ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat Review

ecobee3

I have been using the ecobee3 WiFi Thermostat for several months now and was preparing to give it a very good rating. That was until winter arrived and it got cold. More on that later.

ecobee3

The design of the ecobee 3 is essentially a black plastic almost 4″ square with rounded edges. I think it has a more modern look than the Nest or Honeywell. The 3.5″ capacitve touch screen is bright and colourful and provides most of the information you want at a glance. I especially like the fact it displays the current temperature in big numbers rather than the setpoint. The touch screen has a good responsive feel and I had no difficulty scrolling through the various settings pages.

Ecobee3 back panel

Setup is a breeze provided your HVAC system has a C wire to provide 24V to the ecobee3. If not, a kit is provided but is requires messing around with the furnace wiring..not for the faint of heart… and depending on the design of yout furnace or air handler could require professional help. Setting up the humidifier control is also pretty simple but requires you to know how your humidifier is wired. Once it is hooked up the thermostat steps you through an installation routine that is pretty easy to follow.

One of ecobee’s exclusive features is remote sensors:

ecobee3 remote sensors read the temperature in the rooms that matter most and deliver the right temperature in the right places. The more sensors you add, the smarter your ecobee3 performs, making your home even more comfortable.

ecobee3 sensor screen

Since my HVAC is well balanced I had no need for the remote sensor provided. However, I have difficulty understanding the concept of over/under heating/cooling the house to make one room more comfortable when it is occupied. Some people might be misled into believing these sensors somehow provided magic zone control without the expense of dampers.

ecobee3 sensor

That marketing gimmick aside I was very pleased with my ecobee3 over the summer, fall and early winter months. Temperature was maintained to within 0.5C of my setpoint when cooling or heating. Smart Recovery worked well in both cooling and heating modes bringing temperatures to setpoints on time. Humidity control while cooling was slightly better than with my previous thermostats. Winter humidity control was superb using the Frost Control setting. The ecobee3 allowed me to set the efficiency of my windows and kept the humidity level just low enough to avoid frost. The best performance I have seen from any thermostat.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 3.20.39 PM

The ecobee3 is also Apple HomeKit compatible which means you can control your thermostat using Siri. A cool gimmick but not really all that useful. Much more useful are the iOS and web apps that allow the changing of temperature settings from anywhere access to some advanced settings as well as the reports. There is a running history of temperatures and equipment running as well as monthly reports with regional comparisons.

ecobee3 web app

ecobee3 web app

Big fail when it gets cold!

Then it got really cold and the wheels fell off. Outside temperatures dropped below -12C(the compressor lockout temperature for my heat pump) and I would wake up to a house still at my sleep temperature. I spent hours on the phone with tech support with friendly people who were obviously working from computer scripts. Simutaneously I used their ticket system and after several exchanges I got this:

When the temperature drops bellow (sic) lockout the the smart recovery wont work. Smart recovery only uses the heat pump not the AUX. So when the temperature drops bellow lockout then the Smart recovery won’t get activated. (Our thermostst (sic) uses heat pump to save energy, if thermostat uses the AUX then it can not save any energy so as a result out thermostat won’t use the AUX for smart recovery).

I called back to see if there was a workaround and was treated like an idiot for wanting the thermostat to use the only heat available to bring my house up to the daytime setting in fact, he told me only one other person has ever complained about this. He also pointed out that a home owner in the US would be upset to wake up to find his expensive electric heat had been used for Smart Recovery and he stressed there is no way this setting would be changed.

In my mind the objective of Smart Recovery is to have the house arrive at the set temperature at the correct time. I can see why ecobee wants to bias toward the heat pump but if they are going to do that to the exclusion of AUX heat then they should have a setting for those of us who live in cold climates and want the system to use whatever heat is available to get to the set point at the chosen time.

Heck even my 13 year old Carrier programmable thermostat did this properly using a very basic algorithm:

SMART RECOVERY

With Smart Recovery selected, transition out of setback begins a fixed time period before selected recovery time and gradually adjusts room temperature so desired temperature will be achieved at selected recovery time. The fixed time period is 1.5 hr. It operates in both heating and cooling.

Even though ecobee is a Canadian company it is clear the thermostat is designed with the US market in mind..for example its refusal to add a simple setting to allow the Smart Recovery to use AUX heat when the compressor is locked out. As well, all the internal settings are in F and converted to C…all the C temp settings include decimal points while the F settings are all whole numbers (except in cases where f converts to C evenly) .

Ecobee3

This is a great thermostat if you live in an area where the winter temperature never drops below the Heat Pump lockout temperature. It is useless in areas where it tends to be that cold and you are using electric auxiliary heat.

The ecobee3 sells for $249CAD and is available direct from ecobee or retailers such as Best Buy and Apple.