10 Best Wifi Thermostats | March 2017
- adaptive temperature recovery system
- push notifications via smart alerts
- does not display weather conditions
- can be installed in under 30 minutes
- works with nexia and amazon alexa
- easy web interface programming
- monitors and reports energy usage
- very bright screen for easy reading
- responsive onscreen menu
- ios and android compatible
- displays current weather conditions
- voice control using amazon alexa
- installation only takes 15 minutes
- compatible with amazon alexa
- color-coded touchscreen interface
- works with up to 32 add-on sensors
- adjusts for room occupancy
- free software upgrades
- monitors and tracks energy usage
- works with amazon alexa
- menu supports multiple languages
If you've ever exited your car after a long drive on a cool evening and sat outside in it for a moment before gathering up your things and heading into your home, you might have noticed a sound like light metal beads popping up gently into the underside of your hood. That sound is actually produced by a variety of metal engine components cooling off, and shrinking as they do so.
You see, on that long drive, those same components expanded as the engine heated up, and now that you've come to a stop and all that steel has begun to adjust to the crisp night air, it gets smaller. That very property, called thermal expansion, is the driving force behind the traditional thermostat: as a piece of metal is heated or cooled, it will connect or disconnect a circuit, causing either your heater or air conditioner to activate until the temperature in the room was such that the metal returned to its former size. Similar devices were developed using gas, which expands and contracts faster then metal, resulting in a more accurate response.
Digital thermostats, on the other hand, which form the foundation of the Wi-Fi options on our list, use a slightly more complex mechanism, albiet one likewise sensitive to ambient heat and cold, called a thermistor. Depending on its temperature, a thermistor puts out a very specific electrical resistance that, when translated by a microcontroller, becomes a corresponding temperature readout on your thermostat's screen.
With that information at your fingertips, you can program your thermostat to activate either of your systems whenever the temperature gets above or below a certain point, as measured by the particular resistance put out by the thermistor. You can even integrate an electrical thermostat's clock function into the equation to create program cycles based on anticipated temperature fluctuations in the weather, or on schedules of occupancy, potentially saving you a boatload of money you'd otherwise spend heating or cooling an empty house.
All that an electronic thermostat has to do from there to become a Wi-Fi thermostat is to add the hardware capable of communicating that information to your smartphone or computer. After that, you can sync it up with your home network and control your temperature from anywhere in the world.
Everything Is Under Control
You might have noticed that a few of the larger tech companies in the world have been making forays into our home lives in the guise of digital personal assistants. Siri, the Apple iPhone personality, was certainly one of the first to hit the scene with any kind of splash, but as her power to control certain aspects of your life and home increases, so, too, does her competition. Her most effective competitors are Amazon's Alexa, Google Home, and the Nexia system by drilling giant Ingersoll Rand.
As you peruse the available Wi-Fi thermostats that we've evaluated, you'll see that some are compatible with one or more of these home automation systems, some are more interested in merely linking to your mobile devices, and others are actually part of their own brand of home control. If the thought of adding security cameras, humidity control, entertainment systems, and more to a single command center appeals to you, then you'll have to decide on which system you plan to place your chips. That, alone, will narrow down our list by a good degree.
After that, questions of aesthetics abound. Some of the thermostats on our list are clearly trying to look like something more suitable for a contemporary home than like any other electronic thermostat you might have seen debut in the late 1980s. Taking into account the style of your house, especially the room in which your thermostat will be installed, will guide you further on your quest toward the perfect selection.
Warm And Toast History
Nobody likes to shovel coal; it's heavy, it's dirty, and it smells strange. There's a reason bad kids get coal from Santa. There was a time, however, when we more directly relied on it than we do now. I don't mean to undercut the significance of our reliance on coal for our boundless consumption of coal-fired electricity; it's just that we all used to have to actually handle the stuff if we wanted to regulate the heat in our homes. We had to trudge miserably down into the basement and add some coal to a complicated furnace adorned with mysterious valves, drafts, and dampers, whereas now we simply click a few buttons.
This is largely thanks to Andrew Ure, a Scottish chemist who hated coal even more than Al Gore, and who invented the first bi-metallic thermostat back in 1830. The invention took a long time and a chronically chilly professor from Wisconsin to gain popularity, but by the turn of the century, thermostats were in heavy use for a variety of industrial applications, and–slowly, but surely–they began to filter into people's homes.
In the 1980s, everything that could be converted from an analog mechanism to a digital component was so converted, and the thermostat was among the most welcome of adjustments. Bi-metallic and gas-bellows units had a tendency to lag and provide rather inaccurate readings, but their digital counterparts proved to be much more precise. They also offered flexible and exact programming options to consumers for the first time.
Around the same moment, a revolution in home computing was underway that would eventually lead to the current state of the global internet and its individually housed wireless hubs. It was a no-brainer for manufacturers to jump on the app bandwagon that exploded out of that revolution toward the end of the oughts, and Wi-Fi thermostats have only become more useful, and more deeply integrated into an entire home's automation, ever since.