Weekend away

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Thermostat control while away from home

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Presence Awareness and Geofencing    -  A review


We didn't want to spend that much on a thermostat and after reading through reviews of Nest and Ecobee and understanding how they work, I really didn't see what benefit a "smart" thermostat would be over a regular wifi thermostat like this one. The main reason for switching out our old-school thermostat was to be able to control the thermostat while away manually, and to set up "geofencing" so that the thermostat would turn itself down once everyone leaves the house. Honeywell's "Total Connect" app and website are really easy to use and very highly rated. Although the app does not support geofencing (at least, not yet), it is really easy to use and also makes entering a schedule a breeze. It IS possible to set up geofencing through the free service called "IFTT" (if this then that).

Both "Nest" and "Ecobee" use "presence awareness" to try to figure out if you're in a room. Basically they have sensors to help them determine if you are at home/in a room. The sensor is either built into the thermostat (in the case of "Nest") or into wireless room sensors (in the case of "Ecobee"). The problem with this approach is that if you make no movement or sounds for a while (like when reading), then the devices can be fooled into thinking that you're away and they will turn the heat down. So I don't think this is a very good approach.

Geofencing is a different approach that uses the location of your smartphone to determine if you are at home or not. A much simpler, but more reliable approach than presence awareness. Although Honewell's app does not support geofencing directly, it can be done through the free "IFTT" app/service. This is a third-party solution. "Nest" does have geofencing built into the app, and it also supports several users, so basically it waits until everyone is out of the house before turning down the heat. This is great, but the same can be achieved with Honeywell's WIfi thermostat and the IFTT service. "Ecobee" does not support geofencing through the dedicated app.

Although I have no experience with a "Nest" thermostat, as far as I understand it the main selling point there is that it learns your schedule. Well, if you don't have a set schedule this is of no benefit (and you'd have to turn this feature off). If you do have a schedule you can save yourself a bundle, get this device, and enter your schedule manually.

The only gripe I have about the device is that setting up the wifi connection is a pain. After powering it up, you have a few minutes to connect to the hotspot that it creates, select a wifi network, and enter the password. Afterwards, you have to wait several minutes to see if the connection succeeded. If it didn't, you have to remove the thermostat from the wall, wait a minute, put it back, and try the whole thing again. BUT once the wifi was set up it's been working fine, we've had no connectivity issues.

Oh, and keep in mind that you need a "C" wire to supply constant power to this thermostat. Make sure you have one before purchasing!