Ecobee3 Lite Review: A Good Smart Thermostat for Small Apartments

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When it debuted, the Ecobee3 was our favorite smart thermostat due to its ease of use, interconnectivity with other smart home devices, and the ability to monitor the temperature in more than one room of your hose. However, its $249 price wasn't for everyone. Ecobee’s newest thermostat, the Ecobee3 Lite, strips away some of those features, and drops the price to a more reasonable $169. However, you can still control it remotely from your phone, and you can connect it with other devices, so that it only turns on and off when you want it to—potentially saving you money on your heating bill. Is the Ecobee3 Lite just as good a value as its brother? Yes, which is why it's one of the best smart thermostats for the money.

Design and Interface

The Ecobee3 Lite looks very similar to the more expensive Ecobee3, in that it has a rounded all-black face and a white back. The sides of the Lite model, though, tapers inwards, so that the area where it meets the base plate is smaller than the front.

A rectangular 3.5-inch color touchscreen on the front of the Ecobee3 lets you view and change the temperature, much like the more expensive model. I found this one just as easy to use and responsive to touch.

The home screen displays the current temperature inside your apartment, the humidity level, and the current state of the system (Off, Heat, Cool). Along the bottom are icons to adjust settings, as well as view the local weather forecast.

I wish Ecobee made more use of the color aspect of the screen; for the most part, all you get is white letters and numbers on a black background, with a little yellow thrown in when representing the sun. However, I wish the home screen also showed the time.

Installation and Setup

As with the original (and most smart thermostats), to get the Ecobee3 Lite up and running, you first must connect the wires leading from your HVAC system to the thermostat’s base plate, and then attach the base plate to the wall. (Screws and anchor bolts are provided).

I like that Ecobee’s base plate has a small leveling bubble, to ensure that you’re not installing it on an angle. Next, attach the face to the base plate, and the Ecobee3 Lite should power up.

Unlike the Nest Learning Thermostat, the Ecobee requires that you connect a C wire for power; I like that Ecobee includes an adapter for those who don’t have a C wire, and that attaching the adapter is as simple as attaching a few wires.

You then have to download and install Ecobee’s app (Android and iOS) and link the thermostat to your account, as well as your Wi-Fi network. The app then runs you through several screens to determine your location, as well as the configuration of your HVAC system.


The biggest difference between the $249 Ecobee3 and the $169 Lite version is that the latter doesn’t come with a separate room sensor. However, it can be paired with remote sensors, which can be purchased separately; a two-pack costs $57. This was perhaps my favorite feature of the Ecobee3, and certainly its most practical. However, if you have a small apartment, or a studio, this extra sensor probably isn’t worth the added cost.

Unlike Honeywell’s Lyric T5, the Ecobee 3 Lite lacks a geofencing feature, so it won’t automatically switch from Away to Home mode if you get within a certain radius of your house. This can be mitigated by connecting the Ecobee to IFTTT, and using a geofencing recipe, but it is an extra step.

However, the Ecobee3 Lite has a motion sensor, so it will automatically turn on if you walk in front of it.

Smart Home Integration

Of all the smart thermostats, the Ecobee3 is one of the most connected, and will work with the Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, Wink, and Control4 systems.

By comparison, similarly priced smart thermostats, such as the Honeywell Lyric T5, while compatible with Alexa and HomeKit, do not work with nearly as many other networks.

Bottom Line

The $169 Ecobee3 Lite is a great midrange smart thermostat for those who don't want—or don't want to pay—for all of the features of the Ecobee3 or 4. makes the most sense for someone who has, say, a studio or one-bedroom apartment, . The Honeywell Lyric T5 offers many of the same features and costs $20 less, but doesn’t work with nearly as many smart home devices, and isn't compatible with remote sensors. If you’re looking for a thermostat to complement your super-connected apartment, the Ecobee3 Lite is a very good option.

Mike Prospero
U.S. Editor-in-Chief, Tom's Guide

Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.