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updated 9/27/2012 12:20:48 PM ET 2012-09-27T16:20:48

ColorTouch Connected Thermostat: "Under $300"

As we straddle the thin line separating late summer and early autumn here in the northeastern United States, the temperatures are swinging up and down -- not just day to day, but hour to hour. That keeps residents scrambling to finesse the A/C or (heaven for fend, before Halloween) switch on the heat. It's enough to foil most programmable thermostats.

With Venstar's new Skyport Wi-Fi Key and cloud services for the ColorTouch residential thermostat, you can control your energy usage whenever you feel like it, right from your couch -- or virtually any location. If you're out, you can make your home nice and comfy for your return. It's a great way to compensate for the seasons and save on energy costs.

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The ColorTouch Thermostat is compatible with most 24 VAC controlled gas, electric, hydronic, and heat pump systems. And it can be made to work with two-wire controlled systems, with their optional ACC0436 Two Wire Kit. As a Venstar rep told Discovery News, "Most of the time we can determine compatibility by comparing the wiring of the existing thermostat." And yes, it works in multi-zone environments, with one of these thermostats needed in each zone. (But to clarify, one thermostat can handle multiple rooms, if they're all managed by a single HVAC unit with a Zoning Panel.)

The key to controlling them over the Internet is a physical Wi-Fi key. With one of them inserted in the thermostat and the companion app running on your smartphone, you can: monitor system run time and current usage; view incoming alerts based on pre-configured notifications; view the current weather at all thermostat locations; and send text messages (such as reminders and notes to family members) right to the thermostat's display.

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The thermostat comes with more than a dozen built-in nature and holiday wallpaper themes. You can also use it as a digital picture frame, installing up to 100 photos and viewing them as a slideshow. You can program the screen to automatically dim or brighten based on the time of day. And of course, it offers time period programming for the temperature, using an easy graphical interface.

The ColorTouch residential thermostat with Skyport Wi-Fi Key is compatible with Android, Blackberry and iOS mobile devices, as well as Mac and PC desktops. It's programmable in English, French and Spanish. And it has swappable faceplates, so you can help it to match its room's decor.

© 2012 Discovery Channel

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