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What makes a smart thermostat so smart?

Updated: Mar 3

Here’s some background on these remarkable heating and cooling system devices.


A mere 13 years ago, a thermostat was something that sat on your wall, waiting for you to adjust it by hand. Not anymore.


Today, many homes use smart thermostats to automate their heating and cooling systems. These devices started a revolution in climate control. But what makes smart thermostats so much more advanced than conventional ones? Here’s some background on these remarkable devices.


The internet changed the game

All conventional thermostats use interior temperature to turn on the heating and cooling. Their construction connects a “hot wire” to the inside air handler and another wire to the outside HVAC unit. When the thermostat’s internal thermometer reaches the desired setting, the air handler and the outside HVAC unit turns on or off.


You have to be home to set a conventional, non-programmable thermostat. But in 2007, with the rise of Wi-Fi, thermostat manufacturers began building wireless technology into their models. The smart thermostat was the result. While it has similar wiring to a conventional model, a smart thermostat connects to your home network via a Wi-Fi signal. This gives you the freedom to access and set your thermostat from anywhere using your mobile phone.


Many smart thermostats can do more

In recent years, many smart thermostats have introduced more advanced features. Different makes and models boast special abilities to tantalize your inner geek.

For instance, some smart thermostats can send an alert to your phone when the home gets too hot or cold. They can also help you adjust your home’s humidity.


Other smart thermostats learn your setting preferences that you input through its mobile app. If it knows you like your air conditioning at 74º F. at 6 a.m. and 76º F. at 10 p.m., it will change the settings on its own. The more you use the app, the more efficient it gets.

A few smart thermostats can adjust the climate in specific rooms to reduce hot or cold spots in your home. And still other models integrate Amazon Alexa® so you can run them with simple voice commands.


These features could lower energy bills

By making efficient HVAC system operation easier, smart thermostats can help you use less power. For example, you can set them to turn up the temperature for extended periods when you’re away from home. Even if you forget and now you’re hundreds of miles away, you can still adjust them through a mobile app on your phone.


Some smart thermostats claim to reduce heating and cooling bills as much as 10 to 15 percent. Of course, that depends on how efficient the settings are and where the user lives. But it’s the potential for real savings that makes these devices so popular.


In the future, newer models will get even smarter. They’ll feature diagnostics that remind you to keep your HVAC clean and maintained. This way, a smart thermostat can help your heating and cooling equipment last longer. Your home could stay comfortable for months or even years more than with a conventional thermostat!

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