It’s simple to believe that Google’s own Nest thermostats are the only option if you’ve already committed to the Google Home ecosystem. But how do the Ecobees series of smart thermostats compare to Nest when it comes to Google Assistant integration?
PRIOR TO BUYING Your system’s compatibility with the smart thermostat you’re buying should be your top priority, just like with all other smart thermostats. I obviously failed to examine Ecobee’s simple compatibility checker before switching thermostats to see if it was even possible and how difficult it would be.
Unfortunately, in my situation, it wasn’t. In some cases, installing the Ecobee Smart Thermostat is a straightforward process that can be finished merely at the thermostat side. My home’s AC system, like many others, only uses four wires, thus the thermostat isn’t constantly powered.
In this instance, Nest thermostats employ a battery that can periodically recharge. (Update 5/2: As mentioned in the comments, this battery-based solution has several limitations.) Instead, an exclusive Power Extender Kit must be placed on your actual air handler or furnace for Ecobees thermostats.
The Power Extender Kit can, in the best case scenario, be easily installed by first detaching four wires from a control board, connecting them to the kit, and then reconnecting the kit to the control board. Naturally, this will still be a little outside of what the typical DIYer is used to.
Unfortunately, the system in my house was a jumble of wires, transformers, and fuses and lacked a functional control board. I sincerely doubt I could have installed the Ecobee Smart Thermostat without hiring an HVAC professional if we didn’t have a qualified electrician in the family.
Therefore, when you purchase the Ecobee Smart Thermostat, make sure you have carefully examined every aspect of your HVAC system, beginning with the thermostat wires and moving on as necessary to the system itself. The next step is for you to determine whether this project fits within your DIY skill set.
Installation and configuration As previously stated, installing the Ecobee Smart Thermostat did not go as expected or according to procedure. The installation of the thermostat itself was really simple, even after the challenges of getting the proper power and connections to the thermostat. Almost anyone can install an Ecobee thermostat with just a screwdriver if you don’t need to fiddle with rewiring your AC system. Just remember to securely turn off your AC and heating breakers while working!
The thermostat should be easy to install for anyone who is a quick learner or has prior experience using sheetrock anchors and a bubble level. The wiring is similarly simple, and Ecobee includes helpful labels in case you need to rename a specific cable. These labels are especially helpful if you need to utilize a product like the Power Extender Kit. In case you ever need to go back to your original thermostat, this contains additional labels indicating how everything was previously connected.
The real Ecobee Smart Thermostat simply clicks onto the plate once the connectors are connected to the wall, and it will begin operating as soon as the power is turned back on. From there, instructions will be provided for setting up both your Ecobee account and the thermostat on your network.
The Ecobees app can simplify the setup, including connecting to Wi-Fi, but weirdly the thermostat itself only specifies that the iOS app can be used for setup. Regardless of whether you use your phone or the touchscreen, the setup is manageable as long as you have a basic understanding of your air conditioning and heating system, which you probably learned before buying or during installation. Just answer a few questions regarding the connections you connected, the type of heater you have, and the preferred temperature range for your home.
The Ecobee SmartSensors, which function as an intriguing mix of a temperature sensor and a motion detector for a different area, are also included with the Smart Thermostat. Pulling the battery tab when in range will turn these on and couple them, as explained in the instructions. Once turned on, the SmartSensors magnetic base may be attached and positioned almost anywhere. It is sufficiently disguised and compact to fit anyplace.
After setting up the on-thermostat, you may complete the process by downloading the Ecobee app, creating a home, and entering your daily routine for temperature preferences. The Ecobee Smart Thermostat’s connectivity with the Google Home app and Assistant is also enabled through this app.
EXPERIENCE Consistency is something I have to commend Ecobee for right away. Although their user interface might not be the best ever created, I value the fact that changing your thermostat is essentially the same whether you use the built-in touchscreen or the Ecobee app.
The Smart Thermostat delivers a simple experience whether you’re logged in to the Ecobee app on your phone or just walking up to change the temperature. What mode you’re in, the temperature inside right now, the temperature setting, and the humidity are the main pieces of information you’ll need to know. You may also view the local weather forecast by adding another touch.
The operation of your air conditioning and heating system is optimized for both comfort and energy economy with the Ecobees built-in eco software. The Follow Me feature, on the other hand, only takes into account a room’s temperature if someone is there and makes use of the motion trackers embedded into SmartSensors. I discovered that I could set the thermostat a few degrees warmer during the day than I had previously thanks to eco and Follow Me.
You have a slider that functions something like a thumb wheel to move your chosen temperature up or down a few degrees on the right side of the thermostat’s home page. It took no more than two or three tries to become acclimated to how the movements operate, despite the movements being rather odd at first.
The Assistant, the Ecobee app, or the touch interface’s manual temperature adjustments will all by default last until your next planned period. This setting can be changed to either hold for a specific period of time or hold until you manually alter it again. Ecobee will notice if you change the temperature frequently and propose an alternative default temperature for your schedule.
I’d also like to take a time to discuss an aspect of the Ecobee Smart Thermostat’s design that might be overlooked. The touch-screen interface is excellent, but until you approach it, you’ll see a very straightforward screensaver that displays the time, the temperature inside, and a quick look at the weather. Even though I could access the most of this information on my phone or a smart display, there is something strangely comforting about having it passively available.
HELPFUL INTEGRATION In my opinion, the most important function of a smart home thermostat is the ability to change the temperature of your house without physically going there. We are more interested in how the Ecobee Smart Thermostat interacts with the Google Assistant, even if the Ecobee app provides a respectable user experience for this.
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat integrates surprisingly effectively into the Google ecosystem despite not being a first-party product like Nest, with the correct Thermostat header showing up on the Home app. You may choose your preferred temperature and toggle between heat, cool, and off via the app.
On your phone, as well as on smart speakers and displays, the Google Assistant offers all of these same controls. Hey Google, set the temperature to 69, or more general instructions like Hey Google, turn the AC up two degrees, and Assistant will handle the rest.
The ability to switch between the Home, Away, and Sleep presets is one functionality that is missing from the Google Home app integration. Fortunately, they are easily accessible by using the Assistant’s Hey Google, set the thermostat to Away command.
WHERE SHOULD YOU BUY AN ECOBEE THERMOSTAT? I specifically tested the Ecobees retailing for $249 Smart Thermostat, which is their flagship model. Unfortunately, many of the functions that come with this model will never be used in my home.
For instance, the thermostat can function as a smart speaker and has a speaker and microphone. It supports Spotify Connect and Alexa but not Google Assistant. Despite the unexpected good quality audio the Ecobee Smart Thermostat provides for a piece of HVAC equipment, I haven’t lived in a house where the thermostat was placed in a spot where I’d want to have music.
Similar to this, the Smart Thermostat serves as the hub for Ecobee’s Haven security service, which detects motion when you’re not home using the SmartSensors you currently use for temperature detection. For enhanced security, you can also install cameras and window- and door-sensors. Motion-based systems, while a fantastic idea for certain households, don’t work well for me, primarily because I have a cat.
The Ecobee3 Lite might be the best option if all you need is a thermostat that can be managed by the Google Assistant and Google Home app. the Ecobee3 Lite gives almost all of the AC/heating smarts of the flagship thermostat for $169, but it does not support HVAC accessories like purifiers and removes the extra capabilities. Ecobee also offers sells their SmartSensors separately if you wish to update later for Follow Me and broader temperature sensing.
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