​Nest v Honeywell: Which smart thermostat system is the one for you?

Head to head on smarts, usability, installation and price

Smart thermostats are the no-brainer smart home system. Of all the connected devices making their ways into our lives, these are the ones that make the most sense right now. They save you money, they make your central heating system hassle free and, most importantly of all, they work.

So, is Nest the best or does Honeywell have it all? Here's a little something to help you decide which is the right one.

Nest vs Honeywell: Design

Nest is a design masterpiece but there's no need to feel like you have to settle for its poor cousin with Honeywell. While the Honeywell Evohome main unit isn't exactly luscious to look on, the Honeywell Lyric is, well, let's face it, a total copy of the Nest thermostat physically speaking.

While Nest is 3.2-inch in diameter and 1.3 inches thick, the Lyric is a flat 3 inches across and 0.3 inches thinner. Both have lovely looking, well thought-out displays, selector wheels, menu systems and a stainless steel case. The bottom line is that both companies have smart heating ecosystems that are going to look nice on your walls.

Nest vs Honeywell: Which is smarter?

There's no doubt about it. Nest is smarter, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right option for you. It's smarter because it learns your habits and, after a week or two, it begins to understand your routines. It knows that you want your house to be warm at 7am when you get out of bed and it knows that you'll be gone by 9am, so maybe to stop heating the house about 8.30am.

It also knows what the weather was like outside when you made that decision to turn it up or down. So, as the seasons start to change, it gets the idea when to shift the regime all by itself. You can argue about whether being this smart is important or not - and we will in a moment - but it's certainly more intelligent than what Honeywell has on offer.

Not all of Honeywell's products have no capacity to learn. In fact, in that sense, one might accuse some of them of being dumb because it's actually you that has to do all the thinking for them. The Lyric, for example, uses geo-fencing to figure out when to turn the heating on and off. It treats your phone as you. So, when your phone crosses certain invisible barriers - the end of your street, the entrance to the car park at work - it understands whether you're coming or going and what you're going to want to happen to your central heating in the mean time.

Likewise the Single Zone Thermostat is all about empowering the user to control their heating systems from their mobile phones rather than any particular smart credentials.

Fortunately, the other two members of the gang do have some brains. The Honeywell Voice Controlled Thermostat has the ability to adapt to your accent so that it can better respond to your wishes, and there's no part of Nest that can do anything with audio like this for the time being. That may be crucial for some use cases.

Smarter still, though, is the Honeywell Evohome which, to match one of Nest's functions, can figure out how long it takes to heat your house and therefore will make sure it's at the right temperature by, say, 6pm, if that's when you've programmed your heating to kick in. So, there's no waiting about for an hour before your warm enough to take your coat off.

The biggest smart differentiator that Honeywell has, though, is the wireless thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) that are part of the Evohome set-up. They mean that you can zone your heating requirements. You control all the zones from the base station which means you don't have to waste money heating up your spare bedroom when you've got no guests in the house.

Both the Honeywell and Nest systems have motion sensing, so they very quickly get the idea of when no one is home and cut off the gas. They're also both remote controllable from apps. So, if you want to make sure that your house isn't at sub-zero when you get back from a winter holiday, you can start the home fires burning as you're leaving the hotel.

Nest vs Honeywell: Usability

Honeywell says that geo-fencing is better because we don't always run to routines and that Lyric is therefore more responsive and adaptable. But having used a Nest for a very long time, we can let you into a secret. Most of us are incredibly regular and predictable. The number of times you have to correct Nest are fairly rare. It can struggle with the change of seasons a little more than one might expect but it doesn't take long to get the message and you can always alter the schedule manually if necessary.

Geo-fencing has some major problems for us. The first is that it puts the onus on you when it comes to getting those fences right and that's going to take a fair bit of trial and error. What's more, you'll often find that, although it turns the heating on and off, you might not find your house up to temperature when you want it to be. Plus, of course, the length of time that it needs to do that is going to change according to the weather outside, so you'll have to move those geo-fences as the year goes round. It's hassle.

On the other hand, usability of Honeywell's zoning system is far, far in advance of Nest's solution which is simply to add more than one Nest thermostat to your house. So, that's just another $249 for every room then. Of course, you could always go round your home turning on and off the radiators manually but, realistically, it's unlikely that you're going to bother. Besides, what's smart about a home where you have to do that?

Nest vs Honeywell: Installation

People make a lot of installation and we'll humour you on this one if you feel it's important. Nest recommends that you get a professional to fit its smart thermostat but it's not so wildly complicated that you couldn't do it yourself. Again, we're not suggesting that you do but, if you happen to know you way around a few home DIY jobs, then you could probably give it a crack. If you don't fancy the idea of that, then it's about $100 to get a man with a van to do it for you.

Honeywell, on the other hand, is very happy for its users to get hands on with the Lyric and this North America-only product certainly appears something of a doddle to install. It's just a question of replacing your old dumb thermostat. As for the Single Zone Connected Thermostat and Evohome, it's very much the same advice as for Nest. Get a professional to do it unless you happen to be some kind of whizz.

That's installation then but, as we say, for us, it's a bit of a red herring. Professional installation is not expensive in the grand scheme of what you're doing. You'll make that money back very quickly but, more importantly, the cost of the hardware varies quite a lot, as do the features. How much it costs to fit shouldn't be a worry for you.

Nest vs Honeywell: Price comparison

Honeywell has a far better range of options to match your budget simply because Nest only has a single smart heating product, its thermostat. It's on its third generation at the time of writing and it comes in at $249 (including installation).

The Honeywell Lyric is comparable at a North America-only $249 which is likely to be the same in pounds if and when it comes to the UK. Given that you can fit it yourself, that makes it even-stevens with Nest.

The Honeywell Single Zone Thermostat is the cheapest of them all, though, and that has an RRP of £139 (UK only), although that's going to go up if you need a pro to sort it out. Obviously, though, you're getting what you pay for here because it's really an app-controlled heating system rather than anything particularly smart.

The luxury option - by a long shot - is Evohome, which is currently confined to Europe. You can make it cheap to the tune of £288 (including installation) if you're ok to ignore all the zoning options but then that's rather the whole thing about it that makes it worthwhile. Start getting serious and you'll find that Evohome becomes another £59 for every radiator that you want to fit with a TRV. So, if you're looking at setting up say, seven zones, including a couple of rooms with more than one radiator, then you're looking at around £819 all in all, and that seriously dwarfs the other options.

The Honeywell Voice Controlled Thermostat – again, Europe only – is £229.

Nest vs Honeywell: Other issues

Nest is Google. Google is Nest. Nest knows everything about you. Google knows everything about you. Either you care about this kind of thing or you don't. If you do, then you're probably not considering Nest anyway.

Batteries. Nest is mains-powered. Honeywell largely works on batteries. These batteries last a long time but it's another aspect - along with fixing geo-fences and changing schedules - that you'll need to remember.

Lastly, there's the smart home at large. While Honeywell has plenty of clout in the heating world, it doesn't know an awful lot about door locks or lighting systems or washing machines, ovens, TVs and all the rest. Nest also has a smoke detector and a security camera in its repertoire but, better still is that it's a gold standard of smart home operation. People make sure that their products work with Nest, like people make sure that their bits and pieces work on iPhone. We don't see Honeywell catching up with that any time soon.

Nest vs Honeywell: Which is better?

It depends on your situation. If we're talking about the use case of where someone's not very mobile and not very comfortable with technology – essentially for someone elderly - then go with Honeywell. Voice control is the only option and Nest has nothing to match it with.

In terms of money-saving, it's a little more complicated. As it goes, you'll probably save more money with Honeywell too. Nest can learn as much as it likes but if it can't switch on and off individual radiators for you, then you're wasting energy. Sure, it's less to buy and install than Evohome but you'll make that cash back quite quickly. If you're only in a flat with one or two rooms, though, then there's no point.

We'd also argue that Honeywell's Lyric will end up giving greater savings than Nest but that's because the geo-fencing system is more likely to cause the heating not to be on quickly enough when you need it. You'll have a colder, less comfortable experience but at least you'll be in pocket.

Where Nest wins for sure, though, is in ease and accuracy of use. It's smarter and it knows you better. If it's all about the pounds per year, you live in a property that's big enough and you don't mind a bit of manual scheduling, then Honeywell has what you need. If you want the switch it on and forget about it experience, a home that's nearly always the right temperature and some not quite as good money-saving thrown in, then Nest is your answers. At least for now....


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