feature, you tell it how you want the “feel” to be and it works to adjust the internal temperature and humidity of your home to match your expectations. That way you get the feeling of 72°F on a nice fall day instead of 72°F on a sultry summer day.

Enable power saving during usage time

There are several different approaches to “time of use” energy saving models available with smart thermostats.

Some thermostats, such as those in the Ecobee line, offer user-controlled time-of-use savings plans. You can enable a setting that will tell your smart thermostat to work around the maximum energy demands in your location.

For example, your thermostat might overcool your home at night to prevent the air conditioner from running when energy costs are at their peak in the middle of the day.

Other thermostats, including Ecobee models, can link with your local utility company for automatic time-of-use adjustments and even some savings. Many utility companies offer discounted rates or even cash back rewards for these programs, so it’s worth looking into.

View usage and energy reports

An example of the kind of feedback you can get in smart thermostat reports.
Ecobee

Historically, it was really hard to track data and statistics about your HVAC system and energy usage. Older thermostats either lacked any tracking metrics, or if they did, you would have to go to the thermostat and search through menus on a small LCD screen to get basic information of limited usefulness.

Smart thermostats, however, offer much more sophisticated feedback. Not only do they learn and adapt silently in the background, but you can also check reports to see if your usage is going up or down. You can also more easily correlate that data with any changes you’ve made to your home.

For example, if you put up insulated blackout curtains or buy new windows, you can easily compare energy use between two periods of the same season or even last season versus the current season.

And the reports usually do some basic analysis for you, like showing the outside temperature and conditions compared to your energy use to help you determine if the reason you ran the air conditioner so hard that week was because it was unusually hot. hot or because there is some problem you need. research.

Use reminders and alerts

Speaking of issues to investigate, smart thermostats are much better at helping you pinpoint problems than older models.

For example, if you have a Nest Thermostat or a thermostat with similar functionality, it will monitor the results and alert you if unexpected things happen. If the thermostat calls the air conditioner and runs it for X hours a day, for example, and the temperature in the house doesn’t change as expected, you’ll get a warning that something is wrong.

Maybe the problem is easily fixed (like your kids left a bunch of windows open) or maybe it’s more serious (like your coolant line is leaking).

You can also set high and low temperature alerts, humidity alerts, and even maintenance alerts and reminders. You could also lean into the “better living through technology” aspect of having a smart thermostat and using these features.

Enable dealer service alerts

While the general warnings and alerts are great (and will work no matter what type of furnace or air conditioner you have), there’s an even more advanced feature you can take advantage of if your smart thermostat supports it.

Some thermostats support dealer integration, where you can link your thermostat to the company that services your HVAC system. In this case, in addition to alerting you that something is wrong with your HVAC system, the system can also automatically send the error report or warning to your dealer.

Instead of having to figure out what the error means or schedule a call to have a technician check it out in person, they can check things remotely and be better prepared to fix the problem. Even better, they can proactively alert you if a series of errors or issues seem to herald a much bigger problem. A small repair or replacement now is sure to top $1500 on a much larger repair later.