THE MAJOR DIFFERENCES
This is where the Nest shines. The nest has the ability to learn your schedule, and I found that it was pretty dynamic from that perspective. With the Nest, you don’t even have to set a schedule, if you don’t want to. It will just learn your habits over the course of about 2 weeks.
The Ecobee is not a “Learning” thermostat, at least from a schedule perspective. It does rely on schedules that you create from “Comfort Settings” to keep your home comfortable.
This is where the Ecobee because vastly different from the Nest. It can use remote sensors to determine the temperature in various rooms in your home.
If you’re like me before I got this thing, you’re saying to yourself, “How is that useful? The heat/air will just blow through all of the vents automatically anyway.” I’ll go into some additional details on the functionality later, so stay tuned.
The Nest does not have remote sensor functionality.
The Nest offers geofencing (uses your phone location) for multiple phones under the same account, which is really nice.
The Ecobee app doesn’t allow geofencing natively, at least not on Android. You also can’t link multiple phones to it.
I’ve found that this isn’t 100% necessary due to how the thermostat works. It’s just nice to have it say “Oh, the phones are gone, let’s go to “Away.”
I have a SmartThings Hub, which mitigates this issue for me since it does native geofencing.
The Ecobee has a feature called “Follow Me.” It uses the remote sensors to determine which rooms are occupied to ensure that those rooms are comfortable. I’ll put a good use case for this at the end of my review.
Auto-Away – Nest has a feature called Auto-Away, which uses the thermostat’s motion sensor to determine when no one is home.
I noticed with Auto-Away, after the 2-week learning period, that it triggered around 30 minutes after everyone left the house. It could also be linked with multiple smartphones, which could be linked to the same account. 30 minutes after both my wife and I were out of the house, as long as we didn’t have visitors in our trigger the motion sensor, the thermostat would move to Auto-Away and use your “Away” temperature thresholds.
One issue I found, before linking it to my phone, was that if I was working from home (office is in the back of the house, and the thermostat is in the front) it would kick into Auto-Away mode, leaving me uncomfortable because it thought I was gone.
Smart Home/Away – Ecobee uses a feature called Smart Home/Away, which is very similar to “Auto-Away.” It determines whether you’re home when you should be away, or if you’re away when you’re typically home.
The Ecobee functions on “Comfort Settings.” Mine are: Waking Up, Home, Away, and Sleep. You can program different temperature thresholds for each (and create more comfort settings if needed) and build your schedule using them. You can also select whether you’re typically home, or away for each Comfort Setting.
If the Ecobee determines that you are home during a scheduled “Away” period, it will override after 1 hour, and move you into “Home” mode. You can change the setting to determine if you want this to be an indefinite hold, or if you want it to change at the next scheduled transition.
Similarly, the Ecobee sees that you are “Away” when you’re typically scheduled to be at home, after 1 hour, it will move to your “Away” schedule. This 1-hour threshold can’t be adjusted at this time, but you can make some transitions using IFTTT if you choose to do so.
Arriving at a Comfy Home
The Nest uses a feature called “Early On.” In theory, what Early On should do is determine how long it takes to heat/cool your home, and kick the HVAC unit on in time to have it to your specified “home” temperature by the time you arrive.
Ex: My wife and I leave home by 6:00 AM to go to work. She gets home every day right around 3:30 PM. Based on our schedule (or the learned schedule of the Nest) it would understand that someone will be home, so the house needs to be at our specified “We’re Home” temperature.
This worked great for the first 2 weeks that I owned the thermostat, but then, a software update came through and broke this feature. When I made the switch 1 month ago, Nest acknowledged the issue but had no estimated time for resolution.
After this feature became non-functional, here’s what happened: My wife gets off of work in the middle of our hottest summer month, arrives home, and walks into a 78-degree house because Early On is rendered useless when the thermostat moves to Auto-Away. After multiple chat sessions with Nest, a replacement of the Nest, and more chats, they finally acknowledged that they were aware of this issue, and were working on it, but had no idea when it would be fixed. A couple of weeks coming home to a hot house, and we decided that the Nest was toast….No pun intended 🙂
The Ecobee uses a feature called Smart Recovery. Much like the Nest, it says, “Hey, these people should be home by 3:30, I better kick on an hour beforehand (or whatever it deems necessary based on how your house heats or cools) to move their home from their “Away” temperature to their “Home” temperature. The nice part is that IT WORKS!
Both thermostats can work in Auto Mode, and they both do it well. This has been especially useful in Tennessee, where the weather is crazy. During the day, it’s 80 degrees, and at night, we’re in the 30’s or 40’s. With Auto Mode, I don’t have to worry about switching between heat and A/C, it just does it for me.
Why the remote sensors?
Remember how I said sometimes I work from home, and if geofencing isn’t enabled, the thermostat doesn’t know I’m there?
With the Ecobee, I can place a remote sensor in my office, so it knows that I haven’t left, and it keeps me comfortable all day.
Another great use case I found: The main thermostat is in the kitchen. (I know, it’s a terrible, horrible location for a thermostat, but I rent, so I can’t move it.)
With the remote sensors, you can tell the thermostat which sensors to monitor, so if I wanted to, I could setup a “Cooking” comfort setting to say “Hey, we normally cook dinner between 5:00 and 6:00 PM.” Then, I could go into my schedule and say, “When cooking don’t use the sensor on the thermostat (because it gets way hotter in the kitchen) and only use the Living Room sensor to monitor temperature during this time.”
Another thing I’ve noticed…..My office gets hotter/colder than the rest of the house, so I always found myself being uncomfortable. Now, when I work from home, the “Follow Me” feature mentioned earlier sees that only my office is occupied, so it ensures that my office is at my specified temperature, so if the living room is a nice company 70, but my office is at a cold 65, it will continue to heat until my office if at 70 degrees.
If another remote sensor detects occupancy, the thermostat will average the temperature between the occupied rooms to even out the comfort level for everyone. If the average falls below your specified temperature, it kicks on.
The Nest gives you a monthly report to show “Runtime.” It also shows you how many “leaves” you earned, which tells you if you used energy-efficient temperatures. Finally, it tells you how you compare to other “Nesters.”
The Ecobee shines in this area.
You get a system runtime report. You can see exactly when heat/aux heat/air was on You can see the indoor/outdoor temperature on a nice graph, in comparison with when the unit is heating/cooling. You can see when and how long each schedule ran You can see how “Follow Me” caused your HVAC system to kick on/off by room/sensor You can see the overall impact the weather had on heating/cooling
Finally, you can even get a raw data dump of what your unit is doing. It can literally tell you what your system is doing every 5 minutes.
I found this useful when determining whether or not “Smart Recovery/Early On” was working correctly. When I looked at the data, I could see that it moved from “Away” to “Smart Recovery” before our scheduled home time, and I could see that the house was at the proper temperature upon my wife’s arrival.
There are a couple of reports that I still don’t have access to because I haven’t had the thermostat for a full “30 calendar days,” and that’s what they require to gather the appropriate amounts of data.
You can get an overview here: https://www.ecobee.com/2015/05/feature-friday-what-is-homeiq/
In my mind, Nest is the winner here. The mobile app is very fast and easy to use. Keep in mind that you can use it to control your thermostat from anywhere in the world, as long as your phone and thermostat both have an active network connection.
The Ecobee app, in my opinion, needs some work. It’s a bit slow, and it isn’t as full-featured as their web portal. The biggest difference that I have noticed is that you can’t access any of the reporting features from the app. This isn’t a deal-breaker by any means, but if you want to see reports, be prepared to use your mobile browser.
If you have stuck around this long, I hope you have found this review helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.