Millions of homeowners are already using a smart thermostat to help manage their home energy use. With early adopters validating manufacturer's claims that they really do reduce energy bills, the popularity of smart thermostats is snowballing. If all the buzz around smart thermostats has piqued your interest enough to search online, maybe to compare features, benefits, and prices between top brands, no doubt you've come across two of the leading candidates: Nest and Ecobee. They're two frontrunners in the market for a reason, and we're going to cover those reasons in a side-by-side comparison. But first, let's answer the two main questions about smart thermostats that people always ask.
What is a smart thermostat? And why would I want one?
A smart thermostat is a programmable, internet-connected device that brings 21st-Century technology to the climate controls in your home. We’re not just talking tech for tech sake either. The whole smart thermostat wave is driven by way more than just the superficial cachet of owning the latest shiny gadget. Smart thermostats leverage sensing, processing, and wireless communication technologies to maintain your home’s ideal comfort levels while lowering monthly energy use. How much savings are we talking about? Take Nest and Ecobee for example: Nest claims to save users 10–12 percent on heating costs and 15 percent on cooling.1 Meanwhile, Ecobee claims to save homeowners 23 percent a month overall on heating and/or cooling.2
Energy savings + Convenience = Why wouldn’t you want one?
A smart thermostat is an energy optimization tool. Simple as that.
With a range of control options like digital touchscreens, mobile apps, and integration with voice assistant devices like Amazon Echo or Google Home, smart thermostats make operating your climate control system way more effortless. For example, when you first install your smart thermostat, you create automated settings according to your known preferences based on season, time-of-day, or weekly work schedule. The result should be a climate control system that runs totally hands-free—just set it and forget it. But, say your routine suddenly changes, and you have guests staying over who’ll be home during the day, or you duck out of the office early to get ahead of an incoming winter storm, a smart thermostat will either self-adjust based on internet weather reports or by sensing the presence of occupants. If you still want to make manual adjustments, you can control your smart thermostat through the mobile app on your phone and make up-to-the-minute temperature changes from anywhere. Smart thermostats are growing in popularity because they help you stay cozy and save a bundle while allowing you to keep your attention focused on the things that truly matter.
Now for our head-to-head review of The Nest Learning Thermostat and Ecobee 4. Hopefully, we cover all the bases to help you decide which device might be best for you and your home.
Ecobee or Nest? Which smart thermostat is more user-friendly and convenient?
Device and Mobile App Controls
Both Nest and Ecobee include mobile apps and Wi-Fi connectivity so you can adjust temperatures or alter entire preset programs on your phone from anywhere. For adjusting settings on the device itself, Ecobee features an intuitive touchscreen menu that is easy to use. Nest, on the other hand, is designed with an outer ring that functions as a dial for its menu navigation, which kind of mimics the familiarity of more traditional thermostat controls. The mobile app for the Ecobee looks and feels exactly like the navigation of the physical device while the Nest app has a slightly different layout that may require some getting used to. Overall, both devices and their corresponding mobile apps are relatively simple and user-friendly.
Winner - Connectivity and Mobile App: Tie
Which device has the intelligence to own the title ‘smart’?
Nest has built-in machine-learning technology that, after a brief initial learning period, begins auto-adjusting climate settings according to your routines, preferences, and habits. You can still make manual adjustments however you like, but the convenience of a learning thermostat really defines the ideal “smart home.”
Ecobee isn’t a learning technology per se. Changing settings still mostly requires manual programming. But, Ecobee has a built-in room sensor and includes a second room sensor, both of which detect motion. Extra room sensors can be purchased as add-ons and the more sensors you add, the smarter your thermostat gets. By tracking temperature and motion sensor readings in real time, Ecobee can reproduce the effect of machine learning. The Ecobee website3 explains it like this: "If Ecobee senses you are home during your scheduled Away period or away during your scheduled Home period, it will automatically override your schedule to maximize comfort and savings." So, while Nest has the more definitive learning capability, both smart thermostats are capable of making your climate controls hands-free and almost entirely automated.
Winner – Learning ability: Nest
Which one works best with other smart home devices?
Nest and Ecobee both integrate with smart home voice control devices Google Home and Amazon Echo. If you don’t own either one, Ecobee 4 comes with Amazon's Alexa Voice Service built in, which means not only can you adjust your thermostat with voice commands, you can also ask Alexa for a traffic update, a weather forecast, or a reminder about today's schedule with just a few words. Nest plays well with Android devices, but if you have an iOS device, the Ecobee integration tends to be swifter and less buggy, and it has a strong integration with Apple HomeKit, which allows you to use Siri on your devices to control your thermostat.
Winner – Integrations: Ecobee
Which one will self-adjust to my routines most accurately?
There's more to be said about how the number of peripheral sensors enhances differentiation between Nest and Ecobee. We already mentioned that Ecobee comes with an extra sensor you place in a different room from the thermostat. You can also program each individual sensor or set a uniform temperature across all rooms without taking into consideration whether there are people in each room. The Nest does not come with any additional sensors, but you can buy them separately. However, Nest, recognizes your phone as a peripheral “sensor,” meaning that the Nest recognizes when your phone is in the house, assumes you are also home, and adjusts any settings based on your known preferences.
Winner – Sensors: Ecobee
Which one has the design that best matches my style?
To us, the design and appearance of smart thermostats outshine traditional thermostats far and away. Remember those bulky, round, metal thermostats? Yikes. Sure, style is always a matter of personal preference but the sleek, low-profile, cylinder base and a high-resolution glass display of the Nest is hard to beat. The Ecobee also has an impressive design, but to some, the Ecobee’s plastic display might feel less modern and bulky next to the Nest’s curves. Ultimately, it’s your call to decide which design matches the aesthetics of your home.Winner – Design: Nest
Making the tough decision: Which one would you choose?
Ecobee and Nest are both great smart thermostat options. If design and true machine-learning capabilities rank higher on your list of desired features, maybe Nest is the better one for you. If you want seamless compatibility with other devices, more intuitive and user-friendly controls, plus an overall better value, maybe go with the Ecobee. At Blue Raven Solar, we chose the Ecobee as our preferred smart thermostat. We include one with every new solar panel installation to keep our customers’ homes operating as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible on clean, renewable solar energy. And our customers have been very happy with the results.
- "Real Savings". 2019. Nest. Accessed February 28 2019. https://nest.com/thermostats/real-savings/.
- com. (2019). Saving money with ecobee smart WiFi thermostats | ecobee | Smart Home Technology. [online] Available at: https://www.ecobee.com/savings/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2019].
- com. (2019). ecobee4 | ecobee | Smart Home Technology. [online] Available at: https://www.ecobee.com/ecobee4/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].