UPDATE: This tutorial originally used the app Life360 in conjuction with IFTTT to create the multi-user geofence. Since then, the Life360 service has been removed from IFTTT which makes this tutorial obsolete. However, I just discovered another service on IFTTT that may be able to replace Life360. It’s called Switchur and I’m currently testing it. If all goes well, I will update this article with the new tutorial very soon.
The Ecobee3 is great, but the smart home/away feature leaves a bit to be desired. It uses motion sensors placed in the Ecobee3 and its satellite sensors to determine whether your house is occupied or not. Unfortunately, there are several limitations with using only motion sensors as your home/away sensors:
- Smart home/away does not activate during sleep mode. This is a necessary feature to keep the Ecobee3 from switching into away mode while you are sleeping and motionless. However, it causes an issue if you happen to be gone overnight. During your scheduled sleep period, smart home/away won’t work so the thermostat will be set to sleep instead of away.
- Smart home/away takes a whole two hours of inactivity before going into away mode. It makes sense to have the two-hour delay because there will be plenty of times when you are home and you just don’t trigger the motion sensors for an hour or so. Maybe you’re watching TV or reading a book or even writing a blog post. You don’t want to be watching TV and have to wave your arms every 15 minutes to keep the house from shutting off the heat. That said, when you actually do leave the house, it would be nice if you could start reaping the savings immediately instead of waiting two hours.
- It does not come out of away mode until you walk in the door and set off the motion detectors. With a geofencing solution, the home setting may be triggered several minutes before you get there so your system has already started heating/cooling by the time you get home.
Luckily, the Ecobee3 (here’s my full review) has some nice integration with a service called IFTTT (If This Then That). Using their free service, you can use the GPS of your mobile phone to help determine whether you are home or not. This is known as geofencing. Next, I’ll show you how to set up geofencing with IFTTT and your Ecobee3.
Geofencing is already built into the Ecobee3 for both Android and iOS. However, it only works with one phone. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest weaknesses of the ecobee thermostats (btw, Nest does not have this problem). If you wish to link multiple phones together, you will still need IFTTT and Life360. I’ll show you how to set up Life360 below.
For this tutorial, I’ll be using an Android phone.
How Do I Use IFTTT To Set Up Geofencing On My Ecobee3?
Here is how to setup geofencing on your Ecobee3 through IFTTT.
1) Setup a free account with IFTTT. You can download the app or do it from a web browser.
2) Next, you’ll need to give IFTTT permission to access your Ecobee3. IFTTT calls all the stuff it links together “services”.
Login to your IFTTT account and from there click on “Search” in the top menu bar. Do a search for Ecobee. The top result should be the Ecobee service which looks like the tile below. Click on the tile.
This will bring you to the next screen. Click on Connect.
Next you will need the details of your Ecobee account. Fill in your details and click “Log In”.
Accept the agreement authorizing IFTTT to access and change settings on your Ecobee3. Congratulations, your Ecobee is now linked to IFTTT.
3) Now we need to setup some applets to tell your thermostat how to behave. The first applet we will create will tell the thermostat to switch to away when we exit our home area.
Note: There are many applets other people have made that are available to use for free. You can search through and use them if you like. Personally, I think it’s so quick and easy to make your own applet, I’d rather just do it myself.
Start by clicking on “My Applets” on the top menu bar. Then click on “New Applet”. This brings you to the Applet Maker screen. Click on the blue “+ this” text to get started.
Now you need to choose the service that will determine the trigger for this applet. Do a search for Android and choose the “Android Location” service.
Now that you’ve chosen your service, you need to choose the specific trigger method. For this applet, we want the action to trigger when we leave our home area so choose “You exit an area”.
Next, you will choose the location and radius of your “home” area. Type in your address and use the +/ – to set your desired radius. Click “Create trigger”.
Now you’ll see the blue “+ this” has changed to the green Android location icon. Now click on the blue “+ that” link to choose the action you want this applet to take.
Search for Ecobee and click on the Ecobee service.
You will see a menu of all the available actions your Ecobee can take. Choose “Set comfort profile for X hours”.
Choose the name of your thermostat, set the number of hours to the max (24) and set the comfort profile to “Away”. Click “Create action”.
Adjust the description text if you like (or just leave it) and Click Finish.
4) Now for the second applet. This applet will tell the Ecobee3 to resume its schedule when you enter your home area. Repeat the steps from 3 exactly except we choose a different trigger and a different action. Instead of choosing the trigger “You exit an area”, choose “You enter an area”.
And, instead of choosing the action “Set comfort profile for X hours”, choose “Resume program”.
5) That’s it! You do need to make sure that you choose the same location and radius for both applets. You can always go back and edit your applets if it’s not working quite like you want it.
How Do I Setup Geofencing With Multiple Phones?
You can go a step further and use another service called Life360 along with IFTTT to link all your family’s phones together. Next, I’ll show you how to set it up so that your thermostat a) only switches to away when all your family members have left your home area and b) switches to home when your first family member arrives home. I’ve been using the Life360 app for about a month and it seems to work really well.
First, download the Life360 app and setup an account. There is no web portal for Life360 so you will need to do this from your smartphone.
Connect your Life360 account to your IFTTT account.
Create two new applets by repeating 3 and 4 from the above directions. Only this time, we will use Life360 as the trigger instead of Android location.
The first applet will tell the thermostat to switch to away when all our family phones leave the home area.
Use “Last family member leaves a specific place” for the trigger.
Use “Set comfort profile for X hours” for the action.
The second applet will tell the thermostat to resume the schedule when the first family member arrives home.
Use “First family member arrives at a specific place” for the trigger.
Use “Resume program” for the action
That’s all there is to it. I hope you found these directions useful. If you had any difficulty, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email and I’d be glad to help you out if I can. Thanks for reading!
43 thoughts on “How to Set Up Geofencing for Multiple Users”
thanks for the write up. A few questions if you don’t mind. Can you set the cycle for longer than 24 hours? say you leave for the weekend to head down to see family, or the lake, or just to get out of town. will the Ecobee go back to its normal cycles after 24 hours, or will it maintain its away setting because it hasn’t sensed any activity in the home. Along this same line of thinking will the sensors still work and would they override the system. Say you have someone come over to watch the kids, so the adults with phones leave? I am looking at the Lyric thermostat but seems that with the apps and the Ecobee you may be able to get the best of all worlds. Assuming apple eventually gets it together and gets multi phone geofencing for homekit you could eliminate the apps. (however many seem to be using them for multiple unit automation managment across brands and such.
The way I have it setup in the article, it will resume its normal schedule after 24 hours. If you have auto-away enabled, it will go back into away mode as long as there is no motion detected.
If the adults with phones leave, the away mode would be activated and the motion sensors would not override it until the 24 hour period is up. However, anyone at the house could always manually cancel the 24-hour away mode if they started getting hot/cold.
I haven’t had the chance to personally test the Lyric, but I’ve heard a lot of bad things and seen a lot of angry and frustrated reviews. The Ecobee3 is probably the best and most full-featured thermostat out there, but it’s also the most expensive.
Hope this helps and if you have any other questions please let me know. Thanks for reading!
Thanks for the guide! This is very useful indeed. I just setup my Ecobee3 and am pretty happy with it. But one issue is kind of bugging me which is not being able to take advantage of geolocation and smart recovery. I want the best of both worlds, and I do believe Nest does this, which is using geolocation for away/home but also getting the house warmed up when you usually come home. Since IFTTT is setup to hold Away, my schedule of coming home at 6pm is over written until I trigger that I am coming home. So smart recovery never activates. I want the best of both worlds but am not sure how to achieve it? I commute 30 min every day so I could set an IFTTT trigger for when I leave work to resume schedule. Any other ideas?
Glad I could be of help Michael!
Your idea could certainly work. I guess it really depends on your driving habits in the area. If you can find a geofence radius that 90% of the time only gets triggered when you are leaving work and heading home then IMO that would be a good solution.
Another thing you could try is to change the number of hours that the IFTTT “away” hold lasts. If you are typically gone at work for 8 hours, set the hold for 6 hours instead of the 24 I recommended. After 6 hours the away hold will expire and the thermostat will resume its schedule which should be away mode. Two hours should be plenty of time for the smart recovery to work properly.
That’s a great idea about reducing hours of the hold. Thanks!
The geofencing seems to not be very consistent. I am using LIfe360 with 2 iPhones and sometimes it does not register that we have both arrived at home. It seems to consistently work at going Away but not triggering Home. Have you run into this? Happened to me twice. Even if I open Life360 app when I get home, it sees that I’m at home, but the IFTTT applet does not trigger
How big is your geofence radius? Mine is about 1/4 mile. In my experience, the Life360 app has been very reliable. I have noticed that IFTTT can be a little slow with the notifications at times. But, it’s been reliable at triggering the applets.
I think in order for the applet to trigger, you have to cross the geofence boundary. So if you open the app when you’re already at home it may not work.
Another problem people sometimes have with geofencing is that their phone doesn’t support simultaneous voice and data. So, if you happen to be talking on the phone when you cross the geofence boundary, the trigger doesn’t get sent.
Are you using iPhone or Android? I’m on iPhone so maybe that’s the difference. My home radius is 1000ft… I could try increasing that. I also noticed that I never turned location assist syncing on for IFTTT since I thought Life360 was doing all the location assisting, but I just turned that on to see if it would make a difference.
I am using Android. Unfortunately, I don’t have much experience with iOS so I don’t think I can be of much help there.
Thank you so much for your step-by-step through creating your own IFTTT and Ecobee. It was so easy to setup with your help. The auto home/away is working perfectly.
Great! Now that you’ve been through the applet creation process, do you plan on using IFTTT for other things?
Eric, I see the latest update for Ecobee has the Geofencing built right into the app. Now that it is built in is there anyway to do this differently?
As far as I can tell, their built in geofencing doesn’t work with multiple users. So, if you want geofencing to work with multiple users, use the method described in this article and leave geofencing turned off in the Ecobee app.
Will do, so far it is working great.
Iftt no longer has android location services whatare you using now
The IFTTT service is now just called “Location”
Appreciate the step-by-step instructions on setting up. I successfully added 3 iPhones and triggering worked as expected. I did come across one situation that causes the triggering to fail. In my situation all devices were initially in the “home” geofenced area. One phone had its Life360 disabled. We then left the house later. The IFTTT noticed that 2 iPhones had left the radius but IFTTT still thought the 3rd phone was at the house. My guess is that IFTTT/Life360 doesn’t have an indicator to check that a phone has gone rogue and thus thinks the phone is at the last known location. Does anyone know how to work around this situation? It’s unfortunate that the logic doesn’t disable devices that have gone offline. Maybe it’s a setting that I’m missing. Otherwise very happy when all phones are active and the triggering works as excepted.
I’m glad you got things working for the most part. I don’t think there’s any convenient solution to your problem other than keeping Life360 running on the phone.
Can you make exceptions? Let’s say one day a week the baby sitter watches the kids, how would you go about setting this up so it doesn’t use geofencing on certain days?
Does you need to create these recipes for each phone? I have IFTTT and Life360 on my and my wife’s phone however the ecobee is setting to away when I leave in the morning and she is still home
You only need to create one recipe. Just make sure you used the “when both phones leave the home area” rule.
Then, make sure both phones are associated with the same Life360 account. You should be able to open the Life360 app and see tracking for both of your phones to verify that it’s working.
Thanks for sharing that info. I am having similar issue as experienced by Noel Wolcott. I followed your instructions but when I leave home for work and wife is home, it goes into away mode. Do I need to create recipe on my wife’s phone as well? I can see my wife’s phone on Life360. I am not finding “when both phone leave the home area”. I thought its supposed to be last family member leaves family – home then set thermostat to away for 24 hours.
You are correct, it should be “last family member leaves”.
Have you checked the IFTTT logs to make sure that IFTTT is actually what is causing the thermostat to go to away? If you go to your IFTTT home page, there is a tab labeled “Activity”. Click on it and it will show you all the rules that have fired in the recent past.
Great article! I assume if you use the Life360 applets to have this work with multiple phones then you need to turn off the first two you created running off location services? Otherwise the applets will be conflicting with each other?
Glad I could be of help, Chris. And yes,you would turn off the first two in favor of the latter two for multiple phones.
Do you know if I turn off My Location Sharing within Life360 if the IFTT connection for the applet still works?
In other words want to use the geofencing I get with Life360, Ecobee, and IFTTT but don’t want to be spying on my family or vice verse.
Hi, Thanks for this article! Very helpful! One problem I am having… It seems that if the Life 360 app is not actively running on our Android phone, the recipes in IFTTT will not work. Once we open Life 360, the recipes work. Is there a way to keep Life 360 always open so that the recipes run like they should?
You are correct. If the Life 360 is not running the recipes won’t work. I can see that my installation of Life360 is set to run on startup automatically, so as long as you don’t purposely close it, it should keep running right?
Great guide if you need to link Android and iOS devices together. But if everyone is on iOS, you should be able to skip the Life360 and IFTT steps and just use HomeKit. I wrote a tutorial on how I set ecobee up using multiple iOS devices and Homekit https://timleland.com/how-to-setup-ecobee-and-geofence-using-homekit/
Hello – great article – I want to setup geofencing with Ecobee and Life360, which we have been using for several years. I was able to quickly set it up with IFTTT following your directions. I have a few questions though that would expect are common.
How do I setup up same IFTTT Activities e.g. geofencing for two ecobees in same house? Seems I only get one IFTTT Activity of each type.
I have multiple Life360 circles, e.g. extended family and a “smarthome” circle that only includes people that currently reside in my home. I expected IFTTT Life360 setup to let me choose my circle. All it lets me choose is Family – Home. I have Life360 family members that live in other states 😉 Any suggestions?
It looks like you’d have to use the default family circle in Life360 as your current “smarthome” circle. Then create a new circle that includes your “extended” family. The Family-Home option is actually the location and if you have more than one location added to Life360, you can change it.
As for the multiple thermostat issue, each of your ecobee thermostats should have a distinct name. When you create the IFTTT applet, you choose the thermostat name. You would just have to create two sets of applets, one set for each thermostat.
Hi, my name is Max. I’d like to use life360 to geofencing my home, but I don’t want to share the position of any members of my family. How can I do that ? Thanks.
Thanks for this. I’m still confused on a few details. Do I even need the IFTTT app running on my phone for this to work after it’s set up, or do I just need the Life360 app? Also, if we are using geofencing to control home/away, should we disable the auto home/away feature on the thermostat with our room sensors? I could see how those might conflict at times or how it my be helpful to have both, like if one of us leaves our phone at the house by accident. If that happens, will the auto home/away override the IFTTT applet?
The IFTTT applets create a hold on the thermostat which will override all other settings. You can choose how long you want the hold to last. However, in the example you give, the IFTTT applet would not trigger since the phone is left at home and therefore the smart away would eventually trigger.
The multiuser solution here using IFTTT and Life 360 was excellent, I used it effectively for more than a year. But now, Life 360 and IFTTT are parting ways and starting in December of 2020 the functionality between the two apps will no longer work. Since I use IPhones I was able to use Apple Homekit in conjunction with Ecobee to accomplish multiuser geofencing. See: https://timleland.com/how-to-setup-ecobee-and-geofence-using-homekit/
Hi! We have been using this process for a long time and it worked well! But IFTTT announced it will be integrated with LIfe360 as of 12/2/2020. Any other ideas for Geofencing with multiple devices?
This is a great article, but unfortunately, IFTTT is dropping Life360 as of 12/2/2020. I hope someone comes up with some kind of equivalent for multiple users like this applet had.
Should update this article as Life360 does not have IFTTT integration anymore. Would love an alternative to having two phone synced to ecobee, but it doesn’t seem like that is going to happen soon 🙁
How is it going the test with switchur? have you heard of tuya smart?
I am awaiting for your update to either go with an ecobee or a nest.
It works. I just have to do the write-up.
When do you expect to have the write up completed? Desperately looking for this feature.
Great news Eric. Looking forward to it and thanks for doing all the hard work for those less technically inclined.