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Can You Use a Smart Thermostat Without Wi-Fi?

Smart thermostats, can help keep energy bills down, customize the atmosphere of our living environment, and offer an enhanced sense of security. However, what happens to a smart thermostat without an internet connection?

Smart thermostats can function without Wi-Fi, but you have to make sure you purchase the right thermostat that includes this feature. Some thermostats need Wi-Fi for basic functions while others will be fine if they lose the connection. Remote access, though, always requires Wi-Fi access.

Alongside larger environmental issues, the importance of controlling our own fuel consumption is becoming a cultural priority. Smart thermostats and other smart devices have a key role to play in assuring that just the right amount of power is used for our benefit and comfort.

What Happens if a Smart Thermostat Loses Wi-Fi

If the Wi-Fi does go down, the best smart thermostats will still function like a classically useful programmable thermostat, retaining the functions and behavior you’d hope unlike other smart devices like Alexa which you’ll need to operate in a different way with our guide.

However, there is a broad spectrum of smart thermostats available on the market, and predictably, some are better than others. So, be aware of what you are buying and get a smart thermostat that can keep its cool when not connected.

Is a Smart Thermostat Worth the Money if I Don’t have Wi-Fi?

Close up Modern Digital Thermostat

Consider that, as far as human behavior is concerned, using a “fire and forget” approach with the thermostat is generally the most cost and energy-efficient. A “dumb,” programmable thermostat that keeps a schedule, turning off and on to accommodate one’s weekly life, does a fine job at saving you money and avoids extraneous interaction with the climate outside.

Consider too, with the increased prevalence of internet-savvy smart devices, increased in kind is potentially hacked access to the information collected by those devices. Things like the activation of your furnace by a geofence trigger, might give a skilled hacker a pretty clear idea of your daily schedule – including when you’re not home. But, for most people, it’s probably not worth being this paranoid about your smart home devices.

If you don’t yet have Wi-Fi and are considering joining the virtually wireless for the sake of smartening up your thermostat, take another moment to think about it. Decent smart thermostats are significantly higher priced than that of much simpler, yet equivalently effective, “dumb” programmable ones. Not many people will be in this boat, but the point here is that using a smart thermostat is a no-brainer if you already have Wi-Fi, but if you for some reason don’t have Wi-Fi, adding it just for the smart thermostat isn’t worth it.

What Happens to a Smart Thermostat With A Weak Wi-Fi Signal

Getting the most out of a smart thermostat requires a strong, consistent connection to the Wi-Fi signal in the area to be climate controlled. Depending on the placement of your existing thermostat, this could present an obstacle if complete Wi-Fi access within the space is dubious. Anticipating this hurdle is key, and there are a couple of good ways to counter the problem.

One strategy is to relocate your Wi-Fi antennae, perhaps to a more centralized and/or higher location. This generally has the effect of improving Wi-Fi reception for the entire space and may benefit reception for the smart thermostat. If relocation is not possible or practical, consider a Wi-Fi Extender, like this one from Amazon, which can add range to your existing WiFi system.

It may also be possible to relocate the thermostat itself. This is a task best left to the professionals, as the task is to essentially rerun the control wire, or run a new control wire, connecting the thermostat to the “brain” of the furnace and a/c. This wire can be low-voltage, or it could be a high-voltage line, which one should only move if they know what they’re doing.

In any case, smart thermostats may still retain use of the core of their features when connected with a weak Wi-Fi signal. Regular prompts to control the behavior of the smart thermostat might be inaccessible. But since the best use of thermostats requires a less-than-active approach, even occasional bursts of internet information is likely still sufficient to keep the device functioning.

Features of Wi-Fi Thermostats

ecobee EB-STATe3L-01 3 Lite Thermostat, Wi-Fi, Works with Amazon Alexa

There are a lot of really cool features that smart thermostats, like the ecobee3 lite on Amazon, make possible when connected to the internet (by the way, you can use them in an apartment as we’ve argued before). Many of these cannot be duplicated by the most sophisticated traditional thermostat. With the vast quantity of information flowing through the network, utilizing information based on location, timing, weather, and remote control become key aspects of environmental control.

Perhaps one of the most essential features of a standard smart thermostat has to do with their geofencing capabilities, which allow the device to be sensitive to when people are around. In other words, it’ll work in situations where it’ll actually be appreciated, rather than just turn on for the sake of it. More on this in the sub-section below.

Smart Thermostats Use Geofencing

Geofencing is a broad term that refers to using a set of boundaries that are anchored by GPS or other location information. Smart thermostats can use geofencing to identify a specific area – for this case the perimeter around a home or office – and determine if a locatable device, say a cell phone or smart watch, is within that perimeter.

Smart thermostats that utilize geofencing can be programmed to activate when the locatable device, and likely the person carrying it, is within its identified perimeter. This has the effect of maximizing the efficiency of the thermostat, activating only when there are people actually benefitting from the climate it is generating.

Information about the weather and climate outside of the smart thermostats zone of influence can also be utilized. Having access to the temperature and humidity of the surrounding environment may allow the smart thermostat to customize its daily output, another feature designed to maximize energy efficiency and comfort.

In parallel with temperature information, the smart thermostat may also use sunrise and sunset data, and adjust temperature output to anticipate our world’s most important temperature regulator, the sun. This enables more practical timing of the thermostat’s heating and cooling cycles, and ties its schedule more closely with outside temperature changes.

Smart Thermostats Can Be Controlled Remotely, and by Voice

Similar to how a touchscreen laptop can be used with a mouse (our guide), a more obvious feature unique to smart thermostats is the ability to be controlled remotely, by any smart device connected to the internet. While it’s generally not advised to micromanage your thermostat, as this can make it less efficient over time. It’s great for peace of mind when you’re out of town. No one wants to worry about their thermostat while on vacation.

Finally, smart thermostats offer a cool feature alongside a growing trend with many smart devices and appliances: voice control. Voice control over your thermostat adds that truly next-generation feel to what might be an otherwise fairly pedestrian piece of domestic equipment.