While Nest is the most recognized name in smart thermostats, ecobee was the first to release an app-enabled thermostat.
Their latest ecobee4 has hit the market with upgraded functionality and new features, but how different is it from the ecobee3? Is it worth getting the new model or with the previous version be a better fit?
Similarities Between ecobee3 and ecobee4
At first glance, you won’t notice much difference between these two models. The design is very similar aside from minor changes to accommodate the Amazon Alexa speakers with the ecobee4.
Both also offer the same energy-saving features, including support for room sensors that detect if a room is occupied, automatic temperature adjustment.
You can also enjoy the same compatibility with other devices no matter which model ecobee you get. With this integration, you can change the settings on your thermostat, turn the lights on and off, and more.
If you are mostly looking for a smart thermostat to reduce your energy costs, the ecobee3 and ecobee4 offer the same functions and features to take complete control of your HVAC system and energy costs.
Key Differences Between ecobee3 and ecobee4
There is only one difference worth noting between the ecobee3 and ecobee4: Amazon Alexa integration. The ecobee3 is Alexa-enabled, which means your thermostat can communicate with other Alexa-integrated devices.
With the ecobee4, you can issue voice commands directly to the thermostat to adjust the temperature, check the time, or ask a question. This important difference is explored in greater detail in the comparison of features below.
Comparison of Key Features
While the ecobee3 and ecobee4 are similar in most ways, there are some differences worth noting. Here’s how they stack up against each other regarding key features like Amazon Alexa, energy savings, mobile control, and price.
Only the ecobee4 offers a built-in Amazon Alexa smart assistant, which is the main difference between the two models. The ecobee4 is equipped with embedded microphones for far-field voice recognition, which is also used for the Amazon Echo to hear you from the other side of the room.
The built-in speaker is surprisingly clear and loud, even though it’s coming from the thermostat on your wall. The ecobee4 can be used in most of the same ways as an Amazon Echo, Tap, or Echo Dot. You can give Alexa thermostat-related prompts like setting a timer, reducing the temperature, or asking the current temperature outside.
You can also play games, ask for a recipe, play music, ask for the time, or control other Alexa-enabled devices in your home. There is a drawback: the ecobee4 can’t do everything an Echo can. You can’t change your wake word from “Alexa” and not all third-party apps work.
One of the most significant apps you’ll miss is Spotify. You are also unable to send and receive messages through the ecobee4 or place Amazon orders.
The top of the ecobee4 has an LED light strip much like other Alexa-Enabled devices. The blue light glows to indicate Alexa is responsive. You can disable the Alexa integration, but you can’t disable the light. When disabled, it will turn bright red instead of blue.
The ecobee3, on the other hand, offers Amazon Alexa support. With the ecobee3, you can speak to other Alexa-enabled devices on your network like the Alexa app or Echo to control the thermostat, but you can’t speak directly to the thermostat.
Mobile App Control
The same mobile app can be used to control the ecobee3 and ecobee4 on Android and iOS devices, even the Apple Watch. The app offers energy reports that include tips to save more and how much you have saved to date based on HVAC run times.
According to ecobee, both models can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 23%. Savings are based on an internal analysis done in 2013. Your energy savings are tied to how long your heating and cooling system runs and local weather.
The ecobee’s savings calculations are based on the commonly desired indoor temperature of 72 degrees. Of course, smart thermostats don’t magically change how much energy you use. The only way to reduce your energy costs is to cool or heat your home less.
The ecobee does this by adjusting your temperature when you won’t notice the change. The thermostat knows when you’re home so it can lower or increase your settings when you’re gone. It also knows when you’re sleeping when you’re not going to notice if the house gets a little hotter or colder.
You can even turn on vacation mode to keep energy costs low while you’re away. While programmable thermostats can do the same, the Energy Alliance reports that most people do not program them correctly.
There are many reasons for this, including difficult-to-use menus or just forgetting to change settings. The ecobee3 and ecobee4 offer some of the smart thermostat features to directly reduce your energy costs. Here’s how they work.
- Works with Alexa for voice control (Alexa device sold separately).
- Smart, really smart - intuitively understands when to turn on your heating or cooling equipment based on your home's unique energy profile, the weather outside, and thousands of other data points to make sure you're comfortable at all times
- Knows you have a life - senses whether anyone's home and which rooms are occupied, delivering comfort when you're at home and saving you energy and money when you're not
This feature tracks your local weather conditions and the performance on how your home heats up and cools down throughout the day. The ecobee uses this data to optimize your HVAC system and reduce run time while keeping your home at your ideal temperature.
The ecobee thermostat knows when you’re home and adjusts the temperature accordingly. It can even tell when you’re home during a scheduled Away period or when you’re away during a scheduled Home period.
This feature averages the temperature of remote sensors that detect motion in the rooms to make sure the temperature is according to the set only in the areas which are occupied, not the entire residence.
If you have a humidifier, this setting regulates your humidity to prevent high humidity or frost inside.
AC Overcool to Dehumidify
If you don’t have a humidifier, ecobee will use your AC system to regulate indoor humidity. These features are all fairly intuitive. If you aren’t sure how to use a feature, the ecobee Support database offers easy to follow instructions.
Display and Interface
The interface of the ecobee3 and ecobee4 is nearly the same aside from the addition of a new icon for Alexa controls on the ecobee4. When you press the new microphone icon, you can adjust voice control playback, push to talk, and whether the microphone is on or off.
The face of the ecobee4 is flatter than the ecobee3 which can feel better to use. You may notice it’s easier to touch the icons on the ecobee4 with less screen glare.
The price difference between the ecobee3 and ecobee4 is relatively nominal; the ecobee3 is cheaper when comparing to the newer ecobee4 smart thermostat. Because the main difference in functionality between the two is integrated Amazon Alexa, you are essentially paying extra money with the ecobee4 for a built-in Alexa assistant.
If you are interested in every feature of Alexa, it may be a better idea to get the ecobee3 and pair it with an Echo because the ecobee4 does not have every feature of an Echo. If you can live without all features like Spotify and the ability to send messages, the ecobee4 can bring Alexa into your home at a lower cost.
The new ecobee4 is a bit thicker and larger to accommodate the speaker for Alexa, but the difference is less than an inch. Both are available in the same sleek black design which can blend in well with any home decor.
If you’re considering upgrading from the ecobee3 to the ecobee4, you will notice the backplate has been redesigned. While you can’t use the same backplate to upgrade, the difference doesn’t matter much. Both models are easy to install yourself.
Remote Room Sensors
Both models can use remote room sensors that know when a room is occupied and automatically adjust to your preferred temperature. Your sensors know the difference between you and pets, which won’t trigger the heating or cooling system.
These sensors also detect when you leave the home and adjust accordingly to reduce your energy costs. You can even use the sensors to manage hot or cold spots in the house.
The ecobee3 and ecobee4 each come with a single room sensor. You can buy additional two-packs of sensors to work with either the ecobee3 or ecobee4. You can pair up to 32 sensors with either ecobee. If you have sensors with an ecobee3, there’s good news. You can upgrade to the ecobee4 and use the same sensors. You just can’t migrate your thermostat settings.
The ecobee3 and ecobee4 are both compatible with the same standalone smart home devices. You won’t notice any difference in how they interact with other devices. With an Apple HomeKit, you can control the ecobee with Siri on your iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad.
Both models can also integrate with IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, and other smart systems. The Amazon Echo allows you to change the temperature and more with voice activation.
Just note that the ecobee4 eliminates the need to use an Echo to access Alexa; you can issue commands directly to the thermostat without working through an Echo or Dot.
As you can see, the ecobee3 and ecobee4 are very similar. The main difference is that Amazon Alexa is built into the new ecobee4. If you’re interested in adding Alexa to your home, the ecobee4 combines a smart thermostat and a personal assistant in one device for a fairly low additional cost over the ecobee3.
The built-in Alexa isn’t as robust as a standalone Amazon Echo, but it does have most of the features you will want. Think you’ll miss everything that Alexa has to offer? For full functionality, you can also choose an ecobee3 combined with an Amazon Echo to get the best of both worlds.
This setup will be a bit more expensive, however. If you’re not concerned about Alexa and your main interest is saving on energy costs, the ecobee3 offers all the same smart thermostat features.
You can also consider the ecobee3 lite, which offers the same smart functions without support for humidifiers and ventilators. Previously, the ecobee3 lite did not support room sensors, but this changed in 2017.