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5 reasons to upgrade to a smart thermostat this summer

The updated Amazon Alexa Plus is seen above. (Getty Images)

When it comes to making your home smart, you need the right gear. Amazon’s Alexa resides in millions of households and make sure you get the most out of yours. Tap or click for 13 Alexa skills you’ll use over and over again.

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Then there’s a smart device that won’t listen in (yet), but it will save you money and make life much more convenient. I’m talking about smart thermostats, and this device should be at the top of your list to make your home smarter.

Set the temperature from anywhere

Traditional thermostats work great, but only if you’re around to adjust them. Some thermostats can be programmed, but the interfaces are often clunky and you may forget to modify those settings as the seasons change.

The main selling point of any smart device is internet connectivity, which means you can change the thermostat’s settings from practically anywhere. You can use your thermostat’s mobile app, or a web browser, or even a virtual assistant to monitor and control your home’s temperature. You can program schedules, crank up the A/C or switch on the heat, whether you’re at work or vacationing on another continent.

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Instead of adjusting your thermostat manually when you get home, you can remotely prep your thermostat’s temperature ahead of time so it’ll be nice and cool when you arrive.

Remember, shaving a few degrees off your usual thermostat settings translates into big energy savings. Having the ability to do this remotely whenever you need to can yield dramatic results in the long run.

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Get into geofencing

Ever wished your home adjusted itself as soon as you arrived or left? Well, with a smart thermostat, it can.

A smart thermostat is aware of its location and can use “geofencing” to determine when you’re close to your home. Your smartphone’s app alerts the network when you’re nearby, signaling the thermostat to adjust temperatures, based on your preferences automatically. It works whether you’re coming home unexpectedly early or late.

Geofencing also works the other way around. A smart thermostat can also sense if you’re away (even if your schedule says otherwise) and it will adjust your home’s temperatures accordingly.

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Control it with your voice

Like many smart devices, thermostats respond to voice commands. Just pair the device with a virtual assistant like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri. Say “Alexa, set the temperature to 74 degrees” or “OK Google, lower the temperature by 2 degrees” to control your environment without lifting a finger.

Did you know you can control your iPhone with your voice without using Siri? You can say “swipe left” or “scroll up” to move where you want on your screen, open apps, take pictures and more. Tap or click to get started.

Adjusts the temperature automatically

The Nest Thermostat has a different trick up its sleeve — learning. With this ability, it will learn your preferred temperature settings as you use it and it will build a schedule around them. It can even learn specific family profiles and know which household member is home and away at specific times.

With enough usage data (typically a week’s worth), the smart thermostat will automatically program itself so you won’t have to.

Knows when you are home

This feature is what makes thermostats truly “smart.” You can place remote sensors in various rooms of your house, which can help boost your HVAC’s efficiency and save energy costs in return. You can balance the hot and cold areas in your home since the temperature levels will be provided by more than just the main thermostat’s location.

To better manage your energy consumption and see how your thermostat settings impact your electric bill, smart thermostats have usage tracking features and statistics available to view from its app or the web.

These free energy and usage reports typically allow you to see how much energy you’ve conserved (or wasted) each month and provide valuable information about how efficiently your cooling and heating equipment operates.

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Save money with smart thermostats

For many of us, saving money on energy bills is a top priority. The amount you save still depends on several factors, such as the efficiency of your HVAC system, your home insulation, your utility costs, local weather changes and your temperature preferences.

But with all their automation and learning functions, smart thermostat companies claim that you can cut your energy costs by a significant amount if you switch to their products.

For example, it’s estimated that people who use the Nest save an average of 10% to 12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. Ecobee reported that its customers can save up to 23% on their heating on cooling costs.

This means that although smart thermostats are significantly pricier than their “dumb” counterparts, you can recover your investment in a relatively short time. In short, a smart thermostat is almost guaranteed to pay for itself in the long run.

Perfect for larger homes

The bigger the house, the more essential its energy efficiency. If you have a home with multiple zones, you probably have separate thermostats and HVAC systems. Converting to smart thermostats allows you to control them all from a centralized location such as a smartphone, a computer, a tablet or a smart speaker/virtual assistant.

They’ll also learn your patterns on that particular zone and sense if a room or floor is occupied or not. This means you won’t have to tweak your settings and schedules manually constantly – all your smart thermostats and sensors will work together to keep your whole house comfortable in the most efficient way possible.

If you have a second home, installing a smart thermostat is the best way to go. You can check and control your second home’s temperatures remotely. Sensing your occupancy patterns is a perk that’s just not possible with regular programmable thermostats.

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Anyone who uses a computer has probably experienced PC slowdown. Your programs open sluggishly, web browsing seems pokey, apps are lagging and your computer startup time is worse than you remember.

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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.

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