ecobee3 Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat Review
The ecobee3 smart thermostat is a slick, minimalistic smart thermostat with Wi-Fi room sensors that provide a smart way to manage your home climate. It ensures the temperature in the rooms you’re using is right, and saves you energy when the rooms are empty.
Most smart thermostats take the temperature reading at the thermostat; they don’t take the temperature in other rooms into account. With the help of remote sensors, the ecobee3 smart thermostat reads temperature, humidity, and occupancy in as many rooms as you want.
ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat Key Features
The ecobee smart sensors are a truly unique feature that makes ecobee thermostats stand out from the competition. Most smart thermostats read the temperature a single point—the location where the thermostat is installed.
The ecobee3 thermostat, with the help of room sensors, monitors the occupancy of the entire residence, rather than just a single room. If you would like to control multiple areas in your home with non-ecobee thermostats, then you’ll need to purchase and install additional thermostat units, which could be a costly option.
With the ecobee3 smart thermostat, you can place room sensors around your home, and they will send temperature, humidity and occupancy data from each location to the thermostat for processing. If the sensors notice that the room is unoccupied, then it will adjust the temperature accordingly to save energy. When it senses that somebody has entered the area, the temperature will change back again to provide the best comfort for those in the room.
The standard ecobee3 smart thermostat package already includes a single ecobee remote Wi-Fi sensor. An ecobee bundle is now available; it includes the ecobee3 smart thermostat and two wireless room sensors. You can also purchase additional sensors separately and pair up to 32 room sensors with the ecobee3 smart thermostat.
The sensors are powered by batteries, so they are fully portable and can be moved easily. They can be placed on the included plastic stand or hung on the wall using the sticky pad or a screw.
Easy to Use Interface
The ecobee3 thermostat user interface is functional and straightforward to use. It’s easy to understand for anyone who is comfortable with using a smartphone (well… almost anyone).
The home screen is automatically displayed when you approach the thermostat. By default, the screen shows the current humidity and indoor temperature reading. The video below provides quite a good review of the unit after having used the ecobee3 thermostat for 6 months:
From the thermostat home screen, you can access the main menu, weather forecast, and settings menu. It will also show adjustable heat and cool set points (auto mode) or, otherwise, only heat or cool. You can adjust the temperature settings by sliding the temperature setting on the touchscreen. Some users have confirmed that the slider might be not very easy to fine-tune the temperature.
In the default standby mode, the thermostat will display the current indoor temperature and the current outdoor weather and temperature. You need to register your ecobee3 smart thermostat to get the local weather forecast.
Touching the weather icon on the home screen will display more detailed outside weather information: current weather conditions, current outdoor temperature, probability of precipitation, relative humidity, daily high/low temperature, and the 24-hour weather forecast.
Your heating and cooling needs might change depending on the time of day or a particular day of the week, as well as whether you are at home or away. Using less energy while your house is empty will save money on your energy bills. For that reason, you most likely will be perfectly fine with the thermostat keeping your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer when no one is around. Here is a video showing how scheduling works on the ecobee3 smart thermostat:
With the ecobee3 thermostat, you can set the temperature schedule for every day of the week. The thermostat has the following default comfort settings: home, away and sleep. You can schedule when those times start and end. Also, you can adjust specific temperature preferences for each of those periods.
You can override the regular weekly comfort schedule with the fourth setting: vacation mode. It will keep the temperature within the range set for vacation mode, and will return to the regular schedule once the scheduled vacation period is over.
That is the main benefit of this setting—it doesn’t delete the regular comfort schedule, it just temporarily overrides it for a specific time period. The vacation event starts on a particular date and time and ends on the specified date and time. There can be any number of vacation periods set, as long as each of them has a unique start time.
Each ecobee smart thermostat comes with free, lifetime access to a web portal that allows you to monitor and control your thermostat from anywhere. This web portal is called HomeIQ, and its primary mission is to educate homeowners on their home energy use and especially on saving energy without compromising the comfort of their home climate.
HomeIQ will provide you with the following information on energy consumption and savings:
- How much energy you have saved (%): This value is tied to equipment runtime and thermostat temperature setbacks as calculated by a specific algorithm to determine how much power was saved the past month.
- Your ecobee rating (number of stars out of 5) - This score shows the energy tightness of your house. This rating is calculated by measuring temperature fluctuations when the equipment shuts down.
- How many hours your system was running: This is the runtime of your heating and cooling system (in hours).
- How much time your system ran in comparison to others (in percentage): This is the runtime of your heating and cooling system in comparison to other ecobee users in the same province or state.
- Weather influence graph: This graphs shows you how the outdoor weather is influencing your system total runtime (in hours).
Ecobee3 Smart Home Climate Control
The ecobee3 smart thermostat has many smart features to provide the best home climate and energy efficiency. Many of these features are enabled thanks to the use of remote sensor technology.
Follow Me Feature
When enabled, this feature uses the smart sensors placed in your home to know which rooms are occupied. The ecobee3 smart thermostat can control an accessory (e.g., humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator) for a while, and then it will automatically start monitoring the temperature of that room. It will tell the heating and cooling system what to do to ensure the climate in those areas is at the desirable temperature.
Let’s say you have placed sensors in three rooms: office, bedroom and living room. If you’re in the office, that sensor will detect your motion, and only the office sensor will report the temperature reading. This, in turn, will tell the thermostat what to do.
As another example, assume you’re in the office and someone else is reading a book in the living room. The thermostat will take both sensors into account and calculate the average of the temperatures of both rooms. This reading will trigger the thermostat to adjust room temperature accordingly. Here is a video explaining how the Follow Me feature works:
The Follow Me feature will not be triggered immediately after recognizing motion in the room; rather, it will start sending temperature readings to the thermostat only after the room is occupied for a given amount of time. This algorithm is enabled to avoid “false occupancy” situations, so that the thermostat doesn’t consider the room occupied if someone is only passing by the room.
Smart Home/Away Feature
The Home/Away feature uses smart sensor motion reading data to recognize whether someone is at home or not in order to adjust the climate modes. It works by taking your weekly temperature schedule with the set temperature points when you most likely are at home or away. In the video below, you can see how the Home/Away feature works:
If sensors detect that someone is at home during an "away" period, it will automatically switch to the "home" temperature settings (and vice versa). This feature allows you to save energy while you are away and automatically reset to the comfortable temperature when you get back home.
Improving Home/Away with Geofencing
There are a couple of drawbacks using the Home/Away feature. It will switch to "away" mode only after there’s no movement detected for 2 hours. That algorithm is used to accommodate situations when rooms are occupied but there’s not much movement registered (for example, when people are watching a movie).
The second drawback is that the "away" mode will switch off only after someone returns home and some movement is detected—and even after that, it will take some time for your heating and cooling system to get the rooms to the desired temperature.
The ecobee3 geofencing feature can significantly improve your Home/Away function. This feature uses the GPS location signal from your smartphone, which can be set with the ecobee3 thermostat to determine whether you are at home or away. You can see how this feature works in the video below:
Geofencing is built into the ecobee smartphone application for Android and iPhone, but the drawback is that it only works for one user. If you would like to enable it for multiple users, then you need to use a third-party smart home application.
After the heating and cooling system kicks in, it will still take some time for the rooms to get to the set temperature. The Smart Recovery feature calculates how much time it will take to heat or cool your home from the current temperature to the desired temperature, and will start the HVAC system accordingly to make sure the temperature is correct.
For example, if you have set that you’d like the temperature to be 70°F at 5:00 PM, then the ecobee3 thermostat will calculate when it needs to start cooling or heating the home so that right at 5:00 PM, the home temperature will be 70°F.
The thermostat also considers a few additional factors, such as outdoor weather conditions, your heating and cooling system parameters, and historical heating and cooling data for your home.
Alerts and Reminders
The ecobee3 thermostat monitors your heating and cooling equipment and sends alerts after spotting that something is not right with your system. It will also send maintenance reminders to keep the equipment running longer and in optimal condition.
Timely heating and cooling system maintenance will not only reduce the chance of your equipment breaking down unexpectedly, but it will also save you money by expanding its lifetime.
The ecobee3 thermostat provides you with the following alerts and reminders:
- Your furnace air filter, ventilator filter or UV lamp (if installed) needs to be cleaned/changed.
- Your HVAC system requires regular maintenance.
- The temperature in the home is too low/high (temperature can be set within a range of 35°F to 68°F for low and 60°F to 104°F for high).
- Relative humidity is too low/high (humidity can be set within a range of 5% to 95%).
- Your auxiliary heat source is running too often (can be configured from 30 minutes to 8 hours).
- Your thermostat auxiliary heat has been called to run when the outdoor temperature exceeds the programmed set point (the programmed set point can be between 32°F and 80°F).
- Low thermostat battery alert.
- Remote sensor battery alert.
- Remote sensor lost connection alert.
- Wiring change detected alert.
The reminders and alerts can either be displayed on the thermostat or sent by email. They can be configured on the thermostat unit, mobile application, or the web portal.
The ecobee3 Compatibility with Smart Home Ecosystems
The ecobee3 thermostat, being one of the best smart thermostats on the market, has many integration possibilities with other smart home devices and hubs. You can control the ecobee3 smart thermostat with your voice to Siri on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch by integrating it with Apple HomeKit. It also supports voice commands for Amazon Alexa.
The ecobee3 also integrates with other popular smart home hubs, such as Samsung SmartThings, Wink, IFTTT, and others. The smart hub will allow you to control all of the smart devices from a single point, e.g., by using a smartphone application.
Ecobee maintains several partnerships (for example, with Haiku Fans) to provide integration possibilities with third-party accessories (such as ceiling fans, humidifiers, and dehumidifiers). For more information on integrations and partnerships, visit the Ecobee website.
Compatibility with Heating and Cooling Systems
The ecobee3 smart thermostat is compatible with the following heating and cooling systems:
Furnace and Air Conditioning
- Two stages of heating/cooling
- Single speed fan control
Heat Pump (with or without Auxiliary Heating)
- Two stages of heat pump heating/cooling
- Single speed fan control
- Two stages of auxiliary heating
- Two stages of heating
Boiler and Air Conditioning
- Two stages of heating/cooling
- Single speed fan control
- An accessory (such as a humidifier, dehumidifier, or ventilator) can be controlled by the ecobee3 smart thermostat
For compatibility with your current wiring setup, please check the following link on the ecobee website.
The ecobee3 smart thermostat installation is quite easy, especially if you have a C-wire already. And if you don’t have a C-wire available, ecobee has included a special power adapter called Power Extender Kit (PEK), which makes up for the lack of the C-wire. It allows you to power the thermostat reliably when there is no C-wire available.
The ecobee3 smart thermostat will automatically identify and display which wires are connected to it when it is powered up for the first time. It also will warn if the wiring setup is not recognized.
How Does ecobee3 Compare to Other Smart Thermostats?
The ecobee3 smart thermostat might be one of the best thermostats on the market, but indeed, it is not the only one available. You might be considering other ecobee products as well as one of the most popular smart thermostats on the market—the Nest thermostat. We have put together a few short reviews of how the ecobee3 stacks up against the ecobee3 lite, ecobee4, and the Nest 3rd generation.
The ecobee3 lite is considered to be a budget version of the original ecobee3 smart thermostat. Initially, when launched in October 2016, it didn’t have support for the remote sensors. However, as of March 2017, the ecobee3 lite also supports wireless room sensors.
Now the main difference between ecobee3 and ecobee3 lite is in the accessories support and room occupancy monitoring. The ecobee3 lite doesn’t support accessories such as humidifiers, dehumidifiers, or ventilators. It also doesn’t have the room occupancy monitoring capabilities that the original ecobee3 thermostat has.
Although the ecobee3 lite package does not come with room sensors, it’s not a problem as you can buy those sensors separately.
When comparing the design of ecobee3 vs. ecobee3 lite, the latter has more rounded corners than the original version, as displayed in the following picture.
Overall, the ecobee3 lite version is a good thermostat for budget-conscious shoppers who do not need to monitor multiple rooms (or who might consider doing that in the future). Also, ecobee3 lite is a good fit if you don't need room occupancy monitoring and you are not planning to connect your thermostat to any external accessories such as humidifiers, dehumidifiers, or ventilators.
The detailed comparison of the ecobee3 vs ecobee3 Lite smart Wi-Fi thermostats can be found here.
The ecobee4, which is an update of ecobee3, was announced in March 2017. The main difference between the two is the Amazon Alexa capabilities built into the ecobee4 smart thermostat (well, most of them).
In practice, it is like having an Amazon Echo device built into the thermostat, just that some of the functions are disabled. Everything else is pretty much the same. The same remote sensors can be used as with ecobee3. Unfortunately, if you are upgrading from the ecobee3, the settings cannot be migrated to the ecobee4.
In conclusion, the only significant difference between the ecobee3 and the ecobee4 is the built-in Amazon Alexa capabilities, which enable you to control thermostat right out of the box. If you already have the ecobee3 integrated into the smart hub with voice control capabilities, then you probably already have more voice control features than available with the ecobee4, as the built-in Alexa voice commands list is a bit shorter than on the Amazon Echo device.
The detailed comparison of the ecobee3 vs ecobee4 smart Wi-Fi thermostats can be found here.
One of the significant ecobee3 advantages over the Nest 3rd generation thermostat is the capability to connect remote sensors and to take temperature readings, not from the spot where the thermostat is installed, but throughout the home to measure the average temperature in the residence. It also allows monitoring of only those areas in your home which are occupied. In you want to control a few areas with the Nest thermostat, then you need to get additional thermostats—there are no separate remote sensors available for the Nest thermostat.
Where Nest is strong is in its machine-learning capabilities. It will, over time, learn your temperature preferences, ultimately reducing the need for manual adjustments. Where Nest falls short is in the lack of built-in support for Apple HomeKit. Rumors are that Nest will add HomeKit support to their thermostats sometime soon, via a software update, but as of the beginning of 2018, that has not yet been announced.
Overall, if you would like to automate your home climate control, then Nest is the obvious choice due to its superior machine-learning capabilities. Also, if you don’t care about the lack of Apple HomeKit support, then go with the Nest thermostat. Otherwise, consider getting the ecobee3 smart thermostat for its features listed above.
The detailed review of the Nest 3rd generation learning thermostat can be found here.
The ecobee3 smart thermostat might be one of the best smart thermostats on the market today. Smart and intuitive scheduling capabilities, with Follow Me, Home/Away and Geofencing, ensure your home comfort is always optimal, whether you are at home or just coming in through the front door.
The thermostat design is sleek and modern. The interface is intuitive and easy to grasp from the beginning. Installation of the thermostat is quite easy and doesn’t require C-Wire. The ecobee3 smart thermostat supports many popular smart home hubs, so if you have other smart devices already at home and integrated into a single ecosystem, the ecobee3 will fit right in.
The ecobee3 smart thermostat’s main advantage is its capability to use remote sensors, ensuring better climate control while also saving on your energy bills. If you are looking for a thermostat that offers smart scheduling, remote sensing, and detailed energy usage reports, then the ecobee3 smart thermostat might be the best option.