How to Choose a Smart Thermostat for RV Climate Control

How to Choose a Smart Thermostat for RV Climate Control

Most RVs on roads and camping grounds today are fitted with analog thermostats; it is one of the ways that automakers ensure the RVs come to you at a lower retail price. These old-fashioned thermostats can only be adjusted minimally, they are inaccurate most of the time and they come cheap. However, if you need to control your heating and air conditioning system in your RV accurately, you need to upgrade to a digital or smart thermostat for your RV.

This guide shows you how to pick the best smart thermostat for your RV.

Quick Recommendations

Radio Thermostat CT101

Top Recommendation

Radio Thermostat CT101

Radio Thermostat CT101

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This thermostat is for RV owners who are looking for a smart approach to their HVAC needs. New EPA approved features and smart technology make this our top recommendation.

lux-thermostat

Best upgrade choice

Lux 7-day Touch Screen Programmable Thermostat

Lux 7-day Touch Screen Programmable Thermostat

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The Lux 7-day is a thermostat is an easy to install, user-friendly system. A large, well-lit screen and 2-4 daily options for heating and cooling make this system a go-to in the line of thermostats.

High-End Pick

Braeburn Touchscreen Thermostat Universal 4H/2C

Braeburn Touchscreen Thermostat Universal 4H/2C

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This thermostat comes with a boasting 12-inch easy to read touch screen and bright blue backlight display. Adjustable settings make this system very flexible for your absolute needs.

Honeywell RTH636D 1002/E Programmable Thermostat

Value Pick

Honeywell 5-2 Day 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat

Honeywell 5-2 Day 5-2 Day Programmable Thermostat

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This cost-effective option is for RV owners who need a user-friendly system that is easy to install.Our value pick is user-friendly and widely used in the community.

Smart Thermostat Buying Guide for RVs

Because these smart thermostats are not prohibitively expensive, you need to get one to add to the comfort of your RV. A good smart thermostat can be controlled remotely from your phone or computer.

Pre-programming makes the RV comfortable

Smart thermostats can easily be controlled from a remote device and can also be controlled from their device settings. Settings on these devices, unlike their analog counterparts, are more refined allowing you to set temperate changes an hour or a day before. You do not have to be near the thermostat as you can adjust the changes from your smart phone.

When you program these units, they are much more accurate than analog units. Usually, analog thermostats are off by 10 or more degrees leaving your RV to freeze or fry. When you program a smart thermostat, it is highly accurate, typically within a degree.

Does the unit control heat and air?

Most smart thermostats for RV control both heat and air. However, some cheap models will control only heat. Carefully check the device specifications before buying to ensure that it offers both hear and air conditioning control.

Again, there are digital thermostats that are not programmable but come with a horde of features and buttons to confuse buyers. Check that your unit can be programmed.

Check for Compatibility

The smart thermostat you buy needs to be compatible with your heating and air conditioning system. At times, thermostats and air conditioners from the same manufacturer may not be compatible. While substitute boards are available to make the units compatible, it is advisable to ensure the thermostat you buy will fit comfortably into your existing HVAC setup.

It is easier to find if the thermostat is compatible with your HVAC system when you are buying from a brick and mortar store. When shopping online, you need to contact the manufacturer and ask which setups the unit is compatible with. If you can get the manufacturer’s phone number, you can call them and enquire. Some online retailers also answer customer questions via live chat.

When checking compatibility, community FAQ boards might not give you the right information. Instead, call our technician (the professional who will install your thermostat) and ask them about compatibility.

Some questions to ask before buying a smart thermostat:

  • Can I mount the thermostat on the wall? You want your thermostat to be able to sense the general environment of the room or RV. For this reason, the thermostat should be located on a wall in a position where it will not be blocked.
  • Is the unit compatible with my HVAC system, my furnace or my heat pump? Some thermostats can be installed simply by following the instruction manual, but others will require an HVAC professional. Check the voltage of your system and corresponding thermostat and do not be afraid to call the manufacturer.
  • Does the unit require you to change any control panels? If so, which control panels need to change? Smart units are mostly controlled from a mobile device over the internet. Some are controlled from a mobile app and others from the web. Check how your device is controlled before buying.
  • Does the thermostat need a wiring harness? If it needs a harness, is the harness offered with the purchase of the thermostat?
  • How do I power the thermostat? Most smart thermostats for RV are designed to run on 12V from the vehicle’s battery. However, others are designed to be fitted with batteries or run on telephone line. The unit that runs on 12V is better as you are assured it will always be on as long as your car’s battery is charged.
  • Does the unit come with backlit display? Back light ensures that you can operate your thermostat in the dark. Most units feature a digital screen with back light making them easy to operate in the dark.
  • Can I install it myself? You can install a smart thermostat with basic wiring skills. However, the problem comes when the thermostat’s warranty gets void because of DIY installation, If the warranty is not affected when you install the unit yourself, go ahead and do it.

Consider Innovative Features

Most thermostats on the market have basic features; they allow you to control heat and air conditioning systems. However, some smart units feature advanced features such as control from mobile apps and Wi-Fi compatibility. While units with more features are more expensive, they are more accurate and easier to manage.

If you only need a unit that controls your RV temperature, pick one with basic features. If you need an advanced system, pick a pricier unit with all features and modern innovations.

Consider product quality

You do not want to buy a smart thermostat that will break a week after installation. Ensure that the unit is made up of strengthened ABS plastic and not just weak plastic that breaks easily. You can also tell the quality of your smart thermostat by reading online reviews from customers.

Top Smart Thermostats for RV

As it stands, this model is the only smart thermostat that will run off of a 12V current. Almost all RVs use 12V, so the options for a drop-in replacement smart thermostat are incredibly limited right now. The only issue with using this product is that it doesn’t support normal Wi-Fi, but it does support a technology called Z-wave, which is similar.

The Radio CT101 thermostat features a digital, touch screen display. It’s also programmable and has configurable sensitivity. As far as the smart features go, you’ll need a computer hooked up to your electrical system if you want to access them.

By plugging a Z-Wave USB hub into your computer, you can use it to talk to your thermostat. You’ll also need a software program like home assistant or something similar. This will act as the go-between for shuffling data back and forth between your computer and the thermostat.

The basic idea is to cut off your old thermostat, wire in the Radio thermostat, and then set up your Z-Wave USB hub and software program. Once you have these pieces in place you can get to work adjusting all sorts of specific settings, including remotely adjusting the temperature from a phone or laptop. Your WiFi connected phone talks to your computer, and the software program on your computer talks to the Radio thermostat.

Pros

  • Z-wave technology for remote temperature control
  • Easy to install
  • EPA approved features
  • Internal humidity sensor
  • Digital touchscreen display
  • 7-day programmable

Cons

  • No wifi enabled smart phone control

The Lux 7-day comes in as our best upgrade because of the big four: installation, ease of use, programming and energy saving. Known for its easy installation and user-friendly interface, this well-priced thermostat is compatible with most systems. There are in depth installation guide videos online along with an installation manual for details on your specific system.

You get your choice of 2-4heating/cooling settings a day along with the obvious 7-day programming. Air filter and energy use monitoring coupled with the easy to read touchscreen controls make this system widely sought after.

One of the things the community has agreed on is the stellar technical support and the fact that this model has yet to be discontinued is a testament to its lifespan among retail users.

Pros

  • Easy to install and offered with easy-to-follow instructional videos.
  • Fitted with an easy-to-use touchscreen display.
  • Inexpensive with a 3 year warranty
  • Air filter and energy use monitoring

Cons

  • No wifi for remote temperature control
  • Lower energy savings
  • No humidity monitor

If you’re looking to spend a bit more on a programmable RV thermostat, the Braeburn Touchscreen Thermostat Universal 4H/2C has you covered. Coming in at around $105, this thermostat is still affordable while offering a bit more than our top pick. You can program it at 7-day or 5/2 day intervals.

This thermostat is for the RV-ownerwho wants flexibility and reliability from their system. Set it and forget it as they say! Full program capability from the auto setting is one of the features that Braeburn users rave about.

The display is 12 inches and has a bright blue backlight. It comes with automatic humidity control, a multi-level keypad lockout, adjustable temp limits, built-in economizer control, residential and commercial modes, programmable fan operation, and both indoor and outdoor remote sensing.

Pros

  • Easy programming
  • Large touch-screen display
  • Humidity control
  • Flexibility
  • Protects unit against high startup pressure

Cons

  • Does not connect with smart devices such as smartphones and voice assistants.
  • Pricier than other models

The Honeywell 5-2 Day is a cost-effective option for those in need of a programmable thermostat that’s easy to install and will suit your needs. It has a backlit display and precise temp control of +/- 1 degree. You can program it with separate settings for both weekends and weekdays, and it retains memory in case you have a power outage.

This very simple user-interface is one of the many reasons Honeywell gets a good reputation in the industry. User reviews have it as one of the easiest thermostats to program and install.


While it doesn’t come with any remote temperature control, it is a simple, low-voltage programmable thermostat that costs about $25 in most places.

Pros

  • Easy programming and install
  • Affordable
  • Long lifespan
  • Energy Star partner

Cons

  • No wifi for remote temperature control
  • Smaller screen

Conclusion

There are many thermostats on the market today, some analog and others digital. Among the digital devices, not all are programmable and not all work with other smart systems in your home or RV. A good smart thermostat for RV should meet all your heating and cooling needs and fall within your budget.

The Radio Thermostat CT101 is our top recommendation thanks to its simple design and range of smart features. The unit is designed with durable materials, it is easy to set up, is compatible with a wide range of HVAC setups and is reasonably priced for its features. You do not need to be a skilled electrician to install the unit as all you need is to follow the instructions in the manual along with help guides online.

When choosing the right unit for you among the four above, consider your needs and your budget. Our top recommendation has been selected to cover the RV enthusiasts HVAC needs. Many find that a simpler approach works for them and go with value pick. If your needs are specific choose the upgrade or high-end model that suit you best!