Editor's Note: The power cord used for this installation is not included in the standard packaging.
Thermostat giant Honeywell designed this Wi-Fi-enabled model in direct response to the innovativecreated by Apple alumni Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers. Honeywell went so far as to against Nest on February 6, 2012, claiming the new company violated seven existing Honeywell patents in the making of their iPod-inspired thermostat. Strip away all of that drama, and you still end up with two extremely capable products that have top-notch functionality and identical $249 price tags. So, what makes Honeywell's Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat unique?
In brief, the Honeywell has more predictable design characteristics, a much busier home display, and, in my case, a more complex set-up process. There are a few other slight deviations between models, but the design and installation will be the main deal makers -- or deal breakers -- for most. Where the Nest packaging is akin to that of an Apple product, (it includes a screwdriver and the Web site even offers a quiz that you can take before buying to find out if your home is compatible) the Honeywell is comparatively no-frills. I would recommend the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat to any home automation DIYer who appreciates traditional style and doesn't need hand-holding during the installation. Just know that it might not work in every home.
This Honeywell is a slightly sleekified version of that old boxy thermostat you probably have at home now. On the home screen, you will see the date and time, the indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and up and down arrows so you can change the temperature manually. It's considerably smaller than my old thermostat and it doesn't come with different size base plates, so the previous paint job is clearly visible on all sides.
The Nest, on the other hand, is round and comes with a square and a larger rectangular base plate to cover up any unsightly holes or paint. Its home display is also extremely minimal; it shows the current temperature and that's about it. Honeywell places more emphasis on utility by displaying more information up front, whereas the Nest is more streamlined and design-focused. It's really a matter of preference here.
This DIY installation is not for beginners. There are many different types of heating and cooling systems and some of them just won't be compatible with this thermostat. Honeywell doesn't do a great job of warning you about that beforehand, which leads into a larger issue I had with this setup. You really need a C or "common" wire to power this model. There are a couple of different workarounds available if you don't have a C wire, but they aren't guaranteed to work on every system. So that could cause some installations to come to a screeching halt.
For example, my system has a G, a W, a Y, and an Rh wire. To get power to my thermostat without a C wire, I had two main options. I could run a new wire from the HVAC to the thermostat and assign it to both C ports or I could redirect the G wire to the C wire port at the thermostat and HVAC terminal (which would disable my ability to adjust the fan at will). It was around this time that I learned that my HVAC unit is not in great shape. Everything is connected with wire nuts and there's no terminal unit to be found. I am not nearly experienced enough to figure out where to put the C wire without a port labeled "C" in my HVAC. The same goes for rerouting the G wire to the C wire port -- my system doesn't have a traditional G or C port.
Fortunately, Honeywell also provides power cords to reviewers as a simple and quick installation option. Unfortunately, the cord isn't included when you buy this thermostat or available as a separate commercial purchase. Basically, I wouldn't have been able to install the Honeywell thermostat at all without either the power cord (which isn't an actual option) or help from an electrician. I can't exactly blame Honeywell for my sketchy HVAC unit, but the Nest doesn't require a C wire in most houses. Points Nest.
Like the Nest, the Honeywell thermostat functions so much like a regular digital thermostat that you shouldn't experience too much of a learning curve when you want to use it on your wall.
The Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat is also remotely accessible via free Web-based and Android and iOS mobile apps. I've been using the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort iOS app and it's very intuitive, although the frequent log-outs are annoying.
On the app home page, you'll see a list of all of your connected Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostats. You can customize the names of each, say "First Floor Thermostat" and "Second Floor Thermostat," or "Bedroom" and "Living Room" to distinguish among them. Then you can select the thermostat you want to adjust and you get a quick snapshot of its status. I'm at work, but the app tells me that my house is currently at 75 degrees with 54-percent humidity. If I want a more detailed picture, I can click again and it will display more information. Now I can see that it's 86 degrees outside with 60 percent humidity and it lets me know that it's following the schedule I programmed when I first installed the thermostat. I also have the option to adjust the temperature or completely modify my heating/cooling schedule from the office. The Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Web app works in exactly the same way.