Smart thermostats have hit the mainstream and were one of the first affordable home automation products to gain popularity with the general public. They provide a connected experience with your HVAC system to help save on heating and cooling cost by learning your schedule and how to keep your family comfortable while at home.
Two of the best products that have been leading the smart thermostat market for years are the ecobee4 and Nest Learning Thermostat. This review will focus on the thermostats, but the companies have also expanded into other home automation products like home lighting and security cameras which are covered in some of our other reviews.
Full Transparency: The author of this review has owned an ecobee thermostat for several years, but conducted hours of research on both products before making that purchase and writing this review.
Smart Thermostat Comparison
- First to offer remote temperature sensors
- Integrates with Apple HomeKit and has a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker.
- Easy access to local weather forecast
- No geo-fencing to trigger home/away
- Much higher price than basic thermostats (same as Nest)
Nest Learning Thermostat
- Now offers remote sensors to compete with ecobee
- Larger display and better viewing at further distances
- Provides geo-fencing capabilities that work with other Nest products
- Does not work with Apple HomeKit
- Does not have voice control such as Amazon Alexa built-in to the unit
- Much higher price than basic thermostats (same as ecobee4)
Detailed Smart Thermostat Review
- Ease of installation
- Energy and Cost Savings
- Breadth of Features
EASE OF INSTALL
While switching out a thermostat may seem like a big job, it’s a relatively simple process that should take 30-60 minutes max depending on your HVAC system. Installing it yourself versus hiring a professional will save you a hundred bucks or more.
You will need to follow similar steps whether you’re installing an ecobee4 or Nest thermostat. I recommend consulting the manual and taking pictures of wiring connections to both your HVAC system and thermostat if it defers from standard colors. The high-level steps to install the ecobee4 or Nest thermostat are:
1. Turn off the power going to your HVAC system to prevent accidental electric shock.
2. Unmount your old thermostat and assess the wire connections. Verify whether a C wire is connected or available. (Tip: Either label or take a picture of the wire connections before disconnecting for future reference.)
Most standard HVAC systems use the following colored wires:
- Red (R) = Power
- White or Orange (W) = Heat
- Green (G) = Fan
- Yellow (Y) = Compressor
- Blue (C) = Common
3. Install a Power Extender Kit on your furnace if a C wire is not available and is required to get extra power to your thermostat. Note: It is recommended to have a C wire or Power Extender Kit (PEK) installed to prevent power issues. Please consult the manual for installation instructions.
4. Install trim/mounting plate to cover unpleasant wall markings from the old thermostat. (Optional)
5. Install the base which will hold the thermostat. Both products come with level indicators to simplify installation.
6. Connect wires to the smart thermostat and mount your new ecobee4 or Nest thermostat.
7. Turn the power on.
8. Complete initial setup, WiFi connection, and enter home comfort preferences.
9. Setup remote room temperature sensors. (Optional, but highly recommended)
10. Install the ecobee or Nest mobile app for remote access.
ENERGY & COST SAVINGS
Nest claims the average household can save 10-13% on heating and 15% on cooling per year. ecobee claims their product can save you 23% per year.
Regardless of which of these numbers you believe, you won’t really see much variance in your monthly electric bill if you pick an ecobee4 over the Nest. A smart thermostat will help reduce your heating/cooling costs, but it all comes down to your comfort settings and of course external factors that cause your home’s temperate to rise or fall.
Some local energy providers also have programs that allow you to enroll your smart device in a cost savings program. These programs help maximize savings by reducing energy usage during peak times. This, of course, means you may be slightly less comfortable for 1-2 hours during these periods.
BREADTH OF FEATURES
There are many common features between the ecobee4 and Nest like remote control using mobile apps, humidistat integration, customized schedules, remote temperature sensors, and away from home detection for enhanced savings.
However, the key difference is the number of connections to other smart home products. While Nest integrates with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Wink, and others, the ecobee4 also connects to Apple HomeKit and has a fantastic built-in Amazon Alexa speaker with great range.
Additionally, with a smart garage door opener that integrates with the thermostat or IFTTT, you can use the garage to trigger Home/Away settings. This provides even further automation with reduced energy utilization and cost.
Nest Learning Thermostat
Many local electric companies also offer rebates (average is $50-100) for buying and installing a smart thermostat since they reduce power consumption through enhanced hearing/cooling management. Check with your electric company for details.
Recommended Smart Thermostat
Overall, the ecobee4 (Buy Now) provides all the features needed out of a smart thermostat and then some, all at a reasonable price.
The Nest Learning Thermostat (Buy Now) is another great product, but it may only be an option if you’re also interested in the Nest security camera as well.