Let’s face it, the thermostat that is installed by default in most dwellings is pretty basic. If you have a digital display that’s the “upgraded” version; and all it does is replicate the functionality of the old rudimentary mercury switch / rotary knob designs. An advanced thermostat with scheduling features can save quite a bit on your energy bill, but can also be an interesting gadget to occupy your time. Since my energy company is offering a rebate for anyone who upgrades to a scheduling thermostat, I decided to pull the trigger. The features I identified as necessary for a new thermostat are:
- Scheduling of temperature based on time of day and day of week.
- Automatic switching between heating mode (temp not to fall below lower set point) and cooling mode (temp not to exceed upper set point)
- Capability to display a remote (outside) temperature
I’ve researched some of these thermostats recently and here’s a summary of the information I’ve found.
Level 1: Scheduling Thermostat
The Aprilaire 8570 (shown above) meets all of the basic requirements for which I was searching and has a large display that makes it easy to program. For basic scheduling, auto heat/cool mode switching, and outside temperature sensing, this is the best thermostat I’ve found. Price: about $120.
Level 2: For those looking for even more features:
The Proliphix NT20e offers all of the features of the Aprilaire but includes Ethernet network integration, which opens up an entirely new set of capabilities. For example, you can connect to an embedded webserver on the thermostat and configure all of the settings and schedules from any computer on your local network. The thermostat can update its time over the web, so you never have to set the clock. It can also send e-mail / text page alerts if the temperature gets too high or too low. In addition, you can connect to the thermostat when you’re away from home through a free account on the Proliphix website. If you have an advanced home automation controller, it can send commands over the network to change thermostat settings. Price: about $260 (Note: the NT10e does not include remote temperature sensing, but does include everything else is a bit cheaper.)
The RCS X10 was my initial first choice, but after preliminary research, I found that it has no scheduling feature! Sure, you can raise and lower the temperature from an X10 remote device, but it doesn’t have any built-in automatic scheduling. I you are one of those people with advanced home automation system, you can use that to automate the thermostat settings. For me, this is a complicated and potentially troublesome combination. I’d rather have the thermostat itself taking care of all of the scheduling, not a computer or external controller. I think the Proliphix is a much better option and it can also be controlled over the network (many home automation controllers are capable.) I’m glad I didn’t purchase the first thermostat I found. Price: about $200.
The Aprilaire 3020t Communicating Thermostat has most of the features of the Proliphix NT20e, but it requires a central control until. The thermostat cost about $200. . . but the controller unit is another $800. This is way to expensive for my needs, and offers many multi-zone control features I’d never use. But if you have a multi-zone system, this may be a pretty descent option.