ecobee3 vs Nest vs Lyric: Which Is The Best WiFi Thermostat?

So you’re looking to welcome a fancy new smart thermostat into your home but you’re not quite sure which to choose?

These smart thermostats are ready to turn up the comfort and style in your living room. Plus, they might even save you some $$ on your energy bill.

Let me help you choose one that will fit your needs so you can start enjoying the comfort and energy savings as soon as possible.

In this article, I’ll compare the Ecobee3, Nest 3rd Gen, and Honeywell Lyric 2nd Gen thermostats to help you decide if one is right for you.

Comparison Table: Ecobee Vs Nest vs Lyric

Not in the mood to read an entire article about thermostats? I get it. Here’s a chart summarizing the most important features to help you answer your most pressing questions as quickly as possible.

Features
Ecobee3

Nest 3rd Gen

Lyric 2nd Gen
Wireless Technology WiFi WiFi WiFi
C-Wire Required YES, but includes adapter NO, but recommended
NO, but strongly recommended
Remote Sensors
Schedule Learning
Occupancy Sensing
Geofencing
Voice Control Echo & HomeKit Echo Echo & HomeKit
IFTTT Channel
Energy Usage Reports YES, 18 months YES, 10 Days
Heating/Cooling Stages 4 Heat / 2 Cool 3 Heat / 2 Cool 3 Heat / 2 Cool
Humidifier/Dehumidifier Control
AC Over-cool for Dehumidification
No Subscription Fees
Price $$$$$ $$$$$ $$$
More Information Ecobee3 Review Nest Review Lyric Review
Where To Buy

Alright, we probably lost a few at the comparison table but that’s okay. Congratulations to those of you that are still with me because we’re about to dive into the riveting world of smart thermostats.

What Makes A Great Smart Thermostat?

A great smart thermostat is all about maximizing your comfort and minimizing your cost. It answers the question, “How do you get the temperature right where you want it when you’re there, yet save energy when you’re not?” All the while, it requires only minimal input from you.

Remember, these are top of the line smart thermostats. They are luxury items. They should look nice and fit in with the rest of your stuff. Whether it’s your HVAC equipment or your existing smart home stuff, you want your new smart thermostat to plug right in hassle-free.

Look And Feel

Put one of these babies on your wall and impress your friends. Who would have thought that a lowly thermostat could be a topic of conversation?

The Nest learning thermostat has a modernized look of the classic Honeywell Round. It has a stainless steel outer ring that reflects your wall color and allows it to blend in with any décor. The face lights up with blue light when your system is cooling and orange light when it’s heating.

Then along comes Honeywell with the Lyric to try to stake their claim on the round design they are so famous for. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to pull it off quite as elegantly as the Nest does. The small screen and thin white plastic of the Lyric are no matches for the shiny stainless steel outer ring and the overall sturdy feel of the Nest.

The relative loner in the group is the Ecobee3. Instead of rehashing the round design from the distant past, they decided to take the rectangular look from the programmable thermostats of the past 30 years and just round the corners. The result is something that looks a bit like an oversized smartwatch. I like it! It comes in black plastic and sports a significantly larger screen than its competitors. The screen is also a touchscreen which gives you access to many control settings from the base unit if you desire.

Which Work With My HVAC System?

All three smart thermostats support the most common HVAC systems and accessories. This includes your standard central forced air furnace/AC setup as well as heat pumps and humidifiers/dehumidifiers.

The most common system that will not be supported is electric baseboard heat. It is a high-voltage system and these thermostats require a connection to low-voltage wires. Basically, if you take off the cover of your old thermostat and you see only 2 thick wires attached with nuts, then you have a high voltage system and these thermostats aren’t for you. A connected thermostat that is made specifically for those high-voltage systems is the Stelpro Ki (see my review here).

The main thing to watch out for is if you have a standard system with no c-wire. In this case, the Nest and the Lyric use a technique that is known as “power stealing” to power the thermostat.

Both the Nest and Lyric have experienced problems with battery life and connectivity in this configuration. Although the Nest customers’ problems with this do exist, they have been fairly limited. On the other hand, there have been many loud and angry reports of dissatisfied Lyric customers dealing with dead batteries and connection problems.

The Ecobee3 does not have this problem because it comes packaged with their PEK (Power Extender Kit). Instead of using power stealing, this rewires your system at the source of the problem and allows the Ecobee3 to get constant power from the wall. However, installing the PEK does require an extra step during installation and depending on your ability to read a wiring diagram, it may require professional installation. This video from Ecobee shows the process of installing the PEK on a typical household system.

Are They Compatible With My Existing Smart Products?

The Lyric is not approved to work with all routers. It requires a certain low-power WIFI function to work properly.

Voice Control With Amazon Echo and Apple HomeKit?

Both the Ecobee and Lyric can work with both Amazon Echo and Apple Homekit right out of the box. The Nest does work with Echo but will not work with HomeKit and it’s unlikely that it ever will. However, you can bet that it will work with the Google Home which is set to ship in November 2016.

Smart Features Comparison

There are only so many smart things that a smart thermostat can do. The difference isn’t in what they claim to do, but in how they do it and how well it actually works.

Preheat/Precool

The goal here is to begin heating or cooling your home ahead of time so that it reaches your desired set point at precisely the time you desire. This way you have saved the maximum amount of energy without sacrificing any comfort.

Each respective thermostat claims to be able to do this. They all use local weather data and past system performance to try to predict how long it will take to heat or cool your home.

Smart Home/Away

This is the big selling point of a smart thermostat. It’s the feature that enables the thermostat to really start taking chunks out of your energy bill. Its mission is to figure out when you are not home so that it can relax the HVAC and save some dough. It needs to know when I’m home, away, or asleep. Ideally, it should know all that without me telling it or even thinking about it.

The Nest uses its far sight motion sensor and includes the option to use Home/Away Assist. Nest’s Home/Away Assist is a comprehensive system that uses all your Works With Nest smart devices together to try to determine whether you are home or away. This includes any in home motion sensors and mobile phone location (geofencing).

The Lyric’s method for home/away control relies mainly on their geofencing feature. This uses the location of your mobile phone to decide when to switch modes. However, this method by itself has limited reliability. It’s possible to get a more comprehensive function similar to the Nest by using the Lyric’s shortcut/trigger system, but using that will require a little more work for the user.

Ecobee3 quick change for home/away via mobile app

Ecobee3’s network of sensors acts as its main home/away detection. If the sensors detect no one has been home for 2 hours the Ecobee3 goes into auto-away mode. With an adequate number of sensors, this can be quite accurate but the two-hour delay seems like something that could be improved on. Fortunately, the Ecobee3 is supported by a third party service called IFTTT. This allows you to easily implement geofencing so that you have a comprehensive home/away detection system similar to the Nest’s.

Smart Control for Heat Pump Systems

The Nest includes a feature for smart control of heat pump systems called Heat Pump Balance. It gives you an option to optimize how much expensive auxiliary heat you use. The maximum comfort setting will leave the temperature at the low set point until the last possible minute. Then, it will turn on the quick but expensive auxiliary heat to bring your home up to your desired set point. Whereas the maximum efficiency setting can turn on the slow but efficient heat pump up to 5 hours ahead of time to reach the set point in time.

The Ecobee3 will control this too but it doesn’t have a fancy name for it like Nest. Instead of just a simple dial like the Nest, it has more configurable options which give a knowledgeable user more precise control. Just remember to make sure you know what you’re doing when you’re adjusting settings for expensive equipment like heat pumps. As they say, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Ecobee3 Choose Your Sensors

The Ecobee3 has a great sensor driven feature that allows you to choose which room(s) in the house to use for temperature readings. For example, during sleep mode, you can tell the Ecobee to only use the bedroom sensor. I put a lot of weight on my comfort when I’m sleeping so this is a really cool feature to me and a big plus for the Ecobee3.

Nest True Radiant

The Nest has a feature called True Radiant which is for controlling radiant heat systems. The radiant system will continue to radiate heat even after the boiler is shut off. This has a tendency to cause the radiant system to overshoot the set point temperature. The Nest uses information about the outside weather and past performance to shut down the boiler before you reach your target temperature. Then, the remaining heat in the system will allow you to “coast” to the set point. True Radiant will help you to have a much more consistent and comfortable temperature in your radiant heated home.

Both the Ecobee3 and Lyric are designed to work with radiant heat as well. They just declined to name the feature like Nest did.

Do They Work Without The App?

These thermostats are intended to be operated remotely, but in some cases, it may be useful to change some settings from the base unit. The Ecobee3 is best in this area. Its larger screen is also a touchscreen which allows for more user-friendly experience when trying to navigate multiple levels of menus. You can also access your Ecobee3 from a web portal which will give you access to the full set of features and settings.

For those of you with a taste for nostalgia, you can utilize the Nest’s rotatable outer ring to adjust the temperature in much the same way you would have done on that vintage Honeywell. That’s not all you can do without the app. It’s not quite as user-friendly as the Ecobee3, but there is a full set of options to adjust here as well.

The Lyric has little functionality without being connected to its app. It mimics the same rotatable outer ring as the Nest, but the only thing that can be done is turn the set point up or down. Without a proper connection to its app, the Lyric turns into a “dumb” thermostat.

Can I Get An Energy Report?

If I buy an expensive piece of equipment like a smart thermostat, I want to know that it’s working correctly. Some people will be content to just slap it on the wall, let it do its thing, and hope the energy bill is lower at the end of the month. However, there are more factors than just your thermostat that determine your energy bill. How do you know if your smart thermostat is working the way it should?

The Ecobee3 records and analyzes HVAC data for a full 18 months. Their analysis tool is called Home IQ. It’s provided free of charge by Ecobee for as long as you own the thermostat. It gives you features such as System Monitor, Weather Impact, and Home Efficiency. These features help monitor your total usage, how much the local weather influences your usage, and how your home efficiency compares to other users in your area. If you’re looking for energy reports and analysis, Ecobee3 with Home IQ is the way to go.

Nest only records 10 days of data. It doesn’t give you any fancy analysis either. It just shows a visual of the times your system turned on and off during those 10 days. Using that, you can compare total usage between certain times of the day and different days. It will also mark the times when the thermostat set point was changed.

Once again, the Honeywell Lyric lags behind. It doesn’t have a web portal and it doesn’t give you any energy reports.

What Are Their Best Qualities?

Nest

  • Is designed to be the ultimate in convenience. After an initial week of “training,” the thermostat is ready to operate on its own with only minimal input from the user. If you are a person with a regular schedule, the Nest will be able to adapt to you quite well.
  • Comes with home/away assist. This makes it the only one of the three that comes standard with an intelligent home/away feature that utilizes both geofencing and home motion sensing. Keep in mind that Home/Away Assist will work best if you have other Works With Nest products.

Ecobee3

  • Has sensors! This gives you the ability to have room to room control of your home’s climate.
  • Is designed with the enthusiast in mind. It has many available options to fine tune your equipment’s performance.
  • Has the PEK. Whether you have a c-wire or not, you are covered with the Ecobee3.
  • Tracks 18 months of data and uses Home IQ to give you a comprehensive analysis of your energy usage.

Lyric

  • Has the almighty dollar on its side. It is the cheapest of the group by about $80.

What Are The Biggest Problems And Concerns?

Nest

  • Lack of control. It has a bunch of cool smart features, but if they aren’t working quite as smartly as you want, there isn’t a lot of configuration available. You can either turn the smart feature on and live with what the Nest thinks is right or turn the feature off and live without it. If you are the micro-managing type, the many options of the Ecobee3 are a better choice for you.

Ecobee3

  • Lack of native geofencing. If you don’t have the technical skills to set up geofencing with IFTTT, your smart home/away will not work as well as Nest’s.
  • In fact, if your technical skill level is low, you won’t get much use out of all the options that come with the Ecobee3. The “set it and forget it” operation of the Nest is a better choice.

Lyric

  • Make sure your home WIFI router is compatible with the Lyric.
  • Many reports of major connectivity issues. Avoid this one if you don’t have a c-wire!
  • Requires a SmartThings hub(or any other compatible hub) to connect to voice control.

TheSmartCave Official Opinion

In the epic showdown of Ecobee3 VS Nest VS Lyric which is the winner?

Right out of the box, the Nest looks great and feels like a quality product. It has the most comprehensive home/away system and is the only thermostat of the three that can “learn” your schedule. It has sold a ton of units and was the one thermostat that really put smart thermostats in the public eye.

The Ecobee3 gives you nearly as much smart as the Nest and backs that up with superior customization and data feedback. Plus, it’s extra sensors give it some unique abilities. It’s a solid product from a solid company that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Lyric was designed to be a top notch WiFi thermostat, but it doesn’t even belong in the conversation. I’m not saying that the Lyric is a terrible product that shouldn’t be bought by anyone. I’m just saying it’s not a top level WiFi thermostat. It’s lacking the features and reliability that current top WiFi thermostats have. The Lyric’s real place is more with the mid-level WiFi thermostats, which is what its current price reflects.

Given the optimal situation, each of these gadgets has the ability to perform well. Each WIFI thermostat has some people that love it and some people that hate it. The Honeywell Lyric by far has the most reports of bad experiences. Yet, there are still a number of people that have been very satisfied with their purchase.

That said, the model with the most praise and fewest amount of complaints is the Ecobee3. That’s why I give my vote for the best to the Ecobee3.

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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