The ecobee Smart Thermostats

By Dwight Spivey

Stuart Lombard and his company, ecobee, introduced the world to smart thermostats in 2007. Ever since, it has become one of the companies to watch in today’s home automation market, but its market share has dwindled over the last few years because of its competitor, Nest. However, with the introduction of the ecobee3, ecobee has ratcheted up its offerings to compete with Nest.

To be honest, it is more than an answer: The ecobee3 is a veritable shout from the rooftops!

[Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.]

Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.

The ecobee3 takes the concept of thermostats like the Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric to the next level. The ecobee3 goes one level better because of its remote sensors.

Like its competitors, the ecobee3 is a learning thermostat and is compatible with the heating and cooling systems in most houses. Walk through a couple of simple steps on the website to find out if your system is compatible.

Installation and setup

Installation of the ecobee3 is very much like the other smart thermostats:

  1. Remove the old thermostat, making sure to label the wires.

    Better yet, take a picture of the wiring before you remove the thermostat.

  2. Insert the wires into the ecobee3 base according to the appropriately marked terminals.

  3. Snap the faceplate onto the base and you’re ready for action.

Of course, things may need to be adjusted for whatever wiring you may have in your walls, and ecobee has you covered with much more detailed installation instructions should they be warranted.

After you power on your ecobee3, you should be greeted by the ecobee “bee” logo, which is a good sign. If you don’t see the bee, the wire connections may have issues.

If the wires behind your thermostat are connected to a high-voltage system, your system won’t be compatible with ecobee3 (or the Nest or Lyric, for that matter). You can easily tell if your system is high-voltage by looking for a sticker somewhere on or inside it that indicates it’s 110 volts or higher. Another simple way to tell is if the wires are tied together with wire nuts, which look like plastic caps. If so, again, the system won’t be compatible.

The ecobee3 walks you through the process, making sure it has detected your wiring correctly, helps you set up other devices you may have connected (such as a humidifier), and learns what equipment your system uses.

The touchscreen on the ecobee3’s front panel is great; it looks and feels like the touchscreen on your smartphone or tablet. The screen is clean and simple to understand, as well, so you won’t be searching all over the place or pushing knobs or rings to find the settings you need.

What makes it even better is that the interface on the thermostat is almost identical to the interface of the ecobee3 app, so no matter which interface you’re using, you still know how to get around.

[Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.]

Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.

The interface is simple, yet fully functional:

  • The current temp is seen in the middle.

  • An icon above the current temp shows whether the system is heating or cooling.

  • The slider on the right side can be adjusted by tapping and scrolling up or down on the touchscreen.

  • Tap the menu in the lower left of the screen to see the full menu. Some items on the thermostat menu pertain to the actual hardware itself and don’t appear in the menu of the app, for good reason.

  • Tap the cloud icon at the lower middle to see current weather in your area, including a forecast.

  • Tap the Quick Changes button in the lower right (it looks like a gear) to make fast settings changes, such as instantly putting the thermostat into Home or Away mode.

The ecobee3 also has a web interface that you can use to control your ­thermostat. All you need to use it is a web browser and an Internet connection, and you’re golden. The web interface is not identical to the thermostat and app interface, but it really can’t be since the user interacts with it in such a different manner. Regardless of that, it’s still a nice interface and does ­everything you need it to.

ecobee3’s remote sensors

What sets the ecobee3 apart from its competitors is its implementation of remote sensors.

[Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.]

Credit: Image courtesy of ecobee.

These sensors can be placed anywhere in the house, and you can use up to 32 of the little fellows. These sensors are used by the ecobee3 to determine the temp in other rooms so that it can make adjustments to make the house as comfortable as possible for all involved. The sensors not only detect temperature, but they also detect when a room is occupied. Here’s how the sensors work with the thermostat:

You’re in the living room and your spouse is in the kitchen. Each room has a remote sensor, and the thermostat is in the hall. The thermostat is set to 72 degrees. Problem is that the living room is typically a bit cooler than in the hall, but the kitchen is characteristically warmer than both areas.

The ecobee3 senses the differences in room temps and that both the kitchen and living room are occupied, so it takes an average of the temps and works to make sure that both rooms are as close as they can be to the desired whole-house temperature you’ve set. Your spouse then leaves the kitchen to join you in the living room, leaving the kitchen unoccupied.

The sensor in the kitchen detects that the person has left and reports it to the thermostat. The thermostat then makes adjustments to how it cools or warms the house based on no longer needing to concentrate so much on the typically warmer kitchen. Nifty, huh?

Visit ecobee’s website to see the ecobee3, as well as the company’s other fine thermostats for both home and office. You can also purchase more remote sensors on the site. It’s worth a view just for ecobee’s claim to save up to 23 percent on your energy bills, don’t you think?