The new ecobee3

ecobee 3 Review 130

In 2009, Toronto-based ecobee released the very first “smart” thermostat  and called it, not surprisingly, the “ecobee Smart” (see my original review of the Smart from 2010). Since then, they’ve followed up with the ecobee Si (which I call the Smart’s “little brother”), along with a handful of firmware and mobile app updates for both products.

Earlier this week, ecobee announced and started taking pre-orders for their new flagship product: the ecobee3, which starts shipping on September 29, 2014. However, calling the $249 ecobee3 a mere “upgrade” of the original Smart would be a massive understatement. The ecobee 3 feels more like a “revolution” than an “evolution.” There’s no doubt that many of the ecobee3’s new features (along with ecobee’s new marketing approach) are squarely aimed at stealing back precious market share from Google’s Nest… as well as parrying Honeywell’s recent entry into the smart thermostat space with the Lyric.

So now, after a few days of putting it through its paces, I’m proud to publish the world’s very first product review of the new ecobee3 smart thermostat.

The new ecobee3 and remote sensor

The new ecobee3 and remote sensor

In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that I already own five of ecobee’s original Smart units. I have them deployed across three different houses (one on each of the floors of my primary residence near Seattle, one in a log home in Eastern Washington, and one in a vacation home in Utah). But before anyone accuses me of being a fanboy, I’d invite you to read my previous ecobee posts. They’re not all sugar and spice, and I’m downright critical in more than one instance. As with all my product reviews, I call ’em like I see ’em… and this review will be no different.

I will, however, admit that my past experience living with ecobee products does give me a slight advantage over other potential reviewers (suck it, Engadget) in that I’m intimately familiar with all of the existing features that were carried from previous models forward into the new ecobee3. This experience allows me to focus my attention on the newer features of the ecobee3, and speak not only to those who might be considering an upgrade from a traditional thermostat, but also previous ecobee customers who might be deciding whether the upgrade is worth the price of admission.

So let’s get going.

From Plain Brown Box to Sexy Black “Event”

As I hinted before, the ecobee3 represents a shift in the way ecobee has decided to market their products. Previously, their first gen units came in very plain, very brown, very boring cardboard boxes — perfect for shipping en masse to HVAC supply houses. That’s no longer the case. While ecobee certainly plans to continue supporting the HVAC contractors who were happy to sell and install their products, they’ve made the decision that in order to remain competitive, they’ve got to go direct to retail. Their new packaging (and from what I understand, their upcoming new marketing campaigns) clearly reflects that shift. Following the packaging trend that Apple began with its earliest iPods, unboxing the ecobee3 is now an “event.”

ecobee3 retail box - coming to a shelf near you!

ecobee3 retail box – coming to a shelf near you!

After being sworn to secrecy by ecobee, I got my hands on a review unit a couple of days before Tuesday’s product announcement, and filmed a two-part unboxing video (which I posted on my YouTube channel). For a quick look at what’s inside the box,  just press play:

First Impressions

From a purely visual perspective, everyone in my family that’s seen the ecobee3 has ooh’d and ahh’d over it. It looks so much better than the original ecobee Smart. With help from SFO-based industrial design rockstars Lunar, the redesigned ecobee3 is sleek, modern, pretty… and in the eyes of a geek like me, I have to declare it “downright sexy.”

Is it better looking on your wall than the Nest or Lyric? That will have to be your call. But there’s no denying it looks good. In fact, my across-the-street neighbor (who has an original ecobee Smart) saw the ecobee3 on my wall today, and begged me to call ecobee and hook him up with one, too (uh… that’s probably not gonna happen).

Installing the ecobee3

I’m happy to report that for the majority of users, installing the ecobee3 is an easy DIY project. If your existing thermostat runs on 5 wires (most likely red, white, yellow, green, and blue), then life is good — simply kill the power to your furnace, disconnect your old thermostat, and push the appropriately-colored wires into the clearly marked quick-connect wiring terminals on the ecobee3’s wiring harness, like this:

Standard 5-wire connections to the ecobee3

Standard 5-wire connections to the ecobee3

Hidden by the wires in the above photo is a level, built-in into the mounting base (just like the Nest). I opted to temporarily use the optional larger trim plate, which covers the old screw holes left by my previous thermostat. The larger trim piece is also big enough to cover the footprint of most thermostats (including the original ecobee Smart), which is handy if you had a lazy painter. My painter isn’t lazy, but my old screw holes would be visible without the trim piece, so until I get around to filling the holes and touching up the paint, the larger trim piece comes in handy.

For homeowners who may only have 4 wires running to their thermostat, the ecobee3 comes with a free Power Extender Kit (PEK), which I’m guessing “piggybacks” (the geek term is “multi-plexes”) the blue “C” wire onto one of the other wires, allowing you to reliably power the ecobee3 without having to run a fifth wire to the thermostat. Even though I had 5 wires available in my house, I temporarily wired up the PEK just to try it out.

The five wires on one side of the PEK connect to your furnace’s terminal block (where a traditional thermostat would be previously wired):

5 wires on the PEK connect to your furnace's terminal...

5 wires on the PEK connect to your furnace’s terminal…

Your existing four wires from your thermostat location just push in to the other side:

Standard 4 wire thermostat connections go in this side

Standard 4 wire thermostat connections go in this side

Press the two sides together (no tools necessary), and you’ve magically got four wires acting like five! It’s a pretty slick solution, which worked perfectly when I tested it, and I’m glad to see that ecobee3 includes the PEK this at no charge in the box, rather than as an upsell or purchased add-on.

With the wiring and wall mounting squared away (it seriously took me less than 10 minutes using only a screwdriver), I was ready to push the ecobee3 into the wiring harness and admire my handiwork:

ecobee3 wall unit installed and ready for action

ecobee3 wall unit installed and ready for action

My wife said it reminded here of the “Eve” robot from Pixar’s Wally… and I can totally see her point. 🙂

Eve would probably approve of the ecobee3's looks

Eve would probably approve of the ecobee3’s looks

Initial Setup of the ecobee3

With everything installed, I ran downstairs to the utility room to flip the furnace’s power switch back on, then sprinted upstairs with my fingers crossed, hoping I’d wired everything correctly. I was greeted by what I interpreted as a good sign:

ecobee3 start-up screen

ecobee3 start-up screen

A few moments later, the ecobee3 displayed the following screen, informing me it had correctly auto-detected my 5-wire connection:

The ecobee3 auto-configures based on which wiring terminals you connect

The ecobee3 auto-configures based on which wiring terminals you connect

I followed the simple prompts, answering simple “Yes/No” questions to confirm that I hadn’t wired in any additional accessories (such as a humidifier, dehumidifier, or ventilator) and that I prefer Fahrenheit over Celsius.

The next screen confirmed my “basic” equipment configuration of single stage heating, single stage cooling, and that I wanted the thermostat to control the fan (as opposed to the furnace):

The ecobee3 "guessed" my configuration correctly on the first try.

The ecobee3 “guessed” my configuration correctly on the first try.

It was at this point that I noticed a couple major improvements of the ecobee3’s touch-screen and interface vs. the first gen ecobee Smart. The 3.5″ full color 320 x 480 pixel LCD touch screen looks like it belongs on a current-gen iPhone, and the touch interface (which was a big complaint of mine on the older units) works exactly like I want it to– which is to say, it feels exactly like an iPhone. The menus and screens are subtly, but nicely, animated — a theme which also continues in the ecobee3’s normal operating mode.

As I continued, more setup screens asked me to choose a name for this ecobee3 (I chose the highly original “Main Floor” – since I am also running two original Smarts on the top floor and in the basement). Next, it asked about my ideal home temperatures during the winter and summer — presumably to select an initial set-point for the default heating and cooling programs. In an effort to maximize energy savings, the ecobee3 suggested something in the 69F – 71F range for winter, and 74F – 78F for summer… which confirmed to me that nobody at ecobee has ever met my wife. I chose values of 74F and 76F respectively — which are far more likely to ensure domestic tranquility at the Jenkins household.

Subsequent setup screens asked if I wanted to enable the “Smart Home/Away” feature (I said “yes” – but more on that later), connect to my Wi-Fi network, sign up for a free account on, and associate my new ecobee3 with my account (I found it easiest to do this via the updated version of the free ecobee iPhone app).

The very last setup screen prompted me to configure my time zone as Los Angeles -8 DST… which produced the sole hiccup in the entire configuration process.  Even though I’d selected the correct time zone (and confirmed it on the final screen), the clock still showed three hours fast. I was able to fix it by logging into the web interface (more on that later, too), and re-select the Pacific time zone. In fairness, this is a pre-release review unit, and so I wouldn’t be surprised to see this bug ironed out by an upcoming firmware release in time for launch.

The ecobee3 in Normal Operating Mode

With the setup wizard complete, my ecobee3’s home screen finally popped into view, and informed me it was calibrating itself:

ecobee3 in "calibration" mode

ecobee3 in “calibration” mode

The icons and numbers on the initial home screen informed me of the following:

  • the system was in cooling mode (hence, the snowflake)
  • the humidity was 57%
  • the cooling set-point was 76F
  • the system was currently calibrating
  • it hadn’t downloaded current weather yet (based on the “frowny” cloud)

After a few more minutes, the ecobee3 had successfully finished calibrating and downloading weather data, so my screen now looked like this, with accurate temps and no more frowny cloud:

Post-calibration ecobee3 home screen

Post-calibration ecobee3 home screen

The first button I pushed was the weather icon in the bottom middle, which produced a weather forecast for my area:

ecobee3's weather forecast data at the touch of a button

ecobee3’s weather forecast data at the touch of a button

I was glad to see the weather forecast feature carried over from the first-gen Smart thermostat, since touching the kitchen thermostat was the principal source for everyone’s weather information in our house. One thing I do miss, however, is the current outdoor temperature included as part of the weather icon (and always visible on the home screen.) The ecobee3’s interface now requires you to touch the weather icon to pop-up the current temperature and forecast. I’m hoping someone at ecobee reads this review and convinces the dev team to include the outdoor temperature as part of the home screen icon, just as it was on the older unit. Or perhaps that’s already in the works, and it just didn’t make it into this review unit (crosses fingers). Admittedly, it’s a minor annoyance, but I’d wager that other owners of the original ecobee Smart will also miss that convenient mini-feature.

Back on the home screen, sliding a finger on the set-point on the right side of the home screen had the expected effect: swiping upward raised the set-point, while swiping downward lowered it. Much like a traditional thermostat, this placed the ecobee3 in “Hold” mode indefinitely (which is the default setting for an override). However, indefinite holds are the enemy of any smart thermostat’s energy saving goals, so I quickly popped into the preferences menu to select a default “Hold” action from one of the following five options:

Changing the default Hold behavior on the ecobee3

Changing the default Hold behavior on the ecobee3

My preferred option is to decide at the time of the change, so that’s what I selected. Now, whenever I override the system, it asks what type of Hold I want. To test my new setting, at exactly 2:42PM I lowered my set-point from 76F to 73F, and then told the thermostat I wanted the “Hold” to ask for 2 hours. The home screen reflected my wishes like this:

2 hour Hold override on the ecobee3

2 hour Hold override on the ecobee3

More button mashing back on the home screen took me deeper into the bowels of the ecobee3’s menus and configuration options. But in all honesty, there was nothing I really needed to do in there for the moment. Although while poking around, I did recognize many welcome features from the original ecobee Smart such as vacation mode, reminders and alerts, editing options for Home / Away / Sleep programs, etc. More on those features later.

Using the Remote Sensor

During the entire install, setup, and tinkering phases of my evaluation, the small remote sensor (one of which is included with the ecobee3) sat impatiently on the kitchen counter… silently crying out “Pick me! Pick me! I can make it even more awesome!”

So I picked it up, turned it over (noting the letters BBPZ on the back), and pulled out the paper strip that was preventing the battery from making contact inside the unit:

ecobee Remote Sensor

ecobee Remote Sensor

Within seconds, this screen popped up on the ecobee3, prompting me to pair the sensor named “BBPZ” with my new thermostat:

Remote sensor pairing screen

Remote sensor pairing screen

Next, I was prompted to pick a name for the sensor. Since my plan was to place it in my office, that’s what I picked:

Naming the remote sensor

Naming the remote sensor

The final screen confirmed I’d done everything right:

ecobee remote sensor pairing complete

ecobee remote sensor pairing complete

I snapped the solid battery cover off the back of the remote sensor and snapped the clear stand into its place…

ecobee remote sensor stand

ecobee remote sensor stand

… and placed it on the desk in my office, facing my chair. The ecobee3 ships with one remote sensor included, and additional 2-packs are available for $80.

Follow Me Feature

As hinted at by the “success” screen while pairing the remote sensor with the ecobee3, adding a remote sensor to the system allows for a new feature — one that is unique among the current generation of smart thermostats. If you enable the “Follow Me” feature on the thermostat, the ecobee3 will average the temperature of any sensors that detect recent motion. For example, since the ecobee3 wall unit is mounted in the kitchen, its motion sensors can “see” motion the kitchen — as well as into the connected family room. And since I placed the remote sensor in my office (where it’s always a few degrees warmer than the kitchen during the summer), the remote sensor can “see” motion in my office.

With “Follow Me” enabled, here’s what would happen in the following three situations:

  1. If my wife’s in the family room, but I’m not in my office, the ecobee3 will ignore the temperature in my office and only rely on the temperature reported in the kitchen to make decisions about when to heat or cool.
  2. If I’m in my office, but nobody’s in the kitchen, the ecobee3 will ignore the temperature in the kitchen and only rely on the temperature reported in my office to make heat/cool decisions.
  3. If my wife’s in the family room while I’m also in my office, the ecobee3 will average both reported temperatures. Because it’s always 2-4 degrees hotter in my office vs. the kitchen, the ecobee3 will allow the kitchen to be cooled slightly lower than the set-point, which will allow my office to be cooled slightly higher than the set point… but my office will still be cooler (and therefore more comfortable) than it otherwise would be.

It’s been warm in Seattle today, and as I sit here in my office typing this article, I can absolutely tell that it’s cooler in here than normal, and I have to give the innovative new “Follow Me” feature the credit.

Smart Home / Away Feature

Another new feature for the ecobee3 is Smart Home / Away. Quite simply, using its built-in motion sensor, if the ecobee3 senses that you’re home during your scheduled “Away” period, or that you’re away during a scheduled “Home” period, it will automatically override the schedule to maximize comfort and savings. Also, if you have any remote sensors installed (or any additional ecobee3 thermostats in the same house), they’ll also participate in the motion sensing when determining whether you’re Home or Away.

New Smartphone App

Along with the ecobee3, ecobee’s mobile app also got a major overhaul for this latest release. Available for iPhone and Android, the new ecobee app mirrors the sleek, dark interface of the thermostat’s touch-screen, and gives you access to all the same info:

ecobee's smart phone app interface looks just like the touch-screen

ecobee’s smart phone app interface looks just like the touch-screen

The ecobee mobile app also allows access to nearly all of the features, programming, and configuration options as the touch-screen interface (with the exception of some of the equipment settings that are generally touched only when initially installed… and which would probably unsafe to “play with” remotely).

ecobee's mobile app also gives you full access to the ecobee3 menu

ecobee’s mobile app also gives you full access to the ecobee3 menu

Of my favorite features of the mobile app (and the touch interface, for that matter) is the “Quick Changes” screen, which is always accessible in the lower right corner. It allows you to quickly switch into “Home” or “Away” mode, as well as quickly see icons that tell you what equipment is running. This example shows that the AC is on, and the fan is running:

Quick Changes menu comes in handy

Quick Changes menu comes in handy

Programming the ecobee3

Right out of the box, the ecobee3 comes pre-set with three default programs: Home, Away, and Sleep. As their names would suggest, they allow you to set different set points for when you’re home, when you’re away, and when you’re asleep. You can add additional programs if you want, but I didn’t find any reason to. Programming is pretty straightforward via the touch-screen, but with the original ecobee Smart I found it fastest to program it via the web interface. And with the ecobee3, it’s even easier than before.

Programming the ecobee3 via the web interface

Programming the ecobee3 via the web interface

Because I work from home, there’s never a predictable time that I’ll be “Away.” So a few clicks was all it took to tell the ecobee3 that I like the main floor of the house to be heated to 73F (or cooled to 76F) when I wake up at 6:30AM, and that I want it heated to 66F (or cooled to 78F) at 9:30PM when everyone is usually upstairs or downstairs in their bedrooms — with the exception of Saturday and Sunday, when I like to sleep in for an extra hour. In fact, I only needed to set up Monday and Saturday, and then I told the ecobee3 to “copy” Monday’s programs to Tuesday – Friday, and Saturday’s to Sunday. The entire programming procedure took maybe 3 minutes.

More with the ecobee 3 Web Interface

While the smart phone app and touch-screen feature a dark, minimalist interface, the web interface comes alive with color… and bears a striking resemblance to Windows 8:

ecobee's colorful new web interface

ecobee’s colorful new web interface

And although changing things on the touch-screen and mobile app isn’t difficult, I’ve always found it easiest (for me) to tinker with the ecobee3’s settings with the web interface.

Changing settings is easy with the web interface

Changing settings is easy with the web interface

This is also the perfect spot in the review for me to point out that ecobee’s new web interface (and mobile app) are built entirely using HTML5 with responsive design. Plus, the new web interface is totally tablet friendly (the old one worked on my iPad, but was a bit kludgy). It’s nice to see that kind of commitment to browser and device compatibility while building on open standards. ecobee deserves big geek cred for that.

One thing I didn’t get to test (as it wasn’t available at review time) is the upgraded Home IQ functionality of the new ecobee web interface. Beyond simple reports, the idea behind Home IQ is that it can “provide more actionable insight” into your HVAC system’s performance. According to my source at ecobee, the improved Home IQ will include the following:

  • Personalized recommendations for your system, and the ability to act on them from within Home IQ — for example, if you have an “inefficient” set point given your location and/or season, Home IQ will prompt you to change the set point to gain more energy savings
  • A list of smart features available, and the ability to enable these features from within Home IQ to gain greater energy efficiency
  • Run time performance report / savings breakdown – providing insight into which features (schedule, smart features etc.) contributed to their savings and how much savings came from each
  • An idea of efficiency of their home (similar to the “star” rating system they had in the first version of Home IQ)
  • Community comparison – details on comparing your system performance & set points to peers – and prompt you to do better
  • System monitor – runtime diagnostics and detailed charts with better visualization

Once the new Home IQ is live, I’ll update this review (or perhaps do a separate one for just Home IQ).

Home IQ charts are now available. Read my “first look” review here.

It’s Upgradeable

Because the ecobee3 is connected to your network (and to ecobee’s servers via a secure encrypted connection), ecobee can “push” product updates out to your thermostat as they become available. The ecobee3 represents the first major hardware change for an ecobee thermostat in a few years, and I’d like to think that this hardware platform is (at least for a while) going to be pretty stable, and that additional features will primarily be the result of software upgrades and add-on products (might there be “smart” smoke detectors in ecobee’s future?).

Integration with Other Home Automation Systems

While it’s still too early to know exactly which home automation platforms will support the new ecobee3, it looks like ecobee isn’t taking any chances. Their open API will still be available for third-party integration, and all previous versions of their thermostats have enjoyed support from hubs and control systems such as SmartThings, Control4, and Vera. I’d be shocked if similar support wasn’t forthcoming with the ecobee3 (oh, and will someone please write some IFTTT recipes for this thing?).

The ecobee3 also has a mysterious empty slot inside, which I’m guessing might be used for support with ZigBee, or Z-wave, or possibly even BlueTooth… but again, those are just guesses. Heck, ecobee themselves may not even know it will be used for yet, and might just be waiting for one protocol or communication standard to take a clear lead in the home automation space. Given how rapidly things can change in this space, that might not be a dumb move.

Other ecobee3 Features of Note

Other noteable features of the ecobee3 include:

  • Robust staging options: which supports newer mutli-stage heating and cooling equipment, and works to keep your home comfortable while using the minimum amount of energy.
  • Alerts and reminders: get notified if temperature or humidity go outside pre-set ranges, and get reminders about when to change filters and service equipment.
  • Fan dissipation: Continues to run the fan at the end of a heating or cooling cycle, taking advantage of the heat or cold that’s “stored” in coils or heat exchangers.
  • Smart recovery: combines local weather information with what it’s learned about how your house heats and cools to minimize your energy useage, while still making your home comfortable exactly when you want it.
  • Optimal humidity control: uses weather information to change the humidity set point with a humidifier on the system, in order to avoid frost on the windows. I’ve used this feature with the original ecobee Smart at the Utah house… and it works great.
  • AC overcool to dehumidify: if you don’t have a dehumidifier, you can use your air conditioner to lower humidity when necessary.
  • Free cooling: if you have a whole house fan or a ventilator, the ecobee3 can recognize the temperature difference on cool summer evenings, and use outside to cool the house rather than run the AC. As someone who was begging for this feature for a while, I’m very excited to try this feature out, so look for a follow-up article from me explaining how to wire this up.
  • Vacation mode: allows you to tell your ecobee3 when you’ll be out of town, to save money while you’re gone — and have the house the perfect temperature when you come home.

It Can’t All Be Perfect, Can It?

Of course, no product is perfect. And while the ecobee3 is, in almost every way, a huge upgrade over previous versions, it’s not without some hiccups.

Its first issue, in my opinion, is the necessity to wire any accessories (such as a ventilator, or humidifier, or dehumidifier) all the way to the wall unit. Unless you’re dealing with new construction (where you can run a couple of 5- or 6-conductor wires from where your furnace lives to the wall-mounted location of your thermostat before the drywall is installed), you probably won’t have extra wires running to your thermostat. The first version of the ecobee Smart thermostat had a separate equipment interface module, which you’d install near your furnace (and therefore, probably near other things like humidifiers and de-humidifiers, too). You could easily run a dozen or so wires to the equipment interface to support various equipment, all while only needing to run 4 wires from the utility room to the thermostat location… which you probably already had with your old-school thermostat. The elimination of the equipment interface makes more complex installations… well, that much more complex to install. However, this probably won’t affect the vast majority of the smart thermostat consumer market, so I can’t accuse ecobee of being anything but smart for moving in that direction. I’d guess that 99% of potential ecobee3 customers probably won’t ever need to connect anything other than 4 or 5 wires to their thermostat. For the rest of us, we’ll just have to figure out ways to possibly push management of other systems over to other home automation platforms.

One possible solution to support more advanced setups could be a separate WiFi expansion module. It could work much like the original ecobee equipment interface in that it could be powered by 24V from the furnace (or via a separate wall-plug adapter) and offer multiple connections for auxiliary devices, but it could also communicate over the WiFi network (or maybe even via ecobee’s prioprietary 915Mhz remote sensor network) back to the ecobee3. Wiring issues solved! That idea is free, ecobee — but if you decide to use it, I propose that you call it the “Jenkins Module.” 🙂

I’ve already addressed the minor annoyance of not having the outside temperature visible without needing to touch the screen, but I’ll mention it here again anyway, in the hopes that the ecobee will do something about it… soon. 🙂

Current owners of the ecobee Smart, depending on how long ago they bought it, might be kicking themselves for not waiting until the ecobee3 came out. But that’s the nature of any tech product, and ecobee is throwing existing Smart and Si owners a bone by offering a coupon code free 2-pack of remote sensors (so they’ll end up with a total of three) if they upgrade to the ecobee3.

This next complaint is a stretch, because there’s really nothing to complain about with the ecobee’s touch-screen interface… but I’ll complain anyway. 🙂 I kind of miss the bright colors that were in the original Smart’s interface. Any time you try to make an interface too sleek, you risk taking away some of the “fun.” Of course, mine is s a completely subjective opinion, but I’m going to cross my fingers that in a future software release, perhaps owners will have the option of incorporating some of the bright colors of of the new ecobee web interface into the touch-screen.

Finally, while this isn’t necessarily a drawback of the ecobee3 unit itself, I know that owners of the original ecobee Smart will lament the loss of ZigBee support (which was available via an add-on card on the first-gen thermostat). Again… it’s possible that the ecobee3’s mystery slot will solve that problem, but as of its launch, the ecobee3 does not support the ZigBee HA protocol. The obvious fix is to drop $99 on a SmartThings hub and control your ZigBee devices that way, but I’m certain there will be some that still complain… not to mention the fact that ecobee’s Smart Plugs (which, in their defense, never “technically” came out of beta) are being orphaned by the ecobee3.

But are any of these deal killers? No — particularly since none of these features are currently offered by the ecobee3’s major competition anyway. ecobee has added way more to the ecobee3 than they’ve taken away, and (like I said before), the vast majority of the consumer market won’t ever need what the ecobee3 doesn’t have.

Spec Rundown

Before summing up with my final thoughts, here’s a rundown of the ecobee3’s important specs:

  • MSRP: $249
  • Size: just under 4″ square (100mm to be exact)
  • Compatible with conventional heat and AC, heat pumps (including 2-stage aux heat), gas, oil, electric, dual fuel, humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, HRV, or ERV
  • Wire terminals supported: Rc, Rh, G, C, Y1, Y2, W1 (AUX1), W2 (AUX2), O/B, ACC+, ACC-
  • Thermostat sensors: temperature, motion, proximity, humidity
  • Remote sensor: temperature, motion
  • Power: 24 VAC (connected to Rh/Rc and C)
  • Includes: Power Extender Kit when only 4 wires are avaialble
  • Radios: Wi-Fi, 915 Mhz (for remote sensors), expansion slot for third radio
  • Network: 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 Ghz, supports WEP 64, WEP 128, WPA, and WPA2 encryption, DHCP or static IP addressing, 168 bit SSL encryption
  • Power consumption: less than 3.5 VA
  • Warranty: 3 years

Final Thoughts

As I do with all my product reviews, it’s at this point of the article that I try to boil everything down to the bottom line: is the ecobee3 worth purchasing?

My answer depends on who you are.

If you’re an existing ecobee customer (with a Smart or Si), the answer is “probably.”

You already appreciate all the benefits of a smart thermostat, but you’ll likely want the new features like Follow Me, Smart Home / Away, and maybe even free cooling. And you’ll probably be able to sell your old thermostat on eBay, or maybe to one of your neighbors (especially if you offer to install it for them). 🙂

If you currently own a Nest, the answer is “maybe.”

Whether or not you move from the Nest to the ecobee ecosystem will depend on whether you a) feel the Nest is currently meeting your needs, b) whether or not you feel the Nest’s learning algorithms are working for you, and c) whether you have a significant additional investment in the Nest ecosystem with their smoke detectors.

There’s no denying that the ecobee3 is a direct shot across Nest’s bow, and while the ecobee3 and Nest are pretty much stride for stride with most major product features, the fundamental difference between how the two units operate boils down to whether or not you want (or trust) your thermostat to always be watching and “learning” (Nest), or whether you prefer a predictable schedule right out of the box that’s easy to control, while still being smart enough to make energy-saving choices for you when it knows you’re out of the house (ecobee3).

ecobee is in a position to make a convincing argument that their ecobee3 thermostat is superior to the Nest in a number of important ways, and if anybody out there can successfully crash the Google-owned juggernaut’s party, ecobee looks like they’re dressed up and ready to dance.

If you don’t have any sort of smart thermostat in your house, the answer is “duh.”

If you’re still rocking an old school thermostat (and yes, even an LCD Honeywell qualifies as an old-school thermostat), the ecobee3 is a no-brainer. At $249, the unit will likely pay for itself within the first few years of ownership — and that doesn’t take into account the massive big boost in convenience and comfort that only a smart thermostat can bring.

As for where to buy one, the only place right now is ecobee’s website (they’re taking pre-orders now, and units will start shipping September 29th). You’ll also be able to purchase them through select HVAC contractors, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on big-box retail store shelves very soon.

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below!

The new ecobee3

The new ecobee3 and remote sensor

UPDATE: For details on installing the ecobee3, please check out my How to Install an ecobee3 Smart Thermostat post.

UPDATE #2: See my ecobee3 Review Followup: Two Month Update to see how the ecobee3 has performed after the first two months of ownership.

  • Hi Steve,

    Excellent review of ecobee3 and great unboxing videos! Thanks for the time and effort.

    Ben Cisneros | ecobee

    • rob

      Hello. Im curious, my daughters room is the cold room, so with a sensor in her room, can the sensor tell the thermostat to keep it at a preset temp even though there will not be any detectable motion in that room?

      • Yes, my making sure “Follow Me” is NOT enabled, it will always use that sensor as part of the temperature calculation (instead of “following” you around and optimizing to occupied sensors). If you want it to be the ONLY sensor in the calculation, just turn off the main sensor at the wall unit.

  • Eric

    Good Review! I have a question I hope you or someone else can answer. I would plan on having 3 remote sensors in total. When sleeping I’d like to have the ecobee3 to only read the sensor in the master bedroom and ignore all other sensors. I know the follow me feature is supposed to know I’m in the master bedroom, but what if we move so little while sleeping that it cant detect motion? Is there any setting to tell it to only read from the master bedroom sensor when in the sleep program? Thanks!

    • Hi, Eric. That’s a great question. Since I only had 1 remote sensor to test, I don’t know the answer, but I’ll see if I can get someone at ecobee to chime in.

      • Eric

        Thanks. But if you didn’t see the option to ignore your base station reading and only go off your single remote sensor, then it probably won’t work as I hope.

        • Hi, Eric. I just went and checked on the wall unit. And yes – it appears it IS possible to ignore the wall unit’s sensor. In the “Follow Me” settings menu, I was able to uncheck the “Main Floor” sensor, which left the “Office” sensor (the remote one) as the only one checked. Also, as expected, it then wouldn’t allow me to uncheck the Office sensor — because doing so would mean that no sensors are being used. So I could choose either, or both… but not neither.

          • Eric

            thanks for checking! This sounds promising. Does it look like you could link that setting to a program/schedule? Meaning during the sleep program (11pm to 7am) ignore the base station? When not in that program it would use both potentially. This would be perfect if it worked that way.

          • I’ve emailed my ecobee contact and asked about this. I’ll let you know what I find!

          • Kieran

            Hi Steve, any word yet on whether a “Bedroom” sensor can be isolated during sleep hours or during a particular part of the scheduling so the ecobee3 ignores the main temperature sensor?
            You say that the main can be disabled, but it’s unclear whether that enabling/disabling can be scheduled.
            It seems to me to be a very obvious feature that would save the user big $$. Why heat the whole house when people are sleeping! With the Ecobee3’s extra sensors, that is precisely what you could do — and that is something that all the competing products could not do!

          • Benjamin

            Yes, you can have only the Bedroom sensor(s) setting the Temp while you sleep. You set-up your sleep scheduled times into the ‘Sleep” comfort setting and then uncheck all sensors except the bedroom(s). For myself, this feature was worth the purchase price alone. My quality of sleep has greatly improved with a consistent bedroom temp! My immune system is better, I wake up with less ache & pains and I feel more refreshed.

  • Bob Goodman

    It would have been great for them to accommodate people with ecobee smart units with the equipment interface. Not sure why they couldnt do that. Seems a pretty easy item to implement in software to interpret the signals. It would allow us to easily migrate to it. Not sure I want to spend another wad of cash and throw out and rewire. It makes you wonder how loyal they are to existing customers. People who buy the new model should take that lack of loyalty into consideration.
    As well, will the new app and web interface work with smart models or are we left out of that as well?

    • From what I understand, the new web app does support all previous hardware versions. I’ve also been assured that you can still “group” older units with the newer ones so that they communicate and work in concert.

      Your concern regarding the equipment interface is understandable. In fact, I just updated that section of my article to suggest a wireless expansion module. It could essentially replicate the old equipment interface, but would communicate wirelessly (either via WiFi or the 915Mhz channel used by the remote sensors) to the ecobee3 wall unit.

      • Tim L

        I’m an existing Smart owner and when I log into the web interface, I still get the old UI. Seems I can’t use the new web interface, although the new Ecobee3 apps work for me on both the iPhone and iPad. I’m confused.

        • Just contact Ecobee support. They will walk you through migrating from the old to the new interface. They walked me through it, too. 🙂

          • Tim L

            Contacted ecobee support and things seem a little haphazard there. If I go to the new UI, I lose the Home IQ ability (but the historical data “should” still be there as it is through the thermostat – Huh?). I can wait “a couple of months” and it will be available. Will it happen automatically or do I need to call? I was told both. Just call us every month to see if it is ready. How about a blog posting or notification to customers (through the email that they have) when it is ready? They can’t do that. ecobee is starting to fall down on customer service to existing customers.

  • Bob Goodman

    Thanks. Thats exactly what would welcome users of the smart device into the fold.

  • I am truly impressed with the honest and thorough review. I will look to join your blog if that is available.

    Question: I have an upstairs Thermostat and a downstairs thermostat. I assume I would need to purchase 2 ecobee 3 units to properly heat and cool the house. If only one ecobee is installed upstairs, even if I had a remote sensor downstairs calling for heat, the Ecobee would bring the heat to the upstairs zone. Is that right?
    Thank you!

    • Hi, Brian. You’ll need one ecobee3 thermostat per HVAC unit. I have three floors in my house, each of of them has a separate furnace & AC unit and separate ducting, so I need three thermostats. If you have a “zoned” system, then you’ll probably need one thermostat per zone… although I have no experience with zoned systems.

      A remote sensor is paired with a specific thermostat, so if you wire your upstairs thermostat to the upstairs system, and then tell the upstairs system to “listen” to the remote sensor that you’ve placed downstairs, it will run the upstairs zone until the downstairs sensor is at the right temp. That’s probably not how you want to configure it. Best to keep the remote sensors in the same zone as the thermostat.

      The remote sensors are really not meant to be used to zone-enabled systems.

  • Sean Mccormick

    Great review Steve,
    My question is why no outdoor temp sensor, as in my area the weather is not acurate and I had to instal the remote out door sensor.
    Also I have a water bug connected to my Smart Stat ,I guess if they came out with a wifi expansion module those things could be added.

    • Thanks, Sean. I know that’s an issue for some, and so I’m holding out hope that ecobee will listen to my suggestion of a wireless expansion kit. Something like that would allow the addition of wired sensors (such as an external temp sensor) and relays to the system, but not require it to be wired to the wall unit.

    • Tim L

      Agreed on a local outdoor sensor. I’ve found over almost a year with my Smart that wherever they are sourcing the weather data is often 5+/- degrees different than at my home.

      • Sean Mccormick

        Thanks for the reply Steve , yes my home is about 80m (250 ft)
        above sea levels makes about +- 5 to 6 shift in temp.
        Really do need the outside temp sensor.
        So for the time being will stay with the smart stat .
        But my inner geek wants the new stat.
        The little women is shaking her head !!

  • Bilious_Bill

    Hi Steve,
    If you get around to doing a head-to-head comparison of the Ecobee3, Nest, and Lyric, don’t forget to include the Lennox iComfort. That’s the common one around here, at least with retrofits, because as homeowners replace old furnaces, most of the local contractors seem to be quoting on Lennox and then they throw in the iComfort as a bonus.

  • Nik

    Hey Steve, great review!

    Question.. Do you know if the motion sensors can avoid pets under a certain weight limit like most alarm company motion sensors? It seems like the away feature wont work if the motion sensors dont have a pet avoidance threshold.

    • Hi, Nik. I don’t know the specs of the motion sensors, however I haven’t noticed it to be an issue in my testing so far (and we have a dog and a cat). Neither of them spend much time in my office, however. I’ll ask my ecobee contacts for a specific answer.

  • Hey Steve – great review. One question: It looks like I will need to use the PEK. Would that just then be tucked into the wall right behind the thermostat?

    • Hi, Dan. Actually, the PEK is designed to be hidden inside the wiring area of your furnace. The PEK needs five wires connected to it, and then it connects via four wires to the thermostat… so if you had the five wires available at the wall behind the thermostat, you don’t even need to use the PEK. I’m actually writing a “how-to” post for installing the ecobee3, which will explain exactly how to wire up the PEK. Watch for it coming soon! 🙂

      • Thanks awesome Steve, looking forward to it. Thanks for being so responsive to everyone’s questions!

  • Thad

    Thank you for this excellent review. Personally, I had been planning to buy the SMART. I still might. As much as I like the improvements of the Ecobee3 , one of my reasons for buying the SMART was to take full advantage of the capabilities of my HVAC system. I have a humidifier for the winter, and the furnace can adjust the fan speed to maximize dehumidification when needed in the summer. It seems with the Ecobee3, I have to pick one or the other, or reconfigure everything in between heating and cooling seasons. And, I’ll need to run additional wires in the existing wall, instead of just hooking up the equipment interface. I’m on the fence.

    • JD

      Hey Steve, great review! My question is similar to Thad’s. We live in CO so a humidifier in the winter is almost a necessity, which we have. But, I have also been considering a ventilator for the free cooling and indoor air quality. We have been a SMART owner since almost the beginning and the EI works very well. But I am most intrigued by the occupancy awareness. My family doesn’t have a very consistent schedule. While it is clear the ecobee3 can control either one, it appears that it can only control one or the other given the single aux connection. Did you find this to be the case? It sounds that way from your review. Or if these devices are wired into the furnace’s control board will ecobee3 sense that and allow control of the devices?

  • Thanks for the great review! I have three Smart Si running on a zoned Lennox system and the lessons we’ve learned about our heating and cooling system though the data have been fascinating and money saving. Was waiting for a new model as I am one of the customers that didn’t want to mess with the equipment interface, I have all the wires right there at the thermostat. So does the ecobee3 support a dry contact for a water sensor alarm in a condensate drip pan? It appears so.

  • JR

    Great review. As a current owner of 2 ecobee I love them. My original one keeps burning out the interface board. So I am upgrading to the new3. I AGREE WEATHER ON HOME SCREEN AND ALSO A FULL WEEK OF WEATHER ON THE WEATHER SCREEN. ???? if you are sleeping in the bedroom and no motion how does it sense to use this as the primary temperature sensor.??? My bedroom in Florida gets hot at night and I am always getting up to set the thermostat cooler

    • Bilious Bill

      Your post, JR, isn’t the only one asking about motion sensing during sleep, but I don’t quite get it. Generally speaking, I’m at home at night, and so my thermostat (the iLennox that came with the furnace) is programmed for minimum 15°C (59°F) at night in the winter and 25°C (77°F) maximum during summer nights. I just don’t have the in/out activity at night that I have during the day, so occupancy sensing when I’m in bed just isn’t an issue. If we are away for an extended time, I switch the thermostat to the “Away” setting, and if I forget then I can do it via the internet. I’d find occupancy sensing (or more precisely sensing of non-occupancy) during the day a great benefit, but just don’t see its value at night when the house is virtually always occupied.

  • Roy

    Awesome review. Thank you very much! I hope Amazon starts selling this unit as soon as it comes up. I have a few gift cards that would cover the purchase!

  • As an existing user I also said to put the outdoor weather on top of the little sun or whatever. I can looks out the window to tell if it is sunny, but I can’t gauge the temp easily.

    I hope the old click and select interface is still there as making little tweaks was soon easy Via the Web.

  • glen

    I was thinking the same thing about the colors in the interface — maybe they can work on adding theme packages to it. We picked up a Smart Si in May for our new home and will probably stay with it — smallish ranch that really just doesn’t need the occupancy sensors. And plenty of other fixxer upper projects to spend money on. 😛

    (not that my inner nerd tech lust doesn’t have me reading ecobee3 reviews like crazy)

  • Pat

    SO, I am curious as I am wanting to buy one of these. How is the device functioning? With the sensor in action do you see your air system running more? temp is comfortable?

    • Temp is definitely more comfortable, but because Home IQ isn’t released yet, I don’t have data to compare AC run times. That said, it’s getting cooler in Seattle now, and so the AC would be running less anyway.

  • Not sure if I noticed it or read anyone asking. Does your log in account have access to the temperature recordings over months? I really want the ability to monitor my temp patterns year over year. I’m not a ecobee user so I wouldn’t know. Thanks, and great review!

  • mag

    This was an excellent review, thanks a lot for your time and detailed explanation!

  • Hi Again. It is a rainy Saturday in Vermont so a perfect day to install my just arrived Ecobee with 3 remotes. When I removed my thermostat cover hoping to find 5 wires, I actually find 7!
    Red, Yellow, Green, White, Orange, Blue and the jumper from RH to RC. I read that the jumper wire is not needed but does my Orange AND Blue go into the Ecobee O/B slot. Just do not want to mess it up trying top place 2 wires into one hole. Thanks

    • Hi, Brian. Apart from calling ecobee directly, the best place for peer-based support would be over on (a discussion forum that I moderate). I’m certain someone over there can answer your question. 🙂

  • John

    As a current Nest owner I find they really don’t listen to there customers so I think it’s about time to move on. To me Nest only looks at energy saving features even if it sacrifices comfort.

    The hold feature is very simple and the way its implemented is great, Nest could add this but nope they are just full of themselves and just continue to ignore the customer(well before the google merger)

    Anyways end rant and onto questions.

    1.) is there a fan only mode? i.e. AC, Heat, AC/Heat and lastly Fan only. Right now here we have the windows open as the temps are cool enough not to run the AC but would like to run the fan to keep the house cool.
    2.) House has an HRV that I would like to hook up can I also add a humidifier? I remember reading it only supports one extra device?
    3. Is the maintenance band adjustable? My biggest issue with the Nest is the non-adjustable band. In the night we like to keep the house cooler but the AC never runs do to the 1F difference, the Nest is in the hallway and during the night the rooms can get really warm but the hallway only drops 0.5 or less. I find the temps in the house are either to warm or to cold coz when it cools it will cool for an hour beyond it set points and never come on again and when it needs to cool it will just sit there waiting for the temp to get higher than what I would like.

    • Yes, there is a fan only mode. And yes, the ecobee3 only supports one AUX device (the original Smart supported up to three). The remote sensors I think will address your maintenance band issue. You can choose to make it comfortable where you are, and not necessarily where the thermostat is.

      • John

        wow fast reply, yes i’m sure the remote sensor would resolve the temp issues to an extent. But I still worry if the band is not adjustable and this seems to be the case on the spec sheet and its +/- 1F, so it’s not adjustable?

        Already wasted $250 on the Nest and don’t really want to spend more money on something like a thermostat that should last 10 years. wonder if they will be available at retail stores so I can try it.

        The single AUX is a disappointment, wonder if the extra port they have can be for another AUX device.

        Will the ecobee work with different dinners and motion sensors, specially Insteon or wemo?

        • When you say “band” are you referring to whether or not it waits until it’s a full 1 degree above/below the set-point before it calls for heat/cool? Also, I don’t believe the ecobee works with different motion sensors, as it uses its own 900Mhz channel to track those, and it requires them to have both temp and motion capabilities.

        • David

          John, I just double checked on the 3. The variation allowed for maintenance band can be set individually for heating and cooling in a range of +/- 0.5F to 3.0F. The default was 0.5F the same as I chose for my Smart Si. I can live with the 0.7F on the Nest for heat, but 1.0F on cooling is hard to tolerate. The Lyric is preset at 0.5F and has performed well in that regard. I agree that it’s a big problem when the user has no choice. (And when the company devalues the customer needs.)

          • John

            let me just clarify so the maintenance IS adjustable for both heat and cooling up to 3F in +/- 0.5 increments? This is what I think your saying and if so gonna use the Nest as a hockey puck in the winter.

            Yes the heating season with the Nest is fine, the cooling season is horrible. Most nights we had to turn the AC way down and schedule it to drop 0.5 every few hours so it kicked in at night.

            Also I was watching a CNet review and it said the touch screen is not very responsive, is this true or possibly they got a bad unit?

          • The older Smart touch-screen was a bit tricky. But this new screen? Totally fine. I haven’t had any touch-screen issues at all. Feels like a smart phone.

          • JR

            Hi I just bought an ecobee 3 to replace my original ecobee that just failed for the 2nd time. I also own the ecobee si..
            Pros it works really well. Love the remote sensor
            Cons No weather temp unless hit the icon.
            Had to install a new thermostat line as the power module they put with it according to my technician does not totally work a 2 stage a/c
            LCD has small viewing angle ie not bright if off center.
            Room occupancy sensor not certain it will work during the night to keep the bedroom cold without me moving my hand or other body part near it, if just lying in bed not certain it is enough
            I wish they had kept with the rectangular shape , having a big back plate or painting not great.
            I wish that the “full color” screen was like my original one in all its glory instead of mainly black with white digits.
            Not certain it is an upgrade for me but the bedroom is staying cooler in the Fl night without me getting up to readjust which is a definite plus

  • Aaron M

    Hi – I live in an 105+ year old home with a two wire “dumb thermostat.” Because of the “character” of the old place, it will be prohibitively expensive to run new 4- or 5-conductor wire from the basement (home of the natural gas boiler) up to the thermostat location on the second floor.

    I was looking at the wireless Honeywell series-6000 system that installs at the furnace and utilizes a “wireless” thermostat that you can move from room-to-room (but which I was planning to just keep in the current ‘stat location). Think I can do that with the Ecobee? That is, install the main control head in the boiler room, and utilize the include remote sensor as the main temp gathering source? I would control the temps with my android plug-in.

    • Yes, Aaron. You can totally do that. You simply tell the ecobee3 not to monitor the temperature probe on the wall unit, and only “trust” the remote sensor(s).

  • Pingback: Review: ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat - Smart Thermostat Guide()

  • Good Read

  • mag

    Hello Steve, really thanks a lot for all this work and explanation, it was really useful for me! I will install an ecobee3 this week-end. One question where I need your help : Can i use 2 remote temperature sensors at once and de-activate the temperature probe on the wall unit? because I am more interested in the temperature of a room (my home office) and them family room, which are a little far from the wall unit. Thanks in advance!

  • John

    me again, just finished installing it and I don’t see where i can adjust the maintenance band or put the ecobee into just fan only. I see Heat, cool and auto, there is a seprate section for fan control, but will this work if i turn the system of and just want the fan?

  • Sean

    Do you know if the Ecobee 3 can also be partnered with devices like the HAI\Leviton water heater control?

    • Hi, Sean. As of right now, the ecobee3 doesn’t connect via ZigBee or Z-wave with anything else where it could directly “control” the HAI water heater control as did the original ecobee Smart. But the way I see things going now is toward centralized integration using smart hubs (like the Vera or SmartThings hubs). Those can communicate via the ecobee API to currently control the original Smart in concert with the HAI unit, and my contacts tell me the ecobee3 API support is not far away.

  • mike

    Hi Steve,

    I have a 2 story home. Can the ecobee 3 be programed to use diferent temp sensors through the day? For example can it turn the heater and ac on and off based on the units temp reading on the main floor from 6 am to 10 pm and then switch to the 2nd floor temp sensor from 10pm to 6 am?

    Basically can you choose which sensor it uses theought the day or does it just use the highest or lowest temp of all twmp sensors?

    Also, any issues with how responsive the touch screen is?


    • Hi, Mike. I haven’t been able to tinker with different sensors used on different programs yet, because I only have one temp sensor in use currently. I plan on getting some more and testing that out.

      And no, I’ve had zero issues with the touch screen sensitivity. It works great — and is a big improvement over the screen on ecobee’s original Smart Thermostat.

  • Tom M

    Excellent report! I have had the ecobee Smart Thermostat for just over a year and like it very much. Your report means the ‘3’ will soon be installed. One question, in programming can the time be set to 24 hour?

    • John

      yes it can

  • Sam

    Thank you for the phenomenal review!

    Think I’ll take the plunge into smart thermostat and ecobee3 is my top choice because of you.

    I’m planning on moving and selling the house in a few years. If I decided to leave the ecobee behind, what would the handover be like? Can I reset/delete my account and let the new owner set up his/her account? (Ecobee website isn’t very helpful.)

    • Yes. You just remove it from your account on, and then it’s all ready for someone else to re-register with a new account.

      • Sam

        Thank you Steve! Placed the order yesterday. Exciting time!

  • Adrian

    Hi Steve,
    I have few questions (ecobee 3 with three remote sensors):
    Will the remote sensors pick up the motion of your pets if you are away from the house and keep the temperature higher than it should be?
    You did not mentioned what is happening at night during “Sleep” mode? At my house the bedrooms on the north side gets considerable colder than the ones on the south side. How is the thermostat controlling if the sensors do not detect any motion?
    Thank you.

  • Scott

    Very good review. I hope I did not miss this info in your review: Once the Ecobee3 thermostats sees movement in a room, how long does it assume it is being used? I am hoping someone walking into a room would not turn it on for 2 to 4 hours. And vice versa… once someone leave a room, how long before it assumes it is unoccupied?

    • Good questions, Scott. I don’t the answers, but I’ll try to find out!

      • Scott

        Steve – were you able to catch up with Ecobee and ask how long the thermostat goes into OCCUPIED mode for once it senses movement in the room or how much movement is required for it to be considered OCCUPIED? Without this information it is hard to really gauge what this thermostat can do for us in terms of saving energy. One quick run upstairs to grab something may crank on the upstairs unit for several hours when really it is not occupied.

  • Bernard Bergeron

    Hi Steve,

    I am currenty shopping and therefore have been reading reviews on wifi and smart thermostats for the last three weeks and yours is the absolute best I’ve seen – if only to get a complete grasp of the thermostat’s possibilities. If you are not getting retribution of any kind from Ecobee, well, they should

    • Thanks! Glad the review was helpful. Ecobee provided the review unit, but it’s better that they provide no renuneration beyond that, or it couldn’t have been an objective review. 🙂

      • Bernard Bergeron

        I have a question though… Your experience with it seems to be flawless. The CNET review mentioned connectivity and app/web interface among other problems. I am curious to know if anything came up since you reviewed the Ecobee3?

        I just built a country home with a good deal of large windows in the Charlevoix (Quebec) region and winter can be very cold. I need to rely on the connectivity and frost control feature among other things (it’s an air pulsed system). I’d appreciate your take on that.

        Thanks and best regards,


        • Hey, Bernard. I’ve used the frost control algorithms on my Utah house (which is below freezing for many days in winter), and it works very well — once you figure out the right efficiency setting for your windows through a little trial and error.

          I’ve also seen those reports, but I haven’t personally had any serious issues with the app connectivity, except for a few times where I had to “refresh” when it asked me to try again. However, that hasn’t happened to me for a couple of weeks now, so either I’m getting lucky or they’ve addressed the issue.

          • Bernard Bergeron

            Thank you Steve – they must have addressed the issues obviously. I’ve seen posts by Stuart Lombard (or at least signed by him) in forums to reply to complaints and invite to contact custumer service… That says a lot about the company’s desire to see their product succeed.

            Of course, as much of the tech stuff that comes and vanishes, I hope the support for this thermostat will last… I am old enough to expect it to last my lifetime… Oh well, the times they are a-changing.

            Anyway, will be giving it a try, too tempting to pass.

            Thanks for the input and kindness. It made a difference in my decision to purchase.


  • Very thorough and thoughtful review, I very much enjoyed reading it.

    If I may make one suggestion, and it has nothing to do with this review specifically, it’s to make sure your blog posts include a date at the top. While the URL is “friendly” showing 2014/09, there is nothing on the page to allow me to easily discern the date of the posting. With that in mind, it’s difficult to obtain context and perspective when you write something like “Earlier this week,”

    Which week? 🙂

    • Hi, Bruno. I’ve been considering a template change for my blog that included the publishing date of the article. Your comment was the nudge I finally needed to install it. Wish granted! 🙂

  • Scott

    Any word when Home IQ will be rolled out for Ecobee3? One of the big reasons for purchasing was the ability to analyze data. Website seems to say Q4 2014 but I’m getting impatient.

    • None yet. I think we’re all holding our breath waiting for it!

  • Eric: I sent Ecobee a looong email asking the *exact* same question, and explaining the use case, and pleading that it ought to be possible given it’s so obvious all the necessary hardware is present.

    The very nice response I got said that what we are asking is not possible with the initial firmware, but they would think about it. I would say that you should send Ecobee your request directly, if they get enough people asking for it they presumably would implement it eventually.

    The way I described the problem to them was simple: during sleep hours, I want the thermostat to ignore all sensors except my daughter’s room.

    There were two ways to come close, but not quite get there:
    1) use “follow me”. Once my daughter is in her room for the night, at the very least the thermostat should average it in, which will push the temp in that direction (but not get all the way there). At some point during the night, the downstairs sensor should stop registering human presence, and then for the rest of the night it should operate on the upstairs temperature exclusively.
    2) Just use averaging mode, which doesn’t rely on detecting her presence, but will never 100% focus on her room.

    A final way to trick it would be to get an additional pair of sensors ($$) and put all three in the kid’s room, and use “follow me”. When presence is detected there, it should heavily weight towards that room. I would not want to pay the extra money for the sensors to do it this way, though.

    Despite the limitation, I’m inclined to get one of these things anyway. Solution #1 will still be better than what I have now, which is no sensoring at all of the upstairs. Fortunately my house doesn’t deviate *too* much between upstairs and downstairs, but it’s enough that I’d like to do something about it.

    The Redlink remote (Honeywell) seems to offer a manual “only use this sensor” control, so you could click it at night and focus the sensoring on a bedroom. But I much prefer everything else about the Ecobee3, and also would prefer this operation to be automatic.

  • Awesome review, thanks! I had some of the same questions: 1) when I’m asleep can it just use the sensor in my room and will it use it all night? 2) I have a dual fuel system an currently set the “break point” on my thermostat to tell it what outdoor temp to switch from electric to gas. How will I set this point with this system? Currently I set it at 36. When it gets below 36 outside my system will flip to gas. This is a hard wired component that comes back to the thermostat I’m assuming.

    • The ecobee3 doesn’t have the ability to use remote sensors differently based on the program (Sleep vs. Home), but I know they’re looking at that. To answer your “break point” question, go to Menu->Settings->Installation Settings->Thresholds->Compressor Min Outdoor Temp.

  • Thomas Wolf

    I wonder whether/how the ecobee3 (or any “smart” thermostats) handle multiple heating/cooling units and zones? I have three physical HVAC systems and 5 “zones”. In other words, I have 5 thermostats in the house. Would I be expected to buy 5 “smart” thermostats? At $250 a pop, I’m afraid that will never happen.

    Granted, my situation is a bit extreme, but many modern homes have two HVACs and multiple zones.

    • To the best of my knowledge, none of them do. They are “single zone” units, only. The multi-zone units are generally specific per manufacturer.

  • Lewis Thompson

    Awesome review. Thanks for posting this. I also think you made a sale !

  • Kevin

    The Ecobee 3 is an upgrade to the Si, but not the Smart version. I have the Smart Thermostat and I have connected: humidifier, dehumidifier, wire outdoor temp, discharge temp, liquid line temp, duct humidity sensor, flood sensor, smart plugs monitoring UV lamps. I can monitor the whole system and see when something is not right. The Ecobee 3 is not capable enough for me. It is a different category from the smart. It is aimed at consumers who know little about HVAC.

  • Eric Brown

    I heard back from the Ecobee and they confirmed that they ARE working on a solution that allows you to set the thermostat to “Use Bedroom sensor while in Sleep mode”, “Use Main floor sensor while in Home mode”, etc… He said it will be available via a software update at some point. That’s great news!

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  • Steve

    Awesome insight Steve. If I use this in an apartment, can it be locked so tenant’s can’t adjust the temp?

  • Sean Mccormick

    Hello Steve did Ecobee and Apple discontinue the apps for the Smart stat (older one ) ?
    All I see are apps for the new stat and for me it doesn’t have all the features that the old one does.
    Just trying to set up a new iPad and can’t find the older app ??? Any help would be great Bud!
    Cheers .

  • Hi Steve. I’m probably going to ask you as question I should be asking ecobee, but I thought I’d give it a go since you seem to know a ton about the device and have been extremely helpful in helping others with their questions.

    I am considering something like the ecobee to heat a small home in the mountains. We have baseboard radiant heating and three separate zones (master bedroom, guest room and office, and kitchen/living room) each with their own thermostat. I’m not a super hands on guy, so I am curious to know if you think a single ecobee would do the trick. Gut tells me I would want to put sensors where the thermostats are now to control those same zones. Does it work this way or am I stuck controlling out system with three basic thermostats?

    • Hi, Brian. The remote sensors don’t allow true zone control. They only allow for optimization within a single zone. So yes, you’ll need three thermostats.

      • Thanks for your comment. This helps a ton. So tell me this, how does a device like this control, say heat output to a sensor that is showing a cold room? It seems like an all or nothing situation, heating that cold room, but also heating those rooms that might be a fine temperature. Thanks again.

        • I actually talk about this more in my 2-month follow-up review, but the basic idea is that it will run the heat (or cooling) until THAT sensor reaches the set point, meaning other parts of the house could be warmer or cooler. That’s why having multiple sensors, and using “Follow Me” is what I do. With multiple sensors, it averages the readings, and while you won’t get exactly what you want in each individual room, it’s closer… and therefore more comfortable overall. For example, it might just be 1F higher in a bedroom, and 1F cooler in the kitchen, rather than perfect in the kitchen and 2F higher in the bedroom.

  • suhas

    How many periods (or time-temperature settings) can I program in a day? THermostats normally have 4 periods per day. Does Ecobee3 allow more periods per day?

    Also, does the smart Si thermostat work with remote sensors? Thanks.

    • I’m pretty sure the ecobee3 allows more than 4, but not sure of the upper limit (if there is one). The Smart Si does not work with the remote sensors — it doesn’t have the 915Mhz antenna to “hear” them.

    • I have at least 4 set up and have found it a little tricky. You basically have 3 modes (Home, Sleep, and Away). For instance you may have Home – 74 degrees, Sleep – 72 degrees, and Away – 78 degrees. Then you can say from 8AM to noon I’m Home, noon to 4 PM I’m Away, etc. If you wanted to schedule it to 77 at some point in the day, you can’t do that unless you change one of your Home/Sleep/Away modes. I set mine up this way and turned the motion sensors OFF because I use 2 different temperatures while I’m at home during the day. Let me explain… even though I’m at home I have to trick it and use the Away setting to get a different temperature. If you have the motion sensors turned on it will sense that you are home and revert to the Home setting.

      • Thanks Eric for your comments. Can you add more modes in ecobee3? Ecobee’s technical folks mentioned that more modes can be added (maximum about 70). I prefer 5 modes each day and want to confirm that before purchasing the unit. Thanks.

        • Hi, Shelukar. I actually use 5 modes on one of my ecobee3 units, so I know it’s true. 🙂

          • I have 5 schedules for a single day but they are using the 3 modes of Home/Sleep/Away. If you can add more modes besides Home, Sleep, and Away then that would be perfect. I must have missed that in my setup. Steve, how do you add extra modes?

          • You can add more in the Comfort Settings screen (on the device, mobile app, or web interface).

          • Thanks Steve! I couldn’t find it on the iOS app, but did find it on the website so I’ve added more modes which makes so much more sense now. Thanks again.

  • Mike McGuire

    New Ecobee user here. Just purchased the Ecobee3 and installed about a week ago. LOVE it so far.
    One feature that I would like added that haven’t seen anyone comment on would be the ability to set a return to your normal program at a specific time. So when you change the temperature manually (and if you have the prompt setting to ask you each time) one of the options would be a drop down box of sorts that you would select a time to return to the normal program. I would find this useful if you were normally home at this time but say you were going to a sporting event (and you are going to be gone more than 4 hours). You could lower the temperature and tell it to return to the normal schedule at 9:30pm or whatever time you think you’ll return.
    The other thing I’ve noticed is that you can only set your comfort settings in 30 minute increments on the hour and half hour. I would like to see this at a minimum of 15 minutes as 30 minutes doesn’t offer much flexibility. Maybe I’m being too picky here but if I leave my house at 7:10 each morning I have to set the Away setting to start at 7:30 which results in 20 minutes of extra use each day. If I set it for 7:00 it will detect that I am home (between 7:00 and 7:10) and change the program back accordingly resulting in additional unneeded use.

    • Hi, Mike. Welcome to the Hive! 🙂

      The “Vacation” mode will accomplish your first request. You can have a “vacation” start and end on the same day.

      Also, scheduled “Away” modes actually include 1 hour delay before the motion sensors will allow Auto Home kicks in. Try scheduling your Away program to start at 7:00AM and see if that works!

      Finally, I’d like to invite you to join the forums at I set up the site to help users figured out creative solutions to exactly these kinds of issues (a few ecobee employees unofficially participate over there, too). That’s actually where I learned about the 1 hour motion delay! 🙂

      • Mike McGuire

        Well, I’m now 2 weeks in and as much as I want to love this thermostat I can’t say that I do, YET (I’m hopeful). I’m now on my second unit. The first was replaced by Ecobee because it would change to SmartHome (SH) at exactly 8:00 each morning (which is one hour after my Away period starts) with no movement detected on any of my 3 sensors or the tstat itself. I would find it in SH through the app or online and cancel it so it went back to my schedule. Exactly 2 hours after I cancelled SH it would return to SH mode. This went on every day, all day while in Away mode. Tech support (who has been wonderful by the way!) had updated the firmware to the latest version and run diagnostics on it and determined the tstat to be faulty. They said it was experiencing “phantom touches” causing the tstat to think someone was home even though no motion was detected. They sent me a new unit. I installed on Monday night and have had the EXACT same problem with this second unit the last two days. Just spoke with support and they updated the firmware and said let’s see what happens. So that is where I stand at this point.
        Also, with this new unit one of my sensors keeps losing it’s connection. I never had that problem with the first unit. It is in the exact same spot. Maybe the firmware update will fix that.
        All other features about this tstat are amazing though. I love that it controls my humidifier as well so I don’t have to have that big ugly humidistat on the wall. Other than the recent issue, the sensors work perfectly and were my main draw to the Ecobee. I’ve been very pleased with them. I’ll keep you updated.

  • Tom

    Looking forward to hearing how the ecobee3 controls a whole house fan. I’ve read you’re not suppose to run AC during the day and whole house fan at night because the WHF will draw in humid air at night and the AC will cool that humidity and could cause mold if that happens repeatedly. But perhaps the ecobee3 knows a way around this?

  • DF

    Hi there. Thanks for the detailed review. I’m wondering if the potentially missing Zigbee card on the Ecobee3 is the magic that used to make it talk to smart meters? I have a Nest, and am thinking about using an Ecobee3 to combine a smart thermostat and a real-time listener to smart meter data. Could you share your experience or knowhow about this particular feature of the E3? Thanks again.

    • ecobee hasn’t announced whether the ecobee3 will support ZigBee, ZWave, or perhaps some other HA technology yet. But there is an add-on port in the ecobee3 that’s waiting for SOMETHING!

  • David

    This is an excellent review! It’s been a great experience for me so far and I’m looking forward to our hot summer to see if I definitely can save some money. I just received the recent update and love the new HomeIQ launch page that tries to give me an idea of how much I’ve saved since first installing and each month from here on out. One of my favorite features in the AC Overcool, but I’m still tinkering with it. We don’t have a dehumidifier on our unit, but this feature should help some since our Florida whether can become horrendously humid in the most heated periods of our year.

    Here’s hoping we’ll be sharing the good news with everyone as you did on how wonderful this product is…especially with its sensors (which is what sold me in the first place!). So far, the support they provide is incredible and as I’m slowly learning the ins and outs, I’m becoming an expert Ecobee-hiver too!

  • David

    Based on my extensive troubleshooting over the past few weeks with the Ecobee, I’m revising my review. A large section of this review is one of my most recent emails to their tech support because that email documents my findings which are still consistent with the intial review.

    In summary, I recommend this product with reservations. It has some really nice features, and many people seem to be having very good luck with it. In reading other reviews, I’m also seeing that a few people are seeing problems that are consistent with my findings and recommendations to Ecobee.

    THE GOOD: Attractive on the wall, can control basic functions from smartphone, works well for heating function. Remote sensors provide temperature and occupancy data for multiple rooms. Will overcool to adjust humidity.

    THE BAD: Temperature on main thermostat always reads 2-3 degrees high. It is not clear if the bias adjustment which is accessed via the menu applies to only the wall mounted sensor, or to the averaged temperature reading across all sensors. The wall mounted thermostat does not have many holes for ventilation, so temperature response is slow (side by side comparision with old mechanical thermostat). Not all functions are avalable via smartphone. No geo-fencing capability. Not possible to have different setpoints/ranges for specific sensors.

    THE REALLY BAD: When AC is running the thermostat itself gets hot which makes thermostat think the room is much hotter than it is. As a result, AC runs excessively, and thermostat does not control temperature. I “fixed” this by purchasing and installing a mechanical relay board. (more detailed info below)

    Here is a very recent email to Ecobee support (after numerous interactions troubleshooting the last few weeks).

    =================== Begin Email ===================

    I’m disappointed in your last email response saying that “we conclude there seems to be an air flow/draft influence affecting the t-stat sensor only.” This is simply not supported by the data and several tests that we have both reviewed over the past few days.

    Primarily, I direct you to a test from two or three emails ago in which I manually jumpered at the furnace to start the AC. With the jumper in place, the Ecobee wall thermostat showed a drop in temperature as soon as the AC turned on. Without the jumper–when the Ecobee thermostat itself calls for cooling–the wall thermostat shows an INCREASE in temperature. This test by itself shows that air flow patterns are not an issue.

    Additionally, for the last several days of testing I’ve placed the remote sensor and old thermostat mounted on the wall within inches of the Ecobee thermostat. Both the old thermostat and remote sensor show that the temperature in that location immediately goes DOWN when the Ecobee calls for cooling. The Ecobee3 wall thermostat (both the original I purchased and replacement you sent) shows incorrectly that the temperature goes UP when the Ecobee calls for cooling. This divergence in temperature at the same location also support the conclusion that the thermostat itself is the issue.

    For an additional test on my theory that the thermostat electronics are overheating, today I added a mechanical relay board (Temco MRB-4) to isolate the Ecobee thermostat from the furnace/compressor. This relay board serves to remove the compressor contactor load from the thermostat. You can see from this afternoon’s temperature trends, when the AC starts, the temperature reading of the wall thermostat drops as it should (exactly what happened when I manually jumpered the R-Y wires at the furnace). The thermostat FETs may be rated for 2 amps, but in practice the Ecobee wall thermostat overheats with a 0.25 amp load and shows an incorrectly high temperature.

    The reason this thermostat overheating problem is not seen during heating cycles is that the current draw for a heating call is near 0 amps. Still, the current draw of 0.25 amps for the AC contactor is well within acceptable range for residential AC equipment.

    There is absolutely no doubt that the Ecobee thermostat itself is getting hot (and producing inaccurate readings) when it turns on the AC compressor.

    I’ve spent significant time over the past several days testing, and most of my interactions with Ecobee support have been explaining basic testing results. I have an engineering degree and significant experience with process control instrumentation. I know how to interpret temperature readings and troubleshoot to identify cause & effect. I find it hard to believe that Ecobee support is having trouble interpreting these same results.

    I have read about other customers who have also been frustrated that their Ecobee3 didn’t work and that Ecobee support kept insisting this was due to “air drafts”. I have no interest in legal action personally, but to me this sounds like fertile grounds for a class action suit. Consumers who are also experiencing this issue will be receive higher cooling bills than they should. Adding more remote sensors would indeed help average the temperature readings and thus compensate for inaccurate readings at the wall thermostat–but this is passing along the expense of poor design to customers while generating even more revenue for Ecobee.

    At this point, I am going to research alternatives because I do not believe any further troubleshooting is going to be beneficial. If I do not find a better alternative, I may end up keeping the Ecobee thermostat since now with the addition of the MRB-4, that resolves the overheating problem. However, since I will have to use the bias adjustment to alter the wall thermostat reading, the remote sensor will not be of much use. This is really disappointing for a product that is so expensive.

    In summary, my recommendation is that Ecobee do the following:
    1. Review the design of the thermostat. There is not enough ventilation on the wall thermostat. There are only a few tiny holes on the bottom of the thermostat, and thus the thermostat has a slow response to changes in room temperature. Additionally, this lack of ventilation on the thermostat contributes to overheating of the thermostat itself leading to inaccurate temperature readings.

    2. Review the “complex temperature correction algorithms”. They’re not working.

    3. Consider reworking the unit to incorporate mechanical relays instead of FETs. I first became aware of mechanical relay boards while researching this problem and finding so many Nest owners have experienced FET failures and consequently had to replace their AC system. Replacing FETs with relays will make the wall thermostat bigger, but it will reduce issues with overheating and will greatly reduce the risk of AC system damage due to FET failure.

    4. Review support procedures and training. The tests I conducted and conclusions are fairly basic for anyone with control system experience. I will give Ecobee the benefit of the doubt that the support team is not knowledgeable, rather than suggest that they are intentionally providing incorrect and misleading information.

    5. IF there’s a way to specify temperature bias for individual sensors, please let me know. I have seen with two different Ecobee thermostats that the remote sensor reads correctly, and the wall thermostat reads too high. It appears if I configure a bias adjustment via the wall thermostat, it affects all readings, and not just the wall thermostat. More sensors simply provide more averaging to lessen the effect of the single incorrect reading on the wall thermostat, but that’s not a very good solution.

    5. Add geofencing capabilities to determine if users are home/away. There are not many thermostats that offer this, this but I have found that relying only on the wall mounted thermostat and remote sensor to detect home/away is not sufficient.

    =================== End of Email ===================

    All in all, this thermostat has potential, but there are some fundamental design flaws which cause incorrect temperature readings and cause the AC to run excessively. I’ve tested two Ecobee3 thermostats and they both exhibit the same characteristics, so this wasn’t a fluke with a single defective unit. Although the Ecobee support team was responsive, it was frustrating having the same conversation with them repeatedly in which they insisted the incorrect temperature readings were being caused by air leaking from the wall cavity. I was able to prove this was not the case, and “fix” that issue by inserting a manual relay board to isolate the thermostat. I think this is beyond most consumers’ capabilities. I will probably end up keeping the Ecobee thermostat, simply because I don’t see other alternatives on the market that have fewer problems.

    My take is that the remote temperature sensors are just a gimmick for 99% of the people who will receive them. If the main thermostat works, then the rest of the house is typically going to follow once the air ducts are balanced properly. The only benefit I personally see for the remote sensors is to let the unit know I’m still at home if I don’t pass by the main wall unit periodically. Lyric handles this with geofencing on the smart phone, and Nest doesn’t have it but can be enabled by Skylark app. In the end, it’s important to figure out how the extra features are actually going to work for YOUR lifestyle. A useful feature for one person is a gimmick or even a nuisance for another.

    I did not purchase the Nest because for a few reasons. I have an irregular schedule and there’s no way that Nest could just figure it out. Nest has a 3 degree temperature swing–which is too large for comfort. Most importantly, I did not want a Nest thermostat because there are too many reports of FET failure which can cause the AC compressor to run for days/months nonstop and seize up (which means at least a couple grand to replace it on top of all the electricity wasted in the meantime).

    • Mike

      I just found your review of Ecobee and appreciate the recent follow up. I previously had two Nest thermostats installed in my home and went through (4) FET failures- two on each thermostat. Near the end of March I purchased and installed Ecobee3 stats. We are now entering the cooling season and I will monitor the temp readings more closely when running the air conditioning- on the lower level anyway. Unfortunately, a FET failure during the winter toasted my AC compressor for the upper level. Through troubleshooting on the Nest forums months ago, I was directed to install mechanical relays, so each furnace has them now. They are the same Temco MRB-4 relays you mentioned in your writing. Obviously the mechanical relays did not prevent the FET failures for me.

      As far as heating goes, I’ve found the Ecobee3 with extra sensors has helped immensely in maintaining a comfortable temperature on the upper level. Because the heat from downstairs has an effect on the actual thermostat, I’ve disabled it’s participation and only have the remotes active. Our guest bedroom would get as low as 60 degrees with the Nest thermostat, with the heat set at 68 degrees! Now, I have the Ecobee3 set at 66 during sleep mode, and the coldest the guest room gets is 64. The master bedroom will get up to 68, but far more tolerable than with the Nest.

      Thanks much for your detailed review,

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  • Claire

    Not sure if anyone is monitoring this anymore, but can anyone tell me if the display darkens (or completely blackens) when you’re not touching it? I don’t want a glaring light in my bedroom at night (part of what’s turning me away from Honeywell’s Smart WiFi, non-Lyric).

    • Hi, Claire. You bet I monitor this! 🙂

      And yes, you can control how much the display darkens (including all the way black) and how long of a timeout you want. It’s perfect if your thermostat also happens to be in your bedroom.

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  • Scott Chapman

    Did you ever wire it up to your whole house fan?

  • bikemd

    Thanks for the review, Steve.
    I am trying to figure out if the ecobee would be useful to me and whether you think it will still save on energy costs for me. My wife and I are in a 2 storey freestanding home. We have forced air heating with a natural gas furnace. We have a programmable thermostat that is on the main floor (one of those that you can program for different temperatures at different time of the day, 7 days a week. This is already programmed to turn the temp down at nights, up for a short time as I prepare to go to work and then down again until my wife gets up later.). Our bedroom level is upstairs. It’s just my wife and I in the house and my wife is currently retired (i.e. someone is in the house almost all hours of the day). In that scenario, do you think I will find the ecobee useful? And do you think there will still be an energy savings?

    • You probably will, because the ecobee is aware of the weather around your house, and will therefore react based on how fast or slow your house responds to heating and cooling. For example, a “dumb” thermostat is timer based. The ecobee knows you want the house at 72F when you wake up at 6:30am, so it takes the current indoor temperature, and the outdoor temperature, and what it’s learned about how your house responds, and optimize the heat burn to save money.

  • We have a brand new furnace with a variable blower, and will be getting a heat pump. Can someone tell me how the Ecobee3 will work with this scenario? Also will it automatically switch the heat pump from heating to cooling to maintain the inside temp I want?

    • Yes, the ecobee3 works in Auto mode just fine with a heat pump. However, I don’t believe it will manage infinite variable speeds on the blower. It handles mine as two stages, but I believe will do up to three.