• ecobee WiFi enabled Smart Thermostat Part 2: The Features review

    In Part 1 of our ecobee WiFi enabled Smart Thermostat review, I showed you how I installed the ecobee Smart Thermostat in our house and how easy the installation was, despite the possibly intimidating equipment interface portion of it. In Part 2 of the ecobee Smart Thermostat series, I'll run you through its rich features and give some examples as to how it will pay for itself in a short manner of time, making it the perfect addition to your home network. There are a lot of features to cover, so let's get started.

    At a glance
    • Hands down the best WiFi thermostat on the market
    • Reporting function is very comprehensive and useful when managing energy costs
    • Beautiful touch screen, you'll awe all of your friends
    • Web portal is very feature-rich and is constantly being improved
    • Smartphone app works very well and changes are nearly instantaneous
    • Well worth the extra cost over competitors when features are compared
    • Answering a few easy questions allows the ecobee Smart Thermostat to set up your program for you
    • Ability to add extra sensors for increased future functionality
    • Great company with an excellent vision

    • Equipment interface makes install *seem* more complex than a typical thermostat (it really isn't)
    • Cost seems higher when superficially compared to other WiFi thermostats
    • Touch screen is not always spot on

    It's been a few weeks now since I installed the ecobee Smart Thermostat that ecobee was nice enough to send me. I've been very impressed with it and I think I've probably sold a couple to friends with my run-through of the web portal, the touch screen, and the Android app. It really is a work of art and I've been continuously impressed with the features that are packed in to it. It's also been spot-on with its learning functions, each day getting the house right up to temp at the exact time it's set for. When I contacted ecobee about a review, I was given these statistics in regard to their thermostat:
    • 85% of ecobee users are running a program on their thermostat, versus estimated North American average of 23% for all other programmable thermostats
    • ecobee users are saving an average of 26% a year on their energy costs, equaling about $500 per year
    • 78% of users who have downloaded the app access it at least once a week
    • 65% of ecobee users log on to their web portal at least once a week
    • 97% would recommend ecobee to their friends

    Those are some big claims, especially saving about $500 per year. After having the ecobee for just two weeks now, I can see how those claims may be legitimate. For instance, we left for the extended Thanksgiving weekend to go 3 hours away. Before we left I used the ecobee web portal to set the thermostat to vacation mode (50 deg). I scheduled vacation mode to be completed when we expected to be home, so the house would return to 68deg and be nice and warm when we arrived back. A day in to our trip I received a text warning from the thermostat that the house had dropped below the 60deg warning threshold I had set in case of furnace failure. I pulled up the ecobee Android app and indeed saw the house was around 56deg, vacation mode was working. We decided to come back a few hours early, so I just used the ecobee Android app, cancelled vacation mode about 4 hours out, and we came home to a nice, comfy house. In the past we would either have left the thermostat on its normal program, keeping the house unreasonably warm for having no one using it, or we would have set it to 50ish deg, came home to the cold house, and had complaints from everyone until it warmed up again. Let's look at the report from the thermostat for the Thanksgiving weekend.

    With the ecobee Smart Thermostat reporting at 5 min intervals I can see how long the house took to go from its normal 68 to the 50deg vacation mode. I can also see the furnace ran almost non-stop for 4 hours to get from 50deg to 68deg upon our return. These reports are also very useful for typical furnace usage, letting you see each evening how long the house takes to cool to the sleep temp and how long the furnace runs to get back to morning temp. Interesting to me is the large variance of times to settle down to the sleep temp as it relates to the outdoor temperature, that information could easily be used for evaluating additional insulation requirements.

    Remember the questions I mentioned when allowing the thermostat to set up a program for you? Well here they are. It's just a matter of saying what type of building, how big, and a few other related questions. Once done it sets up a general program, ours was pretty dang close. I think I only changed the weekend to allow us to sleep in longer before it started heating up.

    Pretty simple, and even I was able to answer them completely. Of course, if you don't want to set your program via the web, you can do it on the thermostat as well, and the questions are just as easy, perhaps easier. Contrast this to the past where you sit looking at an LCD screen, figuring out what buttons to push, then trying to "copy" one day to the next, all the while hoping it's done right.

    One of my favorite items is the Reminder function. Yeah, getting an email or a text when the furnace filter needs to be replaced is nice, as none of us ever remember to do that on time. But even better are the low and high temperature warnings. Multiple times in the last 10 years we've awoken, or come home to, a very cold house due to the furnace malfunctioning. With the ecobee Smart Thermostat at the very least you can set some alerts to let you know that's happening. It may still be inconvenient, but at least you'll know. Additionally you can have it notify your HVAC contractor and, with access to your web portal, they can login and look for potential problems for you.

    Families with kids, or cold-blooded frequent thermostat changers, will like the Preferences functions. With the Set Temp Ranges, you can actually limit how high the heat can be set to and how low the cool can be set to. No more finding the heat set to 76 and teenagers walking around in shorts when it's 20deg outside.

    The Smart Recovery functions allow the thermostat to learn just how long it takes to recover and adjust the runtime accordingly. That, in conjunction with the outdoor temperature, allows the thermostat to hit its set points on time with precision, even when the outdoor temperature varies greatly. Notice how simple, yet comprehensive, these web portal screens are?

    If I had to be honest and find some things to gripe about the ecobee on, there aren't many, but one is the Android app. Seems whenever I try to set the temp it jumps to 45deg first. Easy enough to solve once it communicates back for 2-3 seconds, but annoying. Knowing ecobee and their constant improvements, I would have to bet that will be fixed soon. In all actuality, it could simply be my phone as well, as Mrs. HomeNetworkEnabled's Android does not have that problem. The other is the thermostat's touch screen, while beautiful and feature-rich, I had some problems with getting it to work precisely at times. A quick search online confirmed others with the same issue. That said, it really wasn't a big deal and most of the time works just fine. Overall, if you are looking for a WiFi enabled thermostat for your home network, consider the ecobee. The price may be intimidating upfront, but it will pay for itself in time, and it's worlds above the other options.

    In Part 3 of the ecobee WiFi enabled Smart Thermostat series we'll install the Remote Sensor Module and the 4 additional sensors and I'll show you exactly what you can do with it. I feel the expandability is the coolest and one of the more powerful things about the ecobee.