Review: ecobee3 Smart Thermostat
The Smartest Thermostat Ever?
Ever since the Nest introduced their smart learning thermostat back in 2011, smart thermostats have become one of the most popular upgrades for people looking to make their homes just a bit “smarter”. While Nest is without a doubt the most popular name in home automation thanks to Alphabet Inc’s (Google) acquisition of the company back in 2014, numerous other entrants into the smart thermostat market have appeared with one of the most promising being Ecobee, a Canadian home automation company currently specializing in smart thermostats.
The flagship Ecobee smart thermostat which we’ll be reviewing today is the ecobee3. The ecobee3’s claim to fame is that it has the unique ability to connect up to 32 remote sensors to help improve comfort while reducing electricity usage.
Let’s take a closer look.
|Display||3.5″ 320×480 Color LCD Touch Screen|
|Compatibility||• Conventional (2H/2C)
• Heat pump (4H/2C) incl. 2-stage auxiliary heat
• Gas, oil, electric
• Dual fuel
• Humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, HRV or ERV
|Dimensions||100mm x 100mm x 22mm|
A Closer Look
Here’s a look at the packaging for the ecobee3.
Included in the packaging is the ecobee3 thermostat, mounting hardware, a small and large mounting plate, power extender kit, documentation and a remote sensor with a detachable stand.
Here’s a closer look at the mounting plate. Wiring is fairly standard so installation simply requires pulling out the wires out of the old thermostat and plugging them into the ecobee3.
Installation of the ecobee3 is a pretty painless affair. Those with modern HVAC wiring that includes the C wire, or common wire, can go ahead and simply remove the wires from your previous thermostat and install the ecobee3. Those without the C wire can utilize the included power extender kit which will allow you to route power through existing wiring. Our thermostat already included a C wire, so this was not an issue.
After the wiring is complete, simply pop the ecobee3 back on the mount. It’ll then light up and walk through some easy instructions on setting up the unit, connecting to Wi-Fi and setting up an account on ecobee.com.
Here’s a look at the ecobee3 once everything is setup. The screen is bright and the touchscreen is very responsive. All the functionality can be accessed directly via the thermostat and it’s a great looking thermostat which will make any home look smart and futuristic.
While all the functionality of the thermostat can be controlled directly by the thermostat itself, the true benefits of owning a smart thermostat is realized when taking advantage of Ecobee’s website and mobile applications.
Ecobee’s website mirrors all the features of the ecobee3 thermostat including changing the temperature thresholds, changing thermostat settings, scheduling, monitoring the sensors, and more.
For those who enjoy geeking out on statistics and reporting, Ecobee also offers advanced statistics and reporting with their Home IQ system. Here you can view statistics such as the temperatures inside and outside the house, the desired temperatures, how much time your HVAC unit had to run, humidity levels, and more. This allows you to fine tune your settings so that your house is kept at the perfect temperature while using less energy in doing so.
Ecobee also offers iOS and Android apps to use with the ecobee3 thermostat. The interface resembles the interface offered on the Ecobee unit itself and allows quick and easy monitoring and control of the temperature, scheduling, comfort settings, vacation modes, etc.
However, some of the more advanced features such as advanced preferences, Home IQ, and installation settings aren’t available via the app.
Once installed, using the ecobee3 isn’t much different from using a traditional thermostat with the exception that it’s now controlled either online or via a touchscreen rather than physical buttons. On the main screen, the ecobee3 will show the temperature the thermostat detects along with the desired temperatures on the right. Simply touch and drag to adjust the desired temperature. The ecobee3 will then hold the temperature at the desired setting until it’s canceled at which point it will return to its scheduled settings. This works similarly across the ecobee3, the Ecobee website and the mobile apps, so at least in terms of having a basic connected thermostat that your grandma can use, the ecobee3 does the job well.
Unlike the Nest which uses algorithms to help determine its settings, the ecobee3 still uses scheduled settings, but with a twist. Unlike a traditional thermostat, the ecobee3’s scheduling system uses several user set Comfort Settings. While additional comfort settings can be added, the three essential settings include away, home, and sleep which work with Ecobee’s Smart Home/Away to ensure comfort while simultaneously saving energy in the process. In the away comfort setting, the system will keep its temperature settings until it detects motion in which it will switch to the home comfort setting. In the home comfort setting, the system will keep its temperature unless it detects no motion in which it will switch to the away comfort setting. In the sleep comfort setting, it will simply keep its settings irregardless of whether it detects motion or not. As such, this helps dramatically conserve energy by not running heating/cooling when you’re not home while ensuring that the house is properly heated/cooled when you are.
The biggest feature of the ecobee3 is its ability to interface with remote sensors to detect motion and temperature. This allows the Ecobee to more effectively run heating or cooling for those with more than a single room as it’ll know when you’re home and where you are in the home to ensure that the temperature where you are is perfect. Since my house is a two story house built in the early 80’s with questionable insulation and just a single HVAC unit, this is very beneficial as there can be as much as a 10°F differential between the first and second story. Utilizing Ecobee’s Follow Me feature, the ecobee3 will average the temperatures of all thermostats that recently detected motion so that it’s only heating or cooling as much as is actually needed.
For those interested in pairing the ecobee3 with other smart home devices for extended functionality, it’s also compatible with other services and standards such as Apple’s Homekit, Zigbee, Amazon Alexa, and more. Unfortunately as I don’t own a smart device hub and only have a Google Home, this wasn’t an option, but the ecobee3 is IFTTT compatible, so preset IFTTT commands can be utilized with ecobee3 for now.
Having spent the past two months with the ecobee3, I’d have to say that it’s easily one of the best smart thermostats on the market and is a no brainer for anyone looking to making an upgrade. The smart thermostat features are among the most fully featured and the advanced scheduling capabilities ensure that my HVAC system isn’t working hard to heat/cool the house when I decided to go out on a Saturday when the thermostat schedule says I’m supposed to be home.
Additionally, the ecobee3 was especially effective for me as my house was the perfect candidate for the ecobee3 being a multiple story, poorly insulated house with a single, poorly balanced HVAC unit. Whereas previously setting the temperature on my thermostat to 70°F in the winter probably meant 80°F in the second floor master bedroom and 65°F in the first floor living room, 70°F now really means 70°F in the second floor master bedroom and 70°F in the first floor living room or at least an average of the two rather than just 70°F in the second floor hallway and nowhere else.
The ecobee3 is currently priced ~$249 which includes the thermostat and a remote sensor. Those who need additional room sensors can pick them up for ~$70 for a pack of two. This puts the price of an ecobee3 along with 3 room sensors at just under $320 which is expensive considering many smart thermostats can be had for under $200. However, the ecobee3’s ability to easily integrate with remote sensors to take the guesswork out of what temperature in the hallway is perfect for the room I’m in make it very worthwhile for those who have poorly designed, older houses where heating and cooling was likely an afterthought.
Available at: Amazon