It’s hard to find fault in your decision to go for a smart thermostat. After all, it offers you significant savings in various ways, while it also promises convenience and comfort. The harder decision is deciding which smart thermostat to get, but an increasing large group of voices herald the Ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat as a smart choice, if you’ll pardon the overused pun.

Of course, it’s hard to define the Ecobee 4 in terms that doesn’t compare it (however indirectly) to the venerable Nest 3 Learning Thermostat. These 2 cost roughly the same, though you may find some sellers offering a few discounts.

At first glance based on just its looks, the Nest 3 wins. It’s just plain beautiful to look at, while the Ecobee 4 looks a bit too basic and merely functional. What’s more, the popularity and market share of the Nest assure you that you’ll find plenty of tips online while you may also find it much easier to obtain the help of a Nest expert.

Yet, you really need to look at the Ecobee 4 as so many experts insist. It does many things that the Nest does, and in some cases it does things better.

Installation and Setup

It helps if you have some DIY handyman knowhow if you’re going to install the Ecobee 4. An expert with prior experience may be able to do it in half an hour, but for most of us it’ll take quite a longer amount of time.

Yes, it’s true that the software and support instructions you get make the entire installation process somewhat easier. But even when things go smoothly you still need to do some drilling and rewiring, which you should probably just leave to an electrician or handyman.

Remember that this comes with a remote sensor, and you can buy additional remote sensors for each room of the house.

After that, you’ll then download the app from either Google Play or the App store, depending on the type of smartphone or tablet you have. This also has the Alexa voice assistant already built in, so it can also follow your vocal instructions. This can also work with the HomeKit. It works with IFTTT too, and that can also offer even more functions like status change notifications and weekly activity logs.

You do realize that you first understand what type of HVAC you have in your home before you start the entire installation process. In fact, you really should first check the Ecobee website to see if your HVAC system is even compatible with the Ecobee 4. While the smart thermostat does offer support for a very long list of HVAC systems, it pays to be sure.

Using the Ecobee 4

The Ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat looks like a basic color touchscreen and this gives you some useful info at a glance. It will show you the time, and the indoor and outdoor temperature.

Setting up the smart thermostat works very well when you have multiple sensors, so that the unit in a room doesn’t think that the temperature in its immediate surroundings is the same throughout the house. You can set your comfort settings by picking which sensors are involved for each scenario. So this means that even though the temperature in the living room is different, the people sleeping in the bedrooms won’t find the temperature suddenly too cold or too warm.

To adjust the settings, you can use the app, the web interface, and of course the touchscreen. You can use Alexa as well. You can use the various profiles for when “Home”, “Away”, or “Sleep” and then customize them to your liking. You can set baseline comfort settings as well, so that it won’t ever get too cool or too warm for your liking.

Through the app, you can set one day’s schedule and set the same schedule for the rest of the weekdays, while you may have different settings for weekends.

In the Ecobee 4, you also have the option of letting the device sensors detect the presence of people in the room, so it can automatically change the settings to Home or Away depending on where you are. At first glance this seems convenient, but then you may notice that it takes a very long time for the Ecobee 4 to determine that a room is empty even when

Using Alexa

You don’t need to get a separate Alexa speaker as this unit already has Alexa built in. You can ask Alexa for the temperature, or order the voice assistant to change the temperature. You can do this by asking Alexa to set it to a specific temperature or to raise or lower the temperature by how many degrees you want. You can just also ask it to go to a specific mode.

If you have lots of Amazon Echo speakers throughout your home, then you won’t have to be near the main Ecobee 4 unit to give Alexa your orders.

Don’t forget that Alexa can do other things that don’t involve your temperature settings. So you can ask Alexa for the news, to play music, or to control all your other smart devices.

However, so far there are limitations to what the Alexa in the Ecobee 4 can do. The smart device won’t join with your “routines”, so that you don’t get that special temperature you want for romantic dates, reading, or watching TV. It also doesn’t play Spotify tracks very well.

This device now has the special Echo Spatial Perception that keeps all your Alexa devices from obeying your commands. Now instead of all of them obeying you, the nearest Alexa device will be the one to do your bidding.

Working with the HomeKit and Siri

You can also give vocal commands to Siri when you have your Ecobee 4 connected to your HomeKit. It’s just that you need to give your commands to your HomePod or your iPhone.

The Ecobee app automatically adds the Home, Away, and Sleep profiles to your HomeKit scenes. These are Good Morning, Good Night, I’m Home, I’m Leaving, and Resume Schedule.

The Ecobee 4 can be integrated into these HomeKit scenes. That’s another reason why an Apple fan may go with the Ecobee instead of the Nest. You can then adjust the I’m Home scene so that it can be activated by either a command to Siri or by tracking your GPS position.

When you’re near your home, it can start to adjust the home temperature so that it will be as cool or as warm as you like. The door will automatically unlock as you approach your home, and your lights will be on. Heck, it may have already started brewing coffee for you with your smart coffeemaker.

Surprisingly (and frustratingly), your automations can’t be done to activate due to temperature conditions. For example, if your thermostat senses heat in your bedroom then it would be nice to program your fan (plugged into a smart plug) to turn on. But it doesn’t seem possible to do this just yet.

Ecobee 4 Compared to the Nest 3 and Ecobee 3 Lite

It’s obvious that you will generally need to pick between the Ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat and the Nest 3 if you want the best (though also the most expensive) among the smart thermostats.

The Nest 3 offers a great look and it’s easier to install. It has a learning program that overtime won’t require you to choose the settings yourself, as it will do this for you instead.

However, the Ecobee 4 offers Alexa, and the Nest doesn’t have a similar function built in unless you buy a separate device with Google Assistant. In addition, Ecobee 4 also offers HomeKit compatibility which the Nest doesn’t. Finally, you can get more wireless sensors for the Ecobee and adjust the temperatures in those rooms. It’s true that you can get extra temperature sensors for the Nest, but if those sensors detect the presence of people then the Nest won’t automatically adjust the temperature settings.

But what about the Ecobee 3 Lite? Yes, it’s also compatible with HomeKit, it works with sensors, and it can work with an Alexa speaker, it doesn’t have the Alexa already built in.

Pros

  • It works with many smart home automation systems, including HomeKit.
  • It can deal with many HVAC systems.
  • It has Alexa already built in.
  • You can use multiple sensors for each room and then use specific sensors for settings.
  • It works reasonable well.
  • It even looks nice enough.
  • You may need up saving money when you cut down on energy bills due to the Ecobee 4. Eventually, your savings may even equal or exceed your investment.

Cons

  • It’s as pricey as the Nest.
  • You can’t set up events for smart fans to respond to the Ecobee 4 temperature findings.
  • It takes a while for the Ecobee to realize that a room doesn’t have people inside so it can automatically reduce energy use in the room.

Conclusion

It’s easy to understand why so many are wowed by the Ecobee 4 Smart Thermostat. Yes, it’s somewhat pricey and you still need to buy more sensors, but you get a lot of functionality and convenience. Take your energy savings into account, and you don’t really spend too much at all—you may even save more money than you spend on the system!