Ecobee3 WiFi Thermostat: 2-Minute Review

NOTE:  The Ecobee3 has been replaced by the Ecobee4; as of November 13, 2017, the Ecobee3 will not longer be available. 

See our review of the Ecobee4 to learn more.

It may lack the name recognition of Nest and Honeywell but Canadian-based Ecobee has been in the home automation industry for a decade.

Ecobee’s flagship product, the Ecobee3, is good enough to go up against the Nest Learning Thermostat and other leading smart thermostats in the market.

Its main appeal to homeowners is the ability to monitor temperature changes in multiple rooms using external sensors. This provides more accurate temperature control all over the house, in contrast to most smart thermostats that apply a single temperature setting to all the rooms from a single location.

4.4

Summary

Pros:
Super easy and convenient scheduling.
External remote sensors allow for better comfort control at home.
Easy-to-use remote control platforms including smartphone apps and web app.
Convenient energy monitoring with comprehensive energy reports on the Home IQ platform.

Cons:
Installation is a bit more complicated if your system lacks a C Wire.
Does not have the intelligent learning capability of the Nest thermostat.

Price:

Price

In 2016, a smarter version of Ecobee3 was introduced in an attempt to keep up with the ‘smart home’ wave that was sweeping across the country.

The newer Ecobee3 can be integrated with more smart devices including Amazon’s Echo and Apple HomeKit. The updated thermostat also has better power optimization, which saves homeowners more energy.

In our in-depth review of the Ecobee3, we break down its features and benefits, point out where it performs well and areas that could use some improvement. If you are torn between Nest, Honeywell and Ecobee, this review will hopefully help you decide whether Ecobee3 is the right choice for you.

ecobee 3 table

HVAC System Compatibility

Ecobee3 works with a vast majority of home heating and cooling systems. The best way to check for compatibility is by using the compatibility checker on the Ecobee official website. You will be asked to remove your current thermostat panel and check the wiring. Select the wires you have on your current thermostat and see whether they can be integrated into Ecobee3 when it is installed.
Generally, Ecobee3 is fully compatible with standard 24v (low voltage) residential HVAC systems. These include 2 stage heating and 2 stage cooling systems, heat pump systems, forced air HVACs, boiler systems, electric systems and oil systems.

If you are not sure about your system’s compatibility with Ecobee3, give their customer care a call for full clarification. The only systems that Ecobee explicitly says are not compatible with its thermostat are high voltage HVAC systems. A high voltage system will often have a clear ‘high voltage’ indication. Additionally, the label will read 110V, 120V or 240V.

It is important to note that compatibility is guaranteed only for HVAC systems in North America. If you are located elsewhere, contact Ecobee customer care for advice on whether your system is compatible.

Installation

Installation is one area where a few customers encountered some difficulty. But for most, it was easy and quick and did not require calling in a professional. The company goes to great lengths to provide information on installation. When you buy the thermostat, it will come with an instruction manual, showing you which wires to connect and how to set up the thermostat for the first time. You can also refer to the website for more advice on installation. If you encounter any problems, call customer care.

The biggest issue during installation is the presence (or absence) or a C wire. The C wire, which we have discussed before, is a low voltage wire that delivers constant current to smart thermostats. It ensures that they function properly.

The Ecobee3 requires a C wire. This is unlike the Nest thermostat that can, in many cases, work without the low voltage wire. If your system happens to lack a C wire, there is no need to worry. Ecobee provides a power extender kit with every Ecobee 3 purchased. The device is labeled PEK.

If you don’t have a C wire, the extender kit is a good workaround though it means a bit more work during installation. In rare cases, your system may be incompatible with the extender kit or your home might be using a commercial-grade HVAC system in which you cannot install the kit. In such a situation, the only workaround is to have a professional install a C Wire.
Network Connectivity

Like most smart thermostats, the Ecobee 3 can be accessed and controlled remotely via a smartphone app. To enable remote access, the thermostat must be connected to your home’s WiFi network. Ecobee3 uses 2.4GHz WiFi connectivity to connect to your phone’s app remotely. It has been designed to consume minimal bandwidth, spending roughly 15 to 20MB every month.

There is also a mysterious 915MHz future expansion slot inside the Ecobee3 thermostat. This might be reserved for integration with future home automation systems and devices. With home automation moving at such an unpredictable pace, you cannot blame them for future-proofing their products.

As for security, it starts with you. Make sure you have taken necessary wireless router security measures. Additionally, only use your home WiFi network and never connect to a guest or open network. The thermostat also has several additional security protocols built into the system. They include Wi-Fi Protected Access, Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). All this is to ensure that your system remains fully secure from any external intrusions.

Unlike the Nest thermostat, there is no Bluetooth support meaning the thermostat uses WiFi to connect to your phone even when you are at home.

Ecobee 3 Cable Connections

User Interface

The Ecobee3 is not as sleek or as minimalist as the Nest third generation thermostat but it still has an appealing modern look to it. Instead of the circular shape of the Nest, Ecobee3 takes on a classic square design. A 3.5-inch full color LCD touch screen makes for a vibrant display that is visible even in bright sunlight.

The interface itself is very simple and minimalist. All the number and letters are white, displayed against a black background. The home screen packs various details and settings, allowing for quick actions. At the center of the display, the current temperature stands out in large numbers. A vertical slider, which can at times be overly sensitive, is located on the right and allows you to shift the temperature up or down.

A snowflake icon indicates a cooling mode while a flame icon shows that the thermostat is in heating mode. Other elements you can access on the home screen include a weather report, the main menu and quick changes. The last option allows you to set temporary changes to the heating and cooling without affecting the overall schedule.

Overall, the interface is intuitive and really easy to navigate. Even if this is your first encounter with smart thermostats, you will have no trouble accessing the various settings and information. If you have used the Nest thermostat before, you will find that the touch interface is much better and more convenient than spinning a ring.

Ecobee user interface

Remote Control

If you don’t want to keep punching and swiping at the screen, there is an alternative: your smartphone, tablet, laptop or Apple Watch. On your smartphone, just download the free iOS or Android app. If you are using an Apple Watch, there is an Ecobee app specifically for it. If you are on your desktop or laptop, there is a web app that provides easy access and control of you thermostat.

On the smartphone apps, you get access to the same settings on the physical panel. The only thing you cannot do is configure remote sensors. On the Apple Watch, you can change temperature settings, control the fan and access the ‘Quick Changes’ feature. The web app is much more comprehensive in the information and settings it gives you access to. You get access to Home IQ, where all the energy stats collected by the thermostat are displayed.

All three remote control options – smartphone apps, Smartwatch app and web app – can receive notifications, reminders and alerts from the thermostat. Some common alerts include filter-change reminders, system not working, low battery, low/high temperature alert and remote sensor availability alert.

iPad App Settings

Energy Monitoring

Home IQ is one of the headlining features of the Ecobee3. This is where all the energy usage information is collected and analyzed. With every purchase of its smart thermostat, Ecobee provides lifetime access to the Home IQ web portal. Note that it is only accessible on the web. You will not be able to view comprehensive energy usage information on the Smartwatch or smartphone apps.

One the Home IQ portal, you can see how much energy the HVAC system has consumed in the last one month. Using this information combined with many other data points including historical usage, local weather, your heating/cooling equipment and overall energy performance, Home IQ is able to recommend personalized energy-saving actions that will cut your monthly bills.

The data is presented neatly and in an easy-to-read way using beautiful charts and graphs. This makes it easy to judge your current usage in comparison with past expenditure. Home IQ is essentially an energy audit provided free of charge and packed full of insights to help you cut costs.

Scheduling and Automation

When the Ecobee3 arrives, it is configured with a default schedule. It assumes your waking up time is 6.30am and sleep time is 11.30pm. Between 11.30pm and 6.30pm, it will change to ‘sleep’ comfort settings. During the ‘awake’ hours, it will use a combination of motion sensors and the default schedule to configure temperature levels.

As soon as possible after installation, set your own schedule. It is easy to set whether on the screen, app or web platform. You can set a schedule based on the time of day or day of the week. For instance, set the temperature to go up to a certain point when you wake up, to turn off when you leave for work, to come back one when you leave work and so on.

Where there is a sharp difference with Nest is in Automation. The Nest thermostat is programmed to learn from your habits and preferences so as to control the temperature automatically. Ecobee3 on the other hand, lacks such intelligence. Instead it uses sensors to automate certain aspects of scheduling. For instance, it can override the set schedule and heat up the house when it senses you are home during the day.

It also has a ‘Follow Me’ feature that tracks what room you are in and creates the right comfort settings in that room. Another convenient scheduling feature is the ability to make quick changes to the thermostat while keeping the main schedule intact.

The Ecobee3 WiFi thermostat may lack the smarts of Nest learning thermostat but it makes up for it with super easy scheduling.

Ecobee 3

Sensors

Ecobee3 uses a bevy of sensors to deliver optimal functionality, energy savings and automated convenience. First of all there are the wireless remote sensors, designed to collect temperature readings in a different location from the sensors in the main thermostat. This is a huge advantage for people who want better comfort control in different rooms. While the thermostat comes with one external sensor, it can support up to 32 of them, which you have to buy separately.

In addition to measuring temperature, these sensors also detect motion, which enables the ‘Follow Me’ feature. Other sensors that come with the thermostat include:

  • Proximity sensor – used to wake the screen when you approach it.
  • Temperature sensor – used to measure temperature.
  • Occupancy sensor – used to detect occupancy in a room and maximize energy performance accordingly.
  • Humidity sensor – measures humidity levels inside the house.

Smart Home Integration

There is no ignoring the fact that smart homes have gone mainstream. Smart thermostats are being designed to work together with other devices from appliances to cars. The Ecobee3 has not been left behind. It works with Amazon Echo, Apple HomeKit and Samsung SmartThings. Other possible integrations include Wink, Haiku, IFTTT, Logitech Harmony, Vera and Control4.

If you need help integrating your smart devices with Ecobee3, contact their customer care for help.

Smart Home Integration

Pros

  • Super easy and convenient scheduling.
  • External remote sensors allow for better comfort control at home.
  • Easy-to-use remote control platforms including smartphone apps and web app.
  • Convenient energy monitoring with comprehensive energy reports on the Home IQ platform.

Cons

  • Installation is a bit more complicated if your system lacks a C Wire.
  • Does not have the intelligent learning capability of the Nest thermostat.

Specs

  • Measures 3.93 inches by 3.93 inches and is 0.86 inches in thickness.
  • 320 x 480 pixel 3.5-inch color display (touch-enabled).
  • Uses WiFi for connectivity.
  • Powers itself through a C wire or power extender kit. No batteries necessary.
  • Only the English language is supported.
  • Voltage: 110v.

ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat with Remote Sensor

Best Pick For

We chose the Ecobee3 smart WiFi thermostat as the top pick for best programmable thermostat. The ease with which you can set a schedule combined with the thermostat’s ability to automatically program itself based on your presence (or absence) puts it at the top of the league of smart thermostats.

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