The new ecobee3

ecobee 3 Review 136

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.