Smart thermostats are one of the most common entry points to home automation but why is that? Thermostats are quick and easy to install. They also add a welcome layer of convenience by regulating the climate indoors automatically. Beyond that, with the most effective models, you’ll also have the ability to save money on power bills through reduced electricity consumption. If you read about Nest's rebranding and compatibility issues
, you might still be uncertain of the brand. There’s no doubt the classic Learning Thermostat
is an intelligent and highly versatile addition to your home. However, until the dust settles on the Google Nest rejig, many consumers remain wary of committing right now. Perhaps you’ve always had your eye on the innovative ecobee, but not yet invested. Well, you’ll now be able to add the all-new Smart Thermostat to your home and benefit from a fresh generation of climate control. ecobee wasn't the first to announce this news. Retailer Lowe’s rolled out a detailed product guide along with a list price of $329. This is not a huge leap on the outgoing 2-year old ecobee4
. Is it any good, though?
ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control: Fifth Generation of a Classic
While the smart thermostat vertical was largely responsible for Nest’s roaring ascent in the home automation space, things have been stagnant for a while. Nest’s third-generation Learning Thermostat is 4 years old now while the current ecobee model has been around for a couple of years. Watch this space to see how the new Google Nest will fight back against ecobee Smart Thermostat. For now, check out this incoming device across the following categories:
- What’s New with All-New ecobee Smart Thermostat
- Streamlined Installation
- Alexa Onboard and Improved Audio
- First-Class Integration
First, we'll give you the 411 on the all-new thermostat. Then we’ll take a glance at how ecobee might broaden their vision over the coming year.
What’s New with All-New ecobee?
Based on looks alone, this new model looks remarkably similar to ecobee4. The appearance is at a glance, much like the outgoing square off circle. It measures up at a roughly comparable 3 x 7 ½ x 7 ½ inches. You’ll get the same Alexa speaker onboard as with ecobee4 and you’ll get a sensor thrown in, too. So, what’s all the fuss about? It’s the changes under the facade and a sheet of glass that combine to add some new power and smarts to this iconic thermostat. As stated plainly on ecobee’s website
, “One small change can make all the difference
.” The other thing that’s changed is the naming convention. This model will not be known as ecobee 5 but as Smart Thermostat with Voice Control. How about operation then?
Design and General Performance
The color screen is now glass-fronted with a resolution of 320 x 480 that’s more than fit for purpose. The touchscreen is tweaked so it’s slightly more sensitive and responsive. This facelift is not really the change ecobee is trumpeting, though.
The all-new quad-core processor is capable of running advanced AI and machine learning. This dramatically improves the quality of voice control since natural language can be detected much easier. While this is an unverified claim from the manufacturer, ecobee Smart Thermostat is slated to run at triple the speed of its predecessor.
If you’ve got dual-band WiFi networks at home, you might have run into that familiar frustration. You’re pleased with the additional 5GHz network to ostensibly reduce interference and increase speed. You might still find, though, many smart devices don’t support it. ecobee has your back there. The result is enhanced pace and operating range.
ecobee describes the sensors as having “a sixth sense for comfort.” The range and accuracy have been improved over the outgoing model while battery life is an outstanding 5 years. Compact enough to slip just about anywhere, you can use the magnetic stand to pop the sensor on a shelf or you can use the adhesive wall mount if you prefer placing it in a hallway. You’ll be able to build out multiple sensors up to 60 feet from your thermostat. This allows you to better regulate the temperature throughout the house with no bothersome hot or cold spots. Maybe the best example of that small change we mentioned is the simple but effective Follow Me
mode. With this enabled, the sensors can pick up on which rooms are being used. They'll then manipulate the temperature to ensure comfort when you’re in the room. This will also eliminate wasted heating or cooling when you’re not in the room. The injection of occupancy detection is enough reason for many to switch to Smart Thermostat, that all-important “small change.”
Advanced functionality includes the ability to regulate humidity levels. This is a nice touch if you don’t have a dehumidifier linked to your HVAC system already. All that sounds great, but how easy is it to install Smart Thermostat?
If you're nervous at the thought of upgrading or installing a wired thermostat, you shouldn't be. Comprehensive instructions are included. The first thing you’ll need to do is check for system compatibility
. ecobee thermostats make a neat fit with most HVAC systems including multi-stage systems, those with radiant heating and dual-fuel heat pumps. If you don’t like the idea of checking online for compatibility, give ecobee a call on 1-877-932-6233 for live chat. You will need a C-wire since the thermostat is powered by a 24VAC power supply that requires this common wire. Even if you don’t have this C-Wire in your old thermostat bundle, you can get around the issue using the Power Extender Kit included. As with anything electrical, don’t undertake this job unless you’re completely confident in your ability. If you need to call in an electrician, it should be a quick and easy job to get up and running in well under an hour. From this point, it’s a case of tapping the touchscreen a few times to choose your HVAC system then hook up to the ecobee app on your smartphone. You’ll also enjoy the freedom of taking charge from a browser app which will bring you superior, more detailed energy reporting. Once you’ve done that, what can you expect on the voice control side of things?
Alexa Onboard and Improved Audio
With your trusty digital assistant Alexa onboard, ecobee is pushing the thermostat as a scaled-down hub. We have to be honest and say that controlling the thermostat with Alexa still has significant room for improvement. If you want to switch modes or change the temperature, it’s seamless enough. Turning the whole system off, on the other hand, can be problematic. This sort of issue is inexcusable, given the amount of time Alexa has been baked in. We hope ecobee tweaks performance on this front soon. Alexa Calling, Messaging, and Drop-In are all supported with the new speaker and mic acquitting themselves admirably. Functionality could be honed here. That said, it’s a step in the direction of improved communication features from a thermostat. A surprise addition is the option of streaming music from your new device. You’ll be able to access your Spotify account hands-free. You can also ask Alexa to play your favorite tunes from a broad spread of streaming services. From Amazon Music and Pandora to TuneIn and iHeartRadio, all bases are covered. Although the soundscape is not on a par with a dedicated and larger speaker, it’s surprisingly loud and reasonably clear. What else does SmartThermostat play nicely with?
You’ll be able to control your ecobee SmartThermostat in-app using either Android or iOS devices including Apple Watch. As we mentioned, a browser app is also available. With Alexa already onboard, you’ll also be able to use Google Assistant if you’ve got the requisite enabled device
. You’ll also enjoy compatibility with Samsung SmartThings, Apple HomeKit and IFTTT. Stuart Lombard, ecobee CEO, describes the new thermostat as an opportunity for technology to “fade into the background” while still “connecting you to the solutions and services you love.”
If you opt for DIY installation – and that, as outlined, is eminently doable – you’ll benefit from a 3-year limited warranty. If, however, you have your Smart Thermostat professionally installed, that guarantee is extended to a robust 5 years. This gives you complete peace of mind when purchasing. The room sensor also comes safeguarded by a 3-year warranty. You can buy extra sensors if you want. This will extend coverage throughout a larger smart home without experiencing any pockets of unintended hot or cold.
What’s Next For ecobee?
As Google has absorbed Nest and the new Google Nest line looks set to burst forward with all the confidence you’d expect, ecobee has been quietly plotting its next move. Much as Nest was forced to broaden its lineup beyond thermostats, ecobee looks set to dip its toes into the field of smart home security. Recently, leaked pictures have shown cameras and a contact sensor. While there’s been no formal announcement from ecobee about any new products beyond Smart Thermostat, if you head here
on their website, they nail their colors firmly to the mast: “Imagine a home that listens and responds to your every command: No buttons. No clutter. No effort.
” While part of this has been accomplished with smart speaker functionality and Echo devices now onboard Smart Thermostat, that strapline on the website suggests to us a much broader vision on the part of ecobee. This is backed up elsewhere on the same page of the ecobee site
where the bold claim “We’ve only just begun” is followed by the unequivocal rallying cry: “Stay in the loop as ecobee continues to build your voice-enabled home.
” So, watch this space and see how our prediction plays out. We strongly feel that, once the dust has settled with the Google Nest rebranding, ecobee is highly likely to branch out further into the smart home space as we approach that sci-fi year of 2020. Before we serve up our verdict, here’s a snapshot of the core benefits of ecobee Smart Thermostat:
- Stunning new glass finish which makes a real statement on the wall
- SmartSensor regulates temperature automatically based on occupancy as well as temperature
- Alexa baked in for hands-free convenience with no need for third-party hardware
- Stream Spotify music as a surprise bonus
- Stress-free installation in well under an hour
ecobee Smart Thermostat Verdict
So… Should you buy ecobee Smart Thermostat or not? If you’ve already got ecobee4, there’s not really enough extra on offer aside from aesthetics to press you into a rushed upgrade. If money is no object and you can’t resist those sleek glass looks, by all means, add one to your arsenal but we wouldn’t consider it necessary. What if you’re still using an older version of ecobee or a similar earlier generation smart thermostat? If that's the case, this new model is the ideal opportunity to update and simplify your climate control. For anyone looking to buy their first smart thermostat, this tech-driven but user-friendly glass disc makes a wise bet.
Are you tempted by this fifth generation of a modern classic? We’d advise you to take ecobee’s bold claims of 23% energy savings with a large pinch of salt. As we explored recently in our study of whether smart thermostats really save you money, you’ll probably struggle to achieve such dramatic reductions in power consumption. That said, you should certainly enjoy a home that’s much more comfortable without needing to lift a finger- literally, you won't have to lift a single finger with Alexa now baked in. You will also undoubtedly realize some savings, even if they’re not quite so audacious as the figures trumpeted by ecobee. Don’t forget to bookmark our blog for the latest smart home news
and watch this space for a firm ecobee release date. If that sticker price seems a little stiff, why not sign up for our email newsletter
? When you place your first order, you’ll be eligible for a whopping 20% discount so why not save that for the all-new ecobee in July?