A smart thermostat that you can control from your iPhone is nice, but if you’re a fan of Siri then HomeKit-compatibly is a must. The ecobee3 Wi-Fi thermostat can be controlled using Siri on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple Watch, and it uses remote sensors to determine temperature and presence around your home to be smarter about automating your HVAC system. Overall, the thermostat itself is rather slick and the software experience behind it holds up well. If you’re curious about HomeKit and in the market for a smart thermostat, the ecobee3 just might be the best option yet …
As with any new thermostat, smart or not, there’s a hardware installation process required at setup. You’re mileage may vary depending on conditions and experience, but using a combination of the setup instructions and the geniuses of YouTube, we got our ecobee3 up and running in under an hour. Wiring configuration will vary and this is where it can get complicated, but assuming your setup is already standard and you follow instructions carefully, you likely won’t need the pros to do the job. Once you replace your previous thermostat for ecobee3, the real fun begins.
At a distance, ecobee3 displays just the current inside temperature prominently above an icon for the local weather condition next to the current outside temperature. When ecobee3 detects your presence, the display animates to reveal an on-screen target temperature slider, current relative humidity, menu button, full weather report, and quick changes button. Heating and cooling are distinguished by orange and blue bars.
While the main view shows you the current outside temperature, you can actually get a detailed weather report right on the ecobee3. This includes a temperature forecast for the next several hours. It’s a small thing and already available on my other devices, but it makes ecobee3 feel smarter knowing and presenting the outside weather next to the inside temperature. You’ll also find a full menu of settings for your temperature preferences and managing ecobee3, but most of these tasks are just easier from the iPhone, iPad, or the web when available.
The ecobee3 unit itself has a built-in sensor for detecting presence and current temperature, but you can optionally place additional sensors around your house to more accurately monitor and manage temperature. My kit came bundled with three sensors, bringing the total number to four including the unit.
I’ve placed a sensor in my bedroom, living room, and office, and have the ecobee3 located in the center of the home in the hallway. These detect both temperature and presence, making ecobee3 more intelligent when using the system to cool or warm your home.
You can buy additional ecobee3 Remote Sensors in 2 packs for $79.
As a smart thermostat, you can already control ecobee3 remotely from your iPhone or iPad from the iOS app, but turning on HomeKit enables Siri control and a lot of automation capabilities. Being able to change the temperature and make my home and office cooler or warmer without interrupting my work or watching a TV show is super convenient with the app alone, but being able to use Siri makes it super fast.
Siri works from the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch for changing the target temperature or asking where the current temperature is around the house. You can also set target temperatures as triggers and scenes with other HomeKit-compatible accessories. For example, saying “Netflix and chill” to Siri could mean locking the door, dimming the lights, and setting the temperature to be cooler in the summer.
ecobee3 lets you set your system to heating, cooling, or automate between both based on target temperatures. Back in December when I first setup ecobee3, configuring HomeKit disabled Auto Mode which lets you set target cool and heat temperatures, which was an interesting limitation.
But just last week the iPhone app prompted me to the message above, noting that HomeKit now works with Auto Mode. What would have been a knock just a week earlier turned into a positive that reminded me that smart thermostats only get smarter over time.
For Apple Watch owners, ecobee has a nice watchOS 2 app that lets you monitor temperatures and tweak settings. You need to use Siri to set a specific temperature, but the Apple Watch app lets you view the current target temperature as well as what temperature each sensor including the ecobee3’s currently reads. Force Touching within the app brings up options to turn your system’s fan on or off, or manually set ecobee3 to Home or Away mode.
There’s also a watch face complication, or widget, which tells you what mode ecobee3 is in as well as current target temperature. For fans of glances, the app has a card that you can swipe up to access from the watch face to view current temperature, target temperature, and mode. The watch app is nice, especially for viewing temperature readers from various rooms, but Siri control from the Apple Watch is my favorite part.
The ecobee iPhone app actually looks almost identical to the user interface on the actual thermostat, which is nice because it creates a familiar experience on the unit and on your iPhone. The animations on the iPhone app are noticeably laggy, though, which I hope improves in the future.
For the ecobee iPad app, the same user interface is cleverly spread across of grid that requires fewer menus and more features. It feels futuristic and just plain cool controlling and managing the ecobee3 from the modular view on a tablet.
Whether you’re using the thermostat, iPhone app, or iPad app, ecobee3 has some handy intelligence behind it. For example, you can set target temperatures for when you’re at home and away then using the motion sensors to track presence.
The ecobee system also has alert and reminder options for extreme temperature and humidity levels and maintenance reminders. We changed the air filter at our house when we installed ecobee3, then turned on the three-month reminder to change the filter in the future (which I tend to be terrible about remembering).
For me, the ecobee3 thermostat’s appeal is mostly in controlling remotely using Siri and the mobile apps, but the ecobee app also offers insights into system usage over time in the Home IQ section. The iPad app offers some data here, but the web interface shows even more.
According to ecobee, my Home Energy Efficiency rating puts me in the top 20% of homes in my state and I should work on lowering my runtimes. During the month of January (my first full month with ecobee), Home IQ says I’ve saved 13 hours of runtime and $4.80 based on my equipment’s runtime and local electricity rates. This should be fun to game over time.
Finally, there’s the web interface that you can access from ecobee’s website where you can remotely control the temperature, manage settings, view sensor data, and everything else you can access from the iOS apps. The screenshot above captured in Safari features a nearly identical layout to the ecobee iPad app. This makes accessing and controlling the thermostat from anywhere a familiar experience which I like a lot.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed using the ecobee3 since December and can easily recommend it as a quality HomeKit accessory. Siri control for turning on the heat from my desk is super convenient, especially using the Apple Watch, and using the iPhone app to change the temperature has almost entirely replaced walking over to the thermostat.
I also really enjoy seeing the local outside weather next to the current inside temperature, viewing temperatures by room with multiple sensors is helpful, and I appreciate that the user interface is similar from the thermostat to the iPhone app to the iPad version to the website. Round thermostats like the Nest (no HomeKit, reviewed) and new Honeywell Lyric (HomeKit) can’t quite pull this off.
Lastly, ecobee’s ability to adjust temperature based on my preferences for when I’m home and away or awake and asleep is really helpful in saving energy. I’m still optimizing my preferences after the first month but also finding new features like the ability to schedule vacation temperature levels in advanced.
Being deep in the Apple ecosystem means HomeKit and Siri control enable a lot of the ecobee3 experience, but in general the software and intelligence make it a quality competitor in the smart thermostat space on its own.
Aside from HomeKit and Siri, ecobee3 is getting smarter with new connections like the recently added Amazon Echo for voice control. You can grab the ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat with Remote Sensor (2nd Generation) from $243, or the 3 Sensor Bundle I have from $318.
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