What Makes a Smart Thermostat so Smart?

Smartphones, smart cars, smart everything. Even thermostats are “smart” these days, but what exactly does that mean? That depends on which smart thermostat you are talking about.

There are several to choose from, all with different features. Options include the Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric and Emerson Sensi, and each have something to offer other than adjusting the air temperature from afar. Smart thermostats have the ability to analyze information gathered through technology. Here are a few features offered by many smart thermostats you might find helpful.

Wi-Fi Connectivity

All smart thermostats connect to your Wi-Fi, which allows for two awesome features. First, this allows you to control your thermostat remotely, meaning that you can see and adjust the temperature of your home from anywhere. Second, it lets your thermostat talk, in essence, to other devices around your home. For example, you can connect your thermostat to door sensors to adjust the temperature of your home when you walk in. More specifically, the Nest thermostat pairs with plenty of devices, including Nest’s own smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which can trigger the thermostat to turn off the air to prevent smoke or carbon from spreading throughout the house in the event of an emergency.


As if your smart thermostat isn’t doing enough already, it’s also a meteorologist. By connecting to the internet, thermostats such as the Nest and Honeywell Lyric get a general idea of what the weather is like outside. These thermostats can use that information to adjust the air and battle the temperature and humidity outside, creating a comfortable environment inside your home. If the sun is heating your house, your smart thermostat knows that, and is working to keep it cool.

Motion Detection

Some smart thermostats know when you’re home by tracking your movement, either when you actually walk by the thermostat itself, or through other connected devices with motion sensor technology. This allows smart thermostats to adjust the air if you’re not home for long periods of time. The makers of the Ecobee thermostat also have motion detectors available to connect to your thermostat in any room, in case you don’t walk by the thermostat often. The Nest can use its smoke detectors, or other supported devices, to track your movement. If you don’t have sensors, it’s best to place your smart thermostat in a high-traffic area.


Don’t worry, this isn’t as scary as it sounds. Geofencing means your smart thermostat is measuring where you are in relation to your home through the GPS on your smartphone. The Honeywell Lyric and Nest can adjust your thermostat when you enter or exit a predefined radius around your home, meaning you have a comfortable home when you get there, or don’t waste money heating or cooling your home when you’re not home.


Algorithms are a set of rules or processes to be followed to calculate or solve a problem. This is the gem of the Nest, and the element that truly makes it an intelligent device. We tend to develop patterns in our lifestyle that can communicate our preferences to a smart thermostat. This includes when we leave the house in the morning, when we get back in the evening, the temperature we set when we’re home all day on Saturday or what temperature we set at night. The Nest is always gathering information about us and factoring it into its own “behavior” to best mimic ours. Algorithms are what let the Nest learn our habits, preferences and schedule to make adjustments accordingly.


Programmable thermostats have been around for a while. They allow you to program settings for different parts of the day, such as when you wake up, are at work, are back at home for the evening or go to bed. You can adjust a programmable thermostat to cool or heat your house differently at different parts of the day.

In a way, programmable thermostats are the original smart thermostats, but not all programmable thermostats are smart. However, it’s worth mentioning because you can use motion sensors or geofencing capabilities to set your Ecobee or Honeywell Lyric thermostats to kick into your programmed mode so the temperature is right where you want it, whether you are home or away.

Smart thermostats may cost more up front, but using one can be a great way to increase efficiency and save money. They are not a one-size-fits-all type of device, however. If you’re considering purchasing a smart thermostat, make sure it’s compatible with your HVAC unit and do the research to make sure it has the features to keep you comfortable in your home. If you have any questions about which one to choose or its compatibility, call Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning at (850) 580-4029 or residents in South Georgia can call (229) 495-6599.

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