For years Ecobee has been one of the leading producers of smart-thermostats in the industry. Smart-thermostats typically use remote sensors to detect temperature and motion.
These sensors then send data back to the main unit, allowing it to control the temperature in your home based on any directions you’ve set for it. This gives you unprecedented control of your heating and cooling. And now, with the release of the Ecobee4, the Canadian-based home automation company has made their eponymous smart-thermostat even smarter.
Today we’ll be talking about the Ecobee 4 and the older Ecobee 3, comparing the two products and assessing all the changes and upgrades.
The most notable of these changes comes in the form of Amazon’s Alexa. While the Ecobee3 is compatible with Alexa, as well as the Apple Homekit and other smart-home systems, the Ecobee4 comes with Alexa already built into the thermostat. This allows you to easily control the temperature of your home by voice, even if you don’t already own the Amazon Echo.
While some of the features of Amazon’s virtual assistant have been left out in the Ecobee 4, it is still a welcome inclusion for users who might not be interested in purchasing the Amazon Echo by itself.
Let’s take an in depth look at each of these thermostats.
How we Tested
We installed both products, in turn, in my home, which had previously used a traditional thermostat of no particular note.
We hired a local professional to install the thermostats to the furnace. This isn’t completely necessary if you’re comfortable doing this type of thing yourself, although mistakes can potentially damage the thermostat or cause harm to you. We recommend contacting a professional if you’re unsure.
After installation, the setup for both thermostats was exceedingly easy and quick. You enter your WiFi password, set your location and tell the Ecobee which type of heating/cooling system your home has. After that you’re good to go.
Product Similarities and Differences
As stated above, the main upgrade Ecobee made to their 4th generation product is the built-in Amazon Alexa. Users loved pairing the Ecobee3 with the Amazon Echo and other similar virtual home-assistant devices. This gave them complete control of their thermostat using only their voice. And now, Ecobee has assured that all customers have access to this feature without having to purchase any additional products.
While this is great, a significant portion of customers interested in smart-thermostats already own the Amazon Echo or a similar system, rendering Ecobee’s largest upgrade obsolete for many potential customers.
The integrated Alexa also has a few limitations. With just the Ecobee4, you’ll be unable to use your thermostat to access third party apps, or to place orders on Amazon. One of the strangest limitations is the inability to rename the wake-action.
If you want your Ecobee to respond to anything other than “Alexa”, you’ll need to have it hooked to an independent Amazon Echo system, as making this change to the built in Alexa is simply not possible.
Another difference between the Ecobee3 and Ecobee4 is that the latter comes equipped with a large LED light used to indicate that Alexa is enabled and ready. You can disable this light, but disabling it only causes it to turn red as opposed to shutting off completely. Some users may find this annoying, especially if they wish to install the thermostat in their bedroom.
Although definitely an upgrade, the built-in Alexa function may be redundant for many users. If you already own an Amazon Echo or similar device, you’ll have no use for the Ecobee 4’s integrated Alexa; linking either Ecobee thermostats with a stand-alone Echo is superior to the Ecobee 4’s built-in version.
However, if you neither have nor plan to purchase an Amazon Echo or similar device, the Ecobee 4 is undoubtedly the choice for you. You’ll gain convenient voice-control over your home’s temperature, as well as the ability to ask questions and have Alexa respond right through your thermostat.
Both the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 make use of wireless sensors. Users place these in the most-used rooms of their homes—living-room, bedrooms, kitchen and bathrooms—and the sensors record the temperature and report it back to the main unit.
This is particularly useful in larger homes. Does one room in your home usually stayed colder than the others? If so, the reasons for this could be numerous: the room might be larger and hold heat less well; it could be less insulated; or simply be located further away from the traditional thermostat.
Whatever the reason, the room sensors used by Ecobee will solve the problem. Ecobee smart-thermostats collect temperature information from your entire home, finding the average temperature and adjusting accordingly.
These remote sensors also detect motion, enabling Ecobee’s extremely useful “Home and Away” and “Follow Me” features.
So what are the differences between the sensors used for the Ecobee3 and the new Ecobee4 products?
There are none.
Ecobee made no changes or upgrades to the room-sensors themselves for their 4th generation thermostat. However, unlike the Ecobee3, every Ecobee4 model includes at least 1 room sensor. Each sensor is capable of covering an area of about 40 feet. You can of course purchase as many sensors as you need, larger homes requiring more.
Both thermostats make brilliant use of the remote sensors, allowing for much more even heating or cooling of your home. The Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 performed equally great in these regards.
Both thermostats feature a small, nearly identical touch screen. The interface is extremely simple and easy to use.
When inactive, the screen displays the current temperature inside of your home, as well as the current weather outside. When active—simply walking in front of the screen will trigger the motion-censor, setting the display to active mode—the screen displays a line of dots. Each dot indicates a temperature.
To adjust the desired temperature of your home, you simply need to press your finger to these dots and scroll down or up. It’s all very simple. Anybody who is familiar with using smartphones will have no trouble whatsoever with the interfaces of either of these thermostats.
The only differences between the two is that the Ecobee 4 features menu-settings for the built-in Alexa component. You can turn Alexa on or off, lower the volume of the speakers, or control her sensitivity to background noise.
Ecobee also allows you to adjust your thermostat from your mobile device, be it smartphone or tablet. Ecobee is compatible with both iOS and Android. The interface you’ll use from your device is nearly identical to the one on your thermostat, and just as simple and easy to use.
The differences between the two interfaces is small. Both the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 feature the same simple and convenient interface. With the Ecobee 4, you can change or adjust Alexa’s settings, whereas with the Ecobee 3, if you choose to pair your thermostat with an Amazon Echo, you will simply adjust the settings with the Amazon Alexa app on your mobile device.
Far Voice Recognition
One big change that came to the Ecobee 4, brought along by the addition of built in Alexa, is the “Far Field” voice recognition. This feature allows you to use Alexa even if you’re long distances from your thermostat.
While the main device for the Amazon Echo can easily be placed in living rooms, bedrooms, or wherever is most convenient, it’s usually most prudent to have your thermostat installed in your hallway.
Thus Ecobee had to include this feature if you were going to be able to effortlessly use Alexa with just your thermostat. Unfortunately, despite their intentions, the Ecobee 4’s far voice recognition doesn’t work exceedingly well. If you have a smaller home, it’s probably fine. For users with larger houses, however, this could be an issue.
The far voice recognition is a necessary feature for the Ecobee 4, and generally does its job. Users with larger homes, however, might need to consider purchasing a separate Amazon Echo to reap the easy usability of Alexa
Ecobee thermostats function extremely well. Prior to our testing, we had never experienced such a controllable and consistent heating experience. It was winter when we tested, and while my traditional thermostat had been able to keep me reasonably warm, the Ecobee smart-thermostats operate on another level.
Both Ecobee systems responded very quickly to any changes we made. You can set you thermostat to heat your home based on the temperature of the main thermostat unit, or you can use the Follow Me feature. With the Follow Me feature activated, the thermostat will control the temperature based on the last place it has picked up motion from the remote sensors. This is an incredible feature which allows you to save money since you’ll never be heating rooms that you’re not using.
Ecobee uses these same motion sensors for the Away/Home feature. If no movement is detected by the motion-sensors, the thermostat goes into away mode. Conversely, when the sensors detect movement, away mode automatically shuts off. This allows you to come and go as you please without having to fuss over settings. This feature saves money and energy anytime you happen to stay away from home longer than expected.
There aren’t many differences in the performances of the two thermostats. Both share the super-convenient “Follow Me” and “Away/Home” features, and both do a great job of adapting to any specific needs you may have. If you’re still using a traditional thermostat in your home, upgrading to either of these units is sure to give you superior control of the temperature of your home, while also saving moving and energy.
One thing that users love about the Ecobee 3 is the attractive design. Very minimalistic and modern, the Ecobee 3 features a black finish and smooth edges. The thermostat really blends into your home beautifully.
With the Ecobee 4, Ecobee elected not to change much at all about the physical design of their product. This “don’t fix what isn’t broken” philosophy has paid off, as both products continue to receive praise for their stylish and attractive design. The only differences between the two is that the Ecobee 4 features a speaker on top of the thermostat, allowing Alexa to speak. In addition to this speaker, The Ecobee 3 is also slightly bigger than its predecessor—109 x 109 compared to 100 x 100—and slightly heavier. Otherwise, the two thermostats are identical.
With either product, you’ll be getting a stylish, modern thermostat that makes a nice addition to the appearance of any home.
- Room Sensors: Both the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 rely on remote sensors to give you superb, customizable temperature control.
- LCD Touchscreen: Both thermostats come equipped with nearly identical touchscreens, featuring easy to use interfaces which allow you to effortlessly control temperature and settings.
- Attractive Design: The physical design of the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 thermostats and accompanying room sensors is very modern and aesthetically pleasing.
- Mobile App Compatibility: Both units can be controlled via any mobile device.
- Virtaul Home-Assistant Compatibility: Both the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4 work with Amazon Echo and other devices such as Google Home.
- Apple Home-Kit Compatibility: Both units are also compatible with Apple Home-Kit, enabling you to use Siri to heat and cool your home.
- Hardwired Thermostats: Unlike many competitors, neither Ecobee thermostat requires batteries, but instead runs off your HVAC system’s C-Wire.
- Power Extender Kit: Both units come with a PEK kit which allows the thermostat to be installed even if your home does not have a C-Wire.
- Supports All HVAC Systems: Ecobee can control any additional features that your home’s HVAC system possesses, including a humidifier/dehumidifier.
- 3 Year Warranty: Both products feature a free 3-year warranty.
Changes and Upgrades
- Built-in Alexa Functions: The Ecobee 4 comes with Alexa built into to the unit, allowing you to control your thermostat by voice without needing to purchase Amazon Echo or other devices.
- Slightly Different Physical Specs: The Ecobee 4 is slightly larger than its predecessor, 109 x 109 compared to 100 x 100, is slightly heavier, and features both a speaker, allowing Alexa to speak, as well as an LED light to display the status of Alexa.
- Voice Control Options: The Ecobee 4 allows you to control Alexa’s setting from the LCD touchscreen on the front of your thermostat.
- Far Voice Recognition: The Ecobee 4 comes equipped with the same technology Amazon uses for its personal assistant devices, allowing you to control the thermostat from long distances.
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the most popular smart-thermostats on the market today. The unit boasts nearly all the same features as the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4, has an extremely stylish, modern design, and is compatible with all major Virtual Home-Assistants.
Unlike the Ecobee 4’s integrated Alexa, however, the Nest does not have any of these systems built in, requiring you to purchase them separately. This, along with the slightly higher price-tag, makes the Nest Learning thermostat inferior to the Ecobee 4, in our opinion.
Another concern for the Nest is that its “learning’ technology is not as reliable as the technology used by the Ecobee systems. Users have complained that the Nest sometimes fails to properly identify when they’re away from home and continues regular heating/cooling functions, wasting energy and money.
The only area in which the Nest seems to outdo both the Ecobee 3 and Ecobee 4, is in its physical design and unique usability. The much smaller, circular Nest unit borrows its design from thermostats of years past, while of course adding modern features such as an LCD screen with motion sensors.
To adjust the temperature, you simply turn the dial on the outside of the circular thermostat—right for warmer and left for colder—while the screen displays the desired temperature.
As well as being an overall great thermostat with countless features, it’s these small details that give the Nest its popularity. If you’re looking to reap all the benefits of a smart-thermostat and want to do so in the most stylish manner possible, the Nest Learning Thermostat is a great option for you.
Who Should Get This
The Ecobee 4 as well as the older Ecobee 3 are both perfect for anybody who wants to upgrade their home thermostat system. Smart thermostats are particularly useful for anybody who maintains an irregular schedule. Traditional thermostats can waste a considerable amount of energy in just a few days if you forget to or are unable to turn them off.
The Ecobee thermostats remedy this problem effortlessly with the use of powerful motion-sensors and widely customizable settings.
The main thing to consider when deciding between these two thermostats is budget. If budget is no concern, then the Ecobee 4 is undoubtedly the more advanced product. Ecobee did a great job of maintaining everything that users loved about the Ecobee 3, and so, the differences between the two thermostats are not great.
They did however, implement some nice upgrades. Whether or not these upgrades are worth the higher price of the newer product depends largely upon the customer.
Users who already own an Amazon Echo might consider saving some money and purchasing the older Ecobee 3 thermostat. The Ecobee 3 can easily be linked to an existing virtual home-assistant, and the only missing feature will be the ability to speak directly to and receive answers from the thermostat. Although the addition of the built-in microphone, speaker, and voice control options is quite cool and useful in the Ecobee 4, with the Ecobee 3, you’ll still be able to control the settings of your thermostat and adjust the temperature of your home with Alexa, using just your voice.
The “Far Field” voice recognition included in the Ecobee 4 is also a feature that is hit-or-miss depending upon the user. If you have a very large home, then the voice recognition might still not be powerful enough to work from the distances you need it to. Conversely, the feature might be unneeded for a user living in a very small home or apartment.
The main thing that sets the Ecobee 4 apart from the Ecobee 3 is the integration of Alexa. If you don’t currently own an Amazon Echo, then purchasing the Ecobee 4 is a great way to acquaint yourself with the wonders of Alexa while also getting the game-changing smart-thermostat you’ve been looking for. It’s also quite affordable compared to buying an Amazon Echo or similar product separately.
While the vast number of similarities, as well as the potential redundancy of some of the main upgrades, makes the gap between these two products small, that gap exists nonetheless. This choice was not a hard one. The Ecobee 4 offers everything that its predecessor offers, and more. The built in-Alexa is absolutely huge for users who might not be interested in purchasing the Echo separately, and the far field voice recognition, as well as the ability to talk directly to the thermostat, offers something new for users who do already own their own Echo. Our pick is: Ecobee4
While the Ecobee3 is still a great option for users who are willing to depart with a few features in order to save some money, purchasing the Ecobee4 will give you the most advanced smart-thermometer on the market.