The Ecobee brand produced one of the original smart thermostats. Based in Toronto, the company has been closing the gap between high-end HVAC interventions that require serious electrical knowhow and smart technology for DIYers.
Ecobee’s latest offering – the Ecobee 4 smart thermostat – is widely regarded as not only being a solid product but a serious competitor if not market leader in the smart home DIY sector. It offers many of the hacks we want in smart home devices without sacrificing usability for those who aren’t quite sure what place smart devices have their home.
We’ll break down the details in the following Ecobee thermostat review, but there’s one thing we can tell you write now: the Ecobee thermostat changes the way you think you would use a smart home product and increase the value proposition of the wider product market significantly.
What Is the Ecobee 4 and How Does It Work?
The Ecobee 4 is a smart thermostat that takes the basic functions of the genre (remote setting/temperature control and scheduling) and turns it up a notch. The Ecobee 4 follows on the heels of the Ecobee 3, which was renowned by consumers for its accurate remote sensors and its general functionality.
The fourth generation of the Ecobee series doesn’t leave any of the previously loved features by the wayside. Instead, engineers added only one new major feature to the 4: a new Ecobee smart thermostat now integrates with Amazon Alexa.
Because of the new integration, a few new bits of hardware were added. The module is larger to accommodate a microphone and speaker to facilitate the Alexa connection. If you’re unfamiliar with Alexa, it is Amazon’s personal assistant service. With Alexa integration, you can use your thermostats to change the temperature, check the weather, shop, or even stream music.
Not keen on Alexa or any of those other talking boxes yet? Don’t worry. Although the Alexa service is active when the Ecobee is unpacked, you can turn it off whenever you want with the simple tap of a button – just hit the microphone button on the main screen of the thermostat. If little things tend to get your goat, be wary that turning off the mic turns on a red light on the top of the thermostat – and the only way to turn it off is to turn Alexa back on.
Who Is Ecobee?
Ecobee doesn’t come with the brand recognition Nest or Honeywell boast, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an industry leader. In fact, the Toronto-based company was the first to launch an app-enabled smart thermostat. The difference between Nest’s ascension to greatness and Ecobee lies in that for the first few years of operations, Ecobee sold products via dealers because the installation of the product wasn’t for the average DIY-er.
The Ecobee 3 and 4 are a reflection of the changes of the smart home landscape and the advent of DIY products. They offer the technical know-how to make a difference in the way you control the temperature of your house, but they don’t sacrifice integrations for usability.
It must be said: if you don’t know the pointy end of a screwdriver from the handle, then the Ecobee system might not be for you. Ease of installation is weighted towards those who have some wiring savvy and your HVAC system. If you have a five-wire system, you’ll have an exceptionally easy time because you can literally swap out your current monitor for the Ecobee.
Four-wire units are more complicated and require a second step using the C wire. Note: C (Common) wires aren’t included in four-wire HVAC systems.
Ecobee comes with the Power Extender Kit to navigate the lack of C wire. The kit replaces the C wire thereby preventing you from having to install the wire yourself. This is important because, in many cases, you’d call an electrician to do that for you. Still, you’ll need a certain level of familiarity with your HVAC unit to install the Power Extender Kit because it needs to be connected straight to your HVAC unit’s control board.
An easy to use app and smart interface should serve as the lowest bar that a smart home product can meet. However, what makes or breaks a thermostat unit isn’t whether the app shares the weather: it’s the sensors. With poor sensors, your HVAC system will continue to struggle to maintain temperature control and a schedule could cost you more money every month – not less.
The Ecobee 3’s sensors are highly regarded by industry experts. They’re as accurate as a product of this type can be. Because Ecobee didn’t make significant changes between the two models, the sensors remain the same.
Your new Ecobee 4 comes with a single remote sensor. Like its predecessor, its sensor isn’t merely a remote thermometer. By placing the sensor in the rooms that matter, rather than in a hallway or closet, you’ll be better able to control the real temperature of your rooms.
A sensor allows you to read the temperature in the main part of the house to make decisions. Spend all day in the kitchen or a home office? Place the sensor in that room, and you’ll be able to choose whether you want to use all the sensors in the home together to generate an average temperature or to focus solely on the remote sensor and create the perfect temp for the room you use most.
What Makes the Ecobee 4 Unique?
The features that make the Ecobee 4 unique from other products are the Amazon Alexa integration and its list of compatible smart devices. A smaller upgrade from the Ecobee 3 also includes the addition of the Google Assistant to the list of Ecobee-compatible devices. So, if you’re a Google Home Assistant user, you’ll find new and interesting ways to interact with your HVAC system that others may not enjoy.
Sensor capabilities also set the Ecobee apart from other products. In fact, the company’s sensor design is so good that it’s surprising that other manufacturers aren’t trying to generate the same thing. The ability to focus solely on the main remote sensor is unique to Ecobee. Additionally, the sensors are set apart from lesser models because the main and remote sensors also include motion sensors: it can adjust the climate by sensing when someone is – or isn’t – in the room.
Nest has now produced a sensor similar to Ecobee’s remote sensor, but it is currently only available for pre-order, so the similarities are unclear at present.
The Ecobee 4 retails at $249 including the Amazon Alexa voice integration. If Amazon Alexa isn’t your cup of tea and you want virtually the same product for a bit less, you can still purchase the Ecobee 3 for $169.
The Ecobee works with up to 32 individual room sensors. Want to maximize your temperature control? A pack of two extra sensors will set you back $79 at the full retail price.
Both professional and consumer reviews believe the Ecobee 4 is one of – if not the – best smart thermostat on the market. It rivals, and in some opinions, beats the Nest Smart Thermostat, which is the other product considered to be the smart thermostat gold standard.
How It Compares
The four- or five-wire problem is rarely the deciding purchase factor, but it is something to consider if you’re thinking about the Ecobee or a product of the same level.
If you have a five-wire HVAC system, you have the pick of the litter because installation is simple. However, while Ecobee includes a complicated, but free, system, both Nest and Honeywell products work well with a four- or five-wire systems with Nest being compatible with 95% of HVAC systems.
Otherwise, both the sensor and the Alexa integration set the device apart from almost all competitors bar Nest, who now also include both integrations in both the standard and price-friendly products.
What We Think
If you don’t already have an Alexa or another program and you like both the features of the Ecobee 4 and the prospect of finally adding an assistant to your home, you’ll enjoy the two-for-one offered in this smart thermostat.
However, you’ll only make the most of it if you intend to install one of these thermostats in a central location; you don’t want to shout into a corner in an unused room. Additionally, it’s worth noting that music lovers will find better speakers for using Alexa to stream music: the Ecobee speaker isn’t awful, but the quality is better for background noise than grooving to your favorite albums.
In reality, it’s a toss up between the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 for everything but integration: if you want Alexa and/or use Google Assistant, you’ll love the capabilities offered by the Ecobee 4. Otherwise, you can save some cash by sticking with the Ecobee 3 Lite.
Coupons and Deals
At the time of publication, there weren’t any third party offers available for the Ecobee. However, if you head over to the manufacturer’s website, you can search for incentives, rebates, and special offers available in your local area. For example, your energy company may offer money off or free installation when you purchase the product and sign up for their rewards program.