While Nest was busy rolling out next-gen versions of what is essentially the same $250 thermostat, Emerson, Ecobee and now Honeywell were hard at work developing connected models with major smart-home partnerships that cost significantly less money.
Honeywell's Lyric T5 is the least expensive Wi-Fi thermostat I've reviewed to date at $150, a whopping 100 bucks less than Nest. It works with Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa and it has geofencing functionality. Bonus: Honeywell says its updated Lyric app offers "improved [geofencing] performance" and I have to agree. The T5's geofencing feature worked flawlessly for me during testing.
The outdated font on the thermostat's display may look like something straight out of the 1995 Sandra Bullock thriller "The Net," but I like everything else about it -- especially the price. Definitely consider Honeywell's Lyric T5 if you're on the hunt for a more affordable smart thermostat with solid performance.
There are dozens of different home HVAC systems, wiring arrangements and settings. Ask a professional or a DIY-savvy friend if you have any questions about your specific setup. That said, Honeywell's Lyric T5 is really easy to install if you already have a C-wire configuration. Not sure? Check out Honeywell's Quick Install Guide for more details.
If you already have a C-wire in place and are lucky enough not to have to drill additional holes in the wall or repaint any newly-exposed areas, you can get this thing up and running in 10-15 minutes. After that, download the Android or iOS Lyric app and either create an account or use existing credentials to log in to your account.
The app takes the pairing process step-by-step. Just pick "Lyric T5" from the "Select a device to install" page in the app and answer the questions that follow to make your way through the configuration. At one point, it will transition to selecting options on the thermostat itself -- that's where you'll start to get a feel for the touchscreen.
Like I said in the intro, the font and general layout of the thermostat display is a little wonky. I don't exactly dislike it, but it looks dated. I wasn't quite sure how it worked right away, either, because a modern touchscreen combined with a screen that looks like it was ripped from the early PC days is an odd juxtaposition. But once you get used to it, it's responsive and easy to use.
If you want, you can stop there and simply use the app to create custom schedules for 7-day programming (you can also create schedules directly on the thermostat), adjusting the temperature on-demand anywhere you have a Wi-Fi or cellular connection.
But you can also turn on Apple HomeKit, an option that lets iPhone users control the thermostat with Siri and geofencing, an option that uses mapping software to let you set a radius around your house. That radius acts as a Home/Away threshold tied to your phone's GPS location. When you leave, the thermostat should automatically switch to Away mode. And when you come back it should automatically switch back to Home mode.