If you’re interested in a heating and cooling system that will respond to your habits, that you can set remotely, or that will automatically save you money without you having to think about it, a smart thermostat is the way to go.
Two of the most popular smart thermostat systems on the market today are those made by Nest and Ecobee. In the following article, we’ll break down the key features of each, compare the two, and help you decide which one is a better fit for you.
Bottom Line Up Front:
If you’re in a rush, here are the main reasons to purchase one product over the other.
Everything You Need To Know About Thermostats...
Simply put, a thermostat is a device which regulates temperature automatically in order to maintain the desired temperature set by the user. Thermostats can sense the current temperature in a room (or rooms) and heat or cool the surrounding area to raise or lower the temperature as needed.
Thermostats came into widespread industrial use in the 19th century and became common in homes in the mid-20th century. In the 21st century, smart thermostats are revolutionizing the industry through the use of AI, GPS technology, and remote control.
Everything You Need To Know About SMART Thermostats...
Programmable thermostats (which can be set to maintain certain temperatures at certain times of day) have been around for decades. The latest innovations in the industry have introduced thermostats which adjust the temperature in your house without you having to touch them at all.
The benefits of smart thermostats include being able to ignore your thermostat and still get the temperature adjustments you want, but also to maximize energy conservation (saving you money on energy bills) by automatically sensing when your house is empty and shutting off your HVAC system when there’s no one home to appreciate it.
Imagine leaving the office and setting your home thermostat to your desired temperature so that it’s ready the moment you walk in the door. What if you rush to the airport and remember at the last minute that you left the furnace on? No problem, you’re able to shut it off from your phone. These are just some of the benefits of a smart thermostat.
Additional features can include everything from being able to integrate your thermostat with other smart home devices (lights, fans, smoke alarms or alarm systems) to having your thermostat tell you the weather and even play music and news for you.
Key Features - Nest Learning Thermostat Review
That’s right. Though it may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, your thermostat will figure out your schedule and start making adjustments without you even having to touch it.
How Nest Takes Control Of Your Home
Once you’ve installed Nest, for the first few days, you’ll start using your it as you would a regular thermostat, adjusting the temperature according to what’s comfortable for you. After a few days, your thermostat will then start to adjust itself, and after a week, it will have different settings dialed in for each day of the week.
You teach your Nest by setting it the way you would a regular thermostat, turning it down when you leave the house or go to bed, and turning it up when you’re home, and soon enough it remembers these patterns for you.
The Biggest Downside To The Nest Smart Thermostat
In cases where you know you’ll be breaking from your normal schedule, you can also control your thermostat remotely with the Nest mobile app. If you know you’ll be home late or your flight gets delayed, go ahead and override your settings so that you’re not wasting energy. Once you’re on your way home, set the desired temperature from your phone and walk into a comfortable house.
The Nest app works on both iOS and Android devices and can coordinate your thermostat with other Nest products, like Nest Cam or Nest Protect.
One of the main issues users have with the Nest app is that the interface is different than that of the thermostat itself, so rather than learning one new system, you’ll be learning two.
The Truth About Automated Temperature Control
Many smart home products have begun employing geofencing to track your location and tell whether you’re home or not. What geofencing does is sets up a virtual barrier for one particular phone, and activates every time the phone crosses that barrier. The engineers at Nest saw several problems with this: What if your battery dies? What if you leave your phone at home? What if you have guests staying with you?
As an alternative to geofencing, Nest has created Home/Away Assist, which aims to be more accurate by combining learning algorithms, multiple accounts, and activity sensors.
The main problem with Home/Away Assist is that to work, it requires either other Nest products (Nest Cam) for motion sensing or at the very least, for every family member to have the Nest app on their phones.
One Up On Ecobee
Nest can be powered using your system’s c-wire (common wire), but if your home doesn’t have one, it also has a built-in, rechargeable battery which uses your home’s heating and cooling wires for power. Because its power draw is so low, (about 20% that of a 40-watt light bulb) it can operate without a c-wire, although there are certain cases where it can’t.
One of the benefits of Nest’s battery option is that in case of a power outage, your system will reset automatically. Ecobee does not currently have a battery option
One of the smartest features of Nests thermostats is meant to help compensate for temperature spikes caused by direct sunlight. If your thermostat happens to be located in the direct path of the sunlight, you shouldn’t have to pull your shades to get an accurate reading. Nest is equipped with “sunblock” to adjust the temperature if it detects sunlight directly on the thermostat.
Using a combination of Nest’s built-in light sensor and (through Wi-Fi) sunrise and sunset times, Nest makes sure that it’s not basing temperature readings on one particular hotspot, but a more comprehensive, adjusted temperature.
Not Yet Compatible With Homekit
Straight out of the box, Nest thermometers are equipped with Google Home. As soon as you install and enable your Nest, it will be able to respond to your voice commands. Nest is also compatible with Alexa, provided you already have an Amazon echo, dot, or other Alexa-enabled device.
Although Nest is not compatible with Apple HomeKit, there are rumors this may be happening in an upcoming iteration. In the meantime, Nest thermostats are compatible with third-party voice activation devices such as SmartThings, IFTTT, and Wink.
Nest thermostats have high-resolution LCD displays that you can customize based on your preferences. These include digital vs. analog time readouts, weather, and current room temperature. Nests are also equipped with Farsight Display, which uses a motion sensor to tell if you’re nearby (up to 20 feet), and then automatically displays your chosen information in one of two different readout sizes, which switch automatically based on your proximity.
- The Nest Thermostat E has a 24-bit color LCD display with 320 x 320 resolution.
- The 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat has 24-bit color LCD display with 480 x 480 resolution.
How Easy Is It To Set up
Installing a Nest thermostat is a simple, do-it-yourself job, which should take less than 30 minutes to complete. Although the installation of both thermostats is simple, an advantage the Nest has is that it will show you on the LCD screen what wires are connected, where they are connected, and if there are any issues.
If you choose to connect Nest to your whole-home humidifier, this option is available too, but professional installation is strongly recommended.
Nest’s design is sleek and modern, takes up little space on the wall, and features a handsome, circular glass-and-polished-metal casing. The readout screen has colorful, high-resolution icons. To navigate through the menus, simply spin the outside dial and when you’re ready to set it, push to click.
Save Money With Rebates and Subsidies
Because of its energy-saving properties, various energy suppliers such as National Grid and ConEdison offer subsidies and rebates with your purchase of Nest products. For more information, click here.
Nest Product Details:
- Item weight: 1.8 pounds
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 3.2 x 1.6 inches.
- Origin: China
- Item model number: T100577- Display style: Digital
Key Features - Ecobee Smart Thermostat Review
Like Nest products, Ecobees smart thermostats are designed to respond to your activity but are configured in a slightly different way. Ecobee thermostats don’t “learn your schedule” the way Nest’s do but use a different system to achieve similar results.
When you first set up your thermostat, you’ll have to input information such as preferred temperature when you’re home, as well as the times of day when you’re normally home, away, or sleeping.
Once you’ve programmed your temperature schedule, your Ecobee will begin to operate on that schedule, but presets will also be overridden based on a variety of active factors.
These include information it receives through its multiple motion sensors, as well as geofencing (tracking your location through your phone). Users are able to set the geofencing radius so that your thermostat turns on and off when you reach a certain distance from your home.
Similar to Nest, for geofencing to work properly, your whole household should have the app installed and logged in on their phones. One of the main differences (and selling points) of Ecobees smart thermostats and Nest are that they can be connected to multiple (up to 32) room sensors, so they’re not just basing adjustments on information from one location.
Better Than Nest
Ecobee earns points here for its well-designed mobile app, which, unlike Nest, has a user interface that is almost identical to the one on the thermostat itself. If you know you’re going to break from your normal schedule, you can easily change your temperature or turn your system on and off using the app from wherever you are.
Unlike Nest, Ecobee thermostats are also compatible with Apple HomeKit as well as Google Home.
One of the cool features of this is that it allows you to set up HomeKit Scenes. If you choose to coordinate your thermostat with your lights, fan, or shades, you can program your entire home environment to work together. Another option with HomeKit is that you can set up automations, which are coordinated actions based on particular times of day or other actions such as your Ring Doorbell detecting motion.
From Ecobees online portal, you can also access information such as your usage patterns, savings, and how your usage compares to other users.
How It Knows Where You Are
In case your schedule isn’t identical every day, Ecobee can override your settings to accommodate what’s going on at a particular moment. That means if you end up being home when you’re usually away (or vice versa), Ecobee’s sensors will notice and respond accordingly. When none of the sensors have detected any activity for two hours, Ecobee will automatically go into “Away Mode.”
The “Follow Me” feature adjusts the temperature based on the room where it detects motion. If your Ecobee sensors detect motion in multiple rooms, it will use an average of the occupied rooms to set the temperature.
The Biggest Reason To Choose Ecobee Over Nest
This is where the Ecobee really shines. You can place room sensors in multiple rooms and after it detects someone in the space it will adjust the temperature TO THAT ROOM!
If you have ever had the experience of the living room being freezing cold and your bedroom being so hot that you’re sweating to death when you’re trying to sleep, then you can see how this would certainly help.
If your HVAC system has a c-wire, connecting your Ecobee thermostat to power is quite simple and can be done in less than half an hour. If your system does not have a c-wire, though, you’ll have to use the Ecobee Power Extender Kit, which comes included with the thermostat.
Using the PEK is relatively simple as well, but does require opening up your HVAC system, so hiring a professional is recommended for those users who are uncomfortable working with electricity.
Unlike the Nest thermostat, there is no battery option available.
Sunblock Temperature Adjust
Unlike Nests products, Ecobee does not have a “Sunblock”-type feature to compensate for direct sunlight.
If your Ecobee thermostat happens to be mounted in a location that receives direct sunlight, it may give inaccurate temperature readings unless you have several other sensors going in other locations. With multiple sensors, Ecobee will take the average temperature of all of them, so direct sunlight shouldn’t be a problem.
All Ecobee thermostats are compatible with Alexa, and the Ecobee 4th generation has Alexa Voice Service built in, so as soon as your thermostat is installed, it’ll be ready to take commands.
Nest thermostats are compatible with Alexa too but require an echo, dot, or another Alexa-enabled device to work. Ecobee4 also comes equipped with “Far-field” technology which allows it to hear you from across the room.
Like Nest, all Ecobee systems are compatible with third-party voice control devices such as SmartThings, Wink, and IFTTT.
The Ecobee has a high-resolution (320 x 480) LCD screen which is touch-activated, so you don’t have to deal with any buttons or dials. All of the operations are controlled on a touch-screen, and like Nest, your display will come to life when it senses you’re near.
How Easy Is Installation
Compared to Nest, Ecobees installation is slightly more involved, but still very simple.
Since Ecobee does not have a battery option, your installation options are either to connect to the c-wire, or to use the Power Extender Kit, which comes included. Even with the Power Extender Kit, installation takes less than half an hour and can be done (carefully) without the help of a professional.
Should you have one, your Ecobee thermostat can also be wired to control your whole-house humidifier.
Ecobees design features an easy-to-use touchscreen display, which resembles the interface on a smartphone. The unit itself is a 3.5” jet-black square, with a backlit display that wakes up as you approach it. What gives Ecobee a leg up on Nest is the similarity of the unit interface to their app, so you’ll only have one system to learn.
Save Money With Rebates and Subsidies
Like Nest, Ecobee has partnered with various energy suppliers around the U.S. to incentivize your purchase of an energy-saving smart thermometer. You can click here and enter your zip code to see if there is a rebate available where you live.
Ecobee Product Details
- Item Weight: 1 pound
- Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 0.9 x 3.9 inches
- Origin: Canada
- Item model number: EB-ecobee3-01
Conclusion: Wrapping It Up
We’d be surprised if anyone who wants a smart thermostat as part of their home would be disappointed to have either of these products. Nonetheless, when deciding between Nest and Ecobee Smart Thermostats, there are still several factors to take into account.
If your home is already equipped with Apple HomeKit products, or if you just prefer Apple products in general, then Ecobee is the clear choice for you, as their thermostats will easily coordinate with the rest of your Apple system. Beyond that, their app is intuitive and easy to use, and we like that you can add multiple sensors to your system for more nuanced temperature information.
On the other hand, if you are already a fan of Nest products and have a Nest Cam or Nest Protect, you’ll naturally be more inclined to choose a Nest thermostat. Also, if you like the idea of your thermostat learning without you having to program it, Nest is for you. Although their app is slightly less intuitive than Ecobee’s, in an ideal situation, you won’t be programming at all but letting the learning features do the work for you.
For our money, Ecobee is the winner of this battle of the smart thermostats. Their great app design, the Home/Away Assist and Follow Me modes, and the multiple sensors make it a more comprehensive system, with more inputs to customize it to your activity.
If you’re not just looking for a slick design, but a thermostat with incredible ease of use and comprehensive data designed to make your home comfortable, Ecobee is the ideal choice for you.