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Best Wi-Fi Thermostats: Nest vs. ecobee vs. Honeywell

best-wifi-thermostats-mainWi-Fi thermostats are wired into your home’s HVAC system and can be controlled wirelessly from your smartphone. Many Wi-Fi thermostats also have “smart” features built in that learn from your habits and take into account the outside weather, whether you are home or away, and your HVAC system efficiency (which can help you save money on your heating/cooling costs). All these smart thermostats can be integrated into a larger home automation system. Whether you are putting together a home automation system or you just want to make your heating/cooling system a bit smarter, we’ve got our top five picks for the best Wi-Fi thermostats.

Our Ranking#1#2#3#4#5
Product NameNest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)ecobee3Honeywell Lyric T5 ThermostatHoneywell Wi-Fi Smart Touchscreen Thermostatecobee3 Lite
Product Imagenest-learning-thermostat
View ProductView on AmazonView on AmazonView on AmazonView on AmazonView on Amazon
List Price$249$249$149.99$206.99$169
C-wire required
Learning thermostat
Home/Away feature
Geofencing
Remote sensors
Compatible with home automationAmazon AlexaAmazon Alexa, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, Apple HomeKitAmazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Wink
IFTTT channel
Our Ranking
Product Name
Product Image
View Product
List Price
C-wire required
Learning thermostat
Home/Away feature
Geofencing
Remote sensors
Compatible with home automation
IFTTT channel
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation) ecobee3 Honeywell Lyric T5 Thermostat Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Touchscreen Thermostat ecobee3 Lite
nest-learning-thermostat
View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon
$249 $249 $149.99 $206.99 $169
Amazon Alexa Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Wink

Check before you start: C wire

Before you decide what kind of Wi-Fi thermostat to get, be sure to check the compatibility of your HVAC system. Many thermostats require a C (or common) wire to power the thermostat and its features, and many HVAC systems do not have one because older thermostats didn’t need one. There are ways to work around this issue or to install a C wire, but keep in mind that if you aren’t comfortable with electrical work and wiring, you’ll need a professional to help you.

#1 Nest Thermostat (3rd generation)

Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation, Works with Amazon AlexaThe Nest Thermostat is one of the most highly recommended Wi-Fi thermostats out there, and we are adding our stamp of approval as well. Once you install the thermostat (installation is very easy and straightforward, though you do have the option of using a professional), you can control it from the Nest app on your smartphone.

The Nest is a learning thermostat, which means that after a week or so of use, the thermostat learns your family’s heating and air conditioning habits and automatically adjusts the temperature accordingly. It’s also energy efficient and makes adjustments (such as using the fan instead of the cooling system to circulate the cold air already in the home) to maintain your desired temperature in the best way possible. Two additional features—Family Accounts and Home/Away Assist—gather more information to know when the house is empty and the HVAC system can be turned off or down.

The Nest Thermostat can connect with other home automation products, including Amazon Alexa. Plus, Nest has an If This, Then That (IFTTT) channel that allows you to set up automatic events. For example, you can set it up so that the heat will turn on when you are within a mile of home. The latest Nest Thermostat model (3rd generation) also boasts a slightly larger screen with a higher resolution than previous models, and it has a Farsight feature that turns on the display when it detects motion up to 20 feet away.

It’s hard to find anything to complain about with the Nest Thermostat, though one feature that is missing is a remote temperature sensor in another room. You can install multiple Nest Thermostats in one home, but that gets pretty pricey, especially compared to similar products that do support remote sensors. It also is not (and is not likely to ever be) compatible with Apple HomeKit, so if you’ve already invested in that system, you’ll want to find a different thermostat. Other than that, the Nest is our top pick for its high quality, proven efficiency and reliability, and all-around intuitive and user-friendly design.

Tech Specs

  • List price: $249
  • Warranty: 2-year limited
  • Dimensions: 3.3 x 3.3 x 1.2 inches
  • App: iOS and Android

Pros

  • Learns your habits and adjusts the temperature automatically
  • Uses sensors and phone tracking to tell if you are home or away
  • Has larger display with a higher resolution than older models
  • Turns on thermostat display when Farsight function detects motion within 20 feet
  • Uses energy-efficient features
  • Sends alerts to your phone if it detects a problem with your HVAC system or if you need to change filters
  • Installs easily but also has with professional installation option
  • Integrates with Amazon Alexa

Cons

  • Doesn’t have remote sensors for monitoring temperatures throughout the house
  • Isn’t compatible with Apple HomeKit

#2 ecobee3

Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation, Works with Amazon AlexaThe ecobee3 is the runner-up to the Nest Thermostat and even matches it in many ways. Both thermostats have Home and Away features to save on energy costs, both will alert you if there’s a problem with your system, and both can be controlled from your smartphone. However, one of the ways the ecobee3 exceeds the quality of the Nest is that it comes with a remote sensor that detects motion and the temperature in another room. (Additional sensors can be purchased from Amazon.)

The ecobee3 uses the motion detection and its unique Follow Me feature to know which room you are in, and it uses the temperature reading of the room to determine if the system needs to keep heating or cooling to reach the ideal temperature where you are. It is not a learning thermostat like the Nest, but it has other smart features that almost make up for it.

The ecobee3 is compatible with many other smart home products, including Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit (which the Nest Thermostat is not). ecobee also has an IFTTT channel for advanced home automation options. Unlike the Nest Thermostat, which uses a rotating ring to adjust the temperature, the ecobee3 has a touchscreen. We liked how the touchscreen contributes to user-friendliness and design; however, one consistent complaint from users was that it can be hard to adjust the temperature only one or two degrees.

The ecobee3 needs a C wire, but if you don’t have one, ecobee includes a Power Extender Kit as a workaround. However, you have to connect it directly to the controller board of your HVAC unit, so you may need a professional to help. We definitely give the ecobee3 points for including the kit, but it’s not a convenient option, especially compared to other products that work with four-wire HVAC systems.

Tech Specs

  • Price: $249
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x .8 inches
  • App: iOS and Android

Pros

  • Has easy-to-use touchscreen
  • Comes with a remote sensor
  • Tracks your location in the home with Follow Me feature
  • Saves on energy costs with Home/Away feature
  • Integrates with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, and other products
  • Uses IFTTT channel
  • Includes converter kit for a C wire
  • Offers 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Requires complicated installation
  • Has difficulty adjusting temperature on the touchscreen
  • Isn’t a learning thermostat

#3 Honeywell Lyric T5

Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat, Works with Apple HomeKit and Amazon AlexaThe Honeywell Lyric T5 has many of the same basic features of the other Wi-Fi thermostats on our list but at a lower cost, which is one of the main reasons we gave it the #3 spot. The Lyric T5 is not a learning thermostat, but it uses geofencing to track your phone’s location and adjust the temperature accordingly. A geofence is a virtual boundary around your house, determined by you, and when your phone crosses that boundary, it triggers the Home or Away settings. You can connect multiple user accounts to the Lyric T5, and the Home/Away settings will trigger when the last or first user crosses the geofence.

While some users complained that the geofencing features were inconsistent for earlier versions of the Lyric, the Lyric T5 seems to have worked out most of the problems, though performance can vary based on your cellular carrier and location.

Like the ecobee3, the Lyric T5 works with Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa, so you can use Siri or Alexa to adjust the thermostat settings. Honeywell products are compatible with other smart home devices and can also be programmed using the Honeywell IFTTT channel. Unlike the ecobee3, the Lyric T5 does not have any remote sensors for monitoring the temperature in other rooms of the house. Additionally, the Lyric app does not have particularly good ratings, but a lot of the reported issues refer to the earlier versions of the Lyric thermostat.

The biggest concern we had was that Honeywell thermostats must be connected to a C wire to work. If you already have one, you should be able to install the Lyric T5 pretty easily yourself. If you don’t, a professional can install a C wire for most HVAC systems. Once your system is compatible, however, the Honeywell Lyric T5 is a great, low-cost Wi-Fi thermostat with geofencing features to add an extra bit of “smart.”

Tech Specs

  • List price: $149.99
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
  • App: iOS and Android

Pros

  • Costs less than competition
  • Integrates with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit
  • Tracks location with geofencing function
  • Allows multiple user accounts
  • Includes Home/Away settings
  • Has touchscreen
  • Sends alerts and reminders to phone
  • Uses IFTTT channel

Cons

  • Depends on cellular service for geofencing
  • Requires a C wire
  • Isn’t a learning thermostat
  • Doesn’t have remote sensors

#4 Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart

Honeywell Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, Touchscreen, Works with Amazon AlexaThe Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is a solid, dependable option for a Wi-Fi thermostat. It responds quickly to changes made in the app, and the app itself has an impressive rating from users. Both the app and the Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat touchscreen display are easy to use, though the thermostat displays a lot of information, including the date, time, outdoor weather, indoor temperature and humidity, and the current settings. While it is all great information to have, the screen feels a little cluttered, especially compared to some of the other top picks.

The Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat gives you flexible scheduling for your daily routines, and you can manage your schedule from the app, which also sends notifications and alerts to your phone. It is not strictly a learning thermostat; however, once you program a set schedule, the thermostat does “learn” how long it takes to heat and cool your home and will adjust accordingly. For example, if it takes ten minutes to warm up the house in the morning, the Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat will turn on ten minutes before the scheduled time. Other than that, there aren’t any automation features—no geofencing, no location tracking, no remote sensors to detect when you are home or away.

As with our other Honeywell pick, the Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat requires a C wire, so installation is not for the inexperienced if you don’t already have a C wire installed. To check the compatibility of your current system, use Honeywell’s guide before purchasing.

The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is a reliable choice if you are interested in adjusting the thermostat from your smartphone and you’re less concerned with home automation. The Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat has an IFTTT channel, so with some easy programming, you can integrate it into your home automation setup; however, it is not as “smart” as the top picks on our list.

Tech Specs

  • List price: $206.99
  • Warranty: 1 year
  • Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.5 x 1 inches
  • App: iOS and Android

Pros

  • Learns heating and cooling patterns of system
  • Responds quickly from app
  • Uses IFTTT channel
  • Has touchscreen
  • Connects with highly rated app

Cons

  • Requires a C wire
  • Doesn’t have location tracking for Home/Away features
  • Uses busy display screen

#5 ecobee3 Lite

Ecobee3 Lite Thermostat, Wi-Fi, Works with Amazon AlexaIf you’re looking for a Wi-Fi thermostat that is compatible with a wide variety of smart home automation systems, the ecobee3 Lite thermostat is definitely one you should consider. The ecobee3 Lite works with not only Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit, but also with Samsung SmartThings, Wink, and IFTTT. That’s more integration options than any other thermostat on our list, so depending on the home automation system you have or want to use, this might be the right thermostat for you.

As its name indicates, the ecobee3 Lite is the scaled-back version of the ecobee3 above. The ecobee3 Lite has the same touchscreen, app, and smart responses to changes in the weather and your schedule as the ecobee3, but it is less expensive by almost $100. However, it also doesn’t come with a remote sensor and therefore doesn’t have a Home/Away feature or any automated responses (without connecting to a separate smart home system), so it doesn’t have the responsiveness of the ecobee3.

Like the ecobee3, the ecobee3 Lite requires a C wire but comes with a power adapter kit, so you’ll be able to use it regardless of whether or not your HVAC system already has a C wire in place. Look for a professional to help you if you aren’t comfortable with that level of installation for yourself. Overall, this is a thermostat that straddles the gap between standard thermostats and Wi-Fi ones by giving you lots of smart home integration options without providing any automation or learning on its own.

Tech Specs

  • Price: $169
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Dimensions: 4 x 4 x .8 inches
  • App: iOS and Android

Pros

  • Costs less than other options
  • Integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink
  • Uses IFTTT channel
  • Has easy-to-use touchscreen
  • Includes converter kit for a C wire
  • Offers 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Doesn’t have remote sensors
  • Doesn’t have Home/Away feature
  • Requires complicated installation
  • Isn’t a learning thermostat

Not too hot, not too cold, but just right

Whether you want to save money on your heating and cooling costs, you are putting together a home automation system, or you just want to have more control over your thermostat from far away, there is a Wi-Fi thermostat on our list that will work for you. Each one has a unique combination of features that makes life just that much more convenient.

Let us know in the comments about your own experiences or questions with Wi-Fi thermostats.

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