Ecobee Thermostat Reviews – ecobee4 and ecobee3 lite

Updated on

While most people think of the Nest as the first smart thermostat, ecobee was actually the first on the market. They released their original device in 2008 and have been innovating since.

A smart Wi-Fi thermostat is usually the first smart home product people purchase. They are better than standard programmable versions since they can automatically adjust themselves based on whether someone is home. In addition, Wi-Fi enabled thermostats allow you to monitor and control the temperature when you are away from home.

Perhaps the biggest reason for buying a smart thermostat is to save money on your energy bills. Heating and cooling account for almost half of your utility costs. Using the smart features and monitoring your energy use via integrated reports can lead to hundreds of dollars of savings each year. Wi-Fi thermostats generally pay for themselves within three years.

Our Verdict

While the Nest thermostats tend to be more popular, we believe the ecobee thermostats are superior when it comes to features.

Before purchasing, make sure you have a common wire or at least three control wires available. One of the downfalls is a more complex wiring setup if you only have 2 wires from your HVAC system.

Otherwise, we find that the superior energy use reporting, HomeKit compatibility, voice assistant connectivity, and wider range of settings make the ecobee thermostats the best options on the market. Of course, we wish there were other color or finish options available.

We recommend the ecobee4 if you want built-in Amazon Alexa voice control or need to control humidification components. Otherwise, the ecobee3 lite is a great device.

ecobee4 Thermostat and ecobee3 lite Thermostat

The image above shows the ecobee4 thermostat on the left and the ecobee3 lite on the right. They look very similar from the front, but their internal components are where they differ.

Description

Ecobee currently sells two variations of their Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostat. We will discuss the differences below, but first we’ll cover what is the same.

The ecobee thermostats are black square devices with rounded corners. They include a 3.5″ full-color LCD screen that is touch-enabled for local control. The devices communicate with the internet over 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi using 802.11 b/g/n. They also have a low-power 915 MHz radio that is used to communicate with remote temperature sensors.

The ecobee thermostats include the obligatory temperature and humidity sensors. They also have a proximity sensor so the screen turns on when you approach to make manual adjustments.

Both thermostats come with a baseplate, mounting screws, installation guide, and wire labels. The box also includes a large trim plate that covers larger holes in your wall from existing thermostats. Finally, both versions include a Power Extender Kit (PEK) that is used if you don’t have a common wire. We will discuss the PEK in more detail below.

ecobee4 Thermostat

The ecobee4 is the flagship model with all of the bells and whistles. It measures 4.29″ square and stands off the wall 1″.

While both ecobee thermostats will control conventional multi-stage HVAC systems as well as heat pumps, the ecobee4 can also control systems that include humidification or dehumidification. In addition, it is capable of controlling more advanced systems that include heat recovery ventilators or energy recovery ventilators. As with any thermostat, we recommend that you check ecobee’s compatibility tool before you make a purchase.

The other big feature that the ecobee4 includes is a built-in (and fully functional) Amazon Alexa voice assistant. The unit has microphones that allow far-field voice recognition. It also includes a speaker so Alexa can respond just like on other echo devices. There is a blue LED strip across the top of the thermostat so you can see when Alexa is thinking. The built-in Alexa can adjust your temperature, but it can also do everything else that Alexa does, including setting timers, playing music, or adjusting compatible smart home accessories. Of course, the ecobee4 also works with a number of other hubs and voice assistants (Apple HomeKit/Siri, Google Assistant, Wink, SmartThings) if you already own those devices.

Ecobee4 has an on-board occupancy sensor that is used to trigger Smart Home and Away. This feature is used to override the normal home and away settings to keep your house comfortable when you are home and helps you save money when you leave.

The ecobee4 comes with a remote temperature and occupancy sensor in the box. This lets you monitor the temperature in another room. It also serves as an additional occupancy sensor so that the thermostat doesn’t trigger Smart Away when someone is home. We’ll talk more about the remote sensor later in this article.

As of October 2018, the ecobee4 costs $249 (MSRP), but you can usually find it cheaper on Amazon.

ecobee3 lite Thermostat

Ecobee’s less expensive model, the ecobee3 lite, is a very functional smart thermostat in its own right. The device is a bit smaller, measuring 4.05″ x 4.05″ and stands off the wall a bit less than an inch.

The ecobee3 lite controls a majority of heating and cooling systems used in North America, but it doesn’t have the ability to control the more advanced energy recovery and humidification components on some HVAC systems. As stated above, be sure to check the ecobee compatibility checker before you buy.

Like the ecobee4, the ecobee3 lite easily connects to the popular voice assistant devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple’s Siri (HomeKit). In addition, it works with Wink and Samsung SmartThings hubs. However, it doesn’t have a built-in voice assistant like the ecobee4. You’ll have to purchase a separate device if you want that feature.

Ecobee3 lite doesn’t include a built-in occupancy sensor so it cannot automatically trigger Smart Home and Away. You will have to rely on manual adjustments. However, you can purchase a separate Wireless Room Sensor that acts as an occupancy sensor and invokes the Smart Home/Away feature.

The ecobee3 lite has a $169 (MSRP) price tag as of late 2018.

Features

The table below provides a run-down of the main features of each thermostat. We’ll discuss these in more detail after the table.

ecobee4 Thermostat
ecobee3 lite Thermostat
Size
4.29″ x 4.29″ x 1″
Size
4.05″ x 4.05″ x 0.84″
Screen Resolution
320px x 480px
Screen Resolution
320px x 480px
Common Wire
Required
or use included PEK
Common Wire
Required
or use included PEK
Learning
No
Learning
No
Voice Control
Built-In Alexa
Also works with other voice assistants
Voice Control
Yes, with connected voice assistants
Remote Sensors
Yes
1 is Included
Remote Sensors
Yes
Sold Separately
Multi-Zone
Yes
Multi-Zone
Yes
Auto Home/Away
Yes, built-in
Auto Home/Away
Yes, but requires Wireless Room Sensor (sold separately)
ENERGY STAR Certified
Yes
ENERGY STAR Certified
Yes
Color
Black
Color
Black
MSRP (Oct 2018)
$249
MSRP (Oct 2018)
$169
Buy ecobee4 at Amazon Buy ecobee3 lite at Amazon

Common Wire Requirements

There are two ways to power an ecobee thermostat. The simplest way is to use the common wire that ties to your HVAC equipment. The common wire, which is usually black or dark blue, provides a constant flow of 24-volt power to the device. This power keeps the Wi-Fi and display screen running even if the heat or cooling is off.

If you don’t have a common wire, but you have 3 wires (Y, G, R/Rc/Rh) or 4 wires (W, Y, G, R/Rc/Rh) then you can use the included Power Extender Kit (PEK). The PEK requires you to adjust the wiring at your HVAC unit, but many people are able to install it without an issue. If you are uncomfortable with this wiring project then contact your local HVAC technician or contact ecobee to be put in touch with a professional installer.

Unfortunately, simple boilers with 2 wires require a bit more work if you want to use an ecobee thermostat. Check out this support page, but be aware that you’ll have to purchase additional components.

We have a more detailed article if you’d like more information on common wires and smart thermostats.

Works With: Compatible Voice Assistants

Both ecobee thermostats work with the major voice assistants and smart home hubs. You can connect them to an Amazon Echo or Google Home. They easily integrate with Apple HomeKit and Microsoft Cortana. They also connect to Wink Hubs and Samsung SmartThings hubs. While you get the most granular control using the native ecobee app, it is helpful to connect to other home automation systems as a central controller.

You can find the full list of partnerships on the ecobee website.

In-Unit Sensors

As mentioned earlier, both thermostat versions include a temperature sensor and a humidity sensor. They also include a proximity sensor that will disable the standby screen and wake the thermostat up when you approach. The standby screen is customizable so you can make it blank or you can set the main control screen to remain on all the time.

The ecobee4 has a built-in occupancy sensor. (The ecobee3 lite doesn’t incluce this.) The occupancy sensor recognizes when someone is home, which allows the unit to adjust temperatures to keep the house comfortable when you are home or away outside of normally scheduled hours. Wireless Room Sensors can also perform this function.

Ecobee Wireless Room Sensors

Ecobee sells Wireless Room Sensors so you can monitor the temperature in rooms other than where the thermostat is located. The sensors are small battery operated devices that communicate back to the thermostat using a low-power 915 MHz radio. A CR2032 replaceable battery lasts for around 2 years. The sensors measure about 1.75″ wide and 2″ tall with the included stand.

ecobee Wireless Room Sensor

In addition to keeping track of the temperature in other rooms, the sensors also monitor occupancy. This will help the thermostat determine whether someone is home so it can engage Smart Home and Away. The occupancy sensor is helpful if you have an ecobee3 lite since it doesn’t have a built-in occupancy sensor.

Wireless Room Sensors work at a maximum range of around 45-feet, depending on your home’s configuration. You can connect up to 32 sensors to a single thermostat. The sensors don’t communicate on Wi-Fi radio frequencies so your Wi-Fi signal won’t be disrupted with extra traffic.

Follow Me mode allows you to set up preferences so the thermostat keeps certain rooms comfortable when occupied. If you have a room that tends to be too hot or cold, simply install a Room Sensor and program the thermostat to keep that room comfortable if it is occupied. Even if the room where the thermostat is located is at the correct temperature, the thermostat will tell the HVAC system to keep running until the remote sensor detects the correct temperature.

The remote Room Sensors are sold on Amazon in packs of two sensors. You can also buy 2-packs on Smarthome.com

Multi-Zone

You can install multiple ecobee thermostats if you have multiple HVAC zones in your home. All of your thermostats are controlled under a single app interface, . You probably have multiple zones if you already have multiple thermostats. In order to take full advantage of programming and energy savings features, you will need an ecobee for each zone.

The device names are customizable in the app, for instance Upstairs Thermostat and Downstairs Thermostat. That way, you can easily identify them in the app. It also helps to identify each zone by name when you want to use a voice assistant to make change.

Smart Home and Away

The ecobee4 includes an occupancy sensor so it can detect when you are home. If it determines that you are away during your normally scheduled “home” period, it automatically adjusts the temperature to help save energy. Likewise, if the thermostat determines that you are home during the scheduled “away” timeframe, it automatically adjusts the temperature to keep you comfortable. Of course, this feature can be disabled.

The ecobee3 lite requires a Wireless Room Sensor, described above, in order to make use of the Smart Home/Away feature since it doesn’t have an on-board occupancy sensor.

Ecobee includes a vacation mode, which ignores your normal schedule and maintains whatever temperature you set. When you turn the vacation mode on, you also set your return time so the HVAC system makes sure your home is comfortable when you return.

Smart Recovery is a nice feature similar to Smart Home/Away. In this case, the thermostat learns how long it takes to heat or cool your home based on the outdoor temperature. Then it uses that data to turn your system on ahead of a schedule transition so the house is comfortable by the time the change comes. Let’s say you want your home to be 70-degrees when you return from work at 6:00pm; however, it is very cold today. Smart Recovery notices the extreme outdoor temperature and starts heating the house earlier so that it hits 70-degrees by 6:00pm.

IFTTT – If This, Then That

If This Then That is a web service that connects unrelated services so they can function together. For instance, your ecobee thermostat doesn’t have a built-in connection to your email. However, IFTTT can tell ecobee to send you a weekly email report that includes your thermostat’s activity logs.

Ecobee has a series of officially supported services. In addition, there are many user created ecobee services. Many people find the IFTTT customizations to be extremely helpful.

Energy Use Reporting

Ecobee provides the premier energy use reporting web portal, which is called Home IQTM. The ecobee thermostats are constantly monitoring and collecting data about current conditions inside and outside your home. All of this data is logged into the secure Home IQ website, which is accessed by logging into the ecobee.com website.

Once logged in, you are presented with a dashboard that makes it easy to explore various reports about your HVAC energy use. The simplest charts show how your system run-time relates to outdoor temperatures. However, you can also see how Wireless Room Sensors and Follow Me affect your energy usage. You can also see an estimate of how much money the ecobee has saved you over time.

ecobee Home IQ - Weather Impact

Another great feature, which adds a little competition, is Community Comparisons. You can easily see how your energy use and home efficiency compare to other ecobee users in your state.

ecobee Home IQ - Community Comparison

ENERGY STAR Rating

The ecobee4 and the ecobee3 lite thermostats are both ENERGY STAR certified. In order to achieve this certification, issued by the United States EPA, thermostats must meet the following criteria:

  • Work as a basic thermostat in absence of connectivity to the service provider
  • Give residents some form of feedback about the energy consequences of their settings
  • Provide information about HVAC energy use, such as monthly run time
  • Provide the ability to set a schedule
  • Provide the ability to work with utility programs to prevent brownouts and blackouts, while preserving consumers’ ability to override those grid requests
  • Meet temperature accuracy requirements
  • Meet standby power usage requirements

Setup and Control

You should be able to install the ecobee thermostat on your own. If you aren’t comfortable working with your HVAC wiring then you can hire a local HVAC contractor to do the installation for you. Ecobee can help you identify a professional installer in your area.

Before we get started, a word of WARNING. Most thermostats use 24-volt (low voltage) power. However, we still recommend turning the power to your HVAC equipment off before you remove your old thermostat. This will protect your new thermostat, your HVAC equipment, and yourself from damage or injury. Safety first.

You will find a complete installation guide with helpful illustrations inside the box, but installation is fairly simple. First, remove your old thermostat from the wall to expose the wiring. We recommend labeling the wires with the included stickers and then take a photo before you disconnect anything. This will save you a lot of stress, especially if your system doesn’t use the standard color coding for thermostats. Once the wires are labeled, disconnect them from the terminals and remove the existing baseplate from the wall.

Next, mount the included baseplate to the wall over the existing hole. You can use the optional trim plate if the wall is damaged, but it is kind of ugly so we recommend skipping that and fixing the wall if necessary. Then, following the installation instructions, reconnect the wires to the new terminals. You will have to install the optional Power Extender Kit if you are missing a common wire. After the wires are reconnected, press the ecobee onto the baseplate until it CLICKS into place. Now you can turn the power to the HVAC equipment back on.

At this point, the ecobee should greet you by displaying, “hi” on the screen. Then it will guide you through the set-up process, which includes connecting to Wi-Fi, setting up a schedule, and configuring the main features.

The ecobee App

While you are able to do most monitoring and scheduling from the thermostat’s screen, you still need to install the mobile phone app so you have access to the device while away from home. The ecobee app is available on the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store. At one point, there was an Apple Watch app for ecobee, however it is no longer available.

The ecobee app controls all of your ecobee thermostats and Switch+ devices under one interface. However, we’ll focus on the thermostat controls for the sake of this review.

The ecobee app is designed to match the the thermostat’s touchscreen interface so there shouldn’t be much of a learning curve. The app has a clean design and is easy to navigate.

ecobee App - Devices, Temperature, Menu, Schedule, and Weather

The main devices screen shows all of your devices, sorted by type. There will be a menu on the bottom of the screen if you have ecobee thermostats and ecobee switches installed. Otherwise, you’ll see a list of thermostats and their associated Room Sensors.

Tapping on a thermostat takes you to that specific device control screen where you can adjust the temperatures. You will also see a series of icons across the bottom of the screen. These menu items provide more control options for the thermostat.

The main menu button takes you to the thermostat’s menu where you can control a wide range of settings. This is where you edit schedules, turn vacation mode on, and create push alerts for temperature extremes.

The ecobee app also includes local weather information with detailed forecast information for your area.

If you have an ecobee4, you know that it includes built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistance. The microphone icon engages Alexa so you can give voice commands.

Pros and Cons

Ecobee developed the first smart thermostat and they have been innovating ever since. Both the ecobee3 lite and the ecobee4 are very solid devices. We think they will be a good fit for most homes, but only you can decide. Therefore, we feel it is important to provide our thoughts on what works well and what needs to be improved so you can decide if these things matter to you.

Here is what we like about the ecobee thermostats:

  ecobee Pros
  • Voice control available from Google Assistant, Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana
  • Multi-zone and Multi-Home control under a single app
  • ENERGY STAR Certified
  • Utility rebates may lower cost
  • Remote temperature/occupancy sensors available to help address cold or hot rooms
  • Best and most detailed energy usage reports on the web-based Home IQ dashboard

While the ecobee thermostats are great devices, we think the following items could be improved. These may or may not apply to you.

  ecobee Flaws
  • Wireless Room Sensors do not monitor humidity
  • No color options — only available in a black finish
  • Requires at least 3 thermostat wires — only works with a common wire or additional hardware

Rebates

Most utilities provide rebates for energy saving home improvements, including for Wi-Fi smart thermostats. These rebates can significantly lower the net cost of the device, which shortens the payback period. Make sure you check the ecobee rebates finder to look for options in your state.

Keep in mind that the tool may not find every rebate available across your country. Check with your utility company if you don’t find a rebate with the tool.

Other ecobee Products

Ecobee expanded beyond thermostats when they released their Switch+ smart light switch (with built-in Amazon Alexa) in May of 2017.

Security and Privacy

Most smart home devices, including ecobee’s thermostats, send data from the device to the manufacturer’s servers. This data is used to make the product more convenient and useful for you. It is also used to keep you informed about your energy use or just your product usage in general.

Be sure to read ecobee’s privacy policy so you understand what data they collect and how they use that data.

Ecobee has a voluntary program called Donate Your Data. If you choose to join the program, ecobee will remove all of your personally identifiable information and then collect information about your location, house size, heating and cooling settings, occupancy schedules, temperature and humidity data, and how ofter your HVAC system is running. This data is shared with scientists working to better understand energy efficiency and our global energy use. As we mentioned before, this is totally optional and you must opt-in — the feature is off by default.

We are not aware of any security breaches or hacks of the ecobee cloud or individual devices. All communications between the thermostats and the ecobee servers are fully encrypted. The devices also use WPA and WPA2-AES security when connecting to your home Wi-Fi network.

About the Manufacturer

Stuart Lombard founded ecobee in 2007 because he wanted to reduce his family’s energy use and he found that heating and cooling used the most energy in his home. Their first smart thermostat was released in 2008, the ecobee 3 was released in 2014, the ecobee3 lite was released in 2016, and the ecobee4 was released in 2017. The company is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

While ecobee is most well-known for its line of residential thermostats, they also have a presence in the enterprise sector. Their SmartBuildings software is a cloud-based solution for managing energy in commercial buildings. The software can monitor a large number of ecobee4, ecobee3 lite, and EMS Si thermostats. SmartBuildings gives building managers control over the heating and cooling across their full portfolio of buildings.

Related Posts