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Installing a smart thermostat can save the average homeowner nearly $200 a year.

Colder weather has arrived, bringing higher energy costs for many homeowners. The good news is that a smart thermostat can help keep these costs in check.

A smart thermostat replaces your traditional thermostat and enables you to program your home's heating system (and cooling in warmer months) to turn down automatically when you're asleep or away.

Each degree you adjust the temperature equals a 2 percent annual energy savings. For the average homeowner, that works out to around $180 per year _ meaning a smart thermostat will pay for itself in a couple of years.

Here's a roundup of top-rated models to consider.

THE STANDARD BEARER: NEST LEARNING THERMOSTAT, $249

Launched in 2012, the Nest Learning Thermostat is the original smart thermostat. Nest learns your preferences and routines after you set it manually for a week or so, making for a highly user-friendly experience. It can also integrate with other smart products in the home, for example turning the lights off when it knows you've left the house. With the addition of the Nest Protect smoke + CO alarm, the Nest Learning Thermostat will even shut off the heating system in the event of a fire.

BEST FOR BIG HOMES: ECOBEE4, $249

Many smart thermostats only measure the home's temperature in one place, resulting in hot and cold spots throughout the home. The Ecobee4 addresses that issue with the addition of room sensors.

If one part of the house is a little drafty, the sensors will tell your heating system to send more heat to that part of the house. The latest generation Ecobee4 also has built-in voice control and Amazon Alexa, so it doubles as a digital assistant _ reading off today's headlines, setting a timer, ordering groceries and more.

BUDGET BUY: HONEYWELL LYRIC T5, $150

If you have an old analog thermostat on the wall, chances are it's a Honeywell. The long-established brand has kept pace with the technology, as evidenced by its latest smart thermostats. The T5 gets special mention here for its low price, but the entire Lyric family is worth a look. Honeywell thermostats use a proprietary app called Total Comfort Connect that makes it easy for homeowners to remotely manage their entire heating and cooling system. And the Lyric Round uses geo-fencing technology to adjust your home's temperature based on your location, so it knows to turn up the heat when you're getting close to home.

Earlier this year, Honeywell also announced that its Lyric thermostats will work with opt-in demand response programs from utility companies, allowing homeowners to conserve energy use when costs are highest, for example by turning down the heat automatically during peak demand. That's one more way smart thermostat can lead to serious energy savings for consumers.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Installing a smart thermostat is a home winterization project worth doing (checking insulation levels and plugging leaks around windows and doors should also be up there). Not only will it save you money, but it will also make your home's climate much easier to control.

Dan DiClerico is HomeAdvisor's Home Expert. HomeAdvisor is an online marketplace connecting homeowners with trusted service professionals to complete home projects. Visit HomeAdvisor.com.

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