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Ecobee Smart Thermostat

Green Your Home With Tech: Temperature
By

$385 at ecobee.com

Programmable thermostats are an easy way to shave some dollars off of your monthly heating and cooling bill, but who knew they could be so technologically advanced? The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is the pinnacle of thermostats. It is so advanced, in fact, that only licensed HVAC technicians would likely be qualified to install one. We were able to conduct a limited test of the unit, to see if all the features were as exciting as we had hoped.

Once installed by an HVAC technician, the Ecobee system uses your home Wi-Fi network to communicate directly with your personal Web portal. The first year of subscription services, priced at $35, is included in the cost of the thermostat. This portal allows you to completely customize the temperature you wish for each phase of your life:  when you wake up, when you go to work, when you go to sleep, etc. While connected to the Internet, your Ecobee will receive continuous updates on weather and temperatures that will display on the screen. If not connected, it will operate as a standard programmable thermostat, with a really snazzy screen. The Ecobee Web interface is optimized for you to be able to "set it and forget" it, provided your energy needs stay relatively constant. Those who crave the interaction with weather reports and like to plan out each day in a unique fashion, can visit the interface as often as they wish (from home or at work). 


You also always have the option to manually change your climate controls from the convenience of your living room, via the touch-screen thermostat. 
Similar to how an iPod touch lets you select features from the home screen, the Ecobee gives you the ability to control your home’s temperature with a colorful user interface. Idiot-proof programming, like the inclusion of a "quick save" button, makes it possible to operate the thermostat with just a basic overview of the system. The only button housed in the casing of the Ecobee (the large Bee button) will always take you back to the home screen.

This is just the beginning of what the thermostat can do. While its fullest potential would be reached in a home with multiple heating and cooling devices (including humidifiers), it can be installed for use in a simple central heating/cooling environment. Because there is so much programming that must be done to use all the features (and a rather involved hard-install to the heating/cooling system), it could take a while to master all the goodies and get the maximum savings that the Ecobee offers.


Our favorite features include:

  • Personalized alerts that indicate low battery, communication failures, low/high temperature, and heating/cooling system unresponsiveness. It also lets you know when it’s time to change filters or schedule a routine maintenance for your furnace or AC.
  • Vacation mode that lets you conserve energy away from home. You can name and save any number of vacations to account for a variation in schedules.
  • Fail-Safe programming wizard. The screen prompts you with such questions as “I wake up at” and lets you enter the time, as well as the minimum heating temp and maximum cooling temp. The thermostat corresponds to each schedule change with icons that easily let you know what you’re looking at (a coffee icon, for example, represents the time you wake up at).
  • A full five-day forecast can be displayed for your zip code, if connected to wireless Internet. A quick button push will also tell you the current weather conditions in your area.


Provided that you’re willing to set the thermostat up to be completely customized with your daily needs, it’s possible to set your central heating/cooling system to only use what you require. In addition to the possible energy savings that would occur on the first day of using the Ecobee, there will no longer be an excuse for not changing filters or ignoring opportunities to repair your system (which will go a long way in keeping your system efficient).

The Ecobee is the next step in combining smart houses with user-friendly applications and a concern for lower utility bills. With its ability to detect and control the various minor details of your heating and cooling system (fan levels, humidity, and ventilation), it supports a "whole-home" approach towards energy usage. True techies will get a kick out of the endless options and a customizable experience that the gadget can give you. Provided you can afford the $385 price tag (and can locate a qualified technician to do the install), the outcome should make for one of the easiest ways to green your home this year.

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  • 1 Hide
    progress lover , March 1, 2009 5:02 AM
    "Enough heat to melt crayons"? WHAT TEMP IN *KNOWN UNITS* PLEASE??? Were these standard SI Crayons?! What colour?
    Does it melt axel grease? What kind? How about the sweet secretions of the honey ant chilling for 17mins in 'the snow' from the sloping roof of a SE facing shed at 3pm GMT?
    Love the way buying more heaters saves energy. Ever heard of clothes? Damned nudists. Always wasting energy on more heaters and electric personal shavers. Wear clothes. Cut energy bills. Save gas going out to buy heaters. Hide that embarassing and unsightly pant-moustache. Nice warm clothes. The solution to all your problems. They keep you warm outside too. Or do you just put lots of heaters out there?!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , March 1, 2009 12:58 PM
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_pump
  • 0 Hide
    Tomsguiderachel , March 2, 2009 2:08 PM
    progress lover"Enough heat to melt crayons"? WHAT TEMP IN *KNOWN UNITS* PLEASE??? Were these standard SI Crayons?! What colour?Does it melt axel grease? What kind? How about the sweet secretions of the honey ant chilling for 17mins in 'the snow' from the sloping roof of a SE facing shed at 3pm GMT?Love the way buying more heaters saves energy. Ever heard of clothes? Damned nudists. Always wasting energy on more heaters and electric personal shavers. Wear clothes. Cut energy bills. Save gas going out to buy heaters. Hide that embarassing and unsightly pant-moustache. Nice warm clothes. The solution to all your problems. They keep you warm outside too. Or do you just put lots of heaters out there?!


    Hey Progress-Lover,
    This article was written from the perspective of a parent with several children in a very large rural home. The heaters discussed in this article can save money and energy over central heating. Children's bodies may not regulate temperature as well as yours, so piling on extra layers of clothing is not always the solution. As for the crayon comment--in a household with children, I found this to be an amusing insight into the heat output of that particular product. We will do our best to get you actual temps, but for now, know that Crayolas melt at between 128-147 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Rachel Rosmarin, Editor of Tom's Guide
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 12, 2011 8:20 AM
    I cannot praise this product enough. Three winters ago, our heat went out at our summer home while I was out of town. Needless to say, pipes froze and significant damage was done. We had over 20 pipe breaks. We installed the Ecobee and it has given us such peace of mind. I am able to check the service anytime I want. We have had a few times when the heat did shut down and I received an email immediately and was able to react before any damage was done. Well worth every penny.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , January 19, 2011 8:13 PM
    I purchased the Ecobee Smart Thermostat last summer for a vacation home I have 3K miles from my residence so we could control the temperature in the house remotely.

    First, I have to say the folks at Ecobee are really nice and very helpful, but their service is limited by the products they sell.

    ECOBEE IS THE GATEKEEPER

    Controlling remotely over the internet, the smart thermostat device is a bit slow and clunky as it is runs through Ecobee’s servers, then to my house, and there is NOT an option for a direct connection using my Dynamic DNS service. This is one of the the biggest disappointments with this device that I didn’t discover until after purchased. Case in point, Ecobee had a significant outage last month and I could not control my device during the critical cold weather and snow storms that we were experiencing. I was really afraid of my pipes bursting in the house due to the cold temps. My other concern with having to depend on my connection running through Ecobee's servers is that at any point they can start charging a toll for access to my thermostat. Following their mass e-mail apology after the outage month, I inquired about a direct connection option and was advised a direct connection was not their business model. ** BE FOREWARNED OF THIS FACT BEFORE CONSIDERING PURCHASE OF THIS DEVICE **

    LCD THERMOSTAT SCREEN ISSUES

    In addition, the wall thermostat’s touch screen device is not ready for prime time. The touch functions on the LCD screen jump all over the place when trying to pin down the exact point where to push on the screen. Ecobee replaced the first device in an effort to resolve the issue, but the 2nd device yielded no better results.

    Another issue is that the thermostat’s LCD screen touch points for each function are too small for the average adult to do by finger, thus we have to use a pencil eraser to make device changes via the touch screen.

    Given my experience and knowledge, at this point I would not purchase an Ecobee device, but rather opt for a smart thermostat system that integrates into a whole-home smart system that had an option for direct connection remote control via the internet.
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