ecobee3 Review Followup: Two Month Update 36

ecobee3 says "hi"My original ecobee3 review is now two months old, so I decided a “here’s how things are going two months later” post might be in order. Over the past two months, I’ve received numerous questions (both in my blog comments and over in the ecobee discussion forum at, and I’ve also come up with a few of my own. In preparation for this review update, I emailed those questions to my PR contact at ecobee, who was kind enough to answer them.

But before getting to those questions and answers, it’s worth pointing out that the ecobee crew have been busy little bees during these first two months since the launch of the ecobee3. They pushed at least two new firmware updates, that I know of, to address a few issues discovered by early users. They fixed some server issues that were causing their iOS app to sometimes timeout. They placed the ecobee3 on retail shelves in Best Buy and Apple Stores. They released the first “phase” of their web-based reporting and insight tool called Home IQ (see my “first look” review of Home IQ here). And they’ve also racked up an impressive pile of positive product reviews (mine happened to be the first, but I knew it wouldn’t be the last). If you read through the comments section of those reviews, you might see a recurring theme: disgruntled Nest users are flocking to the ecobee3.

I’ve also kept busy during the ecobee3’s first two months. Based on my experience installing an ecobee3 in my Seattle home, I wrote an ecobee3 install guide for new users. I also upgraded from an original ecobee Smart to an ecobee3 at my vacation home in Utah, and wrote an upgrade guide for those following that same path. Finally, I bought an extra 2-pack of remote sensors, so now I’m running two remote sensors in both locations and experimenting with there I like them best.

Overall, it’s been a great two months with this device. The remote sensors really do make a huge difference in how comfortable we feel in different parts of the house, and I love seeing the new Home IQ charts that prove that the auto-away feature really is saving me money. Both of my ecobee3 units have performed flawlessly, and I have no reservations recommending that all my friends ask Santa to drop one in their Christmas stocking this year.

I do, however, still have a handful of feature request that I think could make the ecobee3 even better, and since I’ve already got your attention (and hopefully that of the head bees @ ecobee), I’ll take advantage of this opportunity to pitch them one more time. 🙂 Keep in mind that a few of these “wish list” items are features that were available on the original ecobee Smart, which I grew to love and now miss in this current iteration.

Please bring back the visible clock on the home screen. The older ecobee Smart had this visible at all times, and I really miss it on my ecobee3. I totally get that you don’t want to clutter the “minimalist” design of the slick interface, but I know I’m not the only user who would at least like the option of displaying a small clock on both the “sleep” and “wake” versions of the home screen. It would fit nicely centered at the top, like the clock in iOS devices.

Please bring back the current outdoor temperature to the home screen (both sleep and awake versions). Again, this is a feature that I miss from the original Smart. The weather forecast icon on the ecobee3 is awesome. The actual outside temperature displayed inside that icon would be awesomer!

Please bring back “Update Program” as a Hold option. Both the older ecobee Smart and the newer ecobee3 have the ability to manually override the current set point (from the touchscreen, web, or mobile app). Whenever you did, both units can be configured to ask how long you want that override to last. On the Smart, you get five options: Hold 2 hours, Hold 4 hours, Indefinite, Until Next Transition, and Update Program:

Original ecobee Smart override options

Original ecobee Smart override options

On the newer ecobee3, you only get four options:

ecobee3 override options

ecobee3 override options

The “Update Program” override is missing on the ecobee3. This option is particularly useful for new users who are still tinkering with what feels comfortable at any point in their schedule, as well as users who like to tinker with different set points around the times of year when the seasons change. Please bring it back! 🙂

Please give me an easier way to see the target humidity. On the original Smart, pressing the “Details” button on the touch-screen or the mobile app displayed “Current Humidity” and “Set Humidity” — even when the Humidifier is set to “Frost Control” (which is one of my favorite features, by the way). That let me quickly see how far away my system was from its target (set) humidity. However, on the ecobee3 interface, the current humidity is displayed above the current temp on the home screen, but to see the target humidity, I have to press Main Menu, then System. If the Humidifier option is set to “On,” then the target humidity is displayed. However, if the Humidifier option is set to “Frost Control” (as mine always is), there’s no way to display the target at all.

Please make a few minor tweaks to the interface’s Heat, Cool, and Humidity icons. I love that the touch-screen, mobile app, and web app show the same basic interface. In “Heat” mode, the UI shows the outline of a flame icon. In “Cool” mode, it’s an outlined snowflake icon. When the system is actually heating or cooling, the outlines of those icons change color (orange for heat, blue for cool). But only the outline changes, and I think it would look better if the entire icon were filled solid with their respective colors, rather than just their outline.

How did I get that idea? Because there’s a UI inconsistency that’s giving me major OCD flare-ups. 🙂 On the wall unit touch screen as well as the web app, the the small water droplet (next to the 35%) for humidity is always outlined:

Web interface with outlined water droplet icon.

Web interface with outlined water droplet icon.

But on the mobile app, the humidity icon is always solid:

Mobile app interface with solid droplet icon.

Mobile app interface with solid droplet icon.

At first, I wondered whether the solid droplet was an indicator that the system was calling for humidity. It’s not… but it could be! Having all three icons outlined and white when off, and colored and solid when on, is more intuitive.

Please give me the ability to see remote sensor data from the mobile and web apps. The ecobee3 wall unit has a “Sensors” sub-menu which allows you to see the current temperature, occupancy status, and connection status of each of the remote sensors thermostat’s remote sensors. This is missing from both the mobile app and the web interface, as well as from the Home IQ charts (it is, however, included in the downloadable raw data from Home IQ).

Please steal my idea from my original review about a Wireless Accessory Module. In my original ecobee3 review, I suggested a wireless module for owners who might only have four wires available but want to add an accessory (like a humidifier), or maybe have five or six wires available but want to add more than one accessory (ventilator + humidifier and/or dehumidifier), or interface with a dry contact (to do stuff like this), or use an external thermometer (in locations where the local weather data is questionable). The module would function much like the older ecobee Equipment Interface (EI), still be powered by 24V + COM leads from the furnace, but not need any wires to connect to the main wall unit. Instead, it would have its own WiFi antenna, get its own internal IP address, and then communicate on the local network with the wall unit for status and control (I imagine it would also securely tunnel out like the wall unit for firmware updates and possible data dumping to Home IQ). Plus, I think WAM is an awesome acronym. You can steal this idea for free — all I ask is that you send me one of the first units for testing. 🙂

OK. Enough soapbox ranting. Although I happen to have it on good authority that ecobee is working on at least a few of my feature requests, so once the holiday rush is over, I’m hoping to see some of these requests become reality.

Now for the questions I promised earlier. Some of these questions are mine, some are from my readers, and some were posted at SmartHomeHub. I emailed them all to Tenille Kennedy, ecobee’s Director of Communications, who was kind enough to provide the following answers:

Q: Can remote sensors (as well as the motion sensor / heat sensor in the wall unit) be “ignored” based on schedule? For example, if I had a remote sensor in the bedroom, and I got up in the middle of the night to go to the kitchen, I wouldn’t want the kitchen sensor to act as if I were awake and occupying the kitchen, and then include the kitchen’s current temp in the “comfort decision.” I’d want all sensors except the bedroom one to be ignored during a Sleep program.”

A: We are exploring adding the capability on selecting sensors based on schedule periods. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

Oooohh… everyone cross your fingers. Schedule-based selection of remote sensors would be fantastic. 🙂

Q: When a remote sensor detects motion, does it immediately consider that area “occupied” or does it need to sense motion for a certain period of time?”

A: The sensors are weighted by activity average, so if you walk into a room where there is a sensor, it will immediately recognize occupancy but not 100% of that sensor temperature will be used in temperature averaging immediately. Over time, if there is consistent motion, it will eventually become more weighted in the average.

I found this reply fascinating. It’s not just on/off… it’s more of a gradual effect. Interesting.

Q: Once a sensor determines that an area is occupied, how long after it stops sensing motion does it consider the area unoccupied?”

A: If no motion is detected within 30 minutes, the weighting of that sensor starts to reduce and the sensor is considered unoccupied until it sees motion again.

That’s better than I thought. There had been some discussion in the ecobee users community about how long this actually took, and the answers ranged all over the place. Now that Home IQ allows data download, I’m going to do some testing of my own to see how long the weighting decay lasts.

Q: From a reader: My question is why no outdoor temp sensor, as in my area the weather is not accurate and I had to install the remote out door sensor.”

A: This isn’t a high request item as the vast majority of our customers are happy with the weather service we’re currently using. We’ll continue to monitor to ensure that our customers receive reliable weather information on their ecobee thermostat.

Translation: Don’t hold your breath. 🙂

Q: From a reader: Can the ACC contacts in the ecobee3 be used as a dry contact for a water sensor alarm in a condensate drip pan?”

A: No. The ACC relay is an output. To connect a water sensor we would need an input (which we don’t have).

I knew the answer to this one already, but it’s a bummer because this is exactly the setup I had with my old ecobee Smart and a Waterbug sensor. I’ve since moved that sensor over to be a dry contact on my alarm system, but I really liked having it connected to my older ecobee, with the ability to get alerts via text, and have the thermostat beep and display the problem (the “WAM” would bring this functionality back, ecobee!).

Big thanks to Tenille @ ecobee for getting back to me so quickly with those answers!

So, to wrap up, at two months into the ecobee3’s life, I’m still a fan and I’m still happy to recommend it. And, not surprisingly, I’m not alone. Just last week, Adam Miarka posted a great review of the ecobee3 calling it a “solid Nest challenger.” More and more new owners post in the ecobee3 Install Help thread on SmartHomeHub every day. When visited the Apple Store in Salt Lake City, Utah, last week, they only had one ecobee3 left on the shelf.

Is the ecobee3 perfect? No, but no product is. But it’s still better than the Nest, still better than the Honeywell Lyric, and still better than anything else out there. In fact, thanks to a handful of firmware updates and the recent release of Home IQ, it’s even better today than it was two months ago. So feel free to jump on the bandwagon. There’s still plenty of room!

As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and feedback below, and I invite you to participate in the ecobee discussion over on SmartHomeHub.