The Best Smart Thermostats of 2021

Nest Learning Thermostat weather

Credit: Google

The Nest Learning Thermostat can keep track of the local weather.

Emerson Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat

Credit: Sensi

The Emerson Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat is the best smart thermostat you can buy for the money.

How We Tested

The Tester

I’m Whitson Gordon, and I’m a freelance tech writer charged with testing smart home gadgets (among other things) here at Reviewed. I’ve been writing about tech professionally for over 10 years, from building computers to setting up smart homes. I served as the editor-in-chief of Lifehacker and How-To Geek before starting a freelance career writing guides for publications like the New York Times, PCMag, and Reviewed. This isn’t just my day job—it’s my calling. I’m obsessed with researching, testing, and finding the best possible gadget in a given category, so much so that my brother made it a central joke in his best man speech at my wedding.

I’ve been decking out my house with smart home tech for a few years, including a major revamp after buying a new house in 2019. With all-new electrical, HVAC, and a robust WiFi system, my house is primed for testing smart gadgets of all stripes—alongside my experience setting up smart home devices in my family’s older, more challenging houses.

The previous round of testing was done by Julia MacDougall, Reviewed’s Senior Scientist. She oversees the integrity of the labs, the methods and standards for test procedures in every category, and she also manages the huge backlog of test data stretching back over a decade.

The Tests

I’m not going to lie, testing multiple thermostats was nerve-wracking. With the threat of damaging an expensive HVAC system, it was really important that I didn’t screw this up. My HVAC system is brand new thanks to a recent remodel, and includes a C-wire, so I experienced the easy version of these thermostats, but will note their compatibility with non-C-wire-equipped systems where applicable.

For each thermostat, we safely switched off the HVAC circuit breaker, installed the backplate, mounted the front of the thermostat, and configured it with the smartphone app on both an iPhone and Android phone.

Once we had successfully installed and programmed the thermostat, we let it run while we tested out the app, the thermostat’s responsiveness, and voice assistant functionality. Using Amazon Echo smart speakers, a Google Home, and Siri, ,we put the thermostats through their paces.

We also tried out the extra features on each thermostat to make sure that they are actually useful. This primarily includes scheduling and geofencing, but can also include other features like room sensors.

What You Should Know About Smart Thermostats


Credit: / Julia MacDougall

We became intimately familiar with the circuit breakers while testing smart thermostats.

If you’re shopping for a smart thermostat, be sure to answer these questions before you buy anything:

  • What kind of heating and cooling system do you have? Line-level baseboard heating, window air conditioning units, and other systems might require specialized smart thermostats like the Mysa or Sensibo Sky, respectively, so make sure you know your system before you buy a thermostat designed for central air.

  • Will your current HVAC setup work with a smart thermostat? (You may want to consult a professional before continuing.)

  • Do you have a C-wire? Some thermostats will work without a C-wire, while others won’t (or may require a separate conversion kit).

  • How much smart functionality do you want? Are geofencing or “learning” requirements, or do you just need basic remote access from your phone?

  • Do you use voice assistants, like Amazon Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant? Are they compatible with the smart thermostat you’re investigating?

  • Is the wall behind your current thermostat clean/neat enough to be exposed, if you replace your current model with a smaller thermostat? If not, are you willing to patch and/or paint that area?

  • Will you want to install the smart thermostat yourself, or will you want a contractor to do it? Keep in mind that contractors may favor smart thermostats not available for resale.

  • Finally—and perhaps most importantly—who will use this thermostat, and what is their level of tech-savviness? Just because you’re comfortable using complex smart devices doesn’t mean your spouse, roommate, or kids are, which may impact the thermostat you ultimately choose to buy.

We’ve addressed these concerns (and more) in our buying guide here, so be sure to read the entries thoroughly if you want to get the best smart thermostat for your family.

Other Smart Thermostats We Tested

The Best Smart Water Leak Detectors
The Best Smart Bulbs
The Best In-Wall Switches
The Best Indoor Security Cameras

Checking our work.

We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.

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