While ecobee can be considered the original smart thermostat introduced back in 2008, however, Nest has gained much greater consumer recognition over the recent years.
Both the Nest and ecobee4 can help you dramatically reduce your energy costs with smart thermostat technology that automatically adjusts your home temperature at ideal times and provide you with the capabilities of controlling your home climate remotely.
Still, there are key differences between the two that can make them best suited for different household needs and have put ecobee vs Nest into the battle.
Similarities: ecobee4 vs Nest
The ecobee4 and the Nest learning thermostat are two of the quite popular smart thermostats on the market today. These thermostats share a lot in common: both can significantly reduce your energy costs, they look “smart”, and offer neat features that make it easier to take control of your HVAC system and monitor heating and cooling costs. Both smart thermostats are also compatible with a range of smart home systems and devices like Alexa and Google Assistant.
Still, each differs in the way it maximizes energy savings, and you’ll find some features of one over the other may work best for your household. The ecobee remote room sensors used to be a big difference between the two thermostats.
Update: Starting from April 2018 Nest also offers remote room sensors. With these sensors, ecobee4 and Nest 3rd generation thermostats can help you ensure maximum comfort in whatever rooms you or your family are occupying without using energy for heating or cooling on the empty rooms. However, sensors for the Nest thermostat need to be purchased separately, while for ecobee4 you will get one sensor included in the box when you buy the thermostat.
What is Different About ecobee4 and Nest?
The ecobee4 provides a responsive touchscreen, Wi-Fi temperature sensors, and a built-in Amazon Alexa capabilities. Nest thermostats does not have a touch screen. You need to turn the outer ring up when you want a little warmer and down when you want your rooms to be a little cooler. Press your thermostat ring towards the wall to get to more options. Turning ring you’ll be able to select options and pressing ring again will confirm your selection.
Another key difference between the two is ecobee4 offers built-in Amazon Alexa. This is a significant buying consideration for many as there’s no need to buy a separate device like an Amazon Echo. You can control the ecobee4 with voice commands and do much more with Alexa, including ordering takeout and checking the weather forecast.
Please note that the built-in speaker is quite basic and if you plan to play music with it you are better off with purchasing separate Alexa device such as Amazon Echo. The enclosed microphone seems to be less sensitive comparing to those used in a stand alone Amazon Alexa devices and some users are reporting that wake word needs to be repeated twice most of the times.
The Nest thermostat offers its own unique features. One of the key Nest thermostat features is its learning capabilities. The thermostat would learn how you would like your temperature set based on a variety of different factors (e.g. time of day, local weather, etc.) and then it applies machine learning algorithms to set your home temperature schedule based on what it learned.
Another key differentiator of the Nest smart thermostat is the design. The Nest’s attractive and intuitive design has won numerous awards. It comes in several colors: white, copper, black and stainless steel.
Comparison of Key Features
Design and Interface
The ecobee4 has a rectangular shape with rounded edges whereas the Nest has a stylish and iconic round design. The ecobee4 comes in a sleek black design with a touchscreen. The face of the ecobee4 is flatter than its predecessor for easier use and reduced screen glare.
However, some users are reporting that ecobee4 thermostat might feel a bit “plasticy”, especially when comparing to Nest stainless steel and glass parts. Using the ecobee4 interface is fairly easy.
The main screen shows the indoor temperature and humidity level with a System Mode button to check current settings. You can adjust the temperature with a slider and use the volume control to enable/disable the Alexa microphone and adjust the volume.
The Nest’s unique look definitely stands out from the crowd. Rather than a boxy shape, the Nest features a simple interface with a round dial and a single button, which is used to operate the thermostat.
There is no touchscreen with the Nest. The color of the Nest screen always indicates what the thermostat is doing. An orange or red screen shows the heat is on while a blue screen shows the cooling is on. When the HVAC system is idle, the screen is black.
All thermostats get power from one of two sources: a hardwired connection (also known as a C-Wire) or a battery. The ecobee4 relies on the C-Wire for power, but the Nest has a rechargeable battery. While the Nest will require a C-Wire connection for power with some HVAC systems, but in most cases, the battery power will be enough. This is advantage for you if you don’t have a C-Wire installer.
Thermostat’s power source isn’t usually much of a concern, but it’s worth noting, especially if you are upgrading from the older type of thermostats. The Nest can be installed faster without a C-Wire, and it will stay on during power outages. The ecobee4 thermostat, on the other hand, will need to reboot if you lose power.
Mobile App Control
The Nest and ecobee4 thermostats both have mobile apps for Android and iOS devices to remotely control and monitor your home’s HVAC system. With the Nest app, you can adjust your home temperature from anywhere, even when you’re away from home. The Nest app also gives you insight into your energy use with reports and suggestions on how you can further reduce your heating and cooling costs.
The ecobee4 app is similar as it allows you to adjust your comfort and temperature settings on the go. With the mobile app, you can set a vacation event — even if you’ve already left. You can also control the microphone and speaker settings from your phone.
Each ecobee smart thermostat comes with a free, lifetime access to a web portal where homeowners can track their home energy use and energy savings. Also, they check how they stack up against other users in their area for the heating and cooling system performance and energy savings.
According to ecobee, their smart thermostats can save up to 23% on annual heating and cooling costs with its smart thermostat features based on an internal review. This figure is based on the average household temperature setting of 72F degrees.
The conclusion from all of those studies that indeed the Nest thermostat saves on heating energy with both gas furnaces and heat pumps, and it saves on cooling with air conditioners and heat pumps. Both thermostats save on energy costs by heating or cooling the home more efficiently and only when it is needed. They each accomplish this in different ways, however.
Nest Energy Saving Features
Unlike the ecobee4, the Nest actually learns your habits. After you use the Nest like a regular thermostat for a week, it learns the temperatures you like and when you like them. It uses this information to create automatic schedules.
The Nest uses your phone’s location to determine when you’ve left. When you’re not home, it turns itself down.
When you’re going on a trip, set the thermostat to Eco Temperatures for additional energy savings.
Time to Temperature
This guide shows you how long it will take for your home to reach the temperature setting you select. This can show you the difference between running the heat for 15 minutes versus 60 minutes and show that turning the heat up higher won’t heat your home faster.
Nest Leaf Icon
The Nest Leaf icon appears on your thermostat when you’ve set a temperature that will save money. Seeing the icon will encourage you to set more economical settings for your home.
Reports and Suggestions
The Nest gives you frequent reports on your energy history with suggestions to save more.
- Programmable smart thermostat that learns your schedule and the temperatures you like and programs itself to help you save energy and stay comfortable
- Home/Away Assist automatically adjusts itself to an Eco Temperature after you leave, so you don’t heat or cool an empty home
- Remote control lets family members change the temperature from anywhere on a phone, laptop, or tablet
- With Energy History, just check your phone to see how much energy you used and why, or use Quick View on the thermostat’s display to reach Energy History, settings, or your schedule
- The Nest Leaf appears when you choose a temperature that saves energy
ecobee4 Energy Saving Features
This feature will track how your home cools and heats during the day combined with local weather. This information is used to optimize your heating and cooling, reduce run time, and keep your home at your preferred setting.
The ecobee4 has a different way than the Nest to tell if you’re home. Its room sensors can detect motion. The ecobee4 can tell if you’re home during a scheduled Away time or away during a scheduled Home time. It won’t be confused by family pets, either.
This setting regulates humidity with your humidifier to keep you comfortable.
AC Overcool to Dehumidify
If you do not have a dehumidifier set up, ecobee4 uses your AC system to optimize indoor humidity levels.
This averages the temperature of room sensors that have detected movement or all sensors in your home. Heating or cooling will be concentrated in the rooms that are occupied.
The Nest 3rd generation learning thermostat and ecobee4 are very comparable in price. Nest does offer a small discount if you buy two thermostats together.
The ecobee4 includes one accessory, a room sensor, with additional sensors available in two packs, while with Nest you need to purchase them separately.
When it comes to price, you should also consider that the ecobee4 has Amazon Alexa built in with most of its functions enabled. If you’re considering buying an Amazon Echo, this feature may save you money.
By default the Nest smart thermostat relies on the ambient temperature around its sensors at the device to determine the temperature in your home. Now both thermostats can be paired with optional remote room sensors.
These sensors provide the thermostat with temperature and occupancy information that it uses to determine how to cool and heat the house.
The remote sensors used to be a big part of the ecobee4’s design as they work like satellite devices, but now also Nest thermostats are supporting them.
Not all rooms in your home need to be cooled or heated in the same way, and these sensors help the thermostat understand the average residence climate rather than relying on data from the area around the thermostat itself.
Want a thermostat you don’t need to adjust? The Nest will learn your habits over time and adjust its schedule based on when you’re home, your preferences, and where you spend time.
If you usually turn up the heat while you’re getting ready in the morning and again before you go to bed, the Nest will notice and build its automatic schedule based on these habits.
The ecobee4 doesn’t learn habits over time, but it does something similar with the use of room sensors. These sensors can detect when you leave the house and which rooms are occupied. With this information, the thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature settings.
Compatibility With Smart Home Ecosystems
Both thermostats work with Amazon Alexa and support Google Assistant. If compatibility is a concern, the ecobee4 comes out ahead. The ecobee4 works with Apple HomeKit, which is a big advantage if your home already has HomeKit-enabled accessories.
HomeKit support gives you full Siri support to change the temperature with your voice or perform complex actions with your iPad, iPhone, or Apple Watch.
Amazon Alexa Enabled
A major difference between the Nest and ecobee4 thermostats is the built-in Amazon Alexa that comes with the ecobee4. The ecobee4 is the only smart thermostat with the Alexa assistant built in at the time of review.
It has embedded microphones that use far-field voice recognition to understand your commands from across the room. However, please note that the speakers aren’t as good as an Amazon Echo and it may be not the best for playing music.
If you already have or plan to get another Amazon Alexa devices like Amazon Echo and place them not far from ecobee4 thermostat you may end up in a situation that the ecobee4 device will compete with other Alexa devices on answers.
Some users are also reporting that if you place Alexa devices about 15 to 30 feet away from ecobee thermostat then even speaking in front of it other Alexa devices sometimes pick up your voice instead of thermostat.
You can use your ecobee4 thermostat in many of the same ways as an Echo, Echo Dot, or Tap. Alexa has more than 20,000 skills, which work like voice-controlled apps. You can adjust your thermostat, order pizza, play a game, set a timer, control other devices, and more directly through your thermostat.
Still, the ecobee4 cannot do everything that an Amazon Echo can do. You will not be able to change the wake word (Alexa), and not all third-party apps are supported. This includes Spotify, which you can’t use with your thermostat. Sending and receiving messages through ecobee4 is also not possible.
Like other Alexa-enabled devices, the ecobee4 has an LED light strip that glows blue when Alexa is responsive. You can always disable the Alexa integration, but there is no way to disable this light. When Alexa is turned off, the light will stay red.
The Nest is Alexa enabled, but you can’t control the Nest directly with your voice or use Alexa through the thermostat itself. Instead, you need to use voice commands with another Alexa device like an Echo to control your thermostat by voice.
If the smart learning feature of the Nest or its innovative and attractive design are important to you, the ecobee4 smart thermostat is unlikely to live up to expectations. The Nest can also be a better choice if you already have an Alexa speaker at home or you plan to get one. After Nest introduced support for remote room sensors it closed the gap to ecobee thermostats quite significantly.
You may also find the Nest easier to use with just a ring and one button. It will also get immediate feedback on your home climate choice. A Leaf icon appears when you select a temperature that will lower your energy costs, and you will receive recommendations and reports on your past energy use.
If you prefer an Alexa-enabled device and Apple HomeKit compatibility then the ecobee4 might be the smart home addition for you. The ecobee4 remote sensors can also increase its ability to control heating and cooling costs. This means you may enjoy lower utility bills with the ecobee4 if you add additional sensors to your home heating and cooling system.
Users are reporting that there are some issues with ecobee4 built in Alexa features. The microphone enclosed in the thermostat is not that sensitive when comparing to the other Alexa devices such as Amazon Echo. If you already have other Alexa devices placed not far from the thermostat (15-30 feet away) they might pick your voice rather than ecobee4 thermostat.
Sometimes ecobee4 and other Alexa devices nearby will pick your voice at the same time and compete on the answers independently.
The main differentiator in ecobee4 thermostat is built in Amazon Alexa capabilities. Shortfalls in that feature might hinder you from getting one, especially when there are such superior alternatives like the Nest 3rd generation thermostat.
For the time being, we would be recommending the Nest thermostat as it seems better package of features for the price. If you need Alexa features, we would recommend getting a dedicated device for that.