A woman walks down stairs past an Ecobee smart thermostat.
Smart thermostats, such as this Ecobee model, can help maintain a comfortable temperature in each room.
Photo: Ecobee

Does your home have that one room that always feels cold in the winter? Or too hot in the summer?

It’s a common problem, especially if your house runs on one thermostat. If, say, your thermostat is in your living room, then your finished basement or attic, out-of-the-way office or addition, or even your second floor might be quite a bit hotter or colder because the thermostat isn’t reading the temperature in those areas.

Sure, you can use space heaters and window ACs to compensate, but you have other, less cumbersome, options: using a smart thermostat with remote temperature sensors or installing smart air vents. 

The former replaces your existing thermostat and works in conjunction with small, wireless temperature sensors that you place in other rooms. The latter replaces your existing vent covers and opens and closes automatically to redirect warm or cold air to the rooms that need it most based on the temperature you set in each room. 

More on Heating and Cooling

Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. Smart thermostats with remote sensors are more affordable than smart vents, but they're best for averaging the temperature across multiple rooms. So they're good if you don’t have drastic differences in temperature.

Smart vent covers allow you to actually redirect airflow and heat or cool individual rooms to precise temperatures. But they cost more.

Read on for a closer look at how to use both of these options to keep your home comfortable. In our labs, we run smart thermostats through a range of tests for manual operation, automation, and smart features. (We don't currently test the wireless sensors themselves, or smart vents.) For more information on smart thermostats, see our thermostat ratings and thermostat buying guide.

Smart Thermostats With Remote Sensors

An Ecobee wireless temperature sensor sits on a dresser.
Some smart thermostats offer small, wireless temperature sensors that you can place in various rooms of your home.
Photo: Ecobee

Popular brands: Ecobee, Google Nest, and Honeywell Home

Cost: $200 and up. Usually comes with one sensor; additional sensors cost about $40 each.

How it works: You're probably familiar with smart thermostats, which connect to the internet via WiFi so that you can control them from your smartphone. They use algorithms to learn your habits and automatically adjust the heating and cooling based on when you’re home to save energy and money.

Smart thermostats usually require a special power wire called a C-wire, but many now offer workarounds, such as special wiring adapters or internal batteries that charge whenever the HVAC system is running. For more information, see our thermostat buying guide.

Some models offer wireless remote sensors that you can place in other rooms so that the thermostat can read the temperatures in those areas. Some sensors also detect motion, so the thermostat knows when a room is occupied.

Once the sensors are in place, you can program your thermostat to address rooms that are too hot or too cold by setting it to average the temperature across all rooms or a selected group of rooms. So from one room to the next, the temperature should feel consistent.

You can also have the thermostat heat or cool a group of rooms at certain times of day (such as bedrooms only when you’re sleeping), or if the sensors have motion detection, have the thermostat heat and cool only the rooms that are occupied.

Unlike smart vents, which work only with forced air systems, you can use a smart thermostat and sensors with any kind of central heating and cooling system. And it can be more economical than installing multiple smart vent covers and sensors. But you can’t target an individual room, because you can’t control the airflow. 

Smart Air Vents

A Flair smart vent on the floor near a Flair temperature sensor.
Smart vent systems consist of motorized vent covers and wireless or plug-in temperature sensors.
Photo: Flair

Popular brands: Flair and Keen Home

Cost: Varies with the number of rooms you want to install vents in, the number of supply vents you have in those rooms (you don’t replace the return vents that pull air into the system), and the size of those vents. Prices range from $80 to $130 for an individual vent cover and $30 to $130 for accompanying temperature sensors. Some systems, such as Keen Home, also require a stand-alone bridge to connect the vents to the internet, adding $40 to the total cost of the system.

How it works: Smart air vents open and close to redirect airflow (so your home has to have a forced air system for the vents to work). They connect to WiFi so that you can control them from your smartphone. They can also work with some smart thermostats, such as Ecobee models. If you have sensors for your smart thermostat in various rooms, the vents can use the readings from the sensors to operate.

Typically, you get wireless or plug-in temperature sensors and motorized vent covers. You put one sensor, and however many vent covers are required, in each room you want to control. The vent covers automatically open or close to keep the room at the temperature you set, and excess heating or cooling is redirected to other rooms.

Smart vents give you more flexibility because you’re essentially creating individually controlled heating and cooling systems in each room. If you want certain rooms warmer than others, for example, simply set them to a higher temperature and the vents will do the rest.

Top-Rated Smart Thermostats With Remote Temperature Sensors

If you're interested in purchasing a smart thermostat with wireless temperature sensors for your home, here are three top picks from our ratings, arranged in alphabetical order. The Ecobee and Honeywell Home models come with one sensor in the box to start, but the Google Nest model sells sensors separately. CR digital members can see detailed ratings and reviews of these thermostats by clicking on each model name or viewing our full thermostat ratings.

Quick Take

ecobee Smart with Voice Control EB-STATe5-01

Price: $250

Automation
Manual operation
Smart IQ
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Quick Take

Honeywell Home T9 RCHT9510WF

Price: $170

Automation
Manual operation
Smart IQ
Unlock Thermostat Ratings
Quick Take

Nest Learning Thermostat

Price: $250

Automation
Manual operation
Smart IQ
Unlock Thermostat Ratings