My ecobee3 HomeKit WiFi thermostat with remote motion and temperature sensors makes cents for my home
Updates to this article appear below.
If you have multiple members of your household that are home at various times of the day, then you likely have some familiarity with inevitable temperature preference skirmishes.
If you have multiple rooms in your home, then you likely also experience conflicts, especially if you have a bunch of computer gear in your home office, for example.
Would a Nest Learning Thermostat help? Not much, since it doesn't know the home's temperature, it only knows the temperature of the room it's in.
(JUL 20 2015 correction - there are third-party solutions, thanks Richard Gunther!)
Saving $ with efficient solutions is a TinkerTry theme. With air conditioning and heat being the top energy guzzlers for most homes, the thermostat is a logical device to consider as an investment in more responsible home ownership.
Last month, knowing I had some vacation time coming up, and knowing that the heat of summer was imminent, it was good timing that ecobee announced a refresh of their smart thermostat, the ecobee3 with HomeKit,
For homes with more than one room™
- Has tiny remote sensors that detect motion and temperature, located in the rooms we spend the most time in.
- I can teach it to sense rooms with activity, then average out those room temps to automatically choose a temperature that helps keep everybody be comfortable.
- I can also set schedules that give it guidelines about our work schedules.
- Any motion detected in "Follow me" mode can automatically override the away mode, regaining comfort, without having to remember to do anything.
- IFTTT (If This Then That) Support. Fellow tinkerers can optionally do useful tweaks like geo-fencing, where the ecobee3 can be set to automatically go into away mode once the smart phone (with IFTT and the ecobee3 app) is beyond a specified distance from home, see also plethora of IFTT recipes. Keep in mind that you are inherently adding more risk by sharing your location data.
- HomeKit has a shot of eventually unifying my Insteon and ecobee3 systems, which is admittedly still in early days.
- I happen to have Apple and Android devices, and the newer ecobee3 units are now Apple HomeKit compatible, which I demonstrate in the video below by saying to Siri "Set temperature 70 degrees."
- The ecobee3 app for iPhone/iPad is available from the App Store:
- Android fans can use the ecobee3 app from the Google Play Store:
I went with pre-ordering the ecobee3 which I Google+'d with anticipation, going with the "ecobee3, HomeKit-Enabled Smarter Bundle" directly from ecobee3. It arrived July 10th, and I completed the install on July 13th.
First, I waited for a cool morning, and turned all AC power off at the breaker. Next, the real "fun" began, starting with removal of the old thermostat.
For my home, some of the work involved in the installation was a pre-sales call to the friendly Canadian technical support, who helped with me through issues revealed by my visit to ecobee.com/compatibility. I had to run a common wire to my attic's air handler, so off to my local Home Depot to pick up some thermostat wire.
It didn't take long to carefully shuffle around the attic, moving the blown-in fiber glass aside as needed, to get that new thermostat wire routed nicely. Since I care about my lungs, I made sure to wear my MSA Safety Works 817663 Multi-Purpose Respirator every time I went up into the attic.
The next chunk of my time was spent on handling that unpainted mess of sheetrock under my old thermostat, discovering the hard way that I really needed to get some screws right into a stud, for a nice secure mount. Why? Well, when you pull the ecobee3 off its mount, it's just a tight friction fit. It has a tendency to pull the wall anchors right back out of the wall. I also decided that I really didn't want to use that optional big round backplate (shouldn't it be rectangular?). So it was time to do it right, messing up the wall temporarily to relocate the plate to the nearest stud, notching out a bit of that stud with a 1/2" paddle bit for the cables, then finishing it all up by patiently patching, sanding, patching again, sanding, and painting.
Once it was installed on my wall, the setup was quite straight forward.
Nothing serious here, mostly nitpicking.
Some trouble getting my schedule times set to anything but midnight.
Room occupancy status might be incorrect
The iOS app occasionally needs a force-quit, to avoid the login password prompt
Renaming a sensor after the install might not be reflected in the nifty HOME IQ, System Monitor reports.
The ecobee3 app is a little clumsy for looking at sensor temps, but I can work around this with 3rd party apps such as Eve "At a Glance" single page summary view.
It's unfortunate that my situation, with a transformer in the basement (gas heat) and another in the attic (AC air handler), required some rewiring. While clearly not ecobee's fault, they handled the process of getting me through the install quite well, providing excellent phone support, and analyzing some pictures I took of my wiring situation to give me proper guidance. Most folks should probably contact ecobee support and discuss issues found at the compatibility checker, and if it sounds complicated, simply choose a professional installation. AC compressors are expensive. You don't want to mess the installation up.
WiFi is 2.4GHz only, this feels a little like planned obsolescence to me, in a world that's fast moving to 802.11ac and the less-crowded 5GHz.
I don't have Siri working yet for setting temps when I'm not at home quite yet, even though my Apple TV that's logged into my iCloud account should have allowed it. Not a problem, I can wait until this fall's iOS 9, when that Apple TV dependency vanishes. Or I can just use the ecobee3 app, from any location.
- HomeKit's use to me is currently rather limited, given it apparently requires that I avoid Auto Mode during those New England "between" months of April and October, when it can be very cold at night, and quite hot later on that same day.
- Allow existing account holders to enable two factor authentication for web access
Allow existing account holders to change their login ID/password, in case they later decide to use a different email address for their ecobee3 account. Even better if a unique email is used only for the ecobee account, using something like Blur.
I would love to see a third party or ecobee3 smart vent with integration with Insteon and/or ecobee3. That might be asking too much, but even just a newer Activent design with a quieter tight seal would do nicely for one or two of the many AC registers in my home, see also Keen Home and Ecovent here. Direct control of just one or two key room's temperature would be a big improvement for many homes.
Even better would be an AC air handler company coming out with intelligent cooling outputs, using internal dampers kept up in the attic, rather than noisy vent covers in the rooms where humans live.
5GHz WiFi compatibility.
Optional RJ45 kit for wired networking, adding resilience.
App that resumes where you left off, with a more informative main view that includes sensor status.
- Sell a variant of ecobee3 in Europe too! For example, not available on Amazon UK or Amazon Germany.
So far, so good! Looks good, works well, and easy enough to use. Those HOME IQ reports, pictured here, are really quite nice, and I'm looking forward to more extensive details available after a full month of ownership.
I may be posting updates below this article, once I have some more time under my belt with this ecobee3. But so far, my hunch is that things are going to work out just fine, especially once I get things tuned so the rooms that matter to us are at the right temperature at the right times.
For me, being able to set the temperature from anywhere, in the house, or on the go, is a big step forward. So is having the ability to set my home up for some serious savings when on vacation, or when no motion is detected for hours.
Assuming I get some of the minor issues eventually resolved, I'll likely be quite happy with this purchase for years to come, even after I replace my 18 year old AC system with a variable speed model for improved humidity control.
I do have a separate thermostat on my first floor for heating, so it would be good to see a way to intelligently integrate a second ecobee3 into my system someday, ideally coordinating settings and sharing the remote sensors.
If you're looking to see some very detailed screenshots of the installation process, followed by the HomeKit pairing steps that are kind of like Bluetooth pairing, Steve Jenkins does a wonderful job here:
- Review: ecobee3 HomeKit-enabled Thermostat 7
JUL 15 2015 by Steve Jenkins at SteveJenkins.com
If you'd like to see a video I created of the HomeKit pairing process, along with some test Siri commands to set my thermostat temperature and query my remote sensors temperature readings, I just created one today!
I would recommend you seek out the ecobee3 HomeKit-Enabled Smarter Bundle that arrives with HomeKit capabilities and 3 sensors total. This bundle seems to be tougher to find online, but is the way to go if you think you might use an Apple product someday. It's also handy to have the ability to use the remote sensors on-hand during the initial set up process, but they can be added simply and easily at any time. If you order direct from ecobee3, they offer free shipping from Toronto, Canada to the US.
It should be noticed that currently:
We are launching the Smart Vent with support for thermostats on the Smart Things and Lowes Iris platforms, and we are working towards "Works With Nest" certification.
Will the Smart Vents make noise?
The motor makes a mechanical sound when it adjusts the vents, but that's it. We specifically designed the vent louvers as air foils to minimize drag and avoid that annoying whistling sound that happens when standard registers are closed.
- The Ecovent system is only compatible with Nest and Radio Thermostats, explained here.
What is IoT, or Internet of Things? Here's what Intel has to say here:
Intel defines the Internet of Things as devices that are connecting to the internet, integrating greater compute capabilities, and using data analytics to extract valuable information.
Well, you could certainly include Nest and ecobee3 in that definition. IoT could really allow our homes to finally become much smarter, with our various systems finally getting interconnected.
Some of the challenges to the growth of IoT that I think about:
- Will usability flourish?
- Will hackability tarnish the ownership experience?
Today, I contacted ecobee support, to see if they could answer some of the issues I noted above. I have now learned the following new information. Note, this is support technician, he can't speak on behalf of the entire company.
When a sensor is renamed, the new name won't show in the HOME IQ, System Monitor reports until 3 days later.
On the thermostat display, the occupancy status of the remote sensors is nearly immediate. On the app, there can be up to a 6 minute delay.
Once a remote sensor has detected motion, it will show "Occupied" for a minimum of 30 minutes, even if no more motion occurs.
- The need to force-quit the iOS ecobee3 app to avoid the password prompt is a known issue, new release expected within a month to resolve this
This last issue about the password prompting has been resolved with the latest iOS app update. No need to force quit anymore. Thank you ecobee!
Great, relevant discussion in this new episode, at this spot in the podcast.
- Home Automation with SmartThings, Ecobee3, Venstar Add-A-Wire, Home Internet Security with OpenDNS – HGG232
Topics include adding a SmartThings, adding a thermostat control wire, and ecobee3, from Nathaniel Lindley, I guy I met 2 years ago at the Home Server Show 3rd Annual meetup.
Months later, things still going well, pleased with the reliable performance of my ecobee3. In fact, I don't think about it much anymore, and that's a good thing. The automatic detection of whether somebody is home or not has been key to this 24/7 comfort.
See also recent/related tweet:
Well, along with the warm days that still require AC, those chilly nights have also arrived. So I just I just discovered that my furnace was turning on the AC air handler's fan whenever my ecobee3 was asking for heat from my basement furnace (gas heat/boiler, water circulated through 1st and 2nd floor zones baseboard heater). Oops! A call to always-excellent ecobee3 support got me back on track, the first time I've needed to call since install. It was because I had incorrectly configured my heat as "furnace" and not the "boiler" setting that I should have chosen. Doh!. It's all explained on page 6 of the ecobee3 manual:
If you have a furnace or boiler installed:
- Select the heating menu.
- Configure the heater type:
. Furnace: Optimizes ecobee3 for systems using forced air
. Boiler: Optimizes your ecobee3 for systems using radiators or in-floor heat.
- Touch Next. You will be returned to the Equipment configuration menu.
As we were talking, I mentioned that I didn't seem to have Auto Heat/Cool available to me, so when it got cold recently, I switched my ecobee3 to Heat mode manually. He quickly found this well-documented answer in the FAQ:
- Auto mode is disabled/unavailable on my HomeKit ecobee3. How do I get it back?
Auto mode is disabled/unavailable on my HomeKit ecobee3. How do I get it back?
When you install a HomeKit-enabled ecobee3, Auto mode will be disabled because Auto mode is not supported by HomeKit. If you would like to use Auto mode please follow these steps. Remember, you will not be able to use HomeKit while in Auto mode.
On your HomeKit-enabled ecobee3, tap on the Main Menu Icon > Settings > Reset > Reset HomeKit
Then, on your HomeKit-enabled ecobee3, tap on the Main Menu Icon > Settings > Installation Settings > Thresholds > select from Auto, Heat, Cool > Enable
Even with iOS 9, I never got Siri working when away (not on local WiFi). So I simply removed my HomeKit for now by tapping the ecobee3 app's upper-right little House icon from the welcome screen, Edit, DELETE HOME. Having done this removal, it seems to mean that the first step of the FAQ above doesn't even show up. Not an issue, since I just performed step 2 without incident, and was then able to go in and easily turn on Auto Heat/Cool mode, as explained on page 26 of the ecobe33 manual:
Select Main Menu > Settings > Installation Settings > Thresholds > Auto Heat/Cool.
I'm all set for winter now, and hopefully for many winters to come, without having to worry about the possibility of condensation in my ducts during those wide-temperature-swing months of May and October. I used to occasionally have issues on cold humid days, where turning on the AC could occasionally result in water dripping from my ceiling vents. Not good. This single ecobee3 feature, on page 26 of the manual, is very helpful for my home and my peace-of-mind:
Compressor Min Outdoor Temp
Enforces a minimum outside air temperature at which the compressor will be disabled. It prevents the compressor from running when the outdoor temperature is too low, thus resulting in damage to the compressor.
I chose 55 degrees, which is higher than my 18 year old outdoor compressor's minimum, which I believe may be 45 degrees.
I hope you find this little ecobee3 update helpful, please drop a comment below to let us know how your ecobee3 ownership experience is going. Thank you!
The ecobee3 with HomeKit bundles and accessories available at Amazon.
I hadn't really thought it about it before, but I recently wondered about the large temperature reading on the thermostat itself. What temperature is it telling you, is it the temperature at that ecobee3 unit? Well, if you a remote sensor that is part of the current schedule, and that remote sensor is the only one being used for the current schedule, then the answer is no. It's not showing the local temp, it's showing the temp of the remote sensor. If there are multiple remote sensors in the current schedule, I believe it would display their average temperature.
Doh! That explains why it sometimes seemed to show a different number than what it felt like in that room.
With so many months of winter ownership, I'm starting to thing more about how it would be nice if I had a complete set of settings for winter versus summer, especially since my ecobee3 only controls my 2nd floor heat, but controls my whole home's AC. Even though I have automatic Heat/Cool mode active, which really helps in October and April, I'd rather not have to reconfigure my settings twice a year to maximize my family's comfort.
Alternatively, I could get another ecobee3 for my first floor, for a little more sensible approach to managing my entire home's temperature, using the single app or web site. I'm frankly not in any hurry to do that, but stay tuned!
See also breaking big news about ecobee3 and Amazon Echo integration:
Let's think about that for a second. Are you setting the temperature for the room you and the echo in? I suspect no, you are setting a new average temperature for all rooms sensors that are currently active. Just something to think about and consider, not likely a big deal at all for most situations. Location awareness could be an opportunity for an even smarter future for such voice controls.
By the way, I'm still on the lookout for new smart vent integration options, we'll have to see what happens next.
Interested in hearing more about Keen Home's Smart Vent? Check it out!
- Smart Home HQ: SHHQ039 – Keen Home Smart Vent and Hue v2
Subscribe to Chris Compton's Smart Home HQ here:
Still pleased overall with my ecobee ownership experience.
I am still working on refining my scheduling process, changing over manually from Heat mode in winter, Auto in April and October, and Cool in summer. That's all a bit trickier than it could be, but still so much better than my old basic programmable thermostat.
Ordered a 2 pack of Remote Sensors today, so I'll soon have 5 remote sensors total. This will help me track how warm some bedrooms get, and hopefully obtain even better summer comfort.
Recently updated an aging iPhone 5 to iOS 10 Public Beta, then decided to give ecobee 3 Homekit integration another try today. Things actually went pretty darn well, as you'll soon see in this new video clip below.
This is the month that continues to challenge my family and I, with the huge temperature swings. A month where we could get our first frost at night, but where we also have a high of 77°F predicted for tomorrow.
One zone for AC, and two zones for baseboard heat. A rather common sort of configuration I would guess.
As mentioned last fall, this is tricky, as only the 2nd floor has the ecobee3, and the first floor and basement have low tech old school thermostats I don't particular enjoy fiddling with.
I'm not the only one having issues when trying to figure out how properly plan for a 2nd ecobee3 someday. Have a listen to Dave McCabe's RESET podcast episode 4 from last week, where he makes mention of a new ecobee3 coming soon, well ahead of today's announcement of the ecobee3 lite for roughly $169.
Check prices/shop at ecobee and Amazon where you can also now pre-order. When I placed my order earlier today on Amazon, it gave me an installation option, but no ETA details yet. Makes sense to compare this cost with the step-up model, the $249 ecobee3 with one remote sensor (at ecobee or Amazon), or roughly $313 for the ecobee3 with 3 remote sensors total (at ecobee or Amazon).
Keep in mind this means you can't ever add a remote sensor to the lite model, which is why I would never recommend it for a primary living space. The biggest selling point of the ecobee3 over the Nest is exactly that feature, the remote sensors. They are a great way to resolve the common issue of the thermostat being located in a crummy location. Read more about the ecobee3 lite here:
- The Ecobee3 Lite is a decent smart thermostat that costs less than most
But depending on your home’s layout, you may miss the remote sensor support.
It would be good to be able to control the 1st floor or basement in my home, with the same ecobee app I already use. In my basement, there is no need for an external remote sensor/motion detector, since the built-in sensors will work great, given the location is optimal. Installation should be almost trivial, with a simple single zone heat-only wiring.
If I decide to try out an ecobee lite in my home, I'll update this article.
So, do you find the need for a $169 ecobee3 lite in your home? Leave a comment below the below below.
My pre-ordered ecobee3 lite arrived yesterday. Here's some pictures of the box that highlight their new marketing ideas, including:
Live better. Save more.
Control from anywhere.
Works with Amazon Alexa
No time to unbox/install yet, but the experience should be rather similar to what I'm already accustomed to. I'll admit I'm disappointed it still doesn't support 802.11ac, so it really does seem to be identical to the existing ecobee3 line in every way, simply missing just the remote sensor capabilities.
I wound up returning the unused/unopened $169 Lite, once I saw the Black Friday sale of $199 for an ecobee3 with 1 remote sensor. Yeah, only a $30 difference.
So as of yesterday, my original ecobee3 finally has a friend on the same guest WiFi. Things worked out well, and I've also now formed a plan on how I'll replace my basement thermostat now too, once I find that $199 sale price again some day. I might even do some sort of dehumidifier control down there in the summer.
First floor Dining Room thermostat replacement
Using one remote sensor in the active kitchen/family room area. Finally, a way to get more comfort in the winter, in the space in the home where we spend the most time.
Turns out the lack of a common wire that I had found on my 2nd floor also bit me on the first floor. Further investigation revealed my basement has the same situation, with only thermostat cabling with only two wires within. This is a common problem. So I spent some quality time on the phone with weekend support in Canada. A full hour actually, but we got through it. I'm thinking all profits made on this product vanished in far less than that hour.
You should contact ecobee support directly for advice on your wiring configuration.
I'm sharing with you what happened to worked well for my home, but please don't assume it's the right solution for your home. This entire article's content is just here for informational purposes only, and ecobee strongly recommends you use a licensed electrical contractor for all household wiring changes.
Originally, ecobee support recommended that I buy the Fast-Stat Common maker, but that's $50 shipped, and to me, just represents one more point of (eventual) failure:
It would also take about a week more of waiting. I had already patched, sanded, and re-painted the wall, and was ready to wrap this up.
I asked ecobee support if I could instead just replace my 2 wire (black and white) with 18/5 wire, along with using a 24 volt AC / 50 watt power supply that I already had, the same model I had recently used to beef up power for my Ring Video Doorbell Pro. They agreed, so off to Lowe's to pick up some Southwire 18/5 Thermostat wire.
Things it worked out fine. It is generally a good idea to plug this transformer into an outlet on the same circuit as your furnace/boiler, to be sure all power is removed, when working on such wiring.
The old Honeywell thermostat had a W and R terminal, on the ecobee3, these wires were now attached to my W1 and Rh terminals. For power, the suggestion, not recommendation, was to avoid the need to understand exactly what was hooked up to what, given my home's thermostat wiring was a bit messy. By avoiding using the transformer that powers the Taco zone valves, instead, I used two of the 18/5 wires to connect the two outside posts of my transformer directly to the Rc and C of my new ecobee3.
Back in July of 2015, up above in this very same article, I wrote:
(3) I would love to see a third party or ecobee3 smart vent with integration with Insteon and/or ecobee3. That might be asking too much, but even just a newer Activent design with a quieter tight seal would do nicely for one or two of the many AC registers in my home, see also Keen Home and Ecovent here. Direct control of just one or two key room's temperature would be a big improvement for many homes.
Just announced, finally, only can your ecobee3 know the temperature in your various rooms, but now it can do something about it! This is potentially great news for my home.
Admittedly, the sizes of the vents Keen offers don't quite fit my home's duct outlets, and I wonder if I'll be hearing noisy leaks when the damper is electrically closed, we'll see, when cooling season arrives.
A couple of months ago, I got a remote sensors complaining about low battery, so I replaced it. Happened again a week later, different sensor, bought at the same time. So it was time to buy batteries for all my remote sensors, which apparently have roughly 18 months of battery life. Not bad at all!
It's apparently already time for rumors about the next-gen ecobee offering, perhaps called the ecobee4, leaked by Apple. See the original source article by Dave Zatz, more info at cnet, and a new Dave Zatz update today:
As foreshadowed by FCC documents, seemingly displaying a rear-firing speaker, newly discovered ecobee4 product marketing materials confirm the presence of Alexa
The ecobee4 announcement is apparently set for May 05 2017.
Wow, it's been exactly 3 years since I last updated this article, and I've been using ecobee for my home for nearly 5 years now, wow! I also have an ecobee4, but I admit I haven't had a chance to install it yet down in my basement. At least that wall is easier to access to get power into. Yeah, it's also a 2 wire thermostat, so a bit of extra hassle.
Matt Ferrell has put out a great new Undecided with Matt Ferrell video and Still TBD podcast episode about ecobee thermostats, with 4 years of ownership under his belt. Check them both out, you'll learn a lot about the ownership experience, and will enjoy some chuckles too. You'll even hear about his funny encounter with smart vents, similar to my own experience temporarily dabbling with an Activent in my family room, when it quickly became clear that what's I'd love to see someday are smart and quiet dampers for some of the octopus tentacles of AC Flex ducts sprawled across my attic.
Gladly, we now have Tesla's Elon Musk actively talking up home HVAC more and more frequently lately, on the heels of the heat pump innovations in the recently arrived Model Y. I've written about heat pump water heaters, and I'm very much looking forward to innovations in this space! Not an easy challenge, given I have basement-furnace gas-heated water circulated in 3 baseboards zones for heating, and whole house AC via attic ducts providing 2 floors with cooling.
Dec 2012 to Jul 2015
- My home's First Alert ONELINK system for smoke and carbon monoxide detection includes voiced warnings, with optional smartphone alerts
Jun 14 2013
Experiencing the issues that come from being an adopter of smart home tech with both @smappee and @ecobee.
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Home: On from The Digital Media Zone: Home: On #051 – Going Hubless, with Adam Miarka
Jul 09 2015 podcast by Richard Gunther and Adam Miarka at Digital Media Zone
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Jul 07 2015 by Adam Westlake at SlashGear
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Heating vents that direct warmth where you want it - So-called smart vents claim to add comfort and save money
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featuring smart vents by Keen Home and Ecovent
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