Couple instpecting thermostat

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average household spends over $2,200 a year on energy bills. Nearly half that goes to heating and cooling costs. Utilizing a programmable “smart” thermostat can take a bite out of that.

Programmable thermostats let you put the temperature on a schedule. Smart thermostats can learn your habits and adjust the indoor climate accordingly. They can also show energy consumption in real-time.

There are two types of smart thermostats.

  1. One that learns automatically from your behavior and adjusts itself (no programming needed)
  2. One that offers internet connectivity for remote management and programming

Let’s examine Nest’s Leaf, Honeywell’s Lyric  and the ecobee3 – each smart in their own right.


Acquired by Google earlier this year, Nest was one of the first smart thermostats on the market in 2011. A learning thermostat, it can adjust itself if it senses someone’s home, if the indoor air gets humid, or if someone has turned on the oven. If it heats up through direct sunlight, it resets to the correct temperature.

Its features include:

  • Bright LCD screen
  • Built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • A leaf that appears to guide you to the most energy efficient temperature settings
  • A reminder to change your air filter based on how many hours you heat or use your air conditioner.

Nest’s latest software updates include:

  • Enhanced Auto Schedule – it learns the temperatures you like, then adapts to fit your schedule
  • Quick View includes time, outside temperature, humidity and energy usage
  • System test will help you spot and resolve any issues

For convenience, you can program Nest from your computer, tablet, or smart phone.


Among Honeywell’s smart thermostats, Lyric – their newest – has three unique features: geofencing, Fine Tune and Smart Cues.

Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat
Honeywell Lyric Smart Thermostat, photo courtesy of Honeywell

With geofencing, you set either a 500 foot or 7 mile range. When Lyric senses your cellphone within range, it kicks Home mode on so the house is comfortable by the time you reach the front door. Fine Tune’s humidity sensors factor in both indoor and outdoor temperature, humidity and weather conditions. Smart Cues notifies your cellphone when it detects necessary maintenance of your heating and cooling system.

An innovative reinvention of Honeywell’s 1953 Round Thermostat, “the Lyric is the first piece in Honeywell’s newest connected home platform,” said Tammy Swanson, Honeywell’s Global Public Relations Manager.

Honeywell’s Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice features smartphone connectivity and control via its app. Users can change temperature and access energy savings mode simply by speaking to it.


ecobee was the first company to introduce a wi-fi connected thermostat to the market in 2009. This past September it launched the ecobee3.

ecobee3 smart thermostat
The ecobee3 smart thermostat, photo courtesy of ecobee

CEO Stuart Lombard says they wanted to use technology to help people save energy, save money and reduce their environmental footprint.

“One of the opportunities of the smart thermostat market is that it gives us a new way to engage with customers about conservation – and energy consumption,” said Lombard.

The ecobee3 utilizes tiny “smart” wireless sensors that automatically detect motion. This feature – unique to ecobee – can serve as a temperature sensor to ensure you’re comfortable in every room.

Along with its good looks, ecobee3 uses the same touch technology as smart phones. Its large display screen provides animation and color for easy use. Its occupancy sensors turn down the system when you’re not home and its recooling feature lets you use cool fresh air at night instead of the AC. Also, based on outdoor weather and how your home performs, its Optimum Start figures out how long it takes to get to 72 degrees when you get home.

Dialing in savings

When choosing which smart thermostat works for you, price is naturally a factor.

  • The Nest Leaf retails for around $250
  • Honeywell’s Lyric runs around $279 and, at the high end, the Wi-Fi with Voice is at $349.
  • ecobee3 is priced at $249

But you need to see the bigger picture – the return on investment – when considering a smart thermostat.

  • ecobee’s average customer saves around 23 percent on heating and cooling costs versus a thermostat left on 72 degrees.
  • Lombard said he has $26,000 worth of solar PV panels installed on his home in addition to the ecobee. Combined, the PV panels and smart thermostat save him as much energy each year as his solar panels produce!
  • With Honeywell, the average annual estimated savings for the U.S. is up to $229.

The facts are clear. Smart thermostats save energy, time and money. These days, that’s as good as winning the Triple Crown.

Feature image courtesy of starmanseries

By Debra Atlas

As an environmental journalist, blogger, professional speaker and radio personality, Debra Atlas lights the way to let consumers discover exciting, useful green products that won’t make their checkbooks implode. A member of the Society of Environmental Journalists, she is a frequent contributor to environmentally focused publications and conferences.