Have you been looking into ways to save money on your energy bills? One of the newest ways to tackle this common household problem is to use a smart thermostat. These devices allow you to effortlessly control your air conditioning and heating from any connected device, anywhere in the world. This means you can easily set the temperature during the workday or a vacation, and get the house to your favorite temperature before you arrive home. You can also track your energy usage and get a detailed look at the optimal levels to keep your home’s energy bill lower.
But if you are shopping for one of these high-tech devices, you’ll notice right away there are there several options. Two of the most popular are the ecobee and the Nest. What makes one of these better for your home than the other? Let’s find out.
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What the Ecobee and the Nest Have in Common
Both of these thermostats offer you the most important functions of a smart thermostat. They control the temperature, they offer you reports on usage, and they help save you money. They both also offer a geofencing feature, which means that any time your main device (say, your phone) leaves a specific perimeter around your home (say, the length of your block), it will automatically adjust the temperature inside for you to keep your bill lower.
Both now offer a sensor feature, which relies on more than just the thermostat itself to maintain optimal temperature. There are additional sensors you can place in other parts of your home so that the thermostat can adjust based on the temperature everywhere. And finally, both of these thermostats are ENERGY STAR certified.
The Nest Thermostat
The Nest thermostat is referred to as a “learning” thermostat. The main function of this thermostat is to learn what your preferences are for your home, and to keep your home comfortable for you while you are there. It will automatically adjust any time you are home to suit your likings based on several weeks of learning. This means that if you have a habit of turning the thermostat down at bedtime, the Nest will learn this, and do it for you automatically at your usual bed time.
The Nest is also learning from your utility company through the “seasonal savings” service. It gathers information from the utility company about the optimal temperatures for money saving at any time of the year, and adjusts your home to this temperature when you are not home. This helps you reduce your energy bill.
Another cool feature of the Nest is the small leaf indicator. This shows up any time your chosen temperature also aligns with what the Nest knows from your local utility company as a good temperature for energy savings. This doesn’t really do anything except help you, but it’s great to learn where your home’s optimal setting for savings really is. This can help you see that it may be worth turning up the air just that single extra degree in the summer.
Nest was originally owned by Google, but it is not yet fully integrated into all of the Gogogle Home products because of subsidiary organization.
The Nest is a very aesthetically pleasing device with a simple temperature display and nothing more. It comes in modern finishes and colors – black, white, stainless steel, and copper. This thermostat is also operated by either the home’s electricity or batteries.
The Ecobee Thermostat
The next smart thermostat to consider is the ecobee. Ecobee is the name of a company, and their most current model is the ecobee4. Ecobee is a little bit older than Nest, which means they’ve got more experience on their side. For example, they pioneered the functionality of having extra sensors to detect the temperature all around the house – but theirs go a step beyond. In addition to monitoring temperature in the house, their sensors can also help the system prioritize temperature management by detecting if there is anyone in the room.
Worried about the Nest’s geofencing feature changing the temperature if you leave with your phone while your spouse is napping at home? Ecobee’s sensors will detect if there is anyone home, and automatically override its own geofencing feature. This also works for your pets – the sensors will prevent your pets from being frozen or overheated.
The ecobee4 does not learn the same way the Nest does. Instead, you create a schedule in the ecobee app that the thermostat will automatically run. You can even import your calendar so that the app can automatically see when you need the temperature adjusted. Let’s say you set the thermostat to cool off when you finish work. Import your calendar, and it can see when your shift ends each day to begin cooling the house for you.
One big plus for the ecobee4 is that it uses a touch screen on the device itself. The Nest has only a basic dial for changing the temperature – everything else is controlled by the app.
Ecobee is independently owned, but Amazon invested heavily in its creation, so it is fully integrated with Alexa. Alexa can “make the house warmer”, “set temperature to 70 degrees”, and perform other tasks of varying specificity with your ecobee4 thermostat. This thermostat is only operated by the home’s electricity, meaning it has to be hard-wired in.
Let’s Do Some Quick Comparisons
Everyone has their own priorities when it comes to choosing the right tech for their home. Here are a few quick comparisons of commonly requested features between these two devices.
- Cost? The ecobee4 and the Nest cost about $250.
- Energy savings? The Nest typically results in more energy savings.
- Appearance? The Nest is more stylish and sleek.
- Adjustable? The ecobee4 is easier to adjust to a changing schedule.
- Compatibility? The Nest still working on becoming compatible with other devices, such as Alexa or Google Home. Ecobee is fully integrated with Alexa.
- Voice activated? Only the ecobee4 is connected to a voice activated feature.
- Controlled by? The Nest is controlled by a dial and its app. The ecobee4 is controlled by a touchscreen and its app.
What energy devices can it regulate? The ecobee4 can keep a home’s humidity down if it detects a dehumidifier, and also helps to reduce air conditioner use if it recognizes that your home has a ventilator. The Nest can control how much axillary heat should be used in homes that use these with heat pumps.
Why Choose the Nest?
If you prefer your home to look a certain way, the Nest is the more aesthetically pleasing of the two. In addition, if you want the smart thermostat that has shown higher energy savings rates over all its customers, the Nest wins in this area as well.
The pay off is that you won’t have quite as much customizable control – Nest is primarily designed to learn your preferences and then take over the adjustments on its own. You’ll have to manually change it if you don’t like what is has chosen for you. Also, it isn’t able to detect changes in your routine. If you don’t get home at the same time every day, Nest will have a hard time adjusting its learned routine. Finally, it’s best suited for someone who lives alone, because it relies on a single device’s presence to activate and deactivate the geofencing feature.
Why Choose Ecobee?
Because ecobee has been around for a little bit longer, it has a leg up on the Nest. It offers the most control for shifting schedules and family lifestyles, while still giving you plenty of automatic features. It will automatically adjust your home’s temperature for you, based on the schedule you set up. And your calendar can be integrated to account for a schedule that is never quite the same. Additionally, this thermostat is easier to use if you don’t live alone. Because it can detect when people are home, it helps the thermostat avoid changing when just one person leaves.
Finally, if you want a smart thermostat that fits into your Amazon-based smart home ecosystem, this is the best option. The ecobee is the only thermostat right now that is fully controllable by Alexa.
Which Thermostat Works in Your Home?
The other thing you’ll need to consider is which thermostat is best for your home. Both thermostats can be wired into your home, but only the Nest also allows you to use it with a battery. This means that if you worry about power outages, the Nest is the better options.
To determine how to get your smart thermostat installed, you’ll need to check out the home’s wiring. Your home may not have industry-standard wiring, so you’ll have to do a little bit of critical thinking. Usually, there is a blue or black wire that is connected to the power, called the C wire. The wire may be a different color. Look for the wire connected underneath the letter C. This is the power that will make sure the ecobee4 has power, and that the Nest has power if you choose to connect it. If you don’t see an available C wire, then you may need to use the Nest instead of the ecobee4.
Now that you’ve decided which thermostat to use based on the power supply, consider if you want to install it yourself, or have a professional on the job. Electricians are usually the best choice, although both of these smart thermostats claim to be DIY friendly. If you do choose to install it yourself, be sure to take extra safety precautions. Turn off the power to the thermostat from the circuit breaker, and be sure to take a picture of how your old thermostat was connected when you remove it. That way, you can replace all the wiring in the exact same way when you install the new one.
Download the App and Get Started
Whether you do it yourself or have a professional install your thermostat, the next thing to do is to install the company’s app and get started. With the Nest, you’ll just need to manually control the air for a few days and let the Nest learn your preferences. With the ecobee4, you can create your own schedule right in the app.
The sensors that can detect temperatures around the house or the presence of other people are not included with the thermostats. You will have to buy those separately, and they can be pricey. However, they can also act as security devices in some cases. Nest does have the ability to be connected to camera sensors, and ecobee4’s body-detecting feature can also be a security system.
Anyone in the family can use the Nest or the ecobee4 if they have the app on their phone and it has been connected to the device. This means that no matter where you are when you realize you forgot to turn the heating down, anyone can quickly fix the issue.
Many companies that make smart thermometers are also making smart light bulbs that can be controlled through the same app. Never worry if you forgot to turn off the lights again! Both ecobee and Nest have this capability. Your entire home can be connected to your devices so that you always have control over your energy usage and your security.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that both the ecobee4 and the Nest thermostats have some great features. For pure usability alone, the ecobee4 is the slightly better option. It works better with the nature of our busy lives, and allows for more control. However, if you just want a “set it and forget it” option that saves you some money and looks nice in your home, the Nest is not at all a bad option. And for the price, both are budget friendly ways to shave some of the cost of your energy bill throughout the year. Choose the thermostat that works best for your lifestyle and start saving.