For a long time, Nest was the big name in smart thermostats. While that company is still a titan of its industry, little upstart Ecobee has risen into a worthy challenger.
Ecobee is a plucky Canadian company that was founded back in 2007, but it gained some real steam thanks to the Ecobee3 thermostat in 2014. Since then, it's upgraded the device and added even more third-party support for it.
Last year, the company announced a new flagship device, the Ecobee4, which adds built-in Alexa voice support. Yeah, Ecobee takes some big swings, and those bets â plus an emphasis on compatibility â have helped it break through.
But that's only a brief rundown of what Ecobee is. There's a whole lot more you should know about. Let's go.
Ecobee: The compatible services
First things first: compatibility. Different people live in different technological ecosystems, whether that's because they chose one smart home product and built around it, or they wanted to pledge allegiance to a platform.
Nest has its Works with Nest program, which allows other companies to tap into its products to deliver some interesting capability. However, Nest's compatibility isn't as impressive when you try to command the devices with other services. Sure, you've got the now-standard Google Assistant and Alexa compatibility, and there's also IFTTT, but nothing more than that.
Ecobee devices are compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Microsoft Cortana, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. No matter which ecosystem you're using, you'll be able to use the Ecobee devices.
That not only means that HomeKit users will get a smart thermostat they can use easily, but if you ever decide to switch devices (like from a Pixel phone to an iPhone) you won't have to worry about breaking your smart home.
Ecobee: Voice everywhere and the future
Everyone in the smart home world believes in voice. Amazon, Google and Apple all have speakers aimed at making their voice assistants the main hub in your home. There are also many devices that build Alexa or Google Assistant right into them.
Ecobee wants to take that all a step further. The idea, which the company calls 'Whole Home Voice' is to put an Alexa-enabled Ecobee device in pretty much every nook and cranny of your home.
That means an Alexa-enabled Ecobee Switch+ in every room and an Alexa-enabled Ecobee thermostat in your hallway or living room. Ecobee wants you to be able to command your home from anywhere with just your voice.
In that way, you don't have to put forth any effort or whatnot. You just speak a command anywhere and you control anything. Want to know the weather while you're in your bedroom? Want to control the temperature from the kitchen? Want to get a news bulletin in the bathroom? Have at it.
Ecobee isn't planning on stopping there either; the company received an investment total of $155 million from Amazon's Alexa fund and Caisse de dĂ©pĂŽt et placement du QuĂ©bec, which it plans to use to double down on its smart home efforts, building more kinds of devices and truly taking the fight to Nest.
Ecobee: The devices
Ecobee's devices are mostly smart thermostats, but that is surely set to change. The company recently launched a smart light switch, which we'll get to in a bit. That's not where it's resting either.
Ecobee's latest and greatest arrived June this year, taking many of the great aspects of the Ecobee4 while keeping an almost identical design. Like that one, having Alexa built-in means it can do things that rivals cannot. The added voice ability will let you get your news, shopping, information, music and whatever else Alexa delivers to you on other Alexa-enabled devices.
That means there's a microphone, but it also means there are speakers - ones that have been improved since the Ecobee4, meaning music, podcasts and news briefings sound even better coming out of the SmartThermostat.
In terms of smarts, you've got all the good stuff: customizable schedules, Home/Away modes, improved Wi-Fi. The Ecobee SmartThermostat also comes with a SmartSensor, a small, well, sensor that can be placed within 60 feet of range and used to determine where people are in the home. Movement in the living room? Ecobee can know to heat that room - and cool others where there's no signs of life.
And just because it has Alexa built in, you're not confined to Amazon's platform. The Ecobee also works with Google Assistant, HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT.
The Ecobee3 Lite is essentially the budget version of the above. If you don't think its added features, like the Room Sensor and Alexa, are worth just under $100 more, then you should opt for this.
You're still getting some smarts here, as Ecobee3 Lite will let you set schedules, remotely control it with your smartphone, and make use of Ecobee's SmartSensors. Plus, there's that holiday mode which will keep things more efficient while you're gone â along with alerts to let you know if something malfunctions.
If you do eventually decide you want to upgrade the Ecobee3 Lite, you can purchase the RoomSensors separately to enhance its functionality. Speaking of whichâŠ
For the most part, smart thermostats are built to measure the air and temperature in the spot they're installed â which is usually a hallway or living room or somewhere like that. This means that your thermostat is adjusting the temperature for that location.
Unfortunately, not all rooms are the same. Some are cooler or warmer than the area your thermostat is in. This means that your room could become uncomfortable as your thermostat is adjusting itself based on a different environment.
Let's put it this way: say your hallway-equipped thermostat is reading 75 degrees, but your bedroom is actually at 70 degrees. You see that and turn your thermostat down to a cool 65 degrees, but your room is also going to cool, taking it from 70 down below what you wanted.
Ecobee's room sensors aim to solve that by checking for the temperature in specific rooms and building that into the main thermostat's smarts. Oh, and as mentioned they can also sense whether people are in the room thanks to motion sensors. This way each room is getting cooled or warmed to the level that's specific for it, and not the empty hallway. Plus, it can know not to heat or cool a certain room because no one is there.
The Switch+ is Ecobee's first attempt at a smart home product that isn't built to regulate your home's temperature. Instead, it's focused on lighting your home â and it comes with Alexa built right in.
The Switch+ also comes with built-in motion sensors so it can be set up to turn on the light when someone walks by. It's also smart enough to know when there's daylight outside thanks to scheduling. Or, you know, you can just press the button to turn the lights on or off.
And if you want to, you can ask Alexa to turn off the lights, or get your latest sports scores or weather report. And yes, there's a speaker and far-field microphone technology so that it all works right there on your wall.