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How smart thermostats save you money on your utility bills

POSTED: August 11, 2017 5:00 p.m.
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Smart thermostats allow you to program changes in the temperature of your home so they will be made even without you there.

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My husband and I disagree over what temperature is comfortable, just like almost every other couple I know. I’m always cold, and he is always hot.

Sound familiar?

His argument is that I can always put on more clothes, but it’s a little more difficult for him to take off all his clothes. Point taken.

So, during the summer, I keep the thermostat set to 78 degrees, but it’s programmed to lower to 74 when he gets home from work.

The Department of Energy says I’m doing it right.

It recommends 78 F as the temperature for optimal cooling and energy efficiency, but adds that our homes should only be that cool in the summer when we are home and awake. But the National Sleep Foundation says research shows that a cool room, around 65 degrees, will give us the best night’s sleep. So you may need to decide what is most important to you. Some may choose sleeping comfortably over saving some cash.

Again, my husband prefers it colder than I would like when we sleep, so my Vivint Element Thermostat is set for 70 F at night, but we keep our windows open. Since we live in the mountains of Northern Utah, it dips into the 50s right now overnight, so our bedroom stays plenty cool (and I pile on the blankets).

Fast Company named Vivint Smart Home one of the most innovative companies of 2017, and it’s a great option for those who not only want a smart thermostat but a completely connected home as well. At CES 2017, Vivint announced an artificial intelligence element called Sky that will learn from your routine and adapt to it. By using the sensors in your home, Sky could predict when you’re going to bed and change the thermostat automatically.

Making sure we are using our programmable thermostats the right way and setting them to the right temperatures can save us money. And switching over to a smart thermostat can also save us time.

Smart thermostats can work through Wi-Fi, and users have the option to program them with an app or online. Buying one may not necessarily save you any money compared to using a simple programmable thermostat, but smart thermostats make the whole process way easier. Plus, after the initial set up, you may never need to touch your thermostat again.

Review site CNET says there’s no comparison: The best smart thermostat on the market is the Ecobee4. It’s pricey at $245, but CNET touts its responsive touch display and a sensor that knows if someone is home.

The Ecobee4 integrates with pretty much any smart interface you’re using (Apple HomeKit, IFTTT and Samsung SmartThings) and works as an Amazon Alexa speaker. Among other things, you can ask it for the weather, or sports scores, or to raise or lower the temperature in your home. Tom’s Guide also picks the Ecobee4 as the best smart thermostat, noting the sensor that makes sure every room is the right temperature.

For a more budget-friendly option, CNET recommends the Honeywell Lyric T5 for just over $100. This unit works with Apple HomeKit, so by using your phone’s location, it will know who is home and adjust temperatures accordingly. The Lyric T5 also works with Amazon Alexa.

When shopping for a smart thermostat, there something else to notice. One great feature is to buy one that gives you reminders to change air filters. Dust and other gunk build up, and if you don’t change the filter, that stuff will get into the air conditioner and cause problems. Plus, a clogged air filter means less gloriously cool air is getting through. Energy Star recommends changing the air filter once a month, and wouldn’t it be great if your thermostat reminded you to do it?

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