Thermostats are a necessary component of every home that sometimes goes totally unnoticed. They control how comfortable we feel in our environments. 10 years ago we would consider a “smart” thermostat as one that we could program to change the temperature throughout the day. Now, thanks to brands like Nest and Ecobee, we have the equivalent of small computers controlling our home’s automation. These stylish little units do a lot more than just control your home’s temperature.
Thinking about turning your home into a smart home? Smart thermostats are an easy way to start. They can save you money by closely monitoring complex multi-stage systems that have heating, cooling, dehumidifier and ventilation systems. For a thermostat to be considered “smart” it uses your Wi-Fi network to control your HVAC system remotely from your phone or tablet. There are numerous manufacturers that offer smart thermostats with various feature sets. The two most advanced units are the Ecobee4 and Nest Learning Thermostat (Third Generation). This reviewer recently decided to upgrade his system and was between these 2 units.
Let’s start with the many features that both of these units offer… Both units offer the basic uses of raising and lowering the temperature either at the thermostat or on your smart phone, tablet or computer. You can set up a 7 day schedule and they can be overridden to adjust the temperature if a family member will be home. Both offer large color touch displays that can be easily seen from across the room. Both offer motion sensors that will wake up the thermostat when you enter the room. Both offer geofencing software that sets tells the thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature when you leave your house to save energy and then re-assume the normal program when you arrive back home. Both also offer sensors that will alert you if your HVAC system shuts down or if the humidity level in your home goes outside of the comfort level. They both also connect to the local weather service to display the outdoor temperature. Both can give you statistical usage and can even remind you to change the furnace filter.
Both smart thermostats are very easy to install yourself with all the installation hardware included and are easy to integrate with you other smart home devices. Both devices work with a plethora of other smart home devices. Smart light bulbs, appliances, smoke alarms and household cameras all work with both devices through the IFTTT protocol. Additionally both can be controlled through Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Home. The Ecobee4 actually comes with an Amazon Alexa integrated in the unit with a speaker and microphone to do all the same commands that a stand-alone Alexa can.
The main difference between the 2 smart thermostats is the way that they monitor and adjust your home. The Ecobee4 features sensors that you can place in various rooms of your home. This allows the Ecobee to monitor multiple areas of your home and adjust the temperature so all the rooms in your home are actually at the same temperature and “cold spots” are corrected. The sensors also monitor your movement, so if they detect movement in a room the system can adjust its behavior to make sure that it is at the optimal temperature. The sensors also automatically adjust and override the program if it detects movement in your home when you are supposed to be away. The nest thermostat has a “learning” period of about a week that you can teach your Nest thermostat good habits to help save energy. You tell it when you go to bed, before you leave for work, or any time you would adjust a regular thermostat to save energy. The Nest thermostat will learn what temperatures you like and when you want them to happen and then create a temperature schedule to help save energy and keep you comfortable.
Either thermostat is a great first step to integrate your HVAC into a smart home.