Most people can live without an expensive smart thermostat. If you want to automate your home temperature and save a little cash, then a cheap programmable thermostat is all you need. Here are our favorite programmable thermostats, along with info on why they might be right for you.
Why Buy a Programmable Thermostat?
Most thermostats sold today are programmable, meaning that you can “program” them to follow a weekly schedule of temperatures. A programmable thermostat can help you save electricity during working hours, or automate your home temperature from sunrise to sunset.
Some people will tell you that you should forget about programmable thermostats and buy an internet-connected smart thermostat like the ecobee instead. See, you can control smart thermostats through your phone or voice assistant, which makes programming a lot easier. You can even make your smart thermostat track your location and adjust the temperature as you leave or return home. But for most people, these features simply aren’t worth the money.
Smart thermostats cost well over $100 and often poke into the $200 range. On the other hand, a good programmable thermostat shouldn’t cost you any more than $30 or $40. Not to mention, internet-connected devices like smart thermostats aren’t guaranteed to work forever. If the manufacturer decides to drop support for the device in 2025 (or goes out of business), then you have no choice but to replace your thermostat.
If you like to obsess over the temperature or have a ton of smart gadgets, then hey, maybe smart thermostats are worth the money. But if you just want an automated thermostat that’s cheap and guaranteed to last a long time, you should buy a programmable thermostat. Here are three fantastic options in all price ranges, along with a stand-out option for homes with multistage HVAC systems.
Best Overall: Lux 7-Day Touchscreen Thermostat
The Lux TX9600TS is a programmable thermostat with all the bells and whistles. It has a backlit touchscreen display, an air filter life timer, an energy-use monitor, and an optional touch-pad lockout to keep your kids and guests from screwing with the temperature. Its 7-day system lets you program separate schedules for each day of the week, so you can save money while at work and automate the perfect schedule for your days off.
For the price, the Lux TX9600TS blows other programmable thermostats out of the water. It’s nearly identical to our premium programmable thermostat, the Honeywell’s RTH8560D, yet it costs half the price. It also works with the majority of North American HVAC systems, including some two-stage heating systems, but it doesn’t work with multistage cooling systems.
Lux Products TX9600TS Programmable Large Touchscreen Heating Cooling Thermostat, White
The Lux TX9600TS packs all the bells and whistles into a super affordable package. Touchscreen controls, an energy-use monitor, and a 7-day programming system? Count me in.
Best Budget: Honeywell 1-Day Thermostat
Honeywell’s RTH221B1021 thermostat is as bare-bones (and inexpensive) as they get. Unlike other programmable thermostats that store separate programs for each day of the week, this Honeywell unit stores just one program that repeats every single day. It’s an amazing value for someone who wants their thermostat to match their climate, or for someone who wants to program their thermostat before going on a vacation.
Still, the Honeywell RTH221B1021 isn’t for everyone. If you’re looking for a thermostat that follows your work schedule, for instance, then a 7-day thermostat is a much better option. And while Honeywell’s RTH221B1021 works with most North American HVAC systems, it’s incompatible with multistage heating and cooling systems.
Honeywell Home RTH221B1021 Programmable Thermostat, 1 Week / 4 Time Periods Per Day, Accurate to +/- 1Degree
Honeywell's RTH221B1021 programmable thermostat repeats a 24-hour schedule every day. It's a great value for someone who doesn't need robust programming options.
Best Premium: Honeywell 7-Day Touchscreen Thermostat
Do you want an affordable thermostat that looks sleek and modern? Then Honeywell’s RTH8560D thermostat is the way to go. It packs all the features you need behind a stylish, easy-to-read touchscreen display. It follows a 7-day schedule with humidity readouts and reminders for replacing your air filter and thermostat batteries.
The Honeywell’s RTH8560D is super stylish, and its large display makes programming schedules a breeze. But it lacks features that you find in the cheaper Lux TX9600TS, like energy-use monitoring and a passcode lockout system. You’re paying extra for the style and the brand, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Honeywell’s RTH8560D thermostat works with most North American HVAC systems, minus multistage heating, or cooling systems.
Honeywell Home RTH8560D 7 Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat
The Honeywell RTH8560D is super stylish, with a backlit touchscreen display and 7-day programming options.
Best for Multistage Systems: Heagstat H715
Multistage heating and cooling systems are hard to shop for. If you’re rocking the two-stage heating or cooling lifestyle, then you should forget the competition and grab the Heagstat H715 programmable thermostat instead. It follows a 5-1-1 system, so you can program a repeating schedule for your weekdays and individual schedules for Saturday and Sunday.
The Heagstat H715 is one of few programmable thermostats that work with multistage HVAC systems. That said, it’s a lovely little device. It’s affordable, it has a backlit display, and it’s easy to install. Heagstat also sells a single-stage version of this thermostat—consider it an alternative to the cheaper Honeywell RTH221B1021.
Heagstat Thermostat, 2 Heat / 2 Cool Programmable Thermostat for Home, with 4.5 sq. Inch Display
If you have a two-stage heating or cooling system, then the Heagstat H715 is one of the only programmable thermostats available to you. No worries, its 5-1-1 scheduling rocks.
You don’t need to break the bank to automate your home temperature. We’ve looked at some killer programmable thermostats today, but if they aren’t doing it for you, then maybe you should take a peek at the best smart thermostats.