Despite being the hard-working, constantly-beating heart of every home, the thermostat doesn’t get much love. In contrast to granite countertops and high ceilings, HVAC systems are not seen as customizable amenities by homeowners. Instead, they’re among the more mundane decisions to make when building a home.

A new breed of thermostat will change the way homeowners think about their HVAC systems, though: a touchscreen, Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat. It’s great news for homeowners and contractors alike.

What Wi-Fi Connectivity Means for HVAC Systems

Wi-Fi-enabled thermostats allow homeowners to activate the thermostat before they arrive home or even when they’re still in bed. If they forget to turn down the thermostat before leaving for work or vacation, they can simply deactivate it remotely — from a smartphone, tablet, or web browser.

Many smart home designs have come and gone since the early 1980s, but this new technology is useful and consumer-oriented. It’s an amenity that homeowners will want — not a rarely-seen component of their homes that they couldn’t care less about. Wi-Fi-connected HVAC systems signify a technological tipping point in the home improvement industry.

Consumer Engagement Is the Name of the Game

Contractors should be taking advantage of a shift in the general consumer consciousness.

Consumers want to be connected to the companies that create their favorite products; they want to be engaged. That’s why social media has been so effective as a marketing tool in the past few years.

Many thermostats with Wi-Fi connectivity include interactive mobile apps, reports, and increased degree of control — all from wherever the homeowner happens to be. This kind of consumer engagement is unprecedented in the HVAC industry.

Options for Many Types of Homeowners

Who’s the target customer for this kind of product? Well, there’s the homeowner who follows you on Facebook, emails you from his tablet, and asks if you can Skype later. He’ll probably jump on the Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat train with little prodding.

But this new breed of HVAC is also relevant to the retired couple who spend half their time traveling. It’s relevant to a new family on a tight budget. It’s even relevant to the homeowner who doesn’t even own a smart phone (all he needs is Internet access, after all).

Filtrete makes a competitively priced, easy-to-install, user-friendly option: the Touchscreen WiFi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat. It also supports WPA security. This would be a great option for the family on a budget, or the tech-happy male.
For the homeowner who values aesthetics and is also an early adopter, ecobee makes two thermostats, the Smart and the Smart Si. ecobee boasts a unique web portal that’s very informative and interactive.

For the total aesthete, Tony Fadell (who designed the iPod, no big deal) has created the Nest Learning Thermostat. It’s a beautiful package that harks back to Apple’s sleek designs, and it is more than just connected — it’s smart. The Nest can detect when people are in a room, and it learns their living habits in order to heat and cool your home more efficiently. A touchscreen thermostat with Wi-Fi might seem like a splurge, but it’s actually an investment with a sizable return.

The Future Looks Bright

At the moment, thermostats with Internet connectivity are a niche market. But as homeowners come to be more and more comfortable with the new technology, we predict the systems will become extremely popular.

Thermostats that feature Wi-Fi connectivity and touchscreens are relevant to two rapidly expanding markets. The first is that of smartphone users. Right now, more than half of Americans use a smartphone regularly (according to New Media Trend Watch). People of all ages are becoming familiar with touchscreen interfaces and relying heavily on their mobile devices for email, news, and daily communication.

Then, there’s the eco-friendly crowd: they want to change the world, reduce carbon emissions, and enjoy a nice, organic meal when they get home. As environmental awareness becomes more necessity than trend, we expect there will be a real increase in this kind of smart technology around the home. A green thermostat is just what the eco-doctor ordered.

The humble thermostat is about to get some much-deserved love from homeowners.