PROS / The ecobee3 comes with a remote sensor that improves energy management.
CONS / This programmable thermostat does not have live chat support.
VERDICT / With remote sensors and a central user interface, the ecobee3 does things better than most smart thermostats. Its smart auto-adjustment function also makes it easy on the environment.
More than any other thermostat manufacturer in our review, ecobee places its priorities squarely on being environmentally friendly. Its flagship programmable thermostat, the ecobee3, maintains that focus with intuitive technology to keep your home comfortable. The company’s customer service and unique user experience add value to a superb product. The ecobee3's excellence earns it the Top Ten Reviews Silver Award for programmable thermostats.
Recently, ecobee released the ecobee3 lite, which has all of the features you can find in the original ecobee3, except for occupancy detection, support for accessories such as humidifiers and compatibility with remote sensors. We tested the ecobee3 lite and determined that all of the other functions work the same. While the ecobee3 lite is an excellent thermostat in its own right, we concluded the differences weren't great enough to warrant a separate review. You can read our ecobee3 review below for insights into the ecobee3 lite.
In addition to its focus on reducing your carbon footprint, the ecobee3 almost flawlessly controls the temperature in your home. It has four heating stages, which is one more than usual, something you only find on the best programmable thermostats. This additional stage allows you to configure separate heating zones in your home. You can configure the zones to divert heat to bedrooms during the night or living rooms during the day. This reduces energy waste by only heating occupied rooms. The ecobee3, like most smart thermostats, also supports two-stage cooling systems.
The ecobee3 has a 1-degree temperature swing, so your home's temperature stays within 1 degree of your programmed target temperature. This thermostat can use a ventilator system to circulate outside air throughout your home in a process called free cooling. Free cooling is especially effective during the summer, when outside air is often cooler than your home at night. The ecobee3 uses fan dissipation to circulate air after your cooling or heating equipment turns off. This takes advantage of normally unused heating potential to get the most out of your HVAC system.
A slew of useful energy-management features helps make this system one of the best programmable thermostats. Its auto-scheduling feature, DataRhythm Technology, analyzes your patterns and tailors heating cycles to your home's schedule. DataRhythm Technology also evaluates factors, such as weather conditions and humidity, to learn better ways to save energy while providing your family with a comfortable environment.
The ecobee3's most unique feature is its remote sensor; no other thermostat in our review has anything like it. Remote sensors wirelessly communicate with the device to detect temperature and motion in other areas of your home, which eliminates the need for you to wake up in the middle of the night to adjust the temperature. The thermostat comes with one remote sensor, but you can purchase additional sensors separately. The central unit has motion and temperature sensors of its own, and it also has humidity and equipment status sensors.
The thermostat supports geofencing via the IFTTT task automation service. This feature changes your home's temperature based on your phone's location and is common on other top thermostats. The ecobee3 does not have a time-to-target-temperature feature, which tells you how long it takes for your home to reach a desired temperature. This is a rare feature that is convenient but not vital.
Design & Setup
On the surface, the ecobee3's small square design is one of the simplest and most attractive in the industry. One of the most convenient things about the device itself is that its touchscreen interface is nearly identical to that of the ecobee3 mobile app. This unified look makes it easy to switch between devices, which can be hard to do with other home thermostats.
The thermostat uses Wi-Fi to connect to the internet and other equipment. It is not part of any particular smart home platform, but the built-in ZigBee technology makes it a real possibility in the future. It is also the first product in our Wi-Fi thermostat review to support Apple HomeKit. Apple's iOS devices can natively control HomeKit-certified devices without any special software, which simplifies home automation.
This Wi-Fi thermostat has a built-in level to help with installation and comes with a Power Extender Kit that lets you connect the unit to your HVAC system with few wires. The ecobee3 was more complicated to install than other thermostats we reviewed. We had to disconnect several wires on the furnace and hook up the extender kit, which has a C-wire hookup. The common wire doesn't always extend to the wall connection, which is why ecobee provides an extender kit. This is a nice convenience because the C-wire extension kit works as an adapter that eliminates the need to rewire the hookups on your thermostat. Still, this extra step makes the installation process complex.
You may want to consider having this thermostat professionally installed, but if you prefer to do it yourself, there are plenty of support options to help you through the process. We had to rely on the video tutorials and consult the manual often, and we found a small discrepancy between the video and the instructions in the front of the manual. We finally found the information we needed in the back of the manual and were able to finish the installation. Once it was installed, the thermostat was extremely easy to use. You can program all the settings through a simple question-and-answer process.
Help & Support
With an online forum, phone support and email support, ecobee's customer service is above average. The company does not have a live chat support feature, though. Live chat is a convenient contact method, so this is an unfortunate omission, but ecobee's customer service is reliable and responsive via email. There are plenty of videos to help you install and get the best use out of this thermostat, which you can access on the company’s website or YouTube. The ecobee3's three-year warranty affords plenty of time to notice manufacturer defects. If you prefer to have a professional install the device, ecobee can connect you with a certified installer in your area.
The ecobee3's user interface and remote sensors have no equal among digital thermostats. The remote sensors wirelessly communicate with the central unit and have the ability to track what is going on in each room and area of your house. There are a couple things missing, including live chat support and a time-to-target-temperature feature. Even so, the ecobee3 is easily one of the best thermostats. It's easy to use, with an intuitive phone app that directly corresponds to the thermostat's user interface. If you have no interest in the remote sensors of the ecobee3, the ecobee3 lite is also a solid choice that is $80 cheaper.