Best Programmable Home Thermostats
Honeywell and Nest reviews for controlling your home
One of the easiest ways to save on electric bills is with a smart, programmable thermostat. Our top choices from Honeywell give you multiple options for daily settings, along with weekday / weekend or individual daily programming. For the connected home, there is an Alexa enabled Wi-Fi thermostat. Starting under $50, you can payback the thermostat cost in as little as one summer!
These are easy to install for replacing thermostats that are less than 20 years old since those will most likely have the standard wires for controls, ground and power (“C-wire”) available.
Top Choice – Honeywell Weekday / Weekend Thermostat
We like the Honeywell 5-1-1-Day Programmable Thermostat (model RTH6450D1009/E1) , about $55, for its ease of use and low cost. It’s also an “Amazon Choice” product, so many others like this as well.
The “5-1-1” means the 5 weekdays get one set of programming, while Saturday and Sunday get their own unique programs. For each of these, you set up to 4 periods per day (wake, leave, return, sleep) for temperature changes.
We find that for most households, the 5-1-1 covers all their needs.
Of course, you can always manually over-ride any of the settings at any time. There are two modes for this – Temporary and Hold.
For temporary changes: Simply pressing the up or down arrow buttons to change the temperature setting. The new temperature remains until its time for one of the 4 set periods. Then the system returns to its programmed settings. The temporary setting is now forgotten.
If you are going on vacation, use the Hold feature which keeps the set temperature until you take the thermostat off of hold. To do this, use the up or down buttons to select the temperature you want, and press the Hold button. On the LCD screen, you’ll see the “hold” is now indicated.
Another thing we like is the easy-to-read backlit display with soft-touch button interface. With the intuitive buttons, the large symbols on the screen make it simple to program and to see all the settings.
Honeywell has a fairly tight tolerance of +/- 1°F for the thermostat to cycle your HVAC system on and off. We find this keeps the rooms comfortable with both heating and cooling, but some people like more “drift” in the temperature. However, looking at other thermostats, the majority are within +/- 2°F.
The Honeywell works with heating and cooling system, plus single stage heat pump systems. It can also be programmed for auto change from heat to cool / cool to heat. This is nice if you live in an area with extreme temperature changes between day to night. Folks living in Arizona understand this!
The thermostat measures 5.75 x 3.25 x 1.25 inches, which is about typical. It only comes in the one color of white.
The feature we wish it did have is ability to automatically adjust the clock for day-light savings time. Twice a year, you’ll need to change the time on the thermostat (unless you live in Hawaii or Arizona).
The thermostat is powered with the 24VAC Common Wire (e.g., “C-wire”) from your HVAC system.
One last thing to note – We like the battery compartment is designed to easily slide out of the side of the thermostat, without needing to take the entire unit off the wall plate. The 2 AA batteries are there to hold the programming in case of a power outage and should last for about 5 years. You’ll get a reminder notice on the display when it’s time to change the batteries, another nice touch.
Get more details or order through Amazon, Honeywell 5-1-1-Day Programmable Thermostat , about $55
Best Touch Screen – Honeywell 7-Day
The Honeywell Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat (model RTH7600D), about $47, is our pick if you don’t want the buttons and want to get a lower priced unit. Eliminating the 6 buttons means less costly manufacturing, and Honeywell passes that savings to the customers.
The touchscreen versions is nearly identical to the 5-1-1 with buttons described earlier. Aside from a touch screen for the controls, the other major difference is unique programming for each of the 7 days of the week. You still set up to 4 periods per day (wake, leave, return, sleep) for temperature changes.
What most differentiates this thermostat from the previous one is the “smart response technology”. This smart feature is also a point of controversy for many users. Fortunately, you can turn it off if you don’t like it.
Basically, the processor inside the thermostat continually adjusts the pre-heating and pre-cooling of your home to keep you comfortable at your pre-programmed time. Lets use an example where your winter “sleep” temperature is set for 63, and your “wake” temperature is 70 at 6:00AM. With out the smart response, at 6:00A the thermostat signals your heater to turn on to bring the temperature from 63 to 70. Depending on your system, size of the rooms, etc. this could take a little while or a long time.
With smart response, the thermostat “knows” from prior cycles about how long this takes. Rather than starting your heat at 6:00A, it may start at 5:45A in order to have your home at the desired 70 by 6:00A when you get up.
As we said, if you just want the system to turn on / off when you’ve programmed it, then it’s a simple menu setting to turn off the smart response.
We do like that this model now has an optional automatic daylight savings time adjustment. Yay! No more changing the time twice a year for most of the USA. If only my microwave could do that.
In addition to the low battery warning, you can also have it give you a reminder to change the HVAC filters.
Another nice feature is that you can use the thermostat in battery mode, and not powered from the HVAC system. This is nice if you have an older system that doesn’t have a “C-wire” (e.g., the 24VAC Common Wire which provides power). But you will need to change the 2 AA batteries annually.
This thermostat measures 6 x 3.25 x 1 inches, just a little smaller that the one with buttons.
Our one complaint is there isn’t a one-touch area for “Hold”. You’ll need to push though a couple of menus to get there. Not a biggie, but still ….
For ordering on Amazon or more info, Honeywell Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat about $47.
Best Connected – Honeywell Wi-Fi
The Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat (model RTH6580WF), about $89, works with Alexa for voice controls. It also supports most other AI / Assistants like Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, Yonomi, Wink (no hub required), and Stringify (all devices sold separately).
This looks nearly identical to the 5-1-1 at the start of this review, and supports all the same features.
What you get for the extra $35 is the Wi-Fi connection which gives you control when you aren’t standing right in front of the thermostat to press the buttons. Note that the WiFi is not dual band and only works with 2.4ghz networks.
If you’ve ever left on vacation, and forgot set the thermostat, this is a great option. Or if you use your place for short term rentals, you can make adjustments on the fly.
You also get unique settings for each day of the week, with the same 4 program periods per day.
If you are looking to upgrade to smart house controls, or enjoy using Alexa for everything, this may be the thermostat for you.
Other features include an optional real-time clock which updates from your network, as well as the ability to view local weather from web portal or app.
The 24VAC Common Wire / C-Wire is required to power this thermostat.
It measures 5.8 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches, just a little larger than the non-Wi-Fi version
Get more details or order through Amazon with Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat (model RTH6580WF), about $89.
Alternative – Nest
The Nest (T3007ES) Learning Thermostat 3rd Gen, about $230, is one of the more expensive thermostats you’ll find, but probably the best for smart home controls. This is also a great option if you have other Nest devices already. For example, if you have a Nest Smoke/Fire/CO detector it can communicate with your thermostat in case of an emergency. You house can shut down the HVAC systems to hopefully prevent the spread of smoke or fire in your home.
Read our article on the Nest Protect Monitor
If you aren’t familiar with this device, Google Nest is a smart thermostat that learns what temperatures you like, turns itself down when you’re away and connects to your phone. It has a big, sharp display. And it’s proven to help save energy. In independent studies, the Nest Thermostat saved an average of 10% to 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. Estimated average savings aref $131 to $145 a year.
Nest does its magic with a host of sensors to figure out your household. These include: Temperature, Humidity, Near-field activity, Far-field activity and Ambient light.
Here is a quick feature summary:
- Auto-Schedule: Nest learns the temperatures you like and programs itself in about a week. You don’t program it, so best for people that have stable routine.
- Smart Features: Early-On Nest learns how your home warms up and keeps an eye on the weather to get you the temperature you want when you want it.
- Energy Saving: You’ll see the Nest Leaf when you choose a temperature that saves energy. It guides you in the right direction.
- Home/Away Assist: The Nest Thermostat automatically turns itself down when you’re away to avoid heating or cooling an empty home.
- Works with Amazon Alexa for voice control (Alexa device sold separately)
- Auto-Schedule: Nest learns the temperatures you like and programs itself in about a week.
- High resolution color screen: 24-bit color LCD, 480 x 480 resolution at 229 pixel per inch (PPI), 2.08″ (5.3cm) diameter. In a decorative Stainless steel ring
- Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
- Wi-Fi Thermostat: Connect the Nest Thermostat to Wi-Fi to change the temperature from your phone, tablet or laptop. 802.11b/g/n @ 2.4GHz, 5GHz, Wireless interconnect: 802.15.4 @ 2.4GHz, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
It’s a compact 3.3 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches and has a nice futuristic look.
More more details or ordering through Amazon, Nest (T3007ES) Learning Thermostat 3rd Gen, about $230
Replace your older thermostat with one of these that will quickly pay for itself. It’s good for your house and great for the environment.
Top Pick: Honeywell 5-1-1-Day Programmable Thermostat about $55
Touchscreen, 7-day: Honeywell Touchscreen 7-Day Programmable Thermostat about $47
Wi-Fi / Alexa: Honeywell Home Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat about $89
Smart Device: Nest (T3007ES) Learning Thermostat 3rd Gen about $230