It wasn’t too long ago that the smartest thermostat on the market was a programmable thermostat with an arcane LCD screen. You programmed it by manipulating the temperature control buttons. Thank goodness those first-generation programmable thermostats have been replaced by smart thermostats. A smart thermostat is definitely an upgrade.

If your home has neither a smart nor programmable thermostat, the only other option is a manual thermostat. Manual thermostats are just as their name implies. They do not have any programming features built in. To adjust the temperature, you push a button. The thermostat maintains that temperature until you make another adjustment.

Smart thermostats offer tons more features. There are too many to do them justice in a single post. Here are the top four, all of which are discussed in an excellent blog post from Vivint Smart Home:

1. Automated Temperature Changes

Smart thermostats are programmable thermostats by nature. And because they can be programmed, they facilitate automated temperature changes very well. You can program a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature based on your normal routine.

Assuming you are a first-shift worker, you are not likely to be home during the daytime hours Monday through Friday. This means you can let the house stay a bit cooler in the winter and a bit warmer during the summer, during working hours. There is no sense in heating and cooling when no one is home.

Of course, automated temperature changes are not exclusive to smart thermostats. Standard programmable thermostats offer the same function. But that’s as far as standard thermostats go. The additional features offered by smart thermostats are what set them apart.

2. Artificial Learning Capabilities

When a smart thermostat is integrated with other smart home sensors, it can artificially learn your routine. For example, motion detectors can tell the thermostat when someone is home. The thermostat can record that data and combine it with data from other sensors to figure out your normal schedule. It can then automatically adjust its settings accordingly.

This particular feature is especially attractive because you can program a smart thermostat once and then forget about it. It will automatically adapt. And if your schedule changes – perhaps your work schedule is altered, for example – it will only take a few days for the thermostat to catch up.

3. Remote Access

There are times when unintended scheduling changes mean wasting energy heating or cooling an unoccupied home. Similarly, a schedule change might have you heading home earlier than planned. In both cases, a smart thermostat’s programming can be overridden remotely.

Overriding programming is as easy as bringing up your smartphone and launching an app. From anywhere you have an internet connection, you can adjust your thermostat in real-time. It may not seem like much, but the ability to access the thermostat remotely will prove invaluable the first time you need to do it.

4. Geolocation Integration

If there is one feature that truly gets people excited, it’s the ability to integrate a smart thermostat with geolocation capabilities. In short, here is what you can do: you can link your thermostat to your smartphone and then program it to operate based on your location.

Maybe your work schedule isn’t static. Because it changes so frequently, you want to set your thermostat to automatically adjust during your commute. That way, the house will be at the right temperature when you arrive home. Integrating the thermostat with geolocation capabilities does just that.

Smart thermostats are impressive little devices that change the way homeowners heat and cool their homes. You might want to consider upgrading to one in your own home.