The new Ecobee SmartThermostat not only slashes your energy bills, it also has a great speaker and built-in Alexa — here's why I recommend it
A high-quality smart thermostat is easy to install, can be adjusted from anywhere, and helps you save hundreds of dollars each year off your energy costs. I like the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control because its app is outstanding, and you can program the thermostat to run the HVAC at more energy-saving temperatures when you are sleeping or away. Though it's one of the most expensive smart thermostats available (currently $246 on Amazon), it integrates with most smart-home systems and comes with a SmartSensor and a three-year limited warranty.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. You're lying in bed all cozy ready to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, you remember that you failed to turn down the heat for the night. For me, if I don't get up and adjust the temp, I'll have a night of sweating and restless sleep. And at the very least, it contributes to higher electric bills. With a good smart thermostat, you can turn down the temperature — or turn off the air conditioning — from the comfort of your bed. In fact, you can program it so the comfort settings automatically adjust at your usual bedtime. One of the top names in smart thermostats is Ecobee. This Toronto-based company recently sent me the latest generation of its SmartThermostat, and I am impressed by how easy it is to use and schedule as well as how clearly the built-in speaker plays music. Below are the details of my experience. Specs
The Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control comes with a mounting plate, large trim plate, wire labels, and an install and quick start guide. Here are some of the more important specs:
Display: 3.5-inch full-color, 320 x 480 pixel LCD touchscreen Thermostat dimensions: 4.3 inches square by 1 inch deep Trim plate dimensions: 6.2 inches square by 0.3 inches deep Processor: 1.5GHz quad-core Cortez A35 Memory: 4GB flash eMMC and 512MB DDR4 RAM Compatible with gas, oil, electric, dual-fuel, conventional (2H/2C), heat pump (4H/2C), humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, HRV, or ERV Dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wi-Fi Works with Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and others Desired temperature range: 45 to 92 degrees Fahrenheit Warranty: 3 years
For more specs, visit the Ecobee product page. Set-up process for the Ecobee SmartThermostat
I let the professionals take care of the set-up process. The local contractors had to install a new wire from my boiler to the thermostat. They also connected the thermostat to my Wi-Fi, which I've since played around with and found incredibly easy to do. The contractors took about an hour to complete the installation process. They were not able to get the SmartSensor to connect, but I took care of that once they left. It required some finessing, but after about 10 minutes, I had it connected and placed it on our second floor. Connecting Alexa took another three minutes. What makes this smart thermostat stand out My favorite aspect of the Ecobee SmartThermostat is the app, which I already had on my phone after installing the Switch+. The app is intuitive and user-friendly. Ecobee clearly put in the time and resources to develop it and keep it functioning seamlessly. One of the best functions of the app is the scheduling. At night, I try to cut down on our energy costs by turning the heat down or the air conditioning off, depending on the season. In my pre-Ecobee SmartThermostat life, I was pretty good at remembering to do this manually. However, there were plenty of nights when I'd be half-asleep in bed before remembering. With the scheduling, I simply set the AC to turn off at 9 p.m. every night this summer.
Scheduling is also helpful if you are away from home during the day, and keeping your place at a comfortable temperature isn't necessary. Just plug the times you're usually away into the app and choose what temperature you prefer while gone. I also like that I can control the temperature of my house from anywhere in the world using the app. Due to a lack of foresight, our thermostat is located in the guest room. For the most part, this isn't a problem. However, my Angeleno sister-in-law can't handle the Michigan winters. She cranks the heat when she visits. With the Ecobee SmartThermostat, I can take back control of the heat and freeze my family like a stereotypical dad. Maybe I'll pick up a space heater for her. Maybe. When I saw that the SmartThermostat has built-in Alexa, I didn't think too much of it. I don't have Alexa in every room of my home, so the voice control abilities aren't really necessary for me. Plus, I'm fine using the app. But what did impress me is the speaker. You haven't lived until you've blasted dubstep out of your thermostat. Though it's too small to get decent bass, the sound is surprisingly clear and loud. I got a reading of 90 decibels at 12 inches from the speaker. Cons to consider The SmartSensor is frustrating. As I mentioned, the contractors and I had a hard time getting it to connect to the main unit. Once I did get it to connect, the battery died within a few weeks. I replaced it, but then it would not connect again. At this point, I've given up on it. I've reached out to Ecobee and will update this review when I hear back. When the SmartSensor is working, it tells you the temperature and occupancy info for the room where it's located and adjusts to keep the room comfortable. If the temperature varies drastically throughout your home, this is a nice feature to have. The SmartThermostat isn't readily compatible with all homes. You see, about a year ago, I tried to install the Ecobee4 on my own and failed. This wasn't necessarily the company's fault. It had more to do with how old my house is. It just doesn't have the right wiring. I tried a workaround, but that didn't help. Before buying the SmartThermostat, check the compatibility. If it turns out your wiring is not compatible, don't give up. The savings in energy costs may be worth it to hire professionals to install your thermostat. The bottom line
It was well worth updating my wiring to install the Ecobee SmartThermostat. Now the temperature in my house adjusts automatically to balance energy savings and comfort. But there are a lot of smart thermostats on the market. Below, we will look at whether you should choose an Ecobee model or look elsewhere. Should you buy it? If you are looking for the fanciest, most high-tech smart thermostat from a reputable company, the Ecobee SmartThermostat is the way to go. However, at $249, you may want to save a few bucks and forgo some of the bells and whistles. Fortunately, Ecobee has other options at a lower price point. Which model should you get? The Ecobee4 is currently $193 on Amazon. It comes with Alexa built in and a room sensor, which functions similarly to the SmartSensor. However, compared to the SmartThermostat, the Ecobee4 doesn't have full Alexa functionality, dual-band Wi-Fi (the Ecobee4 is single band), or Spotify Connect access. If you don't care about having voice control of your thermostat or extra room sensors, you can save even more by choosing the popular Ecobee3, which currently sells for $164.66 on Amazon. What are your alternatives? If Ecobee's smart thermostats don't interest you, there are several other alternatives available. Our guide to the best smart thermostats includes our top recommendations. Or for our head-to-head comparison of the new Ecobee to the wildly popular Nest Learning Thermostat, check out this article. Overall, I highly recommend the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control if you are interested in saving money on your energy bill and want the most high-tech option from a well-established company. The app is packed with features, the speaker sounds great, and it integrates well into any smart household. Pros: Dual-band Wi-Fi, built-in Alexa, speakers that actually sound decent, user-friendly app, integrates into the most popular smart-home systems Cons: Expensive, not compatible with all homes, trouble connecting SmartSensor Buy the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control on Amazon for $245.90 or from Best Buy for $249Join the conversation about this story »
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