Touted as the next big thing in home heating, learning thermostats have been getting a lot of attention lately and for good reason. These high-tech devices are a huge step forward in heating and cooling automation, in part because they “learn” your daily routine and temperature preferences, automatically regulating your HVAC system for maximum efficiency without sacrificing comfort.

How Does a Thermostat “Learn”?

Learning thermostats are essentially small, Wi-Fi-enabled computers that collect data over periods of time and take into account many factors, such as when you’re actually in your home and when you’re away; weather patterns and temperature fluxes; and even weekdays versus weekends. The thermostats use this data to learn how you like your house to feel, automatically controlling the heating and cooling in your home in the most energy-efficient way possible.

A big selling point of learning thermostats is that they are easy to use and don’t require you to constantly adjust their settings. You probably know that there are computerized thermostats out there already, but what sets learning thermostats apart is their ability to anticipate what temperature you find comfortable without your sitting down and programming it. If you like your home to be, for example, cooler in the morning than in the evening, then after being manually set for a few days, the thermostat will learn your preferences and automate the temperature from that point forward. These thermostats can even update their software automatically through your wireless internet connection, much like an app on your smartphone.

How Do They Save Money?

Learning thermostats are designed specifically to conserve energy and reduce your heating and cooling costs. According to manufacturers, regular thermostats could waste nearly 200 dollars a year in excess utility bills because they don’t constantly regulate your home’s temperature. Learning thermostats can figure out when you’re likely to be at home and when you’re not and will adjust the temperature automatically.

These new thermostats can also send you emails every month detailing energy usage, including kilowatt hours used, comparative month-to-month energy use, and helpful hints on how to maximize energy efficiency in your home.

I Have an Older Heating System. Will This New Technology Work for Me?

Since learning thermostats are basically high-tech control panels for your HVAC and not a whole new system, they will work with nearly all heating and cooling systems, including forced air, in-floor radiant heating, and more. Though learning thermostats work with 95 percent of all homes, it is recommended to have a professional check your system’s compatibility before purchasing a unit. Much like learning your personal temperature preferences, these thermostats will collect data on your heating and cooling system’s functions, so it can monitor usage and even tell you how many minutes it will take your HVAC to reach your desired temperature.

What Else Should I Know?

Experienced home do-it-yourselfers likely won’t have much trouble installing a learning thermostat, but professional installation services are available for those who’d prefer an expert to handle the work. Multiple thermostats can be installed and controlled in the same home.

Since learning thermostats are small computers, they have digital displays, meaning they have a sleek and modern appearance and touch screens for controls. They even include connectivity with smartphones and tablets, allowing you to control your home’s temperature anywhere, from your office to the comfort of your own bed.

With a learning thermostat in your home, you don’t have to be tech-savvy or an HVAC expert to ensure your system is running efficiently. Just by following your daily routine, you’ll be maximizing your comfort in your home and getting the best performance out of your HVAC system.

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Sources: Electramedics Electrical Services; HGTVRemodels; GreenYour; US Department of Energy.

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