Best answer: The Learning Thermostat can quickly pay itself off and allows you to regulate your home's temperature from anywhere, but unless you're dead set on the stainless steel design, Nest's cheaper Thermostat E is a more practical buy.

Why get a smart thermostat in the first place?

Smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat are some of the most practical ways to get into connected home tech. They keep your home comfortable without you ever having to think about it, and more importantly, they save you money over time by being much more energy efficient than a traditional thermostat.

Those savings mean that with enough time, your smart thermostat can pay for itself. Nest says that you can expect to save 10-15% on your energy bills throughout the year when using its Learning Thermostat over a programmable one. Combined with the mail-in rebates offered by most energy providers for customers who switch to a smart thermostat, you could net positive in as little as a year.

Smart thermostats aren't just great because of the money they save you, though. You can adjust your temperature from anywhere, meaning that if you know you'll be out until 9 p.m., you can leave your thermostat off until around 8:30, then come home to a warm house without having to leave the thermostat on all day.

Do you need a Nest Learning Thermostat?

Nest's smart thermostats in particular are great options because of their learning nature — it's in the name, after all. After using it for a bit, the Learning Thermostat begins to figure out your temperature preferences and automatically builds out a heating and cooling schedule so that you almost never have to adjust it manually.

The Learning Thermostat also knows when you've left the house and switches to Auto Away mode, which reduces its workload until you get back. Because Nest plays nicely with a number of other smart home brands, that Auto Away mode can trigger devices like smart lights and plugs, too.

So if it can pay itself off within a year and adds convenience to your life, why wouldn't you get the Learning Thermostat, which we named the best smart thermostat of last year? Well, the biggest reason is actually another Nest product — the Thermostat E, Nest's more affordable option. It's made of polycarbonate rather than stainless steel, but it offers an almost complete feature set for about $50 less. The Thermostat E doesn't support quite as many HVAC systems, but there's not much other reason to shell out the extra for the Learning Thermostat aside from aesthetics.

Better value

Nest Thermostat E

Lower price, same features

The Thermostat E may not look as sleek as the Learning Thermostat, but it's almost identical in terms of features. It still has features like Auto Away and automatic schedule creation, and it supports nearly as many HVAC systems. Most people wouldn't notice the difference.

3rd Gen

Nest Learning Thermostat

The best-looking smart thermostat around

The Learning Thermostat is a fantastic thermostat that looks great in any home and allows you to heat or cool your home from anywhere. With efficient usage and mail-in rebates, it can pay itself off quickly, but the Thermostat E does almost all the same things for considerably less.

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