Whether you’re transforming your entire house into a smart home or dipping your toes into the home automation pool, a smart thermostat is essential for more comfortable, eco-friendly living. Smart thermostats are designed to learn and adjust to your temperature preferences and daily schedule. And when heating and cooling account for up to 48% of your utility bill, the energy savings you’ll see with a smart thermostat — an estimated $150 per year — can go a long way. Not surprisingly, around 4 million smart thermostats were sold in the U.S. in 2015.
Nest and Ecobee are two of the most popular smart thermostats on the market, each offering myriad benefits. Read on for a closer look at the key features and advantages these two devices have to offer.
Nest has been creating smart thermostats since 2011. In 2015, the company released its third-generation device — the thinnest, sleekest, and most advanced of the bunch — with a larger and sharper display.
Nest added several new features for the third-generation thermostat. With a new Farsight feature, Nest lights up whenever you walk into the room. Also new are the additional temperature sensors, making Nest more accurate and smarter at understanding how your home heats and cools so it can adjust accordingly. Other features include the following:
Furnace monitoring — If your furnace isn’t working properly, Nest will send you a phone alert to notify you of the situation.
Live local weather — Along with listing your home’s interior temperature, Nest also shows the current local temperature.
Auto-away technology — Tracking your location via its proprietary app, Nest automatically switches to an energy-saving setting while you’re away from home. When you get back home, Nest readjusts to your desired temperature.
Energy reporting — Through the app, you can view reports and see your energy-saving progress and areas for improvement.
Nest is compatible with 95% of 24 volt-powered home HVAC systems, but if you’re worried you can easily check your home’s compatibility. Nest does not support line voltage or millivolt systems and is not compatible with select low voltage systems, including proprietary systems, certain micro-controller based systems, and high impedance systems. Nest also provides a comprehensive list of incompatible systems, wiring, and hardware for easy verification.
Once installed, Nest is compatible with IFTTT — an online smart device connection platform — and can natively connect with dozens of smart home devices and home security systems, including Amazon Echo, Philips Hue, Insteon, Pebble Smartwatch, and Vivint Smart Home™.
Nest is known for its simple, no-handyman-skills-necessary installation. In just 20 to 30 minutes, you can have Nest up and running using step-by-step written or video instructions.
Based on reviews from top technology blogs and publications, Nest’s ratings fall between 4 and 5 out of 5. Amazon reviewers give the third-generation device a 4.7, while CNET offers a slightly lower 4.5 stars. Reviewers consistently applaud the easy installation and usability.
Currently, Nest communicates via Wi-Fi. While it is compatible with smart home hubs and other devices that also use Wi-Fi, Nest does not support Apple® HomeKit™ or Bluetooth-enabled gadgets. However, Nest has added a Bluetooth Low Energy radio. Though the features aren’t yet active, this addition will help future-proof the device for further advancement.
Nest dominates the smart thermostat market for two main reasons: it’s easy to set up and it learns intuitively. Many reviewers note that Nest is one of the fastest in terms of adjusting to user preferences and schedules.
Unlike Ecobee, Nest features only one central device, which may not be efficient for larger households with rooms of varying temperatures.
Despite being founded in 2007, Ecobee didn’t release the Ecobee3 smart thermostat until 2014, a few years after Nest. The second — and newest — generation came out in 2015, featuring a slew of added features.
The biggest features revolve around Ecobee3’s tagline: “For homes with more than one room.” Ecobee3 was designed with the notion that homes have multiple rooms with different temperatures. A standard thermostat adjusts to the temperature in one location, which can result in uneven room temperatures. With multiple remote sensors — you can connect up to 32 — Ecobee delivers the ideal temperature to the rooms that need it. Other features include:
Data monitoring — Ecobee can improve your HVAC system’s performance and, like the Nest, can adjust to your preferred temperature.
Weather forecast — Along with displaying the current temperature, Ecobee provides a four-day weather forecast.
Sensor deprioritization — Ecobee can sense and automatically deprioritize unoccupied rooms, saving additional energy and heating or cooling the rooms that need it most.
Thermal Protect — This feature helps keep your home’s temperature comfortable even if the thermostat loses its wireless connection.
Home IQ — With the Ecobee Home IQ feature, you can review your energy usage and savings estimates, then compare with previous months and other homes in your state.
The Ecobee3 is compatible with 95% of residential heating and cooling systems. To ensure that your home falls in that majority, use the company’s online compatibility checker.
Once installed, Ecobee3 is compatible with IFTTT and can connect with multiple smart home devices, including SmartThings, Vera, Wink, and Apple HomeKit. Thanks to its open API, developers can also share ideas and solutions.
It’s hard to beat the simplicity of Nest’s installation, but Ecobee3 comes close with a self-install that takes less than 45 minutes. The company’s step-by-step guide and installation videos will help speed up the process.
On average, Ecobee3 is rated a 4 out of 5 by multiple technology blogs and publications, with Amazon reviewers giving it a 4.6. Reviewers frequently comment on the superior user experience and advanced features.
Unlike the Nest, Ecobee3 is already compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. It also has an expansion slot to accommodate future developments.
Along with its touchscreen and large display, the Ecobee3’s multiple sensors make it stand out from the pack of smart thermostats. This feature is particularly helpful in oversized or multi-level homes.
The Ecobee3 doesn’t learn when you come and go like the Nest does. Instead, you tell it what you want it to be at different times of the day through it’s schedule.
Have you made your smart thermostat decision? Both devices are listed for $249 and both Nest and Ecobee3 can be purchased on Amazon.
Written by Alyssa Baker
Alyssa Baker is a writer and a resident security expert for the SafeWise team. She enjoys writing about home automation and home security gadgets, and drinks a lot of coffee in her spare time. Learn more