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Can You Use a Smart Thermostat in an Apartment?

Smart thermostats help homeowners save money and energy, but if you’re living in an apartment, you may be wondering if you should even install one in the first place. These devices can help regulate and automate your heating and cooling. But while easy to install, if you live in an apartment, there are a few other things to consider before purchasing.

You can install a smart thermostat in your apartment, but you should consider checking with your landlord first. You should also consider how long you plan on staying in the apartment, because the smart thermostat will typically need to be in operation at least a year to pay for itself.

There’s no denying that a smart thermostat can save you money (more on smart technology in our guide). A recent report by Nest found that, on average, households save 10-15% on their energy bills because of them. This may seem like a pretty decent reason to go ahead and install, but you may be surprised to find out that your landlord might not be so happy if you don’t ask first.

Are You Allowed to Change the Thermostat in an Apartment?

Nobody will physically prevent you from dismantling your existing thermostat and replacing it with a smart thermostat. Whether or not you’re allowed to do this will depend on whether you rent or buy and how you ask your landlord. While it may seem like an easy decision, at the end of the day, if you rent an apartment, the current thermostat is your landlord’s property. The best way to avoid any issues is to be upfront and communicative about what alterations you want to make to the apartment.

This can be an easy discussion, and you might find out that your landlord is game for the idea too. In the event they say no, you should keep in mind that they own the property and get to make the final decision. In case you’re a little intimidated by the interaction, here are a few possibilities of how it may go:

  • They could say yes, and then you are free to install a smart thermostat without worrying about permission.
  • They could say yes, and…based on the benefits of a smart thermostat, they may share the cost or even pay for it.
  • They could say yes, but…they will now own the thermostat after you install it. This may be OK – if you’re going to be there long enough, and the smart thermostat saves you 10-15% a month on your electric or gas bill, it may still be worth it for you!
  • They could say no, in which case you’re out of luck, because it is their property in the end.

In the event of a yes situation, there are still a few questions to ask yourself. The main one being how long you intend to live at the location. While a great money-saving tool, you only reap the benefits of a smart thermostat years down the line. If you intend to move out within a year, this means you have to eat the cost of the device and possibly the installation if your landlord doesn’t pay for it. 

The problem is that these devices aren’t designed to be moved over time. A thermostat is a stationary device installed once and not moved until they are broken or just obsolete. This is why you can still find old thermostats in homes. They are built to last. But if leaving behind the smart thermostat is not a big deal, then you will still see energy savings over time.

Can I Perform the Smart Thermostat Installation Myself?

Close up Modern Digital Thermostat

While it is recommended that you get a professional involved, there are units that can be installed without one. Remember that your landlord may insist that you hire an HVAC certified technician to perform the installation. If you have the go-ahead and are willing to put in the work, then an installation could be easy.

As mentioned before, how effortless this will be is going to depend on a few factors, including the type of unit; how comfortable you are working with wires, and if you have a basic understanding of how to work with electrical components.

How to Install a Smart Thermostat

Some units, like the Nest System (on Amazon), are designed with an at-home installation in mind. This means that you can easily breeze through the installation without too many issues. If you do choose to go this route, here are some basic instructions on how to install a smart thermostat:

  1. Make sure your HVAC system is off. This will be done at your apartment’s breaker panel.
  2. Remove the faceplate of your old thermostat.
  3. You should now see the backplate/mounting plate. Remove this as well. It is a good practice to take a picture of your old backplate before removing it.
  4. Check to see if your thermostat wiring includes a c-wire. If it does not, you may need to add one or purchase an adapter (on Amazon).
  5. Use your smart thermostat’s backplate as a guide to finding where you will mount it.
  6. Use the wire guides or your picture of the old backplate to connect the wire to the new backplate.
  7. Mount the new faceplate.
  8. Connect the device to the internet.

This is just meant to give you an overview of what the process looks like. Obviously, if there are any steps that you are uncomfortable with, you should consult a professional. For a more detailed guide, you can follow this link which will take you to the consumer reports website.

How Much Can a Smart Thermostat Save You?

With prices for a new smart thermostat ranging from $80-$200+, you may be wondering how much they can save you. Before we delve into what you can expect in saving, it is worth mentioning how these devices save you money. Smart thermostats can:

  • Monitor your power usage, giving you a better idea of how much energy you are using and when to limit it.
  • Allow you to have better control of your temperature and be able to set automatic temperature changes. This can save you money and wear on your system by gradually changing the temperature instead of a sharp change like with older-type thermostats.
  • In some areas, you can even get rebates when you install a smart thermostat.
  • Smart thermostats also give you remote access to your HVAC system. This means you can change the temperature when you are not home, like, like when you’re on vacation.

With smart technology, you can also set passcodes on your unit which means if you have children in your home, or roommates who are flagrant with the power bill, they are locked out from changing anything. All these features save you money and Nest compiled research to prove the point. They found out that, on average, homes save about $150 a year as a result of smart thermostats.

If you consider the average price of a Nest system, or other popular smart thermostats like the ecobee3 (on Amazon), as long as you use your system for at least a year, you will have already broken even on the purchase. There are also some other great tools out there that will help you determine your energy savings. Here is a savings calculator developed by Duke Energy. But now that you have the thermostat installed and you are reaping the savings, what happens if you move out of the apartment?

Can You Take the Thermostat With You?

When it comes time to leave your apartment and head to a new home, do you take your fancy smart thermostat with you? The answer to this question depends on a few details, including whether your landlord paid for the thermostat; if you communicated with your landlord or the next tenant about the thermostat being there or not; or if you kept the old one after you installed the smart thermostat.

These questions will help determine whether you should take your thermostat with you to your next home. Also, keep in mind the installation process or consult an HVAC technician to do the work. If you would rather just deal with installing a new one, then maybe taking the old thermostat is not right for you.

If you’ve gotten a good few years out of your unit, then it has most likely already paid for itself. In this case, you may want to upgrade to a more advanced device when you get to your new home. Just like other pieces of tech, smart thermostats are continually evolving and getting better. If you want to make sure you have the best product, then getting a new one when you move is the right choice.

Smart Thermostats Can Save Money And Offer More Control

Making the switch to a smart thermostat can be a great decision. Not only can it save you money, but it also gives you more control of the temperature and comfort of your home or apartment. We have learned that you can certainly have a smart thermostat installed if you live in an apartment, but it will prevent issues to have your Landlord involved in the conversation before you make any changes. Once you have a smart thermostat set up, then you can start automating your temperature and saving money!