May 11, 2020

While there are several smart thermostat brands available, there are just three types of them. Each type can be a good solution based on your individual circumstances. Here’s what to know about these different types of smart thermostats so that you can make the best-informed decision.

Remote Sensor

Ecobee3 is an example of this type of smart thermostat. It uses proximity and motion detectors to determine when to turn on your heating or cooling system. These thermostats have “home” and “away” modes. If the motion detectors haven’t been set off after a while, the smart thermostat goes into away mode. It’s best to place the remote sensor in an area of your home that sees high traffic when your family is home.

If you’re home but not walking around, this type of smart thermostat will go into “away” mode since it assumes you’re out. This can be a problem if you work from home but don’t often pass the sensor. Another issue is if you’re sick in bed. These problems can be solved, though, by accessing the thermostat using a mobile device. This allows you to override the sensors and keep your home cooled or heated based on your needs.


Smart thermostats that use geofencing technology include the Honeywell Lyric. These thermostats rely on the location of your phone to determine whether your home should be actively cooled or heated. You can set the range away from your home anywhere from 500 feet to 7 miles. Once you leave the range you set, your home’s heating or cooling system shuts down.

When you re-enter the range you have set for your home, the smart thermostat will reactivate your heating or cooling system. If you set the range wide enough, your home will be nice and comfortable once you arrive. You can save money if you set the range smaller and don’t mind a bit of discomfort when you arrive.

The only real issue with geofencing is that if you regularly forget your phone at home, your heating or cooling system will remain on. If there are multiple people living in your home, it can be a bit of a headache if they pass near your home and trigger your system. Additionally, if you work near home, you may inadvertently trigger “home” mode as you move about.


Examples of this type of smart thermostat are the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control. Once installed, you tell these thermostats the basic parameters of your daily schedule. This is similar to how programmable thermostats work, except these ones learn your schedule over time and adapt accordingly.

The Nest, for example, detects a range of motion within 150 degrees of its sensor. If nobody passes within this area over a period of time, the Nest assumes that nobody is home and goes into “away” mode. If it detects people are often home when it is otherwise supposed to have your heating or cooling system off, it will override your manual settings and condition your air.

Like the remote sensor type of smart thermostats, the algorithmic sensor may decide you’re not home even when you are if you haven’t passed in front of the sensor. Like that other type of thermostat, though, you can override the thermostat using a mobile app or website. This issue can be a little annoying but is easily remedied, so it’s not that big of a problem.


Smart thermostats are installed in the same way that conventional four- or five-wire thermostats are. Some of them require you to connect the C wire, while other ones don’t. Some thermostats use the C wire as it provides a continuous flow of electricity. This is needed for LED displays to operate properly. Some smart thermostats use just the R wire as it supplies enough electricity for the thermostat to function correctly. Not all homes have a C wire, so you should know your wiring before buying a smart thermostat.

Heatwave Heating & Cooling is a contractor based in Amherst, NY. One of our services is installing smart thermostats. We install, repair, and maintain heating and cooling systems. Other specialties we offer are installing tankless water heaters and indoor air quality solutions. Contact us today to find out how we can help make your home more comfortable.

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