A smart thermostat is a perfect first step on the road to creating a smart home. The best feature is the most obvious: the technology will help you save energy along with cold hard cash on lower heating and air conditioning bills.
Smart thermostats can even work in tandem with a whole host of other products including lighting, plugs, sensors, and more.
Nest blazed onto the scene back in 2011 and helped to define the category with its Nest Learning Thermostat, which provided easy installation, smartphone control, and a simple interface that anyone could use.
While Nest continues to refine its product, introducing its third-generation Learning Thermostat in 2015, a number of competitors have hit the market with their own take on smart thermostat technology.
The most notable so far has been Ecobee. The Canadian-based company made waves with the Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat, which hit the market in 2015. And its follow-up, the aptly-named Ecobee4, landed in mid-2017 to wide acclaim.
Previously, the Nest and Ecobee models were basically neck-and-neck in a number of important categories. But that’s no longer the case. Let’s take a look at two of the big of the reasons that the Ecobee4 smart thermostat has made its way to the top of the market.
Ecobee4: Now With Amazon Alexa and Much More
By far the best feature of the Ecobee4 is its built-in Amazon Alexa capability. Basically, think of the device as a wall-mounted Echo Dot that can also control your home’s heating and air conditioning system.
Along with being able to control the thermostat from across the room, you can also do almost everything else that an Echo device can accomplish, including interacting with a catalog of more than 20,000 skills. And that number is growing by the day.
So you can do everything from ordering a Domino’s Pizza to listening to the latest hits — on a thermostat. Talk about smart home integration.
Just like any other Alexa-enabled device, just say the wake word “Alexa” and then your command. An LED light strip on top of the Ecobee4 will let you know that it’s listening to the request. The speaker is on the bottom of the thermostat.
Along with full compatibility with Alexa, the Ecobee4 integrates well with other smart home systems like Google Assistant, SmartThings, IFTTT, and Apple’s HomeKit.
Thanks to HomeKit support, users with an iPhone, iPad, and even the Apple Watch can control the thermostat and more with a Siri command. It will also integrate with Apple’s built-in Home app.
That’s a big advantage in the Ecobee vs. Nest battle. Since Nest is under the Alphabet umbrella, its best integration is with other Google and Nest products like Google Home, the Nest Protect smoke/carbon monoxide detector, and products from the Nest camera line.
A Nest can be controlled with a separate Alexa-enabled device and also works with Google Assistant, SmartThings, IFTTT.
The lack of HomeKit integration is a substantial downside, especially for anyone with an iPhone or other Apple device. And, unfortunately, this integration will likely never happen as Apple and Google are direct competitors in a number of different areas, most notably in the smartphone market.
Revel in Ecobee4’s Remote Sensors
Another huge feature of the Ecobee4 that the Nest Learning Thermostat can’t match is remote sensor compatibility.
One sensor comes with the thermostat, and you can purchase additional Ecobee Sensor two-packs to help out as well. They’re a must-have if you have a larger or multi-story home.
If your home has a room or area that’s always too hot or cold at the most inopportune moments, the sensor can save the day. Along with capturing temperature and humidity data, the sensors also detect motion in a room.
First up, the sensors are part of the Ecobee4’s Smart Home/Away feature. You can obviously create a specific schedule, but the sensors supplement that.
During a set away time, if a remote sensor ever detects motion, it will automatically switch the heating or air conditioning system to your home settings. And during a set home schedule, when no motion is detected, the Ecobee4 will switch over to away.
The sensors are also the star of the show with the Follow Me feature. Each sensor, including the one built into the thermostat itself, will be detecting if motion is occurring in specific rooms. The temperature data from those rooms will determine if heating or air conditioning is needed.
In practice, that means the Ecobee4 will ignore data from that always hot or freezing cold room if you’re not in it. The result? Occupied rooms will be constantly maintained at the most comfortable temperature. Especially in places with extreme temperatures, the sensors can help make every room at home a more hospitable place.
Nest, in comparison, offers nothing like the remote sensor technology. Whatever temperature is sensed at the thermostat location will be used when determining whether to heat or cool the entire house.
Where Nest Shines
Even though the Ecobee4 stands out, there are a few areas where Nest reins supreme.
Most importantly, you can install the Nest without needing a c-wire, also known as a common wire. The Ecobee4 requires it for correct operation.
The c-wire is a low-voltage wire that provides full-time power to the Ecobee4 for its always-on display and to help use the Amazon Alexa capability. Nest is powered by a built-in battery.
If your system doesn’t have a built-in c-wire, Ecobee smart thermostat does include a power extender kit to help power the unit. Depending on your system’s setup, installing that might require a professional and an additional fee. Nest users won’t need to worry about this potentially costly issue.
Another area where Nest excels is its scheduling option. Unlike the Ecobee4, the Nest Learning Thermostat will take note of your schedule over time. It will then automatically create a schedule that saves energy, but still keeps your house comfortable. No user intervention is needed.
A similar option is also available on the Ecobee4, but users will have to create the entire schedule. This process is time consuming, and requires some familiarity with the Ecobee4 app.
Nest’s scheduling feature is simply superior, especially if you stick to a routine heating and cooling schedule.
If Price Is a Concern…
While the Ecobee4 and third-generation Nest still top the list of the best smart thermostats on the market, price might be a concern for some potential buyers. But there’s no need to worry.
There are a number of other smart thermostats available for anyone looking to build a smart home on a budget.
Usually, inexpensive smart thermostats don’t offer premium features like remote sensors and compatibility with most major smart home platforms. They’re best for users looking to just take advantage of the energy and money savings.
A Clear Winner
While Nest helped to define the smart thermostat category, Ecobee has come in strong in the past few years. And the Ecobee4, with its remote sensor technology and built-in Amazon Alexa capability, has shot to the top of the heap. The Ecobee vs. Nest battle is over, and the Ecobee is the smart thermostat to beat.
Are you using an Ecobee4 or Nest smart thermostat? What’s been your experience with the technology so far? Would you recommend them to other potential buyers?