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Thermostat Buying Guide 2017: Choosing the Right Thermostat for Your Home

Your ideal thermostat depends on a few factors: preference, wiring and your HVAC system. More complex systems, such as those with humidifiers built in, will require a more sophisticated thermostat to utilize the system to its maximum capacity.

We’ll cover all these points in this thermostat buying guide.

System Type

It’s easy to go out and buy the latest Nest Learning Thermostat – 3nd generation or the older version Nest Learning Thermostat – 2nd generation t200577, but this advanced model may not be the right choice for your system. Why? There are a lot of thermostat types and models on the market.

There are also:

  • Single stage: One level of output.
  • Two stage: Two levels of output.
  • Three stage: There levels of output.

Single and two stage models are most common. These are the models seen in apartments and homes. Three stage models are seen in larger buildings that require multiple levels of heat output at one time.

Ultimately, greater stages allow for greater cooling and heating efficiency.

For example, a single stage unit will always work at full capacity. Multi-stage units may use fans to help cool the home and only switch over to full power when necessary. This means that the unit won’t need to maintain such a high level of output, and will have less wear-and-tear as a result.

There are also some units that work with multiple heat and cool functions. For example, one unit may provide hot air systems and baseboard heat that can be controlled separately. Not all thermostats can accommodate 3-stage heating and cooling systems.

Key point: Your wifi thermostat must be able to accommodate your HVAC system for maximum efficiency.

Wiring Factors

Many thermostats will require a different wiring pattern. While there are adaptation kits available, some homeowners do not want to deal with the hassle of adding or modifying wire setups. In the event of “smart” thermostats, you may even need to add a C-wire for the unit to function properly.

Adding a C-wire is easy, and there are many kits that can help you through the process.

Professional installers will be able to adjust your wiring as necessary, but many people choose to use the DIY option to wire their units. In either case, it’s nice to know the extra labor that will need to go into the installation process before purchasing a thermostat.


The main consideration is always going to be whether your thermostat is compatible with your heating and cooling system. Once that is out of the way, you can delve deeper into programmability.

A lot has changed in the last few years.

Nest is one of the pioneers in the field that allowed users to be able to program their thermostats like never before. While these programmable features are not a necessity, they are a convenience that is too good to pass up.

A few questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you have a regular schedule?
  • Do you live in a climate that doesn’t change often?
  • Do you hold regular hours away from home?

You don’t need to have a programmable thermostat, and if you’ve answered yes to any of the questions above, you probably don’t need programmability.

However, if you may not be home at 5 every day or you live in a region where it may be hot during the day and cold at night, being able to program your thermostat is definitely a bonus. This will allow you to:

  • Set temperature highs and lows for heating and cooling.
  • Set a temperature schedule for your thermostat.

In the case of the Nest Learning Thermostat, this model is able to be programmed on a daily schedule and will learn your heating and cooling habits as well. Users can even connect their thermostat to their home’s Wi-Fi connection, and alter their thermostat remotely using an app.

Click here to learn more about the Nest Learning Thermostat in my in-depth review.

Different programmable models offer different levels of programmability. Some allow you to change your settings on a 24-hour period, and some allow settings to be altered based on the day of the week and on the hour.

Remote Access

A new addition to every thermostat buying guide is the possibility of remote access. When a thermostat is able to be connected to the Internet, you’ll often be able to control the unit remotely. This means that you’ll be able use an app or web interface to change the way your thermostat behaves.

If the temperature is dropping while you’re at work, you can change your thermostat’s temperature to make it warmer in your home.

Energy Efficiency

Rising energy costs have caused homeowners to try and be as energy efficient as possible. Older thermostats often malfunction, keeping an HVAC system working at a higher output level and causing your energy bills to skyrocket as a result.

Modern models account for energy efficiency.

Advanced models even produce energy output reports, so you can find out when you’re using your HVAC system inefficiently and can adjust the settings as necessary. A small change can make a big difference in your energy bills.

Models that are able to be accessed remotely or able to include scheduling allow for further refining of your energy usage. These models can lower the heat when you’re away from work to curb energy costs and raise the heat right before you get home so that you’ll be warm from the moment you walk through the door.

A properly programmed thermostat can save a household up to 20% on energy costs over a year. According to Nest, this is a savings of $173 per year.

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