Our Complete Smart Thermostat Buyer Guide: Learn everything you need to know about the best smart thermostat systems before you buy, including the differences between manual, programmable, and smart thermostats, different smart thermostat features, top brands, potential rebates, and more.
Table of contents
- What are smart thermostats?
- Top Smart Thermostat Brands
Note that ecobee is a FurnacePrices.ca partner, which we have chosen to work with because they are a Canadian company. This does not affect our product evaluations or recommendations, and our writing team works independently. We do not receive free products, however we may be compensated for referring customers, which helps us maintain this website and keep it free. The companies we work with are companies we believe in and use in our own homes.
At the forefront of thermostat technology, smart thermostats are gaining in popularity in Canada due to their functionality and ease of use. The relatively new technology boasts a number of features that you may not be aware of and deciding which unit is best for you can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this simple and informative guide to buying the latest smart thermostat!
This guide is packed full of information about what a smart thermostat is and what they do, including handy comparisons of some of the most popular versions on the market today. This smart thermostat buyer’s resource will help you on your quest to make your home as energy-efficient and comfy as possible!
What are smart thermostats?
To understand the benefits of a smart thermostat, it’s useful to look at the three main types of thermostats available. These are manual thermostats, programmable thermostats and smart thermostats.
Manual thermostats are the oldest and most basic type of thermostat available. Nevertheless, they’re simple to use – all you have to do is physically turn the dial on the thermostat to control the heat in your home.
However, this does have downsides! By having to manually change the thermostat, you lose the ability to program your heating system. This can become frustrating when having to remember to change the temperature on your thermostat, and if you forget to turn the heating down when you’re out or at night, you’ll be paying more for your energy at the end of the month!
And of course, these are less convenient as you always need to manually turn your heating or cooling on and off.
Programmable thermostats give you the ability to set various temperatures for different days and for specific times of the day. They have a digital display and can remember settings once an initial set-up is complete.
Another advantage is that the digital display allows you to set temperatures that are communicated precisely with your furnace, meaning that you can save money on your monthly bills with comfortable but economical settings.
Smart thermostats are an improvement over programmable thermostats, particularly for those that are seeking the lowest monthly energy bills and the most control over their home’s heating system. Here are some of the features of smart thermostats and the benefit they can bring you!
1) Their ability to learn
After about a week of use as a regular or programmable thermostat, this type of control system can learn your habits and mimic them, making sure your home is always heated the way you like it. If you like your home to cool overnight, but to start warming up in anticipation of you getting out of bed in the morning, your smart thermostat can take this into account and ensure you always exit your bed to a toasty room!
Over time, your thermostat will become smarter as it picks up on changes and learns your patterns as you make changes to your heating system.
2) They’re the most efficient type of thermostat available
Smart thermostats make it simple to set the exact temperature you want, eliminating any false instructions that sometimes occur from manual thermostats.
Also, one of the most useful ways smart thermostats can save money is the ability to set themselves into an energy-saving mode when you’re away from home. Some units can even use location data to anticipate your arrival back at your house, and make sure your home is warm enough for when you walk through the door!
3) Their WIFI compatibility with other smart devices
Although programmable thermostats are a step up from manual units as you can set schedules and cycles of heating, what if you’re sat on the sofa or lying in bed, and the temperature drops outside, and your home feels cold?
Cycles work best when the weather is consistent, and the weather in Canada can often change without warning! With a smart thermostat, your mobile phone, tablet or laptop can become your control centre. Open the thermostat settings, change the temperature, and within a few seconds, your furnace will start working to warm up your home.
Also, you can use your devices to monitor your heating system for things such as filter changes, diagnostic alerts and energy efficiency tips and alerts!
Top Smart Thermostat Brands
If you’re interested in the most advanced type of thermostat available today, you’ve got many options when it comes to the manufacturer. However, below are three of the best smart thermostats on the market today!
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat was the first-ever ENERGY STAR certified thermostat. This means that the unit has undergone rigorous testing by ENERGY STAR who are overseen by Natural Resources Canada!
On average, Nest Thermostats save an impressive 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling costs annually! So, if you’re looking to save money on your monthly bills, you know that the Nest Learning Thermostat will be doing all it can to ensure your home is as energy-efficient as possible.
The Nest Learning Thermostat also provides safety and furnace alerts, filter change reminders, and shows you data on exactly how much energy you’re using per day and per month!
Further to its impressive features, the Nest Learning Thermostat is widely regarded as one of the best learning thermostats available today, as it is able to learn what temperatures you find comfortable and at what time of the day within around a week.
Designed with users in mind, the NEST can be installed in around an hour and a half, making it simple to upgrade to this unit today!
Honeywell Home Lyric T5+ & T6 Pro Smart Thermostats
The Honeywell Home Lyric T5+ and T6 Pro Smart Thermostats boast compatibility with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo and Alexa to allow you to take control of your heating and cooling system by using your voice! Additionally, the thermostats are both ENERGY STAR certified.
The Honeywell Thermostat T5+ and T6 Pro models feature their Geofence technology. This allows your thermostat to detect whether you’re at home or away and instructs your system to save money when it can but also to preheat or pre-cool your home in anticipation of your arrival.
WI-FI compatible with your other devices, the T5+ and T6 also feature a vacation mode to make sure that you save money but keep your home at a safe temperature while you’re away.
ecobee4 Smart Thermostat
The ecobee4 Smart Thermostat is a great option for those that prefer different rooms in their home to be at different temperatures. The ecobee4 features room sensors that you can place in the rooms you want even more control over. The sensors can read the temperatures and even detect occupancy within the room to ensure those that are inside are comfortable, save on energy costs when the room is empty!
Aside from this, the ecobee4 also features a quick and easy installation, You have the smart home and away settings to control the temperature whether you’re indoors or out, and the Home IQ diagnostics show you how much energy you’ve saved each month and how you can save more on your monthly bills.
It’s also ENERGY STAR certified and can save you up to 23% in your heating and cooling costs annually!
Bonus fact: ecobee is a Canadian company! 🍁
Rebates on Smart Thermostats
If you’re interested in purchasing a smart thermostat, depending on where you live, there may be rebate options available to you. Thanks to smart thermostats’ impressive technology and energy-saving potential, more and more provinces are starting rebate programs!
Check out our rebate page here for an overview of the rebates available across Canada.
Enbridge customers in Ontario can get $75 OFF a smart thermostat! (Apply here)
Choosing the right thermostat for you
With a number of smart thermostats already available, and many manufacturers venturing into the smart thermostat market – there’s no doubt that you’ll have lots of choices when it comes to your next thermostat upgrade or new purchase of a smart thermostat.
One thing you may want to consider is compatibility with your heating & cooling systems. Some top furnace and A/C brands will have their own smart thermostats, but many of the leading thermostat brands like Nest and ecobee should work with most furnaces and air conditioners.
We hope that this guide has helped with the process and remember to take your time and weigh up your options when making any heating or cooling system purchase. Also, make sure to look out for deals and rebates to help you save money!
Common Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Thermostats
Most smart thermostats utilize algorithmic-based learning. This is why you need to pre-set your basic requirements when you first purchase a smart thermostat and then your thermostat can build off of these basic parameters, learning and adapting over time.
If your smart thermostat offers geofencing, your furnace will be reliant on your phone’s geofencing feature to pinpoint what distance you are away from your home. The settings for this feature can be changed on your phone, and you can set the range (say, 5 miles) before your thermostat enters its “away” mode and cools your home.
In theory, as an internet-connected device, smart thermostats can be hacked – although this is fairly unlikely, it’s not impossible. Like any internet enabled device in your home, there are a few key steps you can take to keep hackers away, and these steps should be applied to all phones, computers and tablets where possible. Use manufacturer authentication with your apps and devices when possible (for example, when Amazon sends you a code to sign in). Complete all updates when they’re offered to you, as they often involve updated security features. Secure your WIFI and don’t ever allow it to become ‘public.’ Try to avoid connecting to unsecured public networks from your devices. Use protective software that blocks viruses, malware and spyware etc. on your internet devices.
A C-wire is a common wire which allows for a flow of 24 VAC power to a thermostat. However, not all homes already have a C-wire connected to their thermostat as some older models didn’t require them. To check, you can remove the case off of your current thermostat and if you’ve got a wire labelled “C” visible you know you’re good to go. If not, you may need to look for a smart thermostat that doesn’t require a C-wire (not all smart thermostats do) or have one installed. If you’re unsure, we recommend contacting a certified HVAC professional to check your thermostat wiring for compatibility. If you’ve already bought a smart thermostat that needs a C-wire but you don’t have a C-wire readily available, an HVAC professional can install one for you or advise on your options.
Many smart thermostats can be controlled by devices such as Google Home and Alexa. However, it does vary. When purchasing a new smart thermostat, the compatibility of the device with these smart home tools will be made clear in the product description.
The cost of a smart thermostat depends on what manufacturer you decide to purchase from and what model. For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat is around three hundred dollars. The total cost also depends on whether you’re installing the device or having a contractor do it for you, and installation can cost around $100 – $250 dollars. Some manufacturers also offer incentives if you buy directly through their websites, but these are obviously subject to change all the time. Also, remember that there are many rebate programs available for smart thermostats that can reduce the cost of purchasing a unit. Financing can also be a useful option that allows you to pay back the cost of the smart thermostat over a number of months.
One of the great things about smart thermostats is their functionality and connectivity with the internet. However, this has led to the false belief that if your internet stops working, your thermostat will stop working with it. Fortunately, this is untrue – without internet, your smart thermostat simply acts like a normal programmable thermostat, you just lose the ability to control it from your smartphone.
If the power fails in your home, your smart thermostat will respond exactly like any other kind of thermostat, and fail with it. This is why we advocate keeping a small heater, such as a small indoor propane heater, on standby in case you lose power to your home. If you don’t have a small heater as a back-up and you’re caught during the frigid Canadian winter without power, make sure to wrap up warm and check on young and elderly family members.
A smart thermostat is useful for those that own a holiday home. If your holiday home is left empty for months on end, a smart thermostat will allow you to remotely monitor your HVAC system and keep your home at the right temperature. This will help ensure your pipes don’t freeze during winter and your furniture and structure of your home doesn’t suffer under any extreme temperatures!
Most manufacturers of smart thermostats offer warranty options should your unit fail. Most warranties last between 1 to 3 years and cover problems that can occur under the general use of the product. Be sure to contact your smart thermostat manufacturer should a fault surface! Also, if you’re having your unit installed by an HVAC professional, ask if the installation is covered if it results in a fault with your unit.
Yes, a smart thermostat will allow for multiple users that can control the system. This also helps to ensure that the geofencing feature works because if your phone is the only phone connected and you’re away from home, the smart thermostat won’t know to start warming up for another family members’ arrival.
Depending on what smart thermostat you go for, you’re able to control the temperatures of multiple homes using one account and device. For example, if you own a Nest smart thermostat, you can control up to three homes using your device. This is a great feature if you own a vacation home or control the thermostat in your business premises.