Ecobee4 Review: Is It Better Than Ecobee3?
- Responsive display
- Remote sensors
- Built-in Amazon Alexa capabilities
- Can work without a C-wire
- Price is higher than the competition
- Audio quality could be better
- Energy reports could be improved
Since users are saying that the ecobee4 is the smartest thermostat that they’ve tried, we had to take a look at it. Many people felt that it was an improvement not only over the previous versions of the ecobee but all of the various thermostats they used in the past. We decided to compile our own ecobee4 review so that we could see what all of the fuss was about.
What We Liked
Rather than using a predictive algorithm like most other smart thermostats, the ecobee4 uses a remote sensor to figure out if people are in a home. The sensor circuit monitors temperature, motion, proximity and other metrics to know when the HVAC system needs to get powered up. You can also use it to track rooms that have hot and cold spots as a result. The Power Extender Kit (PEK) even gives you the freedom to use this thermostat in areas that lack a C-Wire.
What We Didn’t Like
While the ecobee4 has many bells and whistles like built-in Alexa integration for standalone voice control, these might not be too useful for all consumers. If you don’t have a need for them, then this could make it difficult to justify the already steep price tag that comes attached. You may find that having this many extra items to configure also slows down you get the ecobee4 thermostat up and running when it comes to initially setting it up. Though this is at least somewhat assuaged by the fact that the ecobee4 is measurably more responsive than most other smart thermostats currently on the market.
Design & Interface
While it superficially looks like the previous ecobee3 model, this is because the company used the same black front plate and 3.5-inch color display. If you were to hold the two units side-by-side, then you’d see that the new unit is slightly larger so that it can hold some additional internal electronics.
A strip of blue LED lamps on the top edge of the case turn on each time that you give the unit a voice command. The speaker is located on the back. If you prefer to disable the internal microphone, then these lamps will glow red to show that you’ve switched it off.
A series of 12 electrical terminals on the back give you the option of connecting the unit to furnaces, air conditioners, humidifiers, ventilator fans and a few other types of HVAC accessories. These terminals should prove attractive to those who have slightly odd HVAC configurations and therefore have a hard time of getting other smart thermostats to interface with it.
The display itself offers users a fairly minimal interface, but this is done to avoid pestering the user with dozens of advanced configuration options all at once. Engineers decided to follow the same pattern from the ecobee3 lite interface, but the slider isn’t anywhere near as sensitive as it was on this older model. Users who may have found the older slider to be difficult to use should enjoy a much more consistent user experience if they switch to the new thermostat.
Ease of Use
Adjusting the temperature is as simple as moving a slider. While this was a somewhat laborious task in some older ecobee hardware, they’ve made it much easier now. The new method works better than direct-entry. In most cases, you won’t have to move the temperature more than maybe 10°F in either direction anyway.
The reported temperature is an average of all the sensors that your device is currently networked to, which makes the readings more accurate than a simple report about the current temperature directly at the thermostat case itself. Each ecobee4 comes loaded with default comfort settings. These tell your thermostat how to organize your day, and over time they’ll automatically adjust to some degree.
You can also manually configure a schedule. The process is very simple, but the hardware vendor still decided to put out a video about how to do it: You can configure the schedule by tapping Main Menu on the front of the ecobee4’s display and then heading over to Schedule. You’ll get presented with a chart showing the week ahead and you can then set individual times and temperatures if you so wish.
Activities that only happen once or twice don’t need advance scheduling like this, however. There’s a separate activities chart that gives you the ability to set any time you might be out of the house during the week ahead without adjusting your overall permanent schedule. If you want to transfer an activity over since something temporary becomes permanent, then you’ll simply need to cancel the activity and add a new block in your schedule. The ecobee4 will recognize the change immediately so you won’t have to fumble around looking for an approval button.
Smartphone App Features
By arranging the smartphone app interface into a series of tiles, this thermostat is able to offer users an at-a-glance look at all aspects of their HVAC system when they tap any section of the screen a single time. By default, tiles are offered for each of the following options:
- Current internal and external temperature
- Fan condition
- Quick changes
- Reminders and alerts
- Vacations and schedule
- Settings and scheduling
- System and thermostat condition
- Remote sensor status
Tapping any of these sensors immediately takes you to a page where you make desired changes to the existing configuration. While the fact that iOS and Android versions are available won’t surprise anyone, there’s a third-party unofficial version that supports connectivity with Microsoft’s ecosystem. Some are hopeful, as a result, that an official Windows app might be out in the future.
Multi-Zone Control Features
One of the points that we got so excited about when writing our ecobee 4 reviews is the fact that you can use the thermostat to control the temperature in specific rooms. You can heat or cool rooms that you use the most while ignoring others. This advanced multi-zone control requires you to either use multiple thermostat or sensor modules, but it represents a massive improvement over older multi-zone control paradigms. Homeowners with traditional multi-zone HVAC installations will need a single ecobee4 thermostat for each zone they have.
Energy Saving Features
While it didn’t introduce any radically new energy saving features, the ecobee4 did build on the tradition that ecobee is known for. They brag that the device could save around 23 percent off your existing bill because of these features:
- Automatic fan control
- Full seven-day scheduler
- Occupancy detection
- Room sensor readings
- Automatic dialing back of heating and cooling when the thermostat senses a lack of activity
- Ability to dial the HVAC system back from a mobile device
The app also received an update in 2017, which now gives it some support for geofencing. When the ecobee4 knows your mobile device is out of the home, it might decide to dial back the furnace or AC unit until you start to get closer to your house.
The ecobee4 supports Alexa technology out of the box, considering the onboard Amazon Alexa Voice Service. You could use your thermostat to order items, read the news to you and do pretty much anything else that you could with an Alexa device (list of available Alexa voice commands). This allows you to integrate it with other devices that you have connected through the service, but there are also some options if you live in a different digital ecosystem.
All ecobee products are starting to support Google Assistant, and the ecobee4 is no different. You can also use Apple HomeKit to issue Siri voice commands to your thermostat if you prefer working with iOS devices. Newer macOS machines also provide Siri support, which you could control your thermostat through if you preferred.
Installation & Setup
Installation is fairly easy, especially if you already have a common wire. An included trim plate provides a useful mount for your ecobee4 thermostat, and you shouldn’t need to do much more work than screwing in five or six wires. Many ecobee4 reviews sheets focused heavily on the fact that the PEK provides you the option of using the thermostat without a common wire, though the installation guide points out that neither method will work with higher voltage thermostat mounts.
Once you’ve finished the installation process, the screen greets you. Then the ecobee4 reviews a few options for you before allowing you to set the schedule like normal. You’ll be able to change any setting you make here at a later time, so you don’t have to worry about making a bad choice early on.
The ecobee4 might offer a bit too much for those who don’t need Alexa capabilities built right into their thermostat. For those that want to integrate their HVAC system with every other aspect of their digital lives, there probably isn’t a better choice you could make. It features a very simple scheduling system that hides a sophisticated algorithm designed to save you money, which might help to offset any sticker shock you receive the first time you buy one.