ecobee's budget smart thermostat, the ecobee3 lite, uses intuitive technology to keep your home comfortable. To keep the price low, it doesn't come with the ecobee4’s advanced features, such as HVAC accessory compatibility, motion detection, voice control and a remote sensor, but matches it in every other aspect. If you have no interest in the advanced features of the ecobee4, the ecobee3 lite is a solid choice that is $80 cheaper.
The ecobee3 lite's square body is one of the simplest and most attractive in the industry. One of the best things about the device itself is that its touchscreen interface is nearly identical to the ecobee mobile app. This makes it easy to switch between changing settings on the device and your phone, and it reduces the time it takes to learn how the thermostat works. Once I installed it, the ecobee3 lite was extremely easy to use because it uses a simple question-and-answer process to help finish setting it up.
This thermostat is not part of any particular smart home platform, but the built-in ZigBee technology and compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, IFTTT and others allows it to connect to more smart home systems than most other Wi-Fi thermostats.
It was more complicated to install than other thermostats I tested. I had to disconnect several wires on the furnace and hook up the included Power Extender Kit since our test HVAC system didn't have a C wire. The Power Extender Kit is a nice alternative to rewiring the hookups on your thermostat. This Wi-Fi thermostat's built-in level helps with installation.
Although you can have this thermostat professionally installed, you can do it yourself with help from video tutorials and the manual. During our tests, I found the information needed in the back of the manual and finished the installation quickly.
A slew of useful energy-management features helps make this one of the best programmable thermostats. Its auto-scheduling feature, called DataRhythm Technology, analyzes your patterns and tailors heating cycles to your home's schedule. It also evaluates factors like weather conditions and humidity to learn better ways to save energy while keeping your home comfortable.
The thermostat supports geofencing, which changes your home's temperature based on your phone's location. The ecobee3 lite doesn't have a motion sensor to detect when no one is home, which is a disadvantage compared to our top three thermostats: Nest Learning Thermostat, ecobee4 and Nest Thermostat E.
The ecobee3 lite's most unique feature is its optional remote sensor; no other thermostat brand in our comparison has anything like it. Remote sensors wirelessly communicate with the thermostat to detect temperature and motion in other areas of your home, giving it more complete information.
Unlike the ecobee4, the ecobee3 lite doesn’t come with any remote sensors, but you can purchase a two pack of ecobee Room Sensors separately for around $80. Nest sells a similar remote sensor, but it lacks motion detection.
With social media, phone, live chat and email support, ecobee's customer service is above average. The ecobee3 lite's three-year warranty affords plenty of time to notice defects. If you need professional installation, ecobee can connect you with a local certified installer.
The ecobee3 lite has four heating stages, which is one more than usual and something you only find on the best programmable thermostats. Like most smart thermostats, it also supports two-stage cooling systems. The ecobee3 lite's temperature swing keeps your home within 1 degree of your 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 at night. The ecobee3 lite also uses fan dissipation to circulate air after your cooling or heating equipment turns off. This takes advantage of normally unused cold or hot air so you get the most out of your HVAC system.