When it comes to controlling the temperature in your home, a good thermostat can both warm your heart and cool your jets as needed.
With a smart thermostat, you can save $50 a year on your energy bills, according to Energy Star, and some thermostat manufacturers claim those savings can reach $100 or more. Before there were smart thermostats, of course, non-connected, programmable thermostats provided energy savings, and they still do.
But for years the problem has been that they're too difficult to program for many consumers. For that reason, Energy Star stopped certifying the entire product category in 2009. In fact, according to a 2015 study, 40 percent of programmable thermostat owners didn't use the programming feature to set schedules. That's a problem because a thermostat can only save you money on your energy bill when it's set back and using less energy. You can do that manually every time you go to bed or leave the house, or program your thermostat to do it for you on a schedule.
Thermostats have since gotten much less daunting, thanks largely to the advent of smart thermostats. They tend to have simple controls and touchscreen displays that make programming easier. More important, smart thermostats connect to the internet via WiFi, allowing you to change the temperature at home through an app on your smartphone wherever you happen to be—as easily as you would check your bank balance. Smart thermostats can also factor in your local weather forecast and "learn" your temperature preferences through sensors and computer algorithms. The idea is to move beyond programming altogether.
Energy Star took another look recently and launched a certification specifically for smart thermostats in January 2017. The packaging label makes it easy for you to know which smart models will help lower your energy bills. As of April 2019, 45 smart thermostats have received Energy Star certification, and that number will likely continue to grow.
Some of the user interface improvements created for smart thermostats have also trickled down into non-connected, programmable thermostats, finally making some of them a relatively easy-to-use option for consumers who don't want an internet-connected model.