Archive for August, 2011

My iPhone Controls the World! (or at least my thermostat)

Wouldn’t it be awesome to control your thermostat from anywhere in the world? At first I was surprised that options even exist to accomplish this feat. But this quickly turned to disappointment at how few choices there actually are in the marketplace.

I found expensive units. Units that require multiple pieces of hardware. Units that seem to need a professional or a PhD to install. And units that require a monthly service fee to manage the thermostat remotely. But after a bit of digging, I was pleased to find a solution that fell into none of those categories: theĀ Filtrete 3M-50 sold through Home Depot for just $100. Sure $100 may seem like a lot for a thermostat, but compared to the other WiFi options out there, it’s a steal.

I realize your installation experience may vary depending on the type of HVAC system in your home, but I got lucky. Because the unit requires a “C” wire for power (the WiFi is too much for batteries alone), you may find yourself in a more difficult situation. Whoever installed my previous thermostat had connected all 5 wires going from the furnace to the thermostat. But like a good number of people, my HVAC only uses 4 wires. So I was able to use the free wire as my “C” wire (as demonstrated in this helpful video by the radiothermostat people). I have to admit: if I didn’t have a free wire available, I likely would have returned the unit. So I can see this requirement being the first big hurdle that may weed out potential customers.

Filtrete 3M-50 Thermostat

Once I had the wires connected, mounting the unit was simple. I’ve read a number of complaints in the reviews at about the look of the unit, especially with the wires. But I can’t see any wires at all after putting the top face plate on. My tip here is to install the unit higher than the hole where the wires come through the wall to make sure they are taught and lay flat on top of the unit.

After the installation is the WiFi setup. Unfortunately there is no documentation provided with the unit on how to do this. I recommend going through all of their YouTube videos and the documentation on their website at You really want to review all the materials before you jump in, as it will likely save you the hassle of dealing with errors. I’d say this is one area where they could improve. All of the info is there online, but it really should be contained in a single location with a clear order of events.

I had no problems configuring the unit to my local network and was managing the thermostat in no time through both the Windows program and their website. I did however experience a glitch with the free iPhone app (Radio Thermostat). At first it gave an error and wouldn’t connect. I deleted and re-installed the app and re-provisioned the WiFi and it connected just fine. I confirmed that the app could control the thermostat via both WiFi and 3G.

Not to sound smug, but overall you should be somewhat proficient around the house and with computers before taking on this project. But I’m betting since you had the inclination and insight to find and finish this review, you’ll probably be okay šŸ™‚

Being a single homeowner, I’m thrilled at the prospect of saving energy and money with my new thermostat. If I make plans after work or go out of town, I can relax knowing my air conditioner and furnace don’t have to run needlessly. The website can also be used to create and manage an endless number of programs to run. Currently, the mobile app can only change the temperature or turn the fan on or off, which isn’t too shabby for being free. But I’m hoping they will add the program features soon as well.

Bottom Line: For just $100 and a few hours of my time, I now have a new touch screen thermostat that is manageable from any computer or my iPhone. I’m not sure which is better: having this amazing capability, or the comments I get from impressed friends and family.


August 24, 2011 at 9:22 AM Leave a comment

August 2011