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ecobee SmartThermostat review: Now Alexa and Spotify capable

The ecobee SmartThermostat is my first foray into this world and the experience turned out to be excellent.

Techaeris Rated 9.4/10

ecobee has been around for a while now, competing in the smart thermostat market against the likes of Nest and Honeywell. The company has come a long way since the start with its latest offering being the ecobee SmartThermostat which is both Alexa and Spotify capable.

Some would call this the 5th generation ecobee, and while it bears a significant resemblance to the last generation, it’s distinctly different. The ecobee SmartThermostat is my first foray into this world and it turned out to be and excellent experience. Read on for my full review of the ecobee SmartThermostat.

Specifications

The ecobee SmartThermostat has the following features and specifications:

  • Display
    • 3.5 in. full-color LCD touchscreen
    • 320 x 480-pixel display
  • Dimensions
    • Thermostat
      • Height: 109 mm (4.29 in.)
      • Width: 109 mm (4.29 in.)
      • Depth: 25.6 mm (1 in.)
    • Trim plate
      • Height: 158.6 mm (6.2 in.)
      • Width: 158.6 mm (6.2 in.)
      • Depth: 8.7 mm (0.3 in.)
  • SmartSensor
    • Height: 40 mm (1.6 in.)
    • With stand: 50 mm (2 in.)
    • Width: 40 mm (1.6 in.)
    • Depth: 26 mm (1 in.)
  • Power Extender Kit
    • Length: 62 mm (2.4 in.)
    • Width: 62 mm (2.4 in.)
    • Depth: 23 mm (0.9 in.)
    • Optional for installation
  • Colors
    • Black front, white sides, and back
  • Processor & memory
    • 1.5GHz quad-core Cortex A35 processor
    • 4GB Flash (eMMC)
    • 512MB DDR4 RAM
  • Thermostat sensors
    • Temperature
    • Humidity
    • Occupancy
    • Proximity
  • Voice & audio
    • Built-in Alexa Voice Service
    • Built-in microphones
    • Built-in speaker
    • Far-field voice recognition
    • Compatibility
    • Gas, Oil, Electric, Dual-fuel
    • Conventional (2H/2C)
    • Heat Pump (4H/2C)
    • Humidifier, Dehumidifier, Ventilator, HRV or ERV
  • Wire Terminals
    • Rc
    • G
    • Y1
    • Y2
    • O/B
    • PEK
    • Rh
    • C
    • W1
    • W2
    • ACC-
    • ACC+
  • Connectivity & security
    • Dual-band Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz, 802.11 a/n/ac @ 5GHz
    • Bluetooth 5.0
    • WEP 64, WEP 128, WPA, and WPA2 encryption methods
    • DHCP (dynamic) or static IP addressing
    • 168-bit SSL encryption
    • 915MHz radio
  • Works with
    • Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, and more.
  • Bandwidth
    • 15+ MB/month (dependent on Alexa Voice Service usage)
  • Power consumption
    • Less than 3.5 VA
  • Powering methods
    • Wired 24VAC through terminals C and Rc.
    • Power Extender Kit enables you to reliably power your thermostat without having to run a fifth wire.
  • Sustainability
    • Recycled packaging
    • Mercury-free
    • Arsenic-free
    • PVC-free
    • ROHS compliant
  • Temperature range
    • Desired Temperature: 45° to 92°F (7° to 33°C)
    • Display: 40° to 100°F (5° to 37°C)
    • Sensitivity: +/− 1°F (+/− 0.5°C)
    • Operating: 32° to 130°F (0° to 55°C)
  • Humidity range
    • Display: 20% to 90%
    • Sensitivity: +/− 5%
    • Operating: 5% to 95% RH (non-condensing)
  • Storage
    • −31° to 113°F (−35° to 45°C)
    • 5% to 95% RH (non condensing)
  • Warranty
    • 3-year limited warranty
  • More features include
    • Hands-free calling: Call and message friends and family anywhere in North America for free. Just say, “Alexa, call mom.”
    • Intercom-style announcements: Use the Alexa devices in your home to amplify your voice. Just say “Alexa, announce ‘it’s dinnertime.’”
    • Music playback: SmartThermostat with voice control supports Spotify Connect, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn Radio.
    • Schedule Assistant: Learns your routine and recommends changes to your thermostat schedule to better match it.
    • Smart Home & Away: Uses SmartThermostat’s built-in occupancy sensor to automatically adjust the temperature for energy savings when you leave home and restore your comfort settings when you return.
    • Follow Me: Detects which rooms are in use and adjusts the temperature accordingly for comfort in those spaces.
    • Feels Like: Takes indoor humidity levels into account to ensure your home is energy efficient and always feels like the temperature you’ve set, no matter the humidity.
    • Time of Use: Intelligently preheats or precools your home when electricity is cheaper and reduces usage when it’s expensive, saving you money and using cleaner energy.
    • Community Energy Savings: Makes slight temperature adjustments during times of peak energy demand in your community, consuming cleaner energy and reducing strain on the energy grid without sacrificing comfort.

What’s In The Box

  • ecobee SmartThermostat with voice control
  • Thermostat mounting plate
  • SmartSensor with a detachable stand and adhesive wall-mount
  • Install guide
  • Quick-start guide
  • Wire labels
  • Screws and drywall anchors
  • Optional for installation:
    • Power Extender Kit (PEK)
    • Trim plate

Design

The ecobee SmartThermostat looks a lot like the previous generation and, in my opinion, that’s not a bad thing. Now, that being said, I have read other reviewers who say the bezels are too huge and the screen should be bigger. Okay, I will concede that the bezels are a little bigger than I’d like, but that doesn’t make the unit ugly. The bezels are hardly noticeable. I do agree that a larger screen would have been nice but also not a deal breaker.

The entire unit is made up of mostly high quality plastics which feel sturdy and well built. The screen is made of glass but it feels pretty well made and not heavy at all. There is a speaker on the top back and an LED light strip on top as well which indicates when Alexa is on.

ecobee SmartThermostat review

The SmartSensor is very tiny and has a physical or magnetic mount. There’s not much to talk about here as it’s pretty nondescript looking. The kit comes with a pretty beefy wall mounting plate that is used to cover up any hole from your previous thermostat, and I appreciated the size. It was just large enough to cover the hole from our old thermostat.

I’ve read reviews raving over how much better looking the Nest is than the ecobee SmartThermostat and frankly, that’s a bunch of bull. Of course, design is subjective, but I don’t think the SmartThermostat is ugly or unsightly at all. I think it fits into the home just fine and it’s about the same size as our old thermostat we uninstalled.

Overall, sure the bezels are a bit large and the screen could have been made larger but I think this design works great. We knocked off a few points for the bezels and screen size but I think just about anyone will be happy with this design.

Installation/Ease of Use

The installation of the ecobee SmartThermostat should be fairly straight forward for many users, but for others there will be a bit more involved. If you’re not comfortable dealing with wiring and electricity, you should stop here and call a professional installer. For those who do want to install it yourselves, here are a few tools you may need or find useful:

  • Power drill and 3/16″ drill bit for pilot holes (install guide)
  • Small flathead screwdriver (install guide)
  • Philipps head screwdriver (install guide)
  • Hammer (install guide)
  • Pencil (install guide)
  • Wire strippers (install guide)
  • Flashlight (my recommendation)
  • Needle nose pliers (my recommendation)

The most important part of this operation is to cut power to your HVAC system. Some systems have a power switch on the unit itself, but if you can’t find it you should cut the power at the breaker box. My HVAC unit has a power switch allowing for power to be cut without shutting anything else down. Be sure to confirm the power is cut by feeling around the vents to see if any air is coming out.

The next step in the ecobee SmartThermostat installation is to remove the old thermostat cover. That’s fairly simple as most of these just pop off, but you should be careful removing it. Now is the time you need to check to make sure your system is compatible with the ecobee SmartThermostat. If your backplate has an L1/L2 wire, high voltage warning, or 110/120/240 VAC indicator you may not be compatible. You can double check at ecobee.com/compatibility to be certain. If none of those is present you can continue with the install.

The old wall plate.

At this point, make sure to take a photo of the wiring before you continue. Now you need to check if you have a C-wire connected to your old thermostat. If you have a C-wire installed then you won’t need the PEK (Power Extender Kit) and the install should be simple. I did not have a C-wire so I had to use the PEK kit to complete the install. Installing without the PEK kit only requires you to label the wires at the old thermostat and then transfer the wires to the ecobee SmartThermostat. Once you have the wiring done you can install the thermostat unit (of course you’ll already have put the wall plate into place before all this) and then you can turn the power back on.

For PEK installation, you’ll need to head down to the HVAC unit to do some additional wiring. This isn’t too complicated but does involve double the work than if you had a C-wire. Basically, you’re going to take the PEK unit down to the HVAC system and install it to the wiring on the HVAC system. Triple check the HVAC system is off, then proceed first by taking a photo of the wiring as it is before you touch anything. Then follow the manual and label the wires, transfer those wires to the PEK unit and then go upstairs and finish the install as you would if you never had to install the PEK kit.

The ecobee SmartThermostat install at this point is going to be pretty much the same as if you had that C-Wire installed. Wire up the unit, snap it into the wall plate, turn the power on and you’re good to go. The most important part of this, aside from turning off the power before you start, is to make sure you have the wires in the right order. Triple check all wiring before powering anything up. Once you have the unit fully installed, you can move on to set up through the app or just set up on the screen.

ecobee SmartThermostat review
The wiring after removing and installing the ecobee plate.

Our ecobee SmartThermostat also came with a SmartSensor, that’s really easy to setup through the app. Just remove the tab, scan the QR code, and it will pair up with your thermostat. The sensor comes with a mount or a stand and can be placed wherever you like.

Installing the ecobee SmartThermostat is probably easiest if you have a C-Wire, and I think most people would be comfortable going this far. I think many people may feel intimidated if they have to install the PEK kit as you’ll need to dig into the HVAC system for that. It’s not super hard but it is extra work. I was able to complete the entire install in around 40-minutes but some may feel a professional install is appropriate. Even I was initially concerned that I may not be able to complete the installation, but I did get through it. ecobee provides very clear and easy instructions on how to install and that really helped give me more confidence. Overall, I think many people can do this alone, but if you feel you can’t, don’t push it and call a pro.

Software/App

Make sure to download the ecobee app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. First you’ll need to connect to the ecobee SmartThermostat by connecting to the thermostat’s Wi-Fi hotspot. From there the app will connect the ecobee to your home Wi-Fi and then you’ll be able to use the app with the ecobee. But I am getting ahead of myself here. You can set up the ecobee SmartThermostat from the screen first and then set up the app.

Setting it up is easy, and the ecobee will guide you through on its screen by asking you questions. Once you get through all of it your thermostat is ready to be used. When that is all done then you can dig into the app, which is basically your ecobee screen on your smartphone, with some additional settings. One thing I did notice was, you cannot change the time zone on either the app or the thermostat, you need to go to the web and login to your ecobee account to do that. I only figured that out because I chose the wrong time zone when setting it up.

The first screen you’ll see when plugging the main unit into the wall plate.

The app shows your current temperature, temperature range and sensors installed. You can easily adjust the temp from here with a slider and make quick changes like Home or Away and turn the fan to Auto or On. You can also set a vacation mode and the ecobee will monitor and adjust while you’re gone.

You will be able to integrate the ecobee SmartThermostat into Apple Home Kit and you can add it to your Google Home setup. The thermostat comes with Alexa built-in, but you can use Google Assistant as well. Alexa works really well. As long as you have your Alexa skills in your Amazon profile, it will access whatever you need. You can ask Alexa for the weather, basic questions, as well as play music from Amazon Music. You can also set up your Spotify account here and ask Alexa to play from Spotify.

The speaker on the ecobeee SmartThermostat is not spectacular but it sounds decent enough. Our thermostat is located in the dining room and playing music in the background at low volume works well, but if you’re looking for party sound, this won’t deliver. It’s not intended for that anyway. The speaker works great for many situations, no complaints here.

Some of what the app looks like.

Here are just a few of the things you can do with Alexa and voice control on the ecobee SmartThermostat:

  • Make calls and message friends
  • Listen to your Spotify playlists and podcasts
  • Connect to a smart speaker with Bluetooth
  • Control other Alexa-enabled devices with your voice
  • Make announcements using Alexa, like, “it’s bedtime kids!”
  • For a full list of Alexa skills on ecobee you can check them out here

One thing I had to figure out on my own was the flashing green Alexa light. I didn’t know why the Alexa bar kept flashing green until I checked out ecobee’s help website for the ecobee SmartThermostat. This is Alexa letting you know that you have a notification. To check your notification and/or get rid of the flashing green light, just say “Alexa, what did I miss?” or “Alexa, delete all of my notifications” to your ecobee thermostat. ecobee gives you plenty of information on its website, so be sure to check out this link for any questions you may have.

Overall, the ecobee SmartThermostat basically works on its own. If you set your comfort zone and everything to auto, it takes care of the rest. I was able to just set it and forget it. So far, we’ve not had any issues and the temperature in the house has been maintained within the comfort range we selected. We did connect Alexa and do occasionally use it for music and checking weather. It works well. I like the ability to check the temperature from the app and the ability to adjust it without having to actually go do that. You can do that through the app or you can just ask Alexa to adjust it for you. The software and app experience has been great thus far.

ecobee SmartThermostat review

Performance

We’ve had the ecobeee SmartThermostat installed for the better part of 3-weeks, and so far everything is running smoothly. We have our comfort settings set and everything in auto. We haven’t once had to make any adjustments and we’ve felt very comfortable.

The only issue we’ve had is my own fault in not setting the time zone properly. I initially set the time zone to eastern time and not central time. After digging through the app and the thermostat itself, I could not find where to change the time zone. Doing some research on ecobee’s site, I found out you need to login to your ecobee account on the web to adjust the time zone. The web interface looks a lot like the app but with some extra account settings, like time zone. I do wish they would have given the time zone change ability in the app.

Overall, there have been no real issues with performance with the ecobee SmartThermostat or SmartSensor. They’re both working as intended and not needing any sort of attention.

Price/Value

The ecobeee SmartThermostat is priced at US$249 but is on sale, as of the publishing of this review, for US$199. The US$249 price is a great price and for what you’re getting, it is worth it. This sale price is even better and you’re getting a whole lot for the US$199. I think there’s a ton of value here and it is worth the MSRP and even better at the sale price.

Wrap Up

The ecobeee SmartThermostat is my first experience with a smart thermostat and while I had to use the more complicated install method, the overall experience was great. I’d recommend the ecobee SmartThermostat to anyone looking to upgrade their home thermostat. It’s not difficult to setup, it has a great design, and it has a reasonable price.

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ecobee SmartThermostat

US$249

Design

9.5/10

Installation/Ease of Use

9.0/10

Software/App

9.5/10

Performance

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.5/10

Nailed it

  • Clean and simple design
  • Easy to use and operate
  • Simple app and software
  • Seems to work properly and maintain the temp
  • Good value for money
  • Good smart features

Needs work

  • Installation might be a challenge for some
  • Screen size to bezel size is a disproportionate
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