Ecobee3 Review: The Best Smart Thermostat For Complete Control
I initially bought the Ecobee3 with the intention of testing it, writing this review, and then selling it. However, after using it for over 3 months, I have no plans of getting rid of it. It does everything I could ask for in a smart thermostat. Anyone in the market for a smart thermostat is missing out if they don’t at least take a little time to see what the Ecobee3 can offer.
- Support for voice control with Amazon Echo and Apple HomeKit
- Unique smart sensors help to manage conditions across the entire home
- Control from anywhere with your smartphone or the web app
- Home IQ: Up to 18 months of data to show you how your HVAC system is performing
- Works with humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilators, and HRV or ERV
- 1 Ecobee3 Vs Ecobee3 Lite
- 2 Ecobee3 Look And Feel
- 3 Is Ecobee3 Compatible With My HVAC System?
- 4 With Which Smart Home Products Is Ecobee3 Compatible?
- 5 Ecobee3 Fan Control
- 6 Ecobee3 Humidity Control
- 7 Ecobee3 Comfort Settings
- 8 Ecobee3’s Best Smart Features
- 9 Ecobee Home IQ Has The Best Energy Reports
- 10 Ecobee3 Has The Best Custom Settings
- 11 TheSmartCave Official Opinion
Ecobee3 Vs Ecobee3 Lite
Ecobee3 Lite is the little sister to the Ecobee3. It looks almost identical and supports many of the same great features, but there are 2 significant things missing from the lite version:
Remote sensors – it doesn’t come with or support the use of remote sensorsUPDATE: The Ecobee3 Lite now supports sensors. However, you’ll still have to buy them separately.
- Smart home/away – has no occupancy detection so smart home/away is gone. UPDATE: Now that it supports sensors, you can enable smart home/away if you decide to purchase some sensors.
- Accessory support – can’t hook up humidifiers, dehumidifiers, HRVs, or ERVs
If you have a smaller house or live in an apartment, you may not have the need for those extra features the original Ecobee3 offers. In that case, you may be better off saving some money and going with the Ecobee3 Lite.
Ecobee3 Look And Feel
The Ecobee3 has a smooth, shiny look to it. The aesthetics of it are only a personal opinion, but I prefer this look over the look of its main competitor, Nest. The Nest is definitely more of a flashy “look at me” kind of gadget whereas the Ecobee3 blends in a little more. I think it looks right at home on my wall.
It has a rectangular touchscreen that automatically comes on when it senses you in front of it. The touchscreen works well. It’s both responsive to touch and easy to read.
All screen brightness settings are fully customizable. In case your thermostat is in a bedroom, you can even have the screen shut off when you’re sleeping.
Is Ecobee3 Compatible With My HVAC System?
The Ecobee3 will work with about 95% of HVAC systems. It supports up to 2 stages for heating and 2 stages for cooling as well as up to 2 stages of auxiliary heat (so it actually supports a total of four stages for heating). There are two important points to note here:
- The Ecobee3 will not be compatible with high-voltage systems. This includes electric baseboard heaters or other electrically powered radiant heating devices. If that’s what you have, take a look at the Stelpro Ki thermostat instead.
- If your thermostat wiring doesn’t have a c-wire (what’s a c-wire?), setting up the Ecobee3 will require an extra step. The package comes with Ecobee’s Power Extender Kit (PEK). This allows anyone without a c-wire to connect to the Ecobee3 using their existing wiring.
However, it will require some additional wiring at your HVAC Control Board. The PEK installation is not difficult, but it does require you to read a wiring diagram. If you’re not completely sure you know what you’re doing, I recommend consulting someone who does because broken furnace parts and service calls tend to be expensive.
If you are unsure what you have, you can use the Ecobee Compatibility checker. You will need to locate your old thermostat and remove the cover so you can get a look at the wires.
With Which Smart Home Products Is Ecobee3 Compatible?
The Ecobee3 is firmly anchored as a leader in the smart thermostat market, so it should be no surprise that it is widely supported by third parties.
You can control your Ecobee3 using your voice. It supports voice control using both Siri through Apple Homekit and Amazon’s Alexa via Amazon Echo. Available commands can be found here for Echo and here for HomeKit. Support for voice control is relatively new for Ecobee3 so expect these lists of commands to get longer as the Ecobee team gets more time to add them.
It is supported by Samsung SmartThings, Vera, Wink, and Logitech Harmony hubs. A hub will help link your Ecobee3 thermostat together with the rest of your smart home devices so they can be controlled from one app.
The premium Haiku L Series smart ceiling fans are also compatible with the Ecobee3. The Haiku fans will work with your Ecobee3 thermostat to optimize your home’s heating and cooling.
You can use a free IFTTT account to set up all kinds of custom behaviors for your new thermostat. I used IFTTT to set up advanced geofencing for my thermostat.
The Ecobee3 now works with Keen Home Smart Vents to bring room by room temperature control to your smart home. The Ecobee3’s smart sensors make this is a perfect marriage of technologies. The sensors can report occupancy and temperature data for individual rooms and the smart vents respond accordingly by increasing or decreasing the air flow to the respective rooms. For more information, here’s the announcement from Ecobee.
Ecobee3 Fan Control
This feature lets you run your fan at regular intervals without running your heat or AC. You cannot schedule a specific run-time, but you can specify a number of minutes that you would like it to run per hour. The image below shows my fan activity with the circulate feature set to 10 min/hr. The orange bars are the times the heat has turned on and the gray bars are the times the fan turns on. You can see that the fan is always running when the heat is running, but it also comes on intermittently if the heat isn’t on.
I live in the Midwest and there are many spring and fall days when neither heating or cooling is needed. However, I would like some air circulation from time to time just to filter out dust and keep the place fresh. That is exactly what the Circulate Fan feature does, so this feature is a big plus for me.
For forced air systems, the thermostat can keep the fan running for a set period after the AC or heat turns off. Ecobee calls this Fan Dissipation. The idea is that there is still useful heating/cooling left in the system immediately after it shuts off. So if the fan shuts off immediately, it would be wasting a small amount of energy by shutting off the fan.
This isn’t a new idea. In fact, most modern HVAC systems do this. What is cool about the Ecobee3 though is that you have direct access to this setting. You have the option to adjust the time the fan runs for both heating and cooling modes.
Ecobee3 Humidity Control
The Ecobee3 also has a humidity sensor within the base. If you have a whole house humidifier or dehumidifier, it too can be controlled by this thermostat. However, there is only room to connect one accessory so you can only choose one.
Air Conditioner Over-Cool
Too much humidity in your house can cause condensation on windows and other places. Eventually, you can get mold and mildew growth.
The air conditioner naturally functions as a dehumidifier during normal operation. So, if the Ecobee3 senses the humidity is higher than desired, it can continue running the AC even as the temperature goes below your lower set point in order to remove more moisture from the air.
There is a setting that lets you choose how far below your cooling set point AC over-cool is allowed to go. This setting is only accessible from the base.
Ecobee3 Comfort Settings
Comfort settings allow you to easily program your Ecobee3 schedule. Tell the smart thermostat when you will be home, away, and sleeping. Then go back and decide which temperature settings should accompany each comfort setting.
Home, Away, Sleep
These 3 are the default comfort settings.
Vacation mode is just another comfort setting in addition to the home/away/sleep comfort settings. It’s simple to setup and use and gives you one less item to check-off on your pre-vacation checklist.
The advantage of using vacation mode instead of just programming an extended away period on your schedule is simply that you won’t have to change your already programmed schedule. The vacation mode overrides your existing schedule.
Just enter your departure and return times and the Ecobee3 will take care of the rest. While you are gone, your home will be kept at your energy-saving vacation mode set points. And, upon your return, it will switch back to normal to welcome you home.
Custom Comfort Setting
The Ecobee3 even allows for a custom comfort setting to be created. A custom comfort setting can only be created from the web console.
I don’t know what other sorts of presets you would need. Perhaps an “unpleasant company” setting where it makes conditions in the house miserable in order to encourage your unwanted guests to leave!
Ecobee3’s Best Smart Features
Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting features. Here are the smart features that have the best ability to make the biggest difference in the comfort and convenience of your daily life.
Ecobee3 Smart Sensors
The Ecobee’s smart sensors make it unique among its competitors. In addition to the main unit, you can deploy these little satellite sensors around your home. They will send temperature and occupancy data from all around your home back to the base. How cool is that?!
If you buy the Ecobee3 on Amazon, you will get one satellite sensor with your thermostat. If you want more than one, extra sensors can be purchased in packs of two.
The smart home/away feature is one of the main convenience features of the Ecobee3. It uses the sensors to determine if someone is home or not and then adjusts the temperature accordingly. Here is how it works:
First, you set up your weekly schedule. You tell the thermostat what times you are most likely to be home and what times you are most likely to be away on any given day.
Then, if your sensors detect that you have been out of the house for more than two hours during a scheduled “home” period, the Ecobee3 will switch to away mode. There’s no sense in heating or cooling an empty house, right?
Smart home/away also works in the opposite direction. If you happen to be home during a scheduled “away” time, the sensors will detect your presence and the thermostat will switch to your “home” comfort setting.
Use Geofencing To Improve Smart Home/Away
The smart home/away feature works as intended, but there are drawbacks to using motion detection as the only means of determining whether anyone is home or not.
- There will be times when you are watching a movie or reading a book and the motion sensors won’t be detecting any motion even though you are actually home. In order to account for those times, the system waits for 2 hours of no motion detection before it decides to switch to away mode. That means when you actually do leave, it will take 2 hours before it switches into energy saving “away” mode.
- If you come home during a scheduled “away” time, your Ecobee3 won’t switch to “home” until you get home and trigger the motion sensors. You’ll have to wait while your system works to return your house to the “home” comfort settings. Wouldn’t it be great if it could somehow know you were on your way home before you actually got home?
You could avoid these drawbacks by using the Quick Change feature on the Ecobee app whenever you come or go. But, that would require extra action on your part. It wouldn’t be a very smart solution.
There has to be a better solution, right? Of course, there is. It’s called geofencing. You can use the GPS location of your smartphone to signal to your thermostat whether you are home or not.
Geofencing is built directly into the Ecobee iOS app. But if you have Android you’ll have to jump through a few hoops. For a complete guide on how to do this, take a look at my tutorial on how to use geofencing to control your Ecobee3.
If Follow Me is enabled, the Ecobee3 will only use temperature data from sensors that are currently reporting activity.
For example, let’s say you have a sensor in the living room, the kitchen, and an office. If the only room being used is the living room, then the thermostat will only use the temperature reading in the living room to determine what it should do.
If you are sitting in the office and the kids are watching TV in the living room, both sensors will report activity. The Ecobee3 will take the temperature reading from each active room and average the two.
Follow Me will not instantly average all sensors reporting motion. A given sensor has to continue reporting motion and over time, that sensor’s temperature data will be averaged in. For example, if you happen to run into your bedroom to grab something then leave again, Follow Me will not immediately include the bedroom sensor in the average temperature.
You can choose which sensors to include with each comfort setting. For example, I only have my base sensor and one satellite sensor which I placed in my bedroom. For my home and away comfort settings, I only use the base sensor. But, for my sleep comfort setting, I only use my bedroom sensor.
The Ecobee3 can calculate how long it will take to heat or cool your home from its current temperature to the desired target temperature. That way, if you are scheduled to come home from work at 5:30 pm, the system can kick in before you get there. Then, by the time you get home, your house will be right at the temperature you desire after a full day’s work.
In order to accomplish this feat, it takes a number of factors into consideration including current weather conditions, your HVAC equipment, past performance, and even number people in the household!
Ecobee Home IQ Has The Best Energy Reports
The Ecobee3 has the most comprehensive energy reports of all its competitors. The feature is called Home IQ and it’s accessible through the web console. You can use Home IQ to access up to 18 months of data on system activity, fan activity, sensor temperature, and sensor motion. All the graphs from in this article are from Home IQ.
The monthly Runtime Report shows you an estimate of how much you saved with your smart thermostat. Home IQ also gives you monthly reports that compare your energy usage to other users in your area.
The Weather Impact graph shows how the daily temperature average influences your total system run time. The orange bars are the daily run time (hours) for my heat and the black line is the daily average temperature.
Ecobee3 Has The Best Custom Settings
A great smart thermostat needs to have more than just a bunch of fancy smart features. It should also have all the features that a great non-smart thermostat would have. In my opinion, this is another area where the Ecobee3 stands out from the competition. Nearly every setting you can think of is adjustable.
TheSmartCave Official Opinion
When I talk about smart thermostats, I try to emphasize that these gadgets are more than just energy saving devices. The ideal smart thermostat should enhance comfort in the home and minimize energy use all while making it convenient and effortless for the user.
Whether it’s the flexibility offered by the smart sensors or the no-hassle convenience of Smart Home/Away and Follow Me, the Ecobee3 thermostat does an admirable job of striking a balance between savings and comfort. I would recommend it to anyone looking to buy a high-quality smart thermostat.
Not sure if the Ecobee3 is what you’re looking for? Take a look at my article comparing how this thermostat stacks up versus the Nest.