Full-Feature Programmable $50 AND UP
Full-feature programmable thermostats have large, backlit touchscreens with crisp displays, sometimes in full color, and the flexibility to store different heating and cooling programs for every day of the week. Programming is fairly intuitive; some models use a question-and-answer setup wizard.
Smart-response software allows the thermostat to learn how long it takes to bring the house to a programmed temperature and will call for heating or cooling early enough that the house is at the target temperature when the program period begins.
Full-feature thermostats come in two varieties: contractor-sold-and-installed models and homeownerinstalled versions marketed through retail stores. HVAC systems with multistage heating and cooling, mechanical ventilation, humidifiers, and hard-wired controls require thermostats sold through contractors. Remote sensors are unique to the pro-installed category. An outdoor sensor communicates weather conditions to the thermostat, which can use that information to help control heat-pump systems. Wireless indoor remote sensors can control the HVAC system, too.
Placing the sensor in a room that’s consistently cooler or warmer than the rest of the house overcomes a poor thermostat location and improves comfort. (Example: Emerson Big Blue; $200 to $250)
Full-feature programmable thermostats sold for the homeowner market are universal thermostats. They control a variety of different heating and cooling systems, and can run on battery power if there’s no compatible hard-wiring. Although they can’t support ventilation and humidification equipment, they share most of the other features of the contractor-installed variety, including the ability to switch automatically between heating and cooling. (Example: Honeywell RTH7600D; $99)