Ecobee3 Geofencing With IFTTT And Life360

The Ecobee3 is great, but the smart home/away feature leaves a bit to be desired. It uses motion sensors placed in the Ecobee3 (see on Amazon) 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

If you have an iPhone, geofencing is already built into the Ecobee3 via iPhone location services. However, 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.

I’ll be using an Android phone. I suspect eventually the geofencing with Android will be built directly into the Ecobee3 (you won’t need IFTTT). But, for the moment, it’s not. Fortunately, using IFTTT is fairly easy and I think it’s a satisfactory workaround.

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.

Use the IFTTT search bar to find the Life360 service and connect to it

Fill in your Life360 account details

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.

Click Finish

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

Click Finish!

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!

 

Eric Blank

Eric Blank blogs about smart homes and other connected technology here at thesmartcave.com. He enjoys technology, sports, outdoors, and dabbles in the dark realm of politics. He dreams of someday living in a castle on an island but for now will settle for smalltown, USA.

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LW - January 19, 2017 Reply

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.

    Eric Blank - January 20, 2017 Reply

    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!

Michael - March 25, 2017 Reply

Hi Eric,

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?

Thanks!

    Eric Blank - March 25, 2017 Reply

    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.

Michael - March 27, 2017 Reply

Hi Eric,

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

    Eric Blank - March 27, 2017 Reply

    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.

      Michael - March 27, 2017 Reply

      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.

Lance - March 28, 2017 Reply

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.

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