Honeywell Launches Lyric, a Thermostat That Keeps Tabs on Your Comings and Goings

Images: Honeywell.

Did you assume that Honeywell, the multinational conglomerate responsible for introducing the world to the iconic-now-antiquated “Round” T87 analog thermostat in 1953, would sit out on the sidelines and watch scrappy smart home startups such as Nest Labs dominate the playing field? You assumed wrong. The New Jersey-based behemoth, best known for manufacturing clunky manual thermostats that are rapidly falling from ubiquity, has now emerged as a formidable contender in the smart home game with the introduction of Lyric, a sleek, smartphone-controlled household thermostat that eagerly “adapts to you" instead of the other way around. With a price tag of $279, Lyric will cost you about fifty bucks more than the gold standard in this category, the Nest Learning Thermostat, and boasts key features that set it apart from its Silicon Valley-based competition. You may recall that Nest Labs and Honeywell were engaged in a heated patent battle in 2012, with the latter claiming patent infringements. In response to the complaint filed by Honeywell, Nest Labs honcho Tony Fadell referred to the company as being "... worse than a patent troll. They're trying to strangle us, and we're not going to allow that to happen." Bickering aside, the Lyric thermostat — to be clear, this isn't Honeywell’s first networked thermostat — is the first of several home automation devices to be unrolled as part of the Lyric family. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware — a really far cry from Honeywell thermostats of yesteryear — that even the most design-finicky homeowners would be proud to display on their walls.

However, it’s not good looks that help Lyric stand apart. Unlike the Nest’s built-in motion sensor that helps the device to learn a household's unique heating and cooling preferences, Lyric revolves around proximity with full-on geofencing capabilities, a first for Honeywell or any other company. Essentially, Lyric harnesses your smartphone to determine your exact location (provided that you don’t accidentally leave it at home) as part of an overall effort to help you save on energy bills without sacrificing a modicum comfort.

As you bike/drive/walk away to work for the day, the thermostat will sense that you are moving further and further away from home and automatically kick into energy saving mode. Because really, nothing’s more wasteful than running the AC on full-blast while you’re stuck in meetings for six hours. As you return home at the end of the day, the thermostat emerges from hibernation after picking up on your exact GPS location — an urbanite-friendly radius of 500 feet and a more suburban commuter-geared radius of 7 miles are the two distances that trigger the device — to guarantee you don’t return to an icebox or a swamp. The device can be synced with multiple smartphones so that heating/cooling isn’t fully reliant on a single user's GPS coordinates. Lyric, which can be fully controlled and programmed via smartphone app, is compatible with both iOS and Android. Projected annual savings in energy costs vary by location. Based on my location in New York City, the Lyric website estimates that I'd save an average of $127 annually by using the device. Explains Beth Wozniak, president of Honeywell Environment and Combustion Controls:

Most people don’t have a predictable pattern to how they live their lives; why not have a thermostat that adjusts based on your real-time schedule? With the Lyric thermostat’s geofencing capability, my house returns to my preferred comfort setting when I’m within a few miles from home. Quite simply, the Lyric thermostat offers me the ability to keep my life in tune — delivering comfort when I’m home and savings when I’m gone.

In addition to geofencing, another nifty and unique feature of Lyric is Fine Tune, a feature that factors in indoor temperature and humidity along with weather conditions for optimum comfort and efficiency. Obviously, 80 degrees on an incredibly humid day can feel a lot different than 80 degrees in dry heat. And on the topic of weather, you can even view the full 12-hour Accuweather forecast from the thermostat’s unfussy glass touchscreen interface so that you can plan your day (and outfit) accordingly. Other key features of the Lyric thermostat include a LED-illuminated halo ring that glows orange (heating), blue (cooling), or green (energy-savings); a Smart Cues feature that monitors and clues you in to your HVAC system’s overall performance, alerting you to any maintenance issues such as a filter that needs changing or a furnace that may need servicing; and a built-in proximity sensor that illuminates the device’s interface when you approach it. Available to professional HVAC contractors now and available to the general public this coming August when it hits Lowes stores, I’m truly interested in seeing how Lyric — the device has already been heralded by Gizmodo as "the thermostat the Jetsons would own" — stacks up, sales wise, against its de facto rival, the Nest Learning Thermostat. It's worth noting that Google-owned Nest Labs is not a partner in Apple's recently announced HomeKit platform while Honeywell is. While a fair amount of homeowners might choose Lyric over the Nest solely based on the geofencing feature, I’m guessing that brand recognition will play heavily into consumer preferences given that Honeywell is a company that, for better or worse, has long been synonymous with thermostats. Will consumers ultimately stick with what they know, spend a few bucks more, and opt for Honeywell's Lyric? Or will they go for the flashy newcomer with deep ties to Apple that's dominated the smart thermostat market for the past couple of years? Any thoughts? Does Lyric pose a serious threat of dethroning Nest?