Smart Home

Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison

Joel Lee 15-06-2016

Did you know that a smart thermostat can significantly boost the value of your home Installing These Smart Devices Can Increase Your Home's Value In this article, we take a look at which smart technology you should install that will let you add those extra few thousand dollars onto your asking price. Read More ? It’s one of many reasons why a smart thermostat is well worth the initial investment Attention Homeowners: 5 Smart Home Features Worth the Extra Cost Which smart home features are worth it? Which ones can be safely tossed aside and ignored? Let's take a look at a few that are actually worth the money. Read More .


But which one should you get?

If you want one that’s stable and reliable, you have two main options right now: Nest Learning Thermostat and Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat. Both of them come from reputable brands 9 Reputable Smart Home Brands With Products You Can Trust The modern world is moving toward all kinds of smart home automation, and the longer you hold out, the more difficult it's going to be when your day of conversion finally comes. Read More and neither is flat-out better…

…but one is definitely better FOR YOU. We’ll help you decide by comparing all of the important details of both (ease of installation, available features, pricing, etc.) so you have all the information you need to make a smart decision.


As far as ease of installation is concerned, there’s one clear winner.

The Nest can be installed by anyone who can read a basic schematic and has enough confidence to put two and two together. All you have to do is follow the instructions and plug in three wires, which should take less than 15 minutes.


Still skeptical? Check out our step-by-step installation of the Nest How to Install and Use the Nest Thermostat to Automate Energy Savings If you've ever considered getting started with home automation, purchasing a Nest thermostat is the perfect way to start. In just a week of using it, we cut our energy consumption in half. Read More . If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, you can find a friend or family member to help out, or call Nest’s 24/7 support line. Or as a last resort, you can hire someone.

The setup for the Ecobee3 is a little more involved. Is it difficult? Not particularly, but there is more to do mainly because the Ecobee3 utilizes remote sensors (which we discuss in the “Operating Pattern” section below).

I don’t think installation should be a big concern when trying to decide between the two. The Nest is easier, but they’re both easy enough that it doesn’t really matter.

Winner: Nest, barely.


Appearance & Interface

The Nest is all about sleek minimalism, which lends to its easy-to-learn design and ensures that it will fit into pretty much any home no matter what the interior decor is like. I’m a big fan of its simplicity.


Using the Nest is as simple as turning it to change the temperature (like you would with a normal thermostat). If you want to change any settings, the spin dial is also used to make selections (similar to the dial on the first iPod). You can also interact using the Nest mobile app.

But while the Nest’s goal is simplicity, the Ecobee3 aims for usability. The thermostat itself has a full-color touchscreen that you can operate like any smartphone — with your finger using taps and swipes — or you can use the free mobile app.




My one complaint about the Ecobee3’s appearance is its size. The Nest is a circle with a 3.3-inch diameter while the Ecobee3 is a rounded square with 4-inch edges. It’s a noticeable difference that makes the Ecobee3 stand out more, but at least it’s not ugly.

Winner: Ecobee3, for the flexibility.


Operating Patterns

This is where the two smart thermostats really distinguish themselves from each other. Both claim to reduce your energy costs and make your life easier, but they go about it in different ways.

The Nest is a learning thermostat, which simply means that it tracks what temperatures you tend to set and when you tend to set those temperatures, then uses this data to automatically adjust the temperature accordingly.


It also uses a sensor to detect when people aren’t home and reactively changes the temperature to save you money 7 Nest Automation Tricks to Cut Your Heating Bill in Half If there were a Nest thermostat in every home, it would have the biggest single impact on energy consumption in history; and it could save you more money than you might imagine. Here's how. Read More . Unfortunately, this sensor requires that you walk by the Nest Every so often. If you don’t, it may think you aren’t home anymore.

The Ecobee3, on the other hand, uses a system of remote sensors that are placed around your home. These sensors have two purposes: one, they track temperature on a per-room basis, and two, they’re used to determine when people are home.

Along with the sensors, the Ecobee3 incorporates weather forecast data, the time of day, and other factors to determine the optimal temperature. If your HVAC supports it, Ecobee3 can heat/cool only occupied rooms. When nobody is home, it goes into energy-saving mode.

The sensors aren’t perfect, though. They have a range of 45 feet and they’ve been known to disconnect from the system at times. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often, and the Ecobee3 can be set up to send alerts when a disconnect does happen.

Winner: Ecobee3, for the sensors.

Other Notable Features

If you’ve gotten this far and you still can’t decide between the two of them, then you may want to consider the extra features. These may or may not come in handy depending on your needs.

Notable features of the Nest:

Notable features of the Ecobee3:

  • Integrates with Amazon Echo.
  • Integrates with OpenHAB.
  • Is Apple HomeKit ready. (More on future-proofing for HomeKit compatibility Future Proofing Your Smart Home for Apple HomeKit Compatibility Read More .)
  • Comes with preset schedules that are good enough for most people, so you don’t have to bother “teaching” the thermostat if you don’t want to.
  • Sensor Participation can set individual remote sensors to only be active during certain times of the day.
  • Thermal Protect can set minimum and maximum thresholds for temperature readings. Any temperatures outside of the range are marked inaccurate and ignored.
  • Geofencing can automatically trigger changes to the Ecobee3 based on your mobile location.
  • Web portal can show how much energy you save every month, send alerts when issues are detected, and reminders for maintenance.

Winner: Tie. All of these features are nice to have, but I don’t consider any of them to be gamechangers or dealbreakers.


At the end of the day, this is the comparison that most people care about. How much is it going to cost you? As it turns out, the two are surprisingly similar so it probably won’t sway you one way or the other.

The Nest Learning Thermostat is on its 3rd generation as of this writing and is available for $250 new on Amazon. You can get the 2nd generation version for $230, but we don’t recommend it. The upgrade is definitely worth the $20 difference.

The Ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat is on its 2nd generation as of this writing and is available for $200 (one remote sensor) or $260 (three remote sensors). You’ll probably want the three-sensor package.

Winner: Tie.

Smarten Your Home in Smart Ways

On the surface, it might seem like I’ve declared the Ecobee3 to be superior to the Nest — with 2 wins, 2 ties, and 1 loss — but the truth is that they’re both quite comparable. If one wins, it’s only by a slight margin.

Which is to say that you really can’t go wrong. Pick one or the other. You’ll likely be happy either way. Or if you’re unhappy with both, consider another smart thermostat Looking to Buy a Smart Thermostat? 5 Nest Alternatives When it comes to controlling the temperature of your home, the Nest smart thermostat is king, but there are plenty of options out there. Here are 5 you should consider if you're looking to buy. Read More like the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat or Honeywell Lyric Wi-Fi Thermostat.

Smart home products aren’t gimmicks 7 Common Smart Home Myths That Simply Aren't True Smart home devices are no different than most other gadgets -- and there are many misconceptions that people have about them. Let's clear those up! Read More , at least for the most part. Most devices are more affordable than you think 6 Types of Home Automation You Can Actually Afford Are you ready to join the smart home revolution but worried that it's beyond your budget? Smart homes aren't that expensive, and there are plenty of components that the average homeowner can afford. Read More and they can have practical benefits, like saving energy and money Save Energy and Money With These Smart Home Devices One of the biggest benefits of a smart home is the energy saving technologies available. As well as saving money, you’ll also be pushing toward a more sustainable, convenient living situation. Read More . Don’t dismiss them outright!

So which one do you like better, the Nest or the Ecobee3? Are there any missing features you wish they had? Got any other smart home products? Let us know in the comments below!

Related topics: Ecobee, Home Automation, Nest, Smart Sensor.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Frank
    November 24, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I'm a snowbird. I live in Rhode Island in the summer and Florida in the winter. Can I use the ecobee3 in conjunction with my humidistat ? I usually leave my temp set at 78* and my humidistat set at 52% when I'm in RI. I don't want to depend on people to check my condo while i'm away.

  2. GNVill
    October 22, 2017 at 12:32 am

    I'd be curious about whether they sense pets and turn the heat back up. That would help in the decision. My pets would be very happy to not have extra heat. But overall this article has been very useful.

  3. Chris
    June 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm

    Great job describing all the features. Seems all these IOT devices get rave reviews at first blush. How come no one ever digs deeper into the security of the Wifi implementation. The CERT has published articles on vulnerabilities of these devices. The complete silence on this topic by the authors suggest a lack of sophistication which glosses over critical issues. Forbes published an article on vulnerabilities of these devices due to poor software design. Seems like this is news worthy. The IOT industry has been criticized for bringing products to market that are security risks and the media just writes about the glitter and skips the real story. I don't want a thermostat that can be compromised by some hacker scanning the internet.

    • Mike
      January 29, 2018 at 10:18 pm

      Agree about the Security (or lack of). I own a Nest and I had to expose one of my WiFi SSIDs for the Nest to connect and stay connected. I'd rather not have my WiFi broadcasting. Addressed the issue with Nest asking if they will upgrade the security and never heard back from them one way or another, totally ignored.

  4. Bill
    December 16, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    One thing no one ever mentions - which is very important to me:
    The Nest Customer Service rep confirmed that there is NO hold feature on the Nest. Which means, if you have the thermostat set to go down to 64 at 11:30pm - there's no way to prevent that temperature change - if for example, you have guests over past 11:30pm. You have to jump up after the temperature has changed to turn it back up (or walk around to activate the sensor). Seems like it would be basic functionality. The Ecobee - from what I've read, does have that feature.

  5. Bob
    June 21, 2016 at 3:08 am

    looks to be superior with individual thermostatic controls.
    Looks like a great Thermostat with excellent features. The only thing that bothers me is the fact that if there are no dampers installed or controlled by the thermostats then one room is either being cooled or heated beyond another and you can probably just adjust your vents to control the air flow.
    your thermostat with todays knowledge needs Heat & Cool
    (1) 2H 2C min for heat pumps
    (2) 4 to 8 daily schedules.
    (3) WiFi for remote monitoring (PC & Cell Phone)
    look for weather forecast & Monthly Reports.
    (4) Optional Controls for Humidifier Control, UV Bulb, Air Filter change & DST
    (5) Oh almost forgot Random Fan Control
    well anyway that's just some features that I already have on an old model. Plus a WiFi feature I'm looking for on a new model
    Just can't make up my mind on the Ecobee3 (est $175) or Honeywell (est $126) the remote sensors seem handy on the Ecobee3. Still reading and looking around.

    • Juan
      November 26, 2016 at 10:57 pm

      Well to be honest, I don't think the Honeywell should even be considered, it doesn't even learn anything from the user, it's just an expensive manual thermostat with remote capability via smart phone.

      If you removed Nest from your list, then the should seems to be clear, should be the Ecobee3.

      Personally I'm still not convinced which one I like better between Nest and Ecobee3, they both have strong pros and cons.

  6. Zap1
    June 16, 2016 at 12:58 am

    I have two NEST thermostats, one upstairs and one downstairs. Love them. Easy install and easy to use. I like the auto away feature and the energy usage info, both at the thermostat and on the app. The monthly email energy notice is nice too. I think this will save in the long run by its operation and because you become aware of the energy usage and adjust yourself, much like your driving habits when you can see real-time gas milage on the instrument cluster in your car.

    • Joel Lee
      June 19, 2016 at 3:50 am

      Hey Zap1, great point about awareness! I think that's a HUGE thing that tends to get overlooked -- just the fact that you're conscious about energy usage can really save a lot.

  7. Anonymous
    June 15, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    The Nest thermostat did not do so well in Consumer's Reports testing. The June 2004 issue rates it as "never mind" because of the un-intuitive initial setup. While the Nest conveniently automatically updates its software over the 'Net, a significant number of users complained that it shuts down the heating system after updates and forgets to restart it, resulting in frozen/burst pipes.

    • Joel Lee
      June 19, 2016 at 3:49 am

      Hey fcd, that 2004 report was probably for the first generation model. Nest is now on 3.0, and both the 2.0 and 3.0 versions have drastically improved installation processes. As for the working errors, some people have run into problems yeah. That's valid.