Ecobee’s ecobee3 Thermostat

We had 3 Nest thermostats for several years handling our 3 zone home HVAC system.

With no significant innovations since we purchased the first generation, I wanted to try something different (I’d also tried 2 Nest Protects at the same time, and they were awful in our house. False alarms. False. Alarms. And the fact that they weren’t interconnected with the other 6 smoke detectors made the over-all safety of the occupants of the house a bit less certain).

So, more than a year ago, I switched all of our thermostats to The ecobee3 smart thermostat.

One thing that the zone system didn’t do well was handle temperature differentials between various rooms in our house in a single zone. That meant that one room could be cool while another was warm for example. The ecobee3 can work with room sensors.

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2016-11-18_19-31-18Using the Follow Me mode, I can configure one zone to average the temperatures between the various sensors. This helps balance the temperature in ways that the Nest could not.

For example, right now, I’m sitting in my Office/den and the sensor reports the room temperature as 68F and occupied (which makes sense as the sensor is sitting in front of me on my desk).

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The Follow Me feature really makes the rooms, on average, more comfortable than the Nest.

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Each sensor is powered by the common button battery 2032. The batteries are supposed to last quite a while (more than a year), but I’ve had them last only 8 months.

Each thermostat has a page where you can get a quick overview of the specific details for the thermostat (and some of the household settings).

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It’s really simple to add a vacation so that the system can, without guesswork, switch to a mode that should save you some money (turning back the heating for example).

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There are a number of graphs and charts …, I don’t look at them very often, but they’re there for the curious.

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In the example above, which is the System Monitor, the orange line (in the middle) is highlighting the desired temperature in the basement. In the morning, before we use the room we’ve got some exercise equipment in, we like to make sure the temperature is at least 63F. So, there’s a brief window in the schedule where I’ve set the temperature. Then, it resumes back to normal.

As you can see, the line that goes down dramatically is the outside temperature. It was really warm in the morning and now is headed to a much colder, Northern Hemisphere cold wintry direction. Sad smile🙁

I’ve adjusted the temperatures of the floors to closely match our typical patterns and needs:

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You can also enable the Smart Home/Away feature:

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It says:

If your ecobee detects occupancy during a scheduled Away period, or detects no occupancy during a scheduled Home period, it will automatically override the schedule to maximize comfort and savings.

I’ve got that disabled because in a multi-zone house, it activates the “Home” activity settings, which I often don’t want (mostly because of how we use our house). But, for others, I could totally see it being a useful feature.

Like the nest (and some other smart thermostats), the ecobee3 learns how your HVAC system performs in various weather conditions and will adjust it’s schedule to minimize the amount of time your HVAC needs to run. That translates to: money saved. It also means that if you want the temperature to be a perfect 70F when you get home at 6pm every evening during the winter months, it will be. The furnace will have generally run the minimum amount of time necessary. You don’t need to program a “dumb” thermostat like model where you program 70F at 4:30pm and then hope that by 6pm the house will be warmed to where you want it.

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Other nice features:

  • You can use Apple HomeKit to control the thermostat, or the Amazon Echo (Alexa!).
  • It has the current weather available a single tap away.
  • The mobile app is the web app basically (but within a native app shell). So, it looks and behaves like the web version.

The few times I’ve needed a little support (like one of the sensors started to report it was “missing” frequently), ecobee responded very quickly to my support request. It was very “human” and I felt like someone on the other end actually cared. In the case of the misbehaving sensor, they sent me a new one at no-charge.

Here are the few features I’d like to see:

  • A slightly less sensitive way of manually adjusting the temperature. I don’t do it frequently, but when I do, I sometimes have trouble getting the temperature I want.
  • A nice looking wall plate to cover the space left by the traditional programmable thermostat these replaced.
  • The web app asks me to sign in way too frequently. Seriously. Remember Me should actually Remember me.

Overall, I’d recommend the ecobee3 over the Nest, especially if you want a better balanced temperature in your house rather than just the temperature at the thermostat’s location.

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