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Internet Accessible Thermostat, Advice?
Old 06-03-2021, 05:23 PM   #1
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Internet Accessible Thermostat, Advice?

We are building a new lake home and I want to be able to remotely control the thermostat settings. I'm a computer designer by trade but have not kept up with the home automation world, which appears to be fairly chaotic.

I recently had a bad experience with Ring. I bought a battery operated motion light and a "bridge" controller for it. During setup it insisted in getting my home address and by the end it had set up its own wifi network, bridged to my home network, and giving their servers essentially unlimited access to our house. All for a single motion light. The controller has long since departed into the garbage can and I will never buy a Ring device again. Ring and Amazon (recent news stories) seem to have taken it on themselves to manage their customers' security hardware. Baaad juju, IMO.

So ... assembled experts, can you point me to a thermostat that I can access without relying on a vendor's servers somewhere to relay the control? I am thinking of something where I can just open a single port on the firewall and restrict that traffic to accessing only the thermostat. Or maybe use a VPN some way. Down the road I may add some cameras and will want the same kind of setup with none of my information stored at or passing through a vendor. Any ideas?
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Internet Accessible Thermostat, Advice?
Old 06-03-2021, 05:56 PM   #2
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Internet Accessible Thermostat, Advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldShooter View Post
We are building a new lake home and I want to be able to remotely control the thermostat settings. I'm a computer designer by trade but have not kept up with the home automation world, which appears to be fairly chaotic.

I recently had a bad experience with Ring. I bought a battery operated motion light and a "bridge" controller for it. During setup it insisted in getting my home address and by the end it had set up its own wifi network, bridged to my home network, and giving their servers essentially unlimited access to our house. All for a single motion light. The controller has long since departed into the garbage can and I will never buy a Ring device again. Ring and Amazon (recent news stories) seem to have taken it on themselves to manage their customers' security hardware. Baaad juju, IMO.

So ... assembled experts, can you point me to a thermostat that I can access without relying on a vendor's servers somewhere to relay the control? I am thinking of something where I can just open a single port on the firewall and restrict that traffic to accessing only the thermostat. Or maybe use a VPN some way. Down the road I may add some cameras and will want the same kind of setup with none of my information stored at or passing through a vendor. Any ideas?


I use Honeywell thermostats in three homes and have no trouble connecting to them from anywhere.
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Old 06-03-2021, 06:00 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OldShooter View Post
We are building a new lake home and I want to be able to remotely control the thermostat settings. I'm a computer designer by trade but have not kept up with the home automation world, which appears to be fairly chaotic.

I recently had a bad experience with Ring. I bought a battery operated motion light and a "bridge" controller for it. During setup it insisted in getting my home address and by the end it had set up its own wifi network, bridged to my home network, and giving their servers essentially unlimited access to our house. All for a single motion light. The controller has long since departed into the garbage can and I will never buy a Ring device again. Ring and Amazon (recent news stories) seem to have taken it on themselves to manage their customers' security hardware. Baaad juju, IMO.

So ... assembled experts, can you point me to a thermostat that I can access without relying on a vendor's servers somewhere to relay the control? I am thinking of something where I can just open a single port on the firewall and restrict that traffic to accessing only the thermostat. Or maybe use a VPN some way. Down the road I may add some cameras and will want the same kind of setup with none of my information stored at or passing through a vendor. Any ideas?
I have a simple Honeywell that I can control remotely. I do need to log into a website (or app on the phone). No frills. No cameras.
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Old 06-03-2021, 07:53 PM   #4
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Went with the Emerson Sensi Touch smart thermostat over a year ago and have been happy with it. You use their app for remote access. I haven't set it up to work with Alexa but it can be. There might be some good deals coming up on Prime Day later this month.
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Old 06-03-2021, 09:16 PM   #5
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We use Honeywell Wifi thermostats (with nice color displays) and can access our thermostats for control and monitoring using a phone app or via laptop/PC using a web browser.

This model at all properties.

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-TH9...s%2C187&sr=1-8
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Old 06-03-2021, 09:52 PM   #6
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We also use a Honeywell at the lake house and have been happy with it. Neighbour is an HVAC company owner and installed it along with new furnace and A/C for us. He says that they have had good luck with Honeywell WiFi thermostats. I do need to go through the on phone app but set up was straight forward and definitely didn't seem to be asking for anything but the network name. I'm no cybersecurity expert though.
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Old 06-03-2021, 10:19 PM   #7
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Honeywell in 3 houses, excellent results. The only issue has been with wifi reconnection after a power outage, and that's a router problem, not the thermostat. So I put the router on a timer and it reboots every night. Problem solved.

Oops. Probably should have read the OP. There is a Honeywell connection in between, so if you really want that skipped, I can't help you. I never researched that one.
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Old 06-04-2021, 04:53 AM   #8
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I think there might have been some functionality of that Ring motion detector that attracted you, other than just turning on a light when something walked by. Most motion sensing lights do not need Wi-Fi.

With that future in mind, you mentioned that you may want to add cameras in the future, which has nothing to do with a thermostat...so, let me suggest a few questions that you may want to wrestle with for your house:

1. How many HVAC units will the house have?
2. Will the HAVC unit(s) have multiple zones, variable speed fans, and multilevel compressors?
3. Do you tend to fiddle with your thermostat during the day, or do you just set it and forget it? Will there be a daily or weekly schedule?
4. Do you want your thermostat to access the local weather, and adjust the house temperature/humidity to help reduce utility costs? (that may also relate to how your utility company charges)
5. Do you want to talk to your thermostat?

The smarter you want your thermostat to be...the smarter you want your home network to be, the more likely a remote server may be involved. For example, I give my utility company the ability to adjust my thermostats during high usage periods (summer afternoons and winter mornings) for small a monthly rebate on my electric bill, and it also reduces my monthly usage. They can do this whether I am home or not, and I can override an event if I chose to...but they now have access to my home network.

As you work through your functionality, you may want to separate your thermostats from your other security or comfort devices in your home...or you may want to link them.

Best of luck in your search...
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Old 06-04-2021, 06:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freedom56 View Post
We use Honeywell Wifi thermostats (with nice color displays) and can access our thermostats for control and monitoring using a phone app or via laptop/PC using a web browser.

This model at all properties.

https://www.amazon.com/Honeywell-TH9...s%2C187&sr=1-8
Hah! That's the one I was going to suggest! I love the display, and I actually have tested 4 or 5 different wireless thermostats (a couple I beta tested, and a couple I installed for friends) and this is still my favorite. I really like the large display, and that it shows the internal and external temp and humidity.

OldShooter, I don't know of any "open source" thermostat that can be completely independent of the manufacturer's servers, but with many like the Honeywells you can use SmartThings or another hub to access the controls, although I'm not sure if it's using the web portal or if it's sending commands directly to the thermostat. You could also use IFTTT to create your own triggers for sending commands if the thermostat didn't give you enough flexibility.
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Old 06-04-2021, 06:38 AM   #10
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Went with the Emerson Sensi Touch smart thermostat over a year ago and have been happy with it. You use their app for remote access. I haven't set it up to work with Alexa but it can be. There might be some good deals coming up on Prime Day later this month.
We have the same one, it works very well.
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Old 06-04-2021, 06:52 AM   #11
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I have three Honeywell WiFi thermostats. They work great, local and remotely, but...

They most certainly do require an external internet connection back to the Honeywell servers to operate remotely. You can't control them directly, either locally or through an open port, from your phone.

The only thermostats I've heard of you can control that way are called "radio thermostat" (or some such) and they are universally panned by the home automation community.

It would be possible to set up a "virtual" thermostat (my word) using a home automation system like Home Assistant, which is open source and can run very nicely on a Raspberry Pi. You'd need temperature sensors (cheap and easy) and some way to switch the heat on and off (a bit more work, but not too bad.)

Much as I hate depending on Honeywell's servers, and having them collect data about my usage which they won't even share with me, there are benefits.

For one thing, a "real" thermostat is going to be able to better control the cycle times of the heating system to minimize temperature swings and maximize efficiency. They come with scheduling capability so you can adjust for your work and sleep schedule.

The other thing to consider is redundancy. I can control my Honeywells remotely through their app, or through my Home Assistant. But if the internet or HA fails, I can still control them from the thermostat itself, or just let it continue to run its preset schedule.

To summarize, I hate the idea of depending on Honeywell's servers and the internet to remotely control my thermostats, but I've made peace with the idea and maybe even come to appreciate some of the advantages.
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Old 06-04-2021, 07:00 AM   #12
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We have NEST thermostats and LOVE them!
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Old 06-04-2021, 07:50 AM   #13
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We have a Honeywell smart thermostat and have been very happy with it. It does reset automatically when there is an internet interruption, but occasionally a router reset is required. In that case the thermostat cannot be reprogrammed remotely until a WiFi connection is reestablished, but it continues to work on the programmed schedule.

Be sure the builder installs 5 or 7 conductor cable from the furnace to the thermostat. Smart thermostats require continuous DC power (not batteries) to operate. This thread goes into the "C" wire (DC power wire) question in more detail:

https://www.early-retirement.org/for...on-100496.html

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Old 06-04-2021, 08:31 AM   #14
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ecobee4 would be my recommendation.
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Old 06-04-2021, 08:39 AM   #15
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I'm using a Honeywell also and pleased with it. In fact last year they were giving them away free. I have 2 for spares sitting on my desk.
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Old 06-04-2021, 08:58 AM   #16
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we have a nest and love it, go away turn temps down or up, when you start to come back you can get your house to temp you want, summer or winter....
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:09 AM   #17
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ecobee4 would be my recommendation.
Thanks but that is exactly the kind of aggressively intrusive ecosystem (Alexa/Amazon) that I'm trying to avoid. News just in the last few days indicates that Amazon thinks that customers' wifi networks are its property too.

Granted Amazon, Google, et al know a lot about me but I am not going to voluntarily hand over my home security configuration and any video surveillance streams that I might have. One successful database hack and the data can be sold to bad guys who can browse street addresses and video streams looking for attractive targets, then find times when the house is not occupied. Talk about a SHTF event ...

Re the question of why I bought the Ring motion detector it was mostly because it is battery powered and can be linked with other Ring motion detectors so that all light if one lights. I had no idea that they would co-opt my house network rather than using a simple and non-intrusive wireless solution like BT or Ghz. wireless-mouse type technology.

Interesting to see all the votes for Honeywell. I guess I would trust them more than most because they don't AFIK have a direct business interest in being intrusive. Of course they might have a side business selling customer data, but no way to know about that.
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:11 AM   #18
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We have NEST thermostats and LOVE them!

I had bad luck with them. They kept disconnecting from WiFi and didnít automatically reconnect. Never had that problem with my Honeywell thermostats.
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:20 AM   #19
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OP - I'm interested in the answer to the question, of what device won't be allowing broad access to your home network. Something many folks don't seem concerned about or know about.

Just look at how Amazon announced they are opening everyone's wifi to be accessed by anybody walking by the house, they call it their "sidewalk" something.

Currently, I have some Wyze camera's, they are great (V3) and only ~$20 ea. I TRY to limit the access by: putting them on my guest network , and not my regular network.

My router has 2 networks, one for guests, and one for "normal". It's so you can give the password to your guests to have wifi at your home, but are not giving out the password of your normal network.

That is my only solution, so far, and hopefully one that is secure enough. Network GURU's please chime in: does this mean everything on my regular network is invisible to the guest network

Note: this does not prevent someone viewing the company servers to look at my camera's (all pointed outside) and even controlling them. But it's the best I can do for now.

I was thinking of pointing a camera at my thermostat for when we go on long trips during the winter, just so I could see the furnace is still working. If the furnace stops, even a controlled thermostat is no use, and having just a camera means nobody can shut off the thermostat remotely by accessing the company servers/app.
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Old 06-04-2021, 09:31 AM   #20
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We have two Trane ComfortLink™ II XL850's. Uses Nexia interface which works pretty well. Can operate anywhere via wifi and with Amazon Alexa via voice while at home.
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