Industry experts generally agree that the Nest Learning thermostat was a ground breaking innovation. Introduced in 2011, the Nest product represented a significant improvement over conventional programmable thermostat operation.

Honeywell has been the industry leader in thermostat technology since 1945 when it first introduced its iconic round wall-mounted model. While the company has an extensive catalogue, it lagged significantly behind Nest Labs in true smart thermostat development until the introduction of its newest product, the Lyric.

Both thermostats claim to deliver unsurpassed energy savings and convenience, so how do they measure up in a direct comparison?

The Nest Revolution

The Nest was developed by former Apple iPod designer Tony Fadell, so it is clearly targeted for those who want to enjoy technology without the associated hassle of user manuals and complex menus. Its sleek, stylish appearance represents a quantum leap past conventional square or rectangular box thermostats.

Until the Nest became available, programmable thermostats required a significant degree of user input. This included programming setpoints for periods when the home was occupied or vacant. Small screens and complicated menus left homeowners frustrated, and less than 10 percent of the people who owned one actually bothered to program it.

Nest uses adaptive intelligence to create a personalized temperature maintenance program that requires virtually no user input. Through a series of temperature, motion, light and humidity sensors, Nest records and analyzes homeowner behavior. The data is continually processed in order to tailor the optimal balance of comfort and energy savings. The Nest develops programs for different days, times and recurring events. The 3.5 software update includes the capacity to automatically engage the air conditioner when the humidity reaches a preset level.

The Nest is a visually stunning piece of technology. Its prominent digital display turns blue when the thermostat is adjusted down and red when it is turned up. A green leaf appears anytime the unit is in an energy savings mode.

The Honeywell Lyric Approach

Honeywell believes the Nest is based on a fundamentally flawed premise. Since the Nest only tracks movement from a single point, Honeywell engineers suspect the thermostat is incapable of acquiring an accurate representation of actual occupancy. To address this limitation, the Lyric incorporates a technology called “geofencing.” In essence, the thermostat tracks the position of registered smartphones and sets up an electronic perimeter of up to seven miles.

If all of the occupants have left the home, the Lyric will automatically begin to adjust the temperature for maximum energy savings. When one of the smartphones pierces the border of the radio signal when returning, the thermostat will readjust the temperature so the preferred comfort setting is reached upon arrival.

The Lyric also has superb styling and features a flat glass panel that covers a large digital display. A small light halo flashes blue for AC, orange for heat and green when the unit is in the away mode. Honeywell also includes a component for automatic program corrections based on humidity content as well as temperature. This can be very useful in areas where high summer humidity has a substantial impact on the comfort index.

The Winner is…

The Lyric and Nest are fantastic products that combine the energy saving benefits of programmable thermostats with the convenience of basic digital models. The choice will most likely depend on personal preference and living habits. The proximity sensor that the Nest relies on to accumulate data is dependant on a central installation location for accuracy. Conversely, Honeywell’s geofence capability is innovative, but everyone that regularly leaves and enters the home must have a smartphone for the system to operate correctly.

The goal of the buyer should be to limit the amount of required manual input, which will vary by individual and family. Both manufacturers provide fully functional apps that can remotely change a wide array of functional and reporting features. In general, the Nest is more suitable for families with recurring schedules while the Lyric would fit the needs of those with flexible lifestyles.

The Nest is currently selling for $248, and the Lyric is available for $279. Both thermostats can be installed by the homeowner, but units attached to a two-stage compressor with a variable-speed blower may require the services of a professional HVAC contractor.