I donít know about you but when it comes to monthly bills, the cost of heating and cooling my house is one of the highest. You can cut your phone service, cut your cable, but for most people, you canít eliminate your electrical or heating.
There are a few things you can do to reduce your costs. You can make your house more efficient by changing all your windows and doors, add more insulation, buy a more efficient HVAC/AC, install solar panels but the cheapest and easiest way to reduce your heating and cooling costs is to to install a programmable thermostat.
The idea is that your heating and cooling needs arenít as great at night and during the day when everyone is at work. Instead of running the AC when no one is at home you tell the programmable thermostat to ease off.
Thatís the idea anyways but the thing is, cheap programmable thermostats are a pain to program. To save money, they have tiny screens and a minimal number of buttons. Fancier models have larger screens and more buttons but you still need to go up to your thermostat and program it. If Iím lying in bed and want it to be warmer, itís a pain to have to walk over to my thermostat, set it and then go back to bed.
Hereís where the Honeywell RTH9580WF comes in. The 9580 can connect to your WiFi network so that you can control it using your computerís browser or via an app on your iOS or Android phone. It also has a relatively large colour display. The large colour display makes programming it very easy and letís face it, the big screen looks awesome. Also, since the 9580 is connected to the internet, it knows what time it is and will automatically adjust for daylight savings.
Before the fun begins:
If youíre thinking of picking up a 9580, the first thing you do is check if your house is ready for one. Assuming you have both heating and cooling, your thermostat probably connects to your HVAC via 4 wires: A wire from the 24VAC transformer on your AC and heating systems, one that turns on the heating, one that turns on the cooling and one for your fan.
The 9580 requires another wire called the ĎC wireí from the 24VAC transformer on your furnace to power it. If your existing thermostat has a AA battery in it, chances are you that you donít have one and will have to add an extra wire. There are other workarounds including buying a transformer that you can plug into your power outlet to power the 9580. You can also choose to leave the fan on all the time and repurposing the fan wire to power the thermostat plus I think I saw a kit which can convert your 4 wires into 5.
Initially, I considered adding a transformer but I thought having the extra wire running from an outlet to my thermostat would look ugly so I decided to open my walls and ran a second thermostat wire. Depending on how comfortable you are with cutting open your walls and fishing wire, going with a transformer will probably be easier. I will say this, cutting open your walls in anticipation for installing a new gadget is kind of fun, patching them back up after youíre done playing with the new gadget - not so much. Fortunately my wife hasnít noticed the huge gash in the hallway wall yet.
Iíve read that you can run Cat 5 or 6 wire (network cable) in place of thermostat wire but you should be aware that thermostat wire is 18 gauge while network cable is 24 gauge so Cat 5 is substantially thinner.
Does that mean the conductors in network cable are too thin to carry power to the thermostat? Probably not since you can run POE over network cable but who really knows. I ran thermostat wire to be on the safe side. I did however cheap out and bought thermostat wire with just 2 conductors instead of more expensive ones with 4 or 5. Anyways, now I have a spare wire in case I ever decide to put a 2 stage AC or heating system in place. However, I wonít have enough if I decide to but BOTH a 2 stage AC and a 2 stage heater in.
Hereís something interesting. the holes on the mounting plate are the same distance as a standard outlet albeit laid out horizontally. I was able to attach the thermostat to my wall using a low voltage bracket. That way, I had a nice clean hole in the wall to stick my hand in help run the extra thermostat wire plus I didnít have to use drywall anchors. Just watch out, if you use a bracket you might want to trim the top and bottom since youíll be able to see them from the side if you donít - either do that or just paint over them.
Once youíve sorted out the wiring, installation is a piece of cake. Before you remove your old thermostat, label all the individual wires. Then turn off your furnace, connect the wires to the 9580ís mounting plate and then connect the wires.
The mounting plate is labelled. I guess if I had a complaint it would be that all the connectors should be a row instead of having 2 opposing columns. A row of connectors would be easier to connect since all the wires would be bent in the same direction.
Once youíre setup, turn your furnace back up and follow the on-screen instructions. During the setup youíll have to enter in your WiFi password and then go to your computer or smartphone (computer is better) to create an account with Honeywell and enter in some information from your thermostat including your location (for weather reports). The 9580 will automatically setup forwarding on your router so that you can access it when youíre out of the house.
Thermostats can be fun:
The 9580 sort of looks like a GPS. The background colour of the screen can be customized to match your decor but since itís a backlit screen, it can never really match anything. I donít think you can set a custom picture as a background. You can adjust the backlighting level and even turn it off completely.
The display is actually pretty decent. Even though there are no animations, I think itís a TFT display. Honeywell could have cheaped out with a STN display. Since itís a TFT display it has nice viewing angles (more useful than youíd realize) plus itís very easy to see the temperature from far away.
Now a colour screen thermostat attracts a lot of attention, so if you donít like visitors fiddling with your thermostat you can put a passcode on it so that changes canít be made without entering it first.
Controls are laid out nicely and very intuitive to use. Seriously, anyone could program it. Of course, since this is a WiFi thermostat, youíre probably going to be interacting with it mostly via your phone or computer
To control it with your phone, you have to download the app which is available for both iOS and Android. If youíre curious what the app is like you can go download it - it has a demo mode so you can try it even if you donít own a thermostat.
For all intents and purposes the apps on Android and iOS are identical. I took the screenshots using my iPhone 5s.
If you have a Blackberry or Windows Phone you can just control it via the website
(same address you use with your computer).
You fire it up, enter your login and then you can control your thermostat from anywhere. I was annoyed that you have to go past the login screen EVERY TIME you launch the program. At least it has a Ďremember meí option.
The thermostat display is laid out into 4 tabs and the first 3 tabs mirror what you see on the app. The Home tab shows both the inside and outside temperature. One step up feature is that it can also show the the inside and outside humidity which is actually kind of nice to know but at the same time very disappointing since the 9580 canít control a humidifier.'
With cheaper thermostats, you usually choose between one that has one setting for all 7 days of the week. Fancier ones have one setting for the weekdays and then one for the weekends. Take another step up and then you can control the weekdays and then have on setting for Saturday and one for Sunday.
With the 9580 you can set a custom program for each individual day of the week or any combination of this. So if for some reason you only work on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday setting a program for these days only is a piece of cake. You can just as easily set a program for just the weekends and weekdays, etc.
The 9580 can learn. It has a smart response feature which learns how long it takes your HVAC to reach your target temperature, and then runs it ahead of time so that the temperature is reached when you schedule it to. So if you get home at 5, the house will already be at your desired temperature.
As far as temperature changes goes you can set up to 4 temperature changes a day (wake up, leave, come home, go to sleep). 4 is probably enough for most people but if you need more changes youíre out of luck. If you someone is home all day thereís an option for only 2 changes (wake up, go to sleep).
You can choose what time you want the temperature change and thresholds to turn the heating or A/C on along with the fan settings. Thereís Ďcirculateí option which randomly turns the fan on even if the A/C or heating is not running. Circulating is good for helping cool or heat the house while minimizing costs.
If you deviate from your schedule you can easily override the preset temperature until the next change. You can also make the override permanent until you turn it off manually. This is good if no oneís going to be home for a few days. If youíre going to be away for a while you can use the vacation mode which can tell the thermostat to take it easy until the day you get back.
Speaking of vacation mode, I just read the manual and noticed that when you first setup the thermostat, you can choose whether youíre putting it in a home or a business. If you choose business, thereís the option to put the thermostat in vacation mode whenever thereís a holiday. The dates of holidays are built-in or you can create custom ones. I think business mode also allows you to setup multiple thermostats for individual rooms which you can toggle on only when someone is in the room (they have to hit a button).
There are alerts which you can set up but I think you can only do this from your computer. You can have it notify you when the temperature or humidity is too high or too low. You can also have it alert you if the WiFi thermostat loses connectivity or doesnít respond to your changes.
Iím really disappointed that not every option available on the thermostat is available on the app. I didnít check into this exhaustively but right away I noticed the option to switch from imperial (Fahrenheit) to metric (Celsius) is only available on the Thermostat.
There are also useful looking filter reminder and vacation mode settings which are only available from the thermostat.
I mean if I just changed my furnace filter, Iím not going to bother to go to my thermostat to set the change reminder. I want to take my phone out of my pocket and set it.
Is it worth it?
To me, the whole point of buying a WiFi connected thermostat is so that I can control it from my phone instead of having to walk up to my thermostat every time I want to make a change.
So in that sense, the whole idea of a large colour screen is a bit wasteful. I actually got Honeywellís entry level WiFi thermostat, the RTH6580WF first. It lacks a touch screen and looks much more like a Ďnormalí thermostat. If youíre going to walk up to it to program it like a normal thermostat then the 9580 with itís large touchscreen is easier to use.
However, when it comes to controlling it from my phone they have virtually the same feature set. It didnít occur to me to compile an exhaustive list, but off the top of my head, I noticed 3 differences.
The 6580 doesnít have a humidity sensor (though neither the 6580 and 8580 can control humidifiers). The Ďautoí setting which can automatically turn the heating and cooling systems is also missing. That setting sounds useful but isnít really isnít unless you live somewhere where the temperature varies so much that you have to turn on the AC during the day and heat during the night. Finally, I didnít see a circulate setting which randomly turns the fan (but not the heating or cooling) on randomly about 33% of the time - that one is kind of useful from an efficiency standpoint.
So, if youíre going to interact with your thermostat solely with your phone/computer then suddenly the colour screen becomes a useless feature.
Youíre probably wondering how these thermostats compared to the NEST. Iíll test one eventually and will compare them when I do so.
I have to repeat how disappointed I am about the missing features from the web interface and app. Hopefully, Honeywell will add these features later. Iíd also like to see if Honeywell can make the app location aware so that it will automatically set itself to Ďawayí mode if youíre out. Then you wonít have to schedule anything.
Heck, since Iím talking about features Iíd like to see it would be awesome if Honeywell could make their their thermostats talk with IFTTT which is already location aware.
Anyways, what Iíve learned is that the idea of a fancy WiFi connected thermostat with a colour screen is kind of wasteful. Since Iíve installed the thermostat I donít think Iíve ever touched it except to change the units of units from imperial to metric, take some pictures for this review and to show visitors who have noticed it and asked me questions.
Still, I have to be honest, I kept the touch/colour screen 9580 just because it looks cool instead of the more stealthy and affordable 6580. Oh and by the way, despite my reservations Iím pretty happy with the 9580.
4 Howies out of 5
easy to use
not location aware
not all functions are available on your phone (like filter change reminder)