The Best Programmable Thermostat

Honeywell RTH9580WF WiFi 9000 Color Touchscreen Thermostat

Our Top Pick for 2016: Honeywell RTH9580WF WiFi 9000 Color Touchscreen Thermostat
Read our full review.

See it on Amazon for $171.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.
Too expensive? See our budget pick.

Most homes have heating and air conditioning that’s installed as a structural system. The home may have a closet or room where an indoor HVAC unit resides. An outdoor unit is also a common feature too. Controlling all of these components is your thermostat. This basic control panel connects to your main electrical system and HVAC temperature sensors. You activate the thermostat when you want to alter the home’s temperature at any time of year. Although your HVAC system may be in good condition, many homeowners want to update their thermostats as an enhancement option. With today’s advanced technology, you can find the best programmable thermostat that’s within your budget by looking at the top brands.

Table of contents

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7 Programmable Days With 4 Daily Periods
Customizable Screen Color
Auto-schedule
Compatible With Single Or Multi-stage Systems
Control From Anywhere With Android/iOS Devices
Auto-away
Wi-fi Capabilities For Remote Access
Indoor Humidity Displayed
Remote Control
Easy-to-read Digital Display
Locking Touchscreen
Energy History
Backlit
Programmable To Save On Heating And Cooling Costs
Fast Setup & Installation

*Price at time of publishing and may not reflect current pricing.

#1 Gold pick (Winner): Honeywell RTH9580WF WiFi 9000 Color Touchscreen Thermostat

Honeywell RTH9580WF WiFi 9000 Color Touchscreen Thermostat Gold Pick

View it on Amazon for $171.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-gold-winnerWhen you want the ultimate control of your home’s interior temperature, the Honeywell Color Touchscreen thermostat is your best choice. With a huge 8-inch by 3.2-inch screen, everyone can read the current temperature from afar. The humidity level is even included on the main screen. This programmable thermostat is compatible with most traditional HVAC systems, and it offers several different features that make it stand out from the crowd.

The screen itself is touch sensitive. You’re greeted every day with the temperature, time and date displayed across the thermostat. Although the touchscreen is large, it isn’t complicated to read at a glance. Along the top edge is four tabs that are similar to a computer screen. Tap on “home,” “fan,” “system” or “menu” as you toggle between the modes. Honeywell has made their top thermostat user friendly so the controls are relatively intuitive. Tap on any item that you want to alter, such as the temperature, and toggle through the selections. The display will walk you through all of the options so that you’re in charge of the interior’s comfort levels.

If you have a busy household or business, several people might pass by the thermostat throughout the day. While one person thinks it’s hot, another person believes it’s cold. The thermostat might be adjusted several times in just one hour alone. To avoid this situation, Honeywell’s thermostat has a locking feature. Locking the touchscreen is as easy as entering a password. If anyone passes by and wants to alter the temperature, they must have a password. This feature protects your system from improper use and controls the energy consumption. Extreme heating and air conditioning temperatures will wear the system down and create expensive energy bills.

Although you enjoy the convenience of a programmable thermostat, the panel shouldn’t be a focal point in any room. Honeywell added a unique aesthetic feature that helps the screen blend into the room. Enter the “menu” mode, and you can see a rainbow of colors that can customize the entire screen. Select a color that matches your decor, such as the color of that particular wall. When the touchscreen is on, its color looks like the wall’s hue. The only discernible color would be the silver frame that surrounds the screen. Because the silver section looks like a standard picture frame, the entire touchscreen matches your decor and only enhances the home.

The programmable options are almost endless on the Honeywell color touchscreen. It has a scheduling feature that allows you to customize its use. Program the thermostat for either a home or business application. With this information, the thermostat asks you specific questions about your home or business. You might want cold, winter mornings to be warmed with an early heater activation, for example. A business might have the hot sun striking its walls in the afternoon so a lower air-conditioner temperature may be necessary. As you get to know the thermostat, you can alter the temperatures by one degree in order to make the interior nearly perfect. Lock these settings into place, and you’ll have a comfortable interior for either work or home.

Although the settings are completely detailed for this Honeywell product, it doesn’t “learn” these temperatures over time. You will need to manually adjust the temperatures whenever you want a different interior comfort level. Because of all of the other features involved, most consumers don’t mind the lack of “learning.” You’re always in control of the temperature by accessing it through the thermostat’s touchscreen.

A feature that makes “learning” a moot point on this Honeywell product is mobile access. This thermostat has a WiFi feature that makes it accessible through your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Simply download the app for your device, and access your account. You might be a work, and you want to turn on the heat before arriving home. Log into your thermostat, and change the settings. Program it to turn on 20 minutes before you arrive home, for example. You simply need an Internet connection to make the system accessible from nearly anywhere.

It’s easy to forget about the maintenance on your HVAC system, especially for busy households or businesses. This Honeywell thermostat offers reminders for its owners as a way to keep the system in perfect shape. If your system senses that it’s set at extreme temperatures, it will send you an alert on the touchscreen itself and on any mobile devices. Your system will never run at extreme cold or hot temperatures again. You’ll even receive notifications about the filter requiring service too. The filter is an important component that needs to be cleaned or replaced on a frequent basis. Clean filters allow the system to work at energy-efficient levels. Dirty filters, in contrast, actually hinder air flow and force the system to work harder than normal.

#2 Silver pick (Runner-up): Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat

Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat

View it on Amazon for $74.70*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-silver-winnerHoneywell understands that their customers need some choices when it comes to thermostat models, prices and features. As a runner-up candidate to the color thermostat, you can also choose the 7-Day Programmable thermostat. This product has a standard appearance with a white frame housing an LCD screen. Don’t let this thermostat fool you, however, because its basic design holds an outstanding set of features. Discover what this thermostat can do for your home when simplicity is the goal.

For your convenience, this Honeywell thermostat is only about 6-inches wide and 3.5-inches tall. In most cases, you don’t want the thermostat to take over an entire wall. If you have limited wall space, such as in a condominium or apartment, this thermostat is perfectly designed for your needs. The display fits snugly within the product’s dimensions so that everyone in the family can locate and operate the thermostat without searching for glasses or contact lenses. If you have white walls decorating your home, this thermostat will blend right into the decor.

The LCD screen may not look impressive as you pull the thermostat out of the retail box, but it comes alive once you apply power to it. With a backlit display, this thermostat glows with a green hue. The digital numbers and letters display boldly against this background. Whether it’s light or dark outside, you can read the display with no problems. The display isn’t touch sensitive, but it comes with sturdy buttons flanking the right and bottom sides. These buttons feel comfortable on your fingers as you adjust the temperature. The bottom buttons constantly change their modes based on the information displayed on the screen. Simply follow the prompts on the screen, and you’ll be a master at thermostat programming in no time.

This Honeywell thermostat is versatile because of its programming options. You can select between any of the seven days of the week. Schedule the system to turn on at various times during the week. You might be out of the house for most of the weekdays so the system may work at minimal levels during this time period. Within each set day is four periods. You have access to different schedules based on the time of day. Toggle between morning, afternoon, evening and night, for instance. Set the thermostat’s temperature for any range during these periods. As a result, you’ll have lower energy bills and a more comfortable home.

It’s easy to be at home and set the thermostat, but you might forget to activate a range one day after leaving. Don’t worry about coming home to a hot or cold house because this Honeywell thermostat comes with WiFi capabilities. Connect your home WiFi to the thermostat, and you’re able to “talk” to it through your connected mobile device. You’ll always be in control of your home’s temperature levels with WiFi access. Being on vacation isn’t a major obstacle when you can be at home with virtual temperature adjustments.

Your HVAC system is unique to your home. You might have an auxiliary heater or air conditioner when your main system can’t keep up with the regional temperature fluctuations. These systems are multistage types. Many of today’s thermostats can’t handle multistage configurations, but this programmable device has this feature. Simply connect your thermostat to both of your system components, and the programming can be done right from the screen. If you aren’t comfortable with the installation or programming process, a professional can always configure it for you. With one access point, you can alternate between system components when other systems require two entirely different panels for the same functions.

#3 Bronze pick (3rd place): Nest Learning 3rd Generation Thermostat

Nest Learning 3rd Generation Thermostat

View it on Amazon for $240.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-bronze-awardA programmable thermostat that seems more like a mobile device is the Nest Learning product. This thermostat is in its third generation, and designers have corrected and enhanced many of the options. Although it may have a costly price tag, this device works with your HVAC system in order to create better energy-consumption levels. Explore the features on this thermostat, and you might be upgrading to Nest in a hurry.

At first glance, this device is unlike any other on the market. It’s about 3-inches in diameter with a circular frame. The entire thermostat is a clear, LCD screen that reports all of the information that you need. You’ll see the time, date, set temperature, current temperature and humidity information. The background color changes as the unit activates air conditioning or heating, but you’ll always be able to read the white numerals and lettering displayed on the product throughout the day. You might be able to read it from across the room because the display’s resolution is crystal clear.

The delightful feature that drives Nest sales is the learning process. After installing the Nest on your wall, alter the temperature settings for your weekends and weekdays. For most households, you’ll use a handful of temperature settings throughout the week. Over time, the Nest thermostat “learns” these settings. It will automatically heat the home at 6 a.m. if you’ve consistently set the thermostat to that value over several days. At some point, you may not adjust the thermostat at all. It learns and retains that information for your comfort and convenience.

If you receive an expensive energy bill, you can analyze it down to the most minor detail by using the Nest’s history. By accessing the Nest’s energy usage through a smartphone app, you can see when temperatures change and their values. A heat wave may have struck the region in the past few weeks. Your air conditioner responds with more use than usual at a low temperature. In the future, you can set the system to operate at a higher temperature while using fans to further cool the home. The Nest allows you to take control of your HVAC use and alter it for energy efficiency.

The smartphone app isn’t just for history use. You can control all of the thermostat’s functions right from your phone, computer or tablet. An Internet connection is all that’s necessary. The app is free from Nest, and it allows you to benefit from the device’s many features. Set an alert on your system so that you know if the air conditioner or heater is operating at extreme temperatures. Giving you control of the HVAC system when you’re at work or on vacation is part of the Nest’s appeal.

Another great feature within the Nest is its motion detection. The display doesn’t have to be on if you aren’t in the room. Wasting power is the result of a display that’s on all of the time. When you enter the room, the Nest senses the movement and activates. It’s possible to read the temperature from across the room. Once you leave the area, the display powers down while still controlling the interior temperature.

Setting your interior temperature may be confusing for those people who want to save energy while remaining comfortable. As you initially set a temperature, the Nest will indicate a good energy-efficiency value by presenting a leaf on the display. This leaf tells you that the setting will help you save money as the home stays comfortable on hot or cold days. Ideally, you always want the leaf to be displayed on your thermostat.

#4 Budget pick (Best cheap): Honeywell 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat

Honeywell 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat

View it on Amazon for $33.80*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

2016-cheap-budget-pickWhen you’re on a tight budget, the Honeywell 5-2 thermostat is your best choice. For less than $40, you’ll receive a basic thermostat that has programmable options. This particular model doesn’t have WiFi capabilities, but you can set it for optimal temperature levels. When a simple unit is necessary for the household, you receive a great deal with this basic programmable thermostat.

When you first receive the thermostat, you’ll notice that it has several marked wires that should correspond to your home’s wiring pattern. If you have a different configuration, it takes little time to look up the wiring online. In most cases, the thermostat takes only 15 to 30 minutes to set up, depending on your system. Alternatively, you can contact a professional to help with the connection process, but that’s not necessary for most people.

You’ll also appreciate the simplicity offered by this programmable thermostat in regards to its scheduling. Set your weekdays for certain HVAC temperatures while keeping the weekends separate. Within each weekday or weekend setting is four periods, including morning, afternoon, evening and night. There are no confusing daily settings that need to be performed on this thermostat so it’s perfect for busy households or seniors.

The Honeywell’s LCD display isn’t as large as their other models, but it offers the basic information that you need in a hurry. When you activate the backlit display, you’ll instantly see the current temperature, goal temperature and accurate time. For many households, this is the only information that’s truly necessary. Set the temperature to a different one, and you can be on your way to work or school. The display remains lit as long as the system is in operation. You can find it easily if the lights turn off, or when an area is dimly lit. Large buttons direct your activation process so that you can set it and forget it.

Your display is incredibly versatile for a low cost too. The time is programmable to either standard or military values. Toggle between these choices in order for everyone to know the time at a glance. For some veterans, reading the military time is only natural and makes them feel comfortable in their surroundings. The Honeywell thermostat is versatile for every user. In fact, you can also alter the temperature values between Fahrenheit and Celsius. If you’re used to Celsius, use this setting for the most comfortable read out. Fahrenheit is common in the United States, but most of the world relies on Celsius.

This thermostat is advertised as being accurate down to one degree. When the system senses that the temperature isn’t within range, it triggers the HVAC system. Most consumers appreciate this accuracy, but other people point out that the system is now turning on and off at regular intervals. The thermostat’s sensitivity level isn’t adjustable so you’ll need to make a determination about this feature before buying the product.


Pre-purchase considerations

System Compatibility

Although most programmable thermostats come with a variety of wires to match up with any HVAC brand, you should verify that your system will work with a particular product before buying it. Some thermostats aren’t compatible with heat pumps or baseboard heaters, for example. Take a look at your HVAC system’s model and age. Read over the thermostat’s compatible brands that are normally listed on the retail box. Although the thermostat may indicate that it works with WeatherKing air conditioners, the system’s age might be a concern. Systems that are 15 or 20 years old may not work with today’s latest thermostat technology. If you’re unsure about a product’s compatibility, a professional may need to inspect the system before you invest in a thermostat. The professional can narrow down your options and make the purchasing decision much easier. There are dozens of thermostats in the marketplace today that can complicate the purchasing process.

Programming Versatility

A major determining factor in the price of your new thermostat is the programming options. Generally, you’ll pay a higher price for a thermostat with more versatile programming features. Consider your household’s habits before selecting a high-price thermostat. If each day of the week has a different temperature setting, it’s cost-effective to select the product with seven days of programming options. When most of the residents are out of the home on the weekdays, a 5-2 thermostat is a better choice. Set the weekdays for one temperature while reserving an alternate setting for the weekends. You save money with this simple programming option.

Additionally, you need to choose between thermostats that require manual settings or other models with learning capabilities. Programming is simple with a learning thermostat, but some consumers may feel a loss of control with these products. Evaluate your needs and apply them to your next thermostat purchase.

Installation Complexity

Your thermostat purchase will lose its allure when the installation is too complex. A product might be advertised as an easy installation, but that’s based on a variety of factors. Read over reviews about a given product and any issues with installation. Look for information that’s specific to your HVAC-system brand. Ideally, you should only disconnect and reconnect wires during a simple installation.

Hire a contractor if you’re unsure about the proper connections. You can buy your thermostat from any company, and simply pay the labor for an individual to install it. Watch the professional when they perform the work too. You can learn about the wiring and apply it to future projects. It may not be necessary for the professional to visit again when you see the wiring process in person.

Wireless Access

Don’t assume that every programmable thermostat has wireless access. The product should specifically state that it can connect to the Internet. Mobile-device apps for thermostat connectivity should be free too. Some consumers have pointed out that certain manufacturers charge for connectivity ease. Before you leave on vacation or other long time period, try the wireless feature out. Stand outside, and access the system through your smartphone. There should be instant access to all of the features. You may want to test it even further, such as when you’re at work. If the thermostat can communicate over your WiFi without any problems, you can control it from almost any location. Selecting a thermostat without wireless access saves you money, but you will need to be more diligent about activating and deactivating the system at home.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

As you shop around for the best programmable thermostat, don’t be blinded by all of the available features in products today. Ideally, you should make a wish list for your dream thermostat. Some features might be mandatory for the household, whereas others are optional. Narrow down your thermostat options, and match the products to your budget as well. You’ll be able to choose between two or three different models that are perfect for your needs. In the end, the thermostat should last for many years without any issues.

Discussion and comments

We want to know what you think. Do you own any of the products we discussed? Which did you buy and how did it work out for you?

Do you know of an even better product?

Comment below and help your fellow consumers make the right choice. Over to you!

Resources

  1. 1. SmartHome, Honeywell RTH2300B1012/A 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat, SmartHome, 2016
  2. Megan Wollerton, Nest Learning Thermostat Third Generation Review:, CNET, September 1, 2015
  3. Michael Brown, Review: Honeywell’s model RTH8580WF programmable thermostat delivers the basics, TechHive, January 24, 2013
  4. Lowes, Selecting the Right Thermostat For Your Home, Lowes, 2016
  5. Southern California Gas Company, Energy-efficient Appliance Buying Guide, Southern California Gas Company, 2016
  6. Megan Wollerton, Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat Review, CNET, September 13, 2013
  • As far as aesthetics go, (which honestly, is much too important to me), the Nest Learning 3rd gen looks so sleek and attractive. I love that they broke away from the boring rectangle shape and came up with something a little more modern

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