Smart Thermostats – a Worthwhile Investment?

Smart thermostat

A programmable thermostat can be one of the better bang-for-the-buck investments for improving efficiency in your New Jersey home, no matter what kind of heating or cooling system you have. In fact the EPA estimates that you can save up to $180 a year by installing a programmable thermostat alone.

But what about the “Smart Thermostats” that you’re hearing more about these days – are they worth the time, money and effort to install?

Thermostat types: Basic, Programmable, and Smart

Basic thermostats operate as a control panel for your heating and AC systems, allowing manual adjustment of temperature. Programmable thermostats up the ante by letting you set adjust temperatures based on the time of day.

Smart thermostats take things to another level by learning from your behaviors and allowing you to control your home systems remotely. For example, you can “teach” a smart thermostat to shut when you leave the house for work, and turn back on in time to make the house cozy by the time you to get home.

Many smart thermostats will estimate how long it will take to make the change you’ve requested, so you can see how effective your climate control system really is. Some models will even allow you to see your energy consumption in real-time, or adjust themselves based on ambient conditions like ambient humidity.


Brands and models – The Nest Thermostat is a learning thermostat that also provides management apps and tools to help you save money. It can even sense and respond to sudden shifts in humidity or temperature – for example, if you turn on the oven. Ecobee and Honeywell offer models that provide similar benefits.

Cost – Smart thermostats can range from about $200 -$500 depending on the model and features you want. Some models require professional installation, which raises the price considerably.

So…is a smart thermostat a smart investment?

The answer is a qualified yes,

  1. If you install it yourself – Reducing the payback period by installing a smart thermostat yourself goes a long way toward realizing its value as an investment. Models like the Nest and the Ecobee can be installed in less than half an hour – just make sure to read the instructions carefully before you make your attempt (there are videos on YouTube that can help). More expensive installations can pay too – if you’re in your home for the long haul (see point #2).
  2. If you intend to stay in your space, or if you plan to take it with you to your next home – The longer you use your smart thermostat, the more it will pay off. If you’re a renter, or if you plan to sell your home in the near future, it only pays to install a system that you can take with you.
  3. If you don’t already have a programmable thermostat – If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, or if you’re the forgetful type who’ll leave your heater or AC running all day even if you’re not at home, a smart thermostat will definitely save you money. If you already have a programmable thermostat, though, you won’t save much more money with a smart system. You will, however, benefit from increase automation and remote management.

The bottom line

A smart thermostat is a convenient, high-tech way to manage climate in your home. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, it can also save you a substantial amount of money on bills and could pay for itself in less than two years. If you already have a programmable thermostat, however – or if you don’t plan to stay in your space for the long haul – the argument for moving up the ladder to a smart thermostat is considerably less compelling.