How To Make The Most Of Your ecobee Remote Sensors

The ecobee remote sensors give the ecobee thermostat a unique advantage over its competitors. You can set up these little satellite sensors anywhere in your home to give the ecobee more knowledge of temperature and activity in your home.

You’ll have to do a little bit of setup to tell the ecobee exactly how to use this information to keep you comfortable, but it’s not too difficult and should only take a few minutes. Let’s get started!

Sensor Facts

The sensors include a motion detector to tell the ecobee which parts of your house are active. They also include a temperature sensor so it can figure out the best way to keep you comfortable. The remote sensors do not include a humidity sensor, but the ecobee does.

The motion sensors are passive infrared motion sensors. This means they use the natural infrared radiation given off by all objects as a means of detecting motion, and therefore work regardless of light or dark.

They connect to the base unit using radio frequency communication right in the same range as z-wave. However, unlike z-wave technology which uses a mesh network, they use a star network configuration. Therefore, all sensors have to be within the range of the ecobee thermostat.

The remote sensors run on battery power so they can be placed anywhere you like. The battery is a type for the old ecobee Room sensors is CR2032 (the little silver coin shaped batteries). It will run the sensor for 18-24 months. However, the new Smart Sensors use a CR2477 which should last for 5 years.

They also warn that if a sensor is placed in areas with lots of motion, the battery life will be reduced. There is no need to worry about when to replace the batteries because the ecobee will tell you when any of the sensor batteries are running low.

The maximum number of sensors the ecobee can connect to is 32. I can’t imagine ever needing anywhere near that many but if you do, the ability is there. For the vast majority of people, any more than four sensors seems like overkill to me. The base unit itself is a sensor, and the original package comes with one extra remote sensor. If you buy one extra pair of sensors, you should be set. In most homes, the base unit will be in a central location. Place one sensor in the master bedroom, one in the living room, and maybe one in an office.

ecobee Sensor Range

Communicating Range

If you place your remote sensors too far from the ecobee thermostat, they will become unreliable or not work altogether. The advertised maximum range of the sensors is 45 feet. The open air range of the sensors is probably 100 feet or more. But, ecobee reports the range as 45 feet to account for the inevitable obstructions that occur your home.

If your base unit is in a central location in your home, there is a 90-foot diameter circle that you can place your sensors. That range should satisfy the majority of homeowners. Keep in mind that walls and other obstacles will shorten the range. If you are having connectivity problems, there is a good chance you are on the outer edge of the range.

Motion Detection Range

The remote sensors have a horizontal range of about 120 degrees and a vertical range of about 25-30 degrees. They can detect motion up to 15 feet. The sensor on the main unit has the same 120-degree angle but only a 2-6 foot range. (don’t get confused…I’m talking about angle degrees here, not temperature degrees!)

The sensors will not be triggered by every tiny motion event they detect. They are designed with a sensitivity that is supposed to stop pets from setting off the motion detector.

Since a sensor cannot detect how far away an object is, a close object will appear much larger to the sensor than a distant object. Therefore, it will take a much larger object to set off the motion sensor at 10 feet than it will at 10 inches.

How To Install Your ecobee Sensor

Installing a new ecobee remote sensor is easy and shouldn’t take more than a minute or two.

Your new sensor will have a plastic tab sticking out the back. This keeps the battery from powering on the sensor. You don’t want to remove the plastic until you’re ready to connect the sensor. Don’t try to connect the sensor until you have the smart thermostat configured and working.

Once you are ready to connect a sensor, go to your thermostat and bring the sensor with you. The sensors can only be installed from the thermostat unit. Activate the home screen so your thermostat screen looks like this:

Then, pull the plastic tab out from the sensor. The power will connect and within a few seconds, your screen should switch to the sensor setup screen. Press Yes to pair your sensor with the thermostat.

Troubleshooting: If the screen doesn’t pop up, remove the back cover of the sensor and flip the battery around (so it’s installed backward). Let it sit for a minute or so. Then, reinstall the battery the proper direction and it should work.

Next, you need to choose a name for the sensor. You can type in your own name or you can choose from a list. I will put this sensor in my bedroom, so I will name it Bedroom.

Then, choose which comfort profiles the sensor will participate in. Since this sensor will be in my bedroom, and I rarely spend any time in my bedroom unless I’m sleeping, I will tell the bedroom sensor to only participate in the “Sleep” comfort profile. Don’t worry if you’re not sure which to choose. You can always go back and change it later.

Press finish and that’s all there is to it. Repeat the process as many times as you need for each sensor.

ecobee Sensor Placement

Once you have the sensor paired, you have to find a place to put it. ecobee recommends placing the sensors about 5 feet high for optimal temperature measurement. For optimal motion detection, sensors should be aimed at doorways and seating areas. The sensors should be oriented so that the little bee is facing up and to the right (just like the picture below).

It’s a good idea to avoid putting a sensor directly in the kitchen because the temperature in the kitchen can fluctuate wildly if you are cooking. As you might imagine, this could cause some undesirable reactions from the thermostat.

A better idea would be to place the thermostat somewhere on the outer edges of the kitchen. There, it will still be able to monitor for motion in the kitchen, but the temperature it reads will be a much more moderate temperature since the kitchen air will have a chance to be cooled by the other parts of the house.

The same sort of logic applies to sensor placement throughout the home. Don’t place a sensor next to a drafty window or right next to an outside door. Don’t place a sensor in a place where it might get direct sunlight. It’s probably best to avoid putting a sensor in the bathroom even if you do spend a lot of time in there. A long hot shower is sure to throw things off.

ecobee Remote Sensor Features

All sensor options and features can be accessed from the sensor menu. The sensor menu can be accessed from all three device types: mobile app, web app, and the ecobee thermostat.

ecobee sensor menu shown on a mobile device

Sensor Participation

There are three default comfort profiles: Home, Away, and Sleep. Using sensor participation, you can choose which sensors to use for each comfort profile by choosing a sensor from the Sensor menu.

Choose which comfort profiles to use for each sensor.

For example, I have only two sensors: the sensor in my ecobee and a remote sensor in my bedroom. I keep the ecobee thermostat sensor active for the Home and Away comfort profiles. Only the bedroom sensor is active for the Sleep comfort profile.

This means that when the thermostat is set to the sleep comfort profile, only the temperature reported by the bedroom sensor will determine whether to turn on the heat or AC.

Follow Me

When Follow Me is turned on, the ecobee thermostat will average the temperature of all sensors that are reporting activity and use that average temperature to determine when to run your equipment.

However, it doesn’t instantly average all sensors reporting motion. If motion is detected by a sensor, the temperature of that new sensor is phased in slowly. It will require repeated motion detection over time to be fully averaged in. The good part of this is that if you make a quick trip to a room and leave it again, it won’t make much of a difference. The tradeoff is that if you enter a room to stay for awhile, it will take some time to adjust.

This is mainly a comfort enhancing feature. Whether it is an energy saving feature will depend on the heating and cooling properties of the room in which you spend the most time. If you spend most of your time in the living room and that room tends to be warmer than the rest of your house, here is what will happen:

Turn Follow Me on or off – Main Menu/Sensors/Follow Me

If you are cooling, the AC will need to work overtime to get your warm living room down to your set point. The rest of the house will get cooled to a temperature lower than your set point and the ecobee won’t care because the only sensors it will be using will be the living room sensors. You will be comfortable watching TV, but you won’t be saving any energy.

If you are in heating mode, your warm living room will reach the set point before the rest of your house and the furnace will shut down. You will be nice and toasty and you will be saving a little bit of energy. But, the rest of your house might require a blanket and slippers.

It doesn’t offer room by room temperature control. In fact no thermostat could do that by itself. In order to heat/cool one room without also affecting other rooms, you need to have some kind of control over the airflow. That’s a job for smart vents.

Follow Me can be turned on and off from the ecobee thermosat, the app, and the web portal. If Follow Me is turned off, all the participating sensors’ temperatures will be averaged whether they sense activity or not.

I could see this being a pleasant feature at times and also a bit of an annoyance at times. Fortunately, everything is customizable and you can even turn the feature off if you don’t like it.

Final Thoughts

In my experience, the sensors are reliable, easy to install, and easy to use. The ecobee thermostat has, in my opinion, the best customization of any smart thermostat on the market right now. The remote sensors only add to that ability.

If you order an ecobee thermostat, it comes with one remote sensor (except for the ecobee3 Lite). If you need more sensors, you can pick them up in packages of two.

ecobee Room Sensor | Shop Now

For my more general review of all things the ecobee thermostat can do, click here.

40 thoughts on “How To Make The Most Of Your ecobee Remote Sensors”

  1. Just installed the Smartthings hub, Ecobee and Ecobee remote sensor. The Ecobee is in the main hallway and is fine. I want to use the remote sensor in the basement pump room which can get really cold in the winter with the rest of the house being ok. Is there a way for the Ecobee or Smartthings hub to warn me or turn on a space heater in the pump room when it gets too cold?

    1. Yes, you should be able to see the sensor as a device on your SmartThings hub. If you have a smart switch to plug your space heater into, you can create an automation that turns on the switch when the sensor gets below a certain temperature. You’ll also want to create a second automation that turns off the switch once it gets above a certain temp.

  2. Can I place a sensor in my garage, which is not part of the HVAC system, and have it OFF on all periods, just so I can bring up my system and see how hot/cold that area is?

  3. How accurate is the ecobee motion sensor…my wife left the house early this morning at 7:40.. and said that there was no one else in the house, however at 8:08 it was still showing occupied..was there someone in the house, and should I be alarmed as no one else except the landlord has keys???

    1. The ecobee sensors work using their own algorithm that is supposed to stop the sensor from rapidly switching between “motion” and “no motion”. The result of this is that if you check the status of a sensor immediately after entering an empty room, it will still show “no motion”. Similarly, if you check a sensor’s status of a room that has recently been occupied, it will still read “motion” for a period of time.
      My guess is that is what happened. Also, as far as I can tell, the algorithm used is not accessible to the user, so there isn’t any way I know of to change it.

  4. If I want to monitor temps in my attic and outside, can I place ecobee sensors in these areas but simply choose NOT to allow them to participate? I’d actually prefer that they also track humidity as well but I’ll live with the fact they only do temp measurements. It’s just nice to pull up the info on the smart phone, plus knowing what happens outside of the conditioned space could be useful.

      1. I also want to put a remote sensor outside so I can read the correct temperature. The weather app on my thermostat shows weather that is 18 miles distant, and 2,000 feet lower in elevation. So, it is rarely correct for my location. If I put it under the roof eave, it will not get wet and it will not get direct sunlight.

  5. I googled and found this or some other article that indicates that the Smart Sensor uses CR2032 batteries. Thus I ordered a pack of 20 from Amazon (only $5.99) and when I received them I found that my Smart Sensor uses CR2477!

  6. I have an usual situation. I am thinking of replacing a thermostat controlling the second zone of 1 two zone system with a smart EcoBee with voice. The thermostat is in a hallway and controls the zone which consists of three, seldom used guest bedrooms. My plan would be to place a sensor in each bedroom but only activate one or more when I have a guest or guests. I know about the averaging, and feel that will not be a problem except for one thing. The temperature in the hallway in which the zone thermostat will be placed is controlled by an entirely different system. In other words, the EcoBee thermostat in hall will be reading the hall temperature controlled by the other system. Thus, the average based on the thermostat and an active remote or remotes will not be what I need. Can the thermostat be deactivated which the remote or remote3

  7. Bandula Ranasinghe

    My thermostat is located in main level hallway. And it currently set to 72. Since upstairs is very cold. I used a portable thermostat to measure the temperature in other areas of the house. Allover upstairs temperature is 67 and basement is about 69. Can I use two sensors to get heat evenly on all floors.

    1. A sensor can’t redirect the airflow of your system. You won’t be able to make it heat evenly unless you redesign your HVAC system or maybe try a smart vent. You could use a sensor upstairs to make it warmer up there, but that will make it warmer downstairs too.

  8. Liesa Houdashelt

    I want heat to remain off during sleep period regardless of movement in the house. Is that possible? Heating temp is set at 55 F.

  9. I have placed a sensor in my child’s room as it is one of the coldest rooms in the house at night. Is there a way to override the “Unoccupied” status while they are asleep so the thermostat operates with the temp in that room included in its algorithm? I understand the concept of having to redirect airflow if different results across are preferred, but I just want the thermostat to factor that room. Please advise.

  10. I just had the ecobee and a smart sensor installed yesterday. It’s not working as I anticipated. I have two air conditioners, and the ecobee has been installed on the HVAC that covers my bedroom, bathroom and office. The problem I have is that the bedroom (in which the thermostat is located) is always significantly cooler than two other rooms on this HVAC. I put the smart sensor into the bathroom which receives direct sunlight, hoping to get the bathroom down to 73, and I’d be very happy if the bedroom got really chilly. It seems that the ecobee is trying to split the difference between the thermostat and the smart sensor. Is there some way to deactivate the thermostat and have only the smart sensor determine the temperature for the whole area? Again, if the office and bathroom are 73 and the bedroom winds up at 68, I’m fine with that. Thanks!

    1. Yes. For each comfort profile (e.g. home, away, sleep) you can choose which sensors are used to determine the setting. If you have both the thermostat and the remote sensor selected for a given comfort profile, it will average the temperature.

  11. I just had an ecobee installed, unfortunately the old thermostat cable only had 3 wires and there was no way to run a new 5 conductor cable, without tearing up a ceiling. We ran a new cable in the basement and installed the ecobee thermostat there.
    The remote sensor is now in the main floor living area near the old thermostat. We set the ecobee remote sensor to always participate and the ecobee built in sensor to never participate.
    My question is: what will happen if/when the remote sensor battery dies? I have not been able to find the answer by google searches.
    Thank you

      1. Sorry I was not clear on my question. What I meant was; when the battery dies or connection to the sensor is lost does the main thermostat take over, even though it is now set to ignore Home/Away/Sleep. These functions are currently handled by the remote.

        1. Hmmm, good question. I’m not sure. Take the battery out of the sensor and see what happens? I wouldn’t worry about it too much though because as long as your sensor is within range, it almost never disconnects. And, if the battery gets low it will send a notification to replace it before it dies.

          1. Eric, I will try that next time I am at the cottage where the ecobee is installed (3 hrs drive) and report back.
            Thanks

  12. OK, I removed the battery from the remote sensor and even though I have the main thermostat sensor set to ignore Home/Away/Sleep/Heat (as previously explained) the furnace did follow the settings from the main sensors.

  13. I have the smart sensors paired with HomeKit. I’ve set an automation so when the sensors detect motion it turns on my smart lights but this only seems to work one time. Looking in the HomeKit app the motion sensor says “Triggered” in red letters and once it’s triggered the first time it won’t trigger again. Any solutions for this?

  14. Brian Mclaren

    In order to have home and away modes activated, do you need to make a schedule. We are not sure how the system would know you are home or away without a set up schedule. We do not have the follow me activated, as we just want the average house temp of the two sensors. Thank You

  15. I have 2 furnaces & A/C units in my house . Old house with addition. The two systems are independent. I want to get new thermostats with sensors upstairs in bedrooms. Can each thermostat be paired with just one of the sensors and the other thermostat to the other sensor without affecting each other? I don’t want a sensor in one space providing data to a thermostat that is not controlling heat/AC to that space. If that makes sense.

  16. DOUGLAS J MARQUIS

    How do I get the Ecobee system to cool my house to the highest active sensor? Isn’t that what “enable follow me” is for?

    1. Follow me will average all active sensors and use the average temperature as the current home temperature. To do what you want, I believe you would have to do some custom automation with your own hub.

  17. Hi Eric. I’m thinking about getting an EcoBee and using a remote sensor to set a minimum temperature in a bathroom so that the pipes don’t freeze when I’m away. Is there a way to set multiple minimum temperatures. For example, main thermostat would be minimum of 40 degrees, sensor would be 35 degrees, and if either were below that threshold, the furnace would kick on.

    1. I don’t think it can be done with the ecobee app. However, you could set it to only consider the sensor temperature in the bathroom. That would at least make sure the pipes don’t freeze.

  18. Great article with so much useful information! I have my Ecobee thermostat behind a canvas (artwork), otherwise I would have had to punch holes in wall and move thermostat. I also have three smart sensors. One in living room (where the main thermostat is located), one in kitchen and one in bedroom. Seems to be working fine. Any advice if I should change?

  19. I have 2 sensors in 2 rooms that frequently show occupied when no one has been in the room for hours. Are the sensors sensitive
    to perimeter movement? One is an open plan room the other has a door to a corridor

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *