Round Thermostats From Vintage Honeywell to Modern Nest

Home thermostat


Silas Bubolu / Getty Images

Creating a vintage look in your home renovation can be as easy as a low-cost purchase on eBay or at a local antique store. Or, if you'd like the same look (more or less) but want to make sure that it is dependable, you can purchase the contemporary iteration of it—it is called The Round.

This strange, flying saucer-like staple of the mid-century modern era was the Honeywell Round, a thermostat that graced American homes after the Second World War up to the ​mid-1970s. While it was not the most efficient at saving energy (newer models are better at that), this bronze-colored disk presided over what historians like to call The American Century.

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    Classic Vintage Honeywell Round

    Honeywell Round Thermotat

    This is the classic vintage gold-tinted, bronze-colored, solid Honeywell Round thermostat. The thermostat is metal, not plastic, except for the bubble window that protects the dial. Since 1953, Honeywell has sold a reported 58 million of them.

    This thermostat has a seriously cool lineage. Scientists who put men on the moon did so in rooms controlled by Honeywell Rounds. This was the thermostat that warmed the designers of the Ford Mustang and the inventors of Tang and the EZ-Bake Oven. Countless generations of children turned up this very same thermostat when they rose to watch early-morning Saturday cartoons. This is the thermostat that heated mid-century modern American homes.

    Unlike trending thermostats these days, the original vintage Honeywell Round has no software onboard or batteries. No mobile devices are needed to control it. Many vintage Honeywell Round thermostats can be found at local antique stores, online at retro specialty shops, or on auction sites like eBay.

    Most of these old Honeywell Rounds contain mercury in the thermometer area. As long as you do not shatter the thermometer section of the thermostat, you should be safe. Or you can purchase one of the newer versions of The Round as they are 100-percent mercury-free.

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    Today's Version of the Honeywell Round

    Honeywell Round Thermostat

    This simple thermostat is the latest iteration of a product that has been a staple of homes for decades. This is today's version of the Honeywell Round.

    Is it easy to use? Yes, nothing could be easier. The section of The Round's owner's manual that discusses how to operate the device is only one page long. It essentially says that you should turn the thermostat up if you're cold and turn it down if you're hot.

    The Round retails for nearly nine times less than the popular Nest thermostat. One of the highly advertised benefits of Nest is that its schedule hugs closely to your own schedule, saving energy and money. The Round does not presume to second-guess you; The Round is bare-bones stuff. If you set it at 70 F and then go on a long vacation—but forget to set it down—it will pump out heat continually to maintain your house at 70 F, all day and all night.  

    Yet except for those lapses, The Round can hug tightly to your personal schedule, too. Once you form the habit of turning it up in the morning, down when you leave for work, up when you come home, and then down again before bed, using The Round becomes second nature.

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    Honeywell Round's Successor: Nest

    Nest Thermostat
    Nest Labs, Inc.

    Balking at the idea of going full-on vintage with a real Honeywell Round? Finding the prospect of a newer Round daunting? Then toss aside notions of going mid-century modern. Instead, truly cutting-edge modern technology is here to help. The Nest thermostat is round and slim, just like the Honeywell thermostat, but all comparisons end there.

    Nest is owned by none other than Alphabet/Google, Inc. Introduced in 2010, the Nest is a revolutionary thermostat. Nest goes beyond all of those other "smart" home innovations that do things like employ touchscreens to ask you which shower temperature you would like. Instead, Nest tries to do away with the technology—putting it behind the curtain, so to speak—by "learning" the habits of homeowners and gradually adapting to those habits.  

    For about a week, homeowners will have to "teach" the thermostat about the residents' habits by turning it up or down, on or off. After that week, Nest operates quietly in the background. The Nest app allows you to control the thermostat manually, as well as check energy consumption. Nest uses batteries and has onboard software that needs updates.