Amazon Smart Thermostat Review: Smarter Than Nest At A Fraction Of The Price

Amazon Smart Thermostat Review: Smarter Than Nest At A Fraction Of The Price

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The $60 Amazon Smart Thermostat pulls off a feat very few smart home devices can accomplish: It offers all the functionality of even the priciest connected thermostats at the lowest price. Even better, it does so with surprisingly few trade-offs. There is, however, one great big caveat, and its name is Alexa.

Like the market-leading Nest Learning Thermostat, which usually retails for $250, the Amazon Smart Thermostat can learn your habits and routines, then automate your home’s heating and cooling schedule to match. Used effectively, that can translate into energy savings and lower utility bills, all without sacrificing comfort. And yet, Amazon’s thermostat is priced well below even the lowest-cost competitor from a renowned discount brand, the roughly $80 Wyze Thermostat.

I disconnected the third-generation Google Nest I had been relying on to manage my townhouse’s heating and cooling controls for the past four years and replaced it with an Amazon Smart Thermostat, which I’ve been testing for over a month. I can tell you this much: The Nest won’t be going back up. Here’s why.

The Amazon Smart Thermostat uses Alexa to effortlessly adjust your home temperature to your needs — all for a much lower price than competitors.

The who, what and how Who this is for: The Amazon Smart Thermostat is for anyone looking for a thermostat that can automatically adjust their home’s temperature and who either lives in an Alexa household or is willing to adapt to Amazon’s smart home ecosystem. Though it doesn’t have a speaker or microphone, it can use one or more Alexa speakers to add to its functionality. In fact, the more smart home devices you have in general, the better both Alexa and the Amazon Smart Thermostat will work.

What you need to know: Unlike most gadgets, the less you interact with a smart thermostat, the better. And the Amazon Smart Thermostat might well be the most autonomous thermostat available, requiring less interaction than even the market pacesetter, Nest. It also happens to be the least expensive and is compatible with most 24-volt systems (most modern residential HVAC installations) — though it does require a C-wire (an adapter is available if your home doesn’t have one).

How it compares: At less than a quarter of the cost of the flagship Nest, the Amazon Smart Thermostat falls short in just one category: build quality. Although its clean, minimalist design is perfectly tasteful and its materials seem plenty durable for a wall-mounted gadget, the Nest’s color LCD and mechanical click wheel made of premium metal are undeniably nicer than Amazon’s cream-colored plastic touchscreen and color icons. How much that matters depends on whether you want your thermostat to serve as a conversation piece or just serve your heating and cooling needs. Another simple yet attractive looking thermostat is the Ecobee SmartThermostat, which includes a speaker and microphone that let you directly communicate with Alexa or Apple’s Siri. What it doesn’t have, however, is the same level of access to your behaviors and habits as Google or Amazon, so its automation algorithm has less data to work with.

Amazon

Physically, the Alexa Smart Thermostat is a white plastic square about 3 1/2 inches tall and wide and just shy of an inch thick. It comes with a soft touchscreen faceplate illuminated by simple color icons (red for heat, blue for AC) and a digital number display.

Disconnecting your old unit and installing the Amazon Smart Thermostat should be easy-peasy for anyone with even a modicum of mechanical aptitude. As with other thermostat kits, Amazon includes a small screwdriver as well as a faceplate to cover any unsightly scars your previous thermostat may have left on the wall.

Amazon also includes detailed printed materials in the box, but for more in-depth instructions and how-to videos, there’s also an Amazon Smart Thermostat support page. When you’re finished installing it, everything should look clean and tidy — even if you need the C-wire adapter, which installs at your furnace rather than at the thermostat.

If you don’t already have the Alexa mobile app, you’ll need to download it to complete installation, but from there, connecting the thermostat to Alexa is a quick, intuitive process that should only take a few minutes (just tap to add a device and follow the onscreen instructions from there).

By default, Alexa sets the thermostat to “auto,” which will switch on either heating or cooling, depending on what’s needed. The default temperature range is set to heat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit and cool to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but you can adjust it however you’d like. You can also choose to switch to dedicated heat or cool — or, for that matter, turn the whole thing off — but for maximum set-it-and-forget-it enjoyment, I’d recommend you don’t touch a thing and just let Alexa take charge from there.

Amazon

The Amazon Smart Thermostat doesn’t work with Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit, which means you’ll have no choice but to cozy up to Alexa. In fact, you’ll need the Alexa mobile app to set up the thermostat and for anything more complicated than adjusting the temperature. The device itself offers only a few basic touchscreen controls using three buttons: up, down and mode (to switch between heating, cooling, auto and off).

Unlike with the Ecobee, you’ll need to add at least one Amazon Echo smart speaker or display to the Smart Thermostat if you want in-home voice control. You can, in a pinch, bark commands at the Alexa app, but it’s not nearly as simple. However, that’s not the only reason you might want to consider adding one or more Alexa devices to your home — the more you use Alexa, the better Alexa gets to know you and your schedule (and the better your thermostat can adjust accordingly).

I happen to have about a dozen Amazon Echo and Echo Show devices strewn about my townhouse and I rely on Alexa for everything from turning my lights off at night to keeping an up-to-date shopping list. I share my location so Alexa knows when I’m home and when I’m away. Alexa even shushes my two dogs when they bark in the house. In other words, Alexa knows me and my household well — my Amazon Echos can even distinguish my elementary-aged daughter’s voice and face from my own. Up next: Why that makes such a difference.

Just a few years ago, Amazon introduced a quirky new feature called Alexa Hunches. At first, enabling Hunches j

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