Hands-on: Ecobee4 Thermostat with Apple HomeKit & Amazon Alexa

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 2018
The Ecobee4 is one of the most flexible smart thermostats available. Not only does it support Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa, it is also an Alexa speaker, supporting most of the same voice commands as an Echo, and AppleInsider has one installed.

Ecobee 4 with Apple HomeKit and Alexa


A thermostat is in some ways the peak of smarthome accessories, since it's one thing to manage your lights with an app, and quite another to trust it to run your furnace and air conditioner.

The promise of the Ecobee4 is not just easier scheduling and remote control -- via apps, voice assistants, or the Web -- but more efficient use of heating and cooling systems to save energy and money. Part of this is what it chooses to run and when, but it also relies on a mix of internal and external room sensors to get a better picture of your house's climate.




These sensors can optionally be used to detect occupancy, adjusting settings accordingly. Only one external sensor comes bundled with the thermostat though, so you'll have to buy more in packs of two if you want reliable person detection. Alternately you can rely on geofencing, though this can be impractical in homes with more than one person and mixed phone platforms.

We'll need to conduct much more testing before our full review, but it should be said that installation is more complex than your average HomeKit accessory. Theoretically it can be done in as little as 30 minutes -- but realistically, expect to spend much longer. Ecobee's software and support make the experience as painless as possible, but even in an ideal scenario there's still drilling, rewiring, and configuring settings and services just the way you like them, all aggravated by the older your house and HVAC installations are.

Some people, like ourselves, are going to run into extra complications by the nature of their heating and cooling systems. We discovered the hard way that our test house uses a heat pump -- until we found an article on Ecobee's website explaining how to fix the problem, temperatures soared to 85 Fahrenheit as our HVAC system blasted heat instead of cooling.

Like with all smart home accessories, have a plan and be sure to learn your house's equipment before beginning an installation. If you don't, or aren't comfortable with the process, just hire a professional.




Check in later with AppleInsider to catch our full review. And to pick up your own Ecobee4, the voice-enabled thermostat is available at both Amazon and B&H for $236.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    flydogflydog Posts: 280member
    The Ecobee thermostat itself is nice, but the app has never worked properly since I bought my Ecobee two years ago, and I've lost all hope that it will ever work properly. The HomeKit integration is useless, since it overrides the built-in Ecobee functionality.
    tylersdadcornchip
  • Reply 2 of 13
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 700editor
    flydog said:
    The Ecobee thermostat itself is nice, but the app has never worked properly since I bought my Ecobee two years ago, and I've lost all hope that it will ever work properly. The HomeKit integration is useless, since it overrides the built-in Ecobee functionality.
    You aren't alone.

    I went through two Ecobee3, repeated support calls and emails, resetting the app, resetting the thermostat, resetting (erasing) my homekit home in iCloud (please, never make anyone do this. It's awful.) I couldn't get homekit to work on it half the time, and at the end, the Ecobee app wouldn't work, either. I had to control it via the web page. 

    Screw it. I installed Honeywell Lyric. The added extra room sensors are not the huge deal Ecobee thinks they are, when the basic functionality didn't work.
    cornchipbshankjony0
  • Reply 3 of 13
    benjerbenjer Posts: 89member
    We have an Ecobee 3, and the thermostat itself is wonderful. There is a steep learning curve if you want to use many of the features (behaviors when motion is detected, not detected, how to turn that on and off in the schedule, etc.), but perhaps that was just because it's our first smart thermostat. My one complaint is that you can't change the default setting for the length of time motion goes undetected before it will go into "away" mode and save energy (2 hours). We've never had any issues with the app (we have only iOS devices), and my favorite feature is being able to control the temperature from afar when I've forgotten to turn down/off the air when we're gone at time outside our usual schedule (since it takes 2 hours to decide we are, indeed, all out of the house).

    My biggest complaint is that the sensors do not seem to communicate with HomeKit very well. As Flydog mentioned, using HomeKit overrides Ecobee's built-in smart features, but since I tend to use the schedule rather than relying on the Ecobee's home/away detection features, I thought I'd give HomeKit a try a couple of months ago. For instance, my wife's work schedule has her coming home at different times each afternoon, so I wanted to use HomeKit to turn up the heat during the afternoons whenever the sensors detected motion, so that the heat wasn't running for a few hours when she wasn't home until later. Though I could see in the Ecobee logs that the sensors correctly detected motion when someone got home, the sensors only communicated to HomeKit that motion was detected about 50% of the time. (FWIW, an iPad Air is our HomeKit hub.) I tried geofencing, which usually worked fine. However, with kids that don't yet have phones, using geofencing alone isn't really a solution for us. A web search showed that others have had trouble with Ecobee communicating to HomeKit that motion is detected. After a couple of weeks of troubleshooting, I gave up and went back to the Ecobee schedule. Not a huge deal since we aren't huge HomeKit users, but annoying nonetheless.
    libertyforall
  • Reply 4 of 13
     Ecobee needs to ditch Alexa and add Siri! 
    rob53cornchip
  • Reply 5 of 13
     Ecobee needs to ditch Alexa and add Siri! 
    Would Apple allow that? Or are you just joking because Siri is useless?
  • Reply 6 of 13
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 328member
    I dont know about ecobee not working properly or just lucky me....mine works perfectly. I used 5 sensors to control lights in various rooms. One sensor that is too far from thermostat sometimes lost communications so i have to relocate it closer, other than that it’s perfect....
    cornchip
  • Reply 7 of 13
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,032member
    My brother has a newer one and we can be talking and Alexa interrupts and starts talking for no reason. I have to wonder how much background talk is sent and captured by ??? It’s the first thing I would disable.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,621member
     Ecobee needs to ditch Alexa and add Siri! 
    Would Apple allow that? Or are you just joking because Siri is useless?
    Nonsense. Despite the pundit techie meme, Siri is just as good as the others — or rather, they all suck about the same, give or take certain areas. For home automation, Siri is more than capable. I use it it trigger scenes and manipulate HK accessories every day without issue. “Dim lights 20%”, “Dim lights to 20%”, “It’s movie time”, “goodnight”, etc...

    Abyway, ecobee already supports Siri:

    https://support.ecobee.com/hc/en-us/articles/227878347-What-Siri-voice-commands-can-I-use-to-control-my-ecobee-
  • Reply 9 of 13
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,118member
    I got the Ecobee 4 late last year.  It wasn't that hard to setup.  Though I had to do some minor config settings.    The thing works great.  I'm not a fan of Alexa.  I think it's overrated.  On this device, it doesn't pick up my voice as well as the echo dot that in now have.  Also being in the hallway makes Alexa almost worthless anyway.  I mean, if in have to stand in front of it to use Alexa, I might as well just use the touch screen. 

    I think for most people that a Ecobee 3 and then a stand alone echo dot that you can place anywhere is a better option.  Siri works just fine with it, the app is nice on iOS and you can control on the desktop computer also.  I also like the reports it starts giving you after an full month of using it.  Showing things like your power use compared to others around you.  You setup things like the number offer people who live there, number of bedrooms, square footage and and what type of place it is.  

    The remote sensors are nice.  They not only get the temp, but see movent.  You can setup things using this data.  For example in have AC sensor in my back computer room.  I don't have AC sir for this room.  It's generally cooler then the front of the house.  So while the temp in the front room is good, it's still cooler in the computer room.  You can set it so that that fan, and only the fan will run for so many minutes each hour, this cycles the air in your house moving it around and spreading the heat instead of just stopping once the Ecobee main unit is at temp,. This evens out the temp in my whole house.   The other bedroom doors are open during the day so it helps with them also. At night the temp is set lower, and it is an cold night, in have a heat pad on my bed.  So much better than a electric blanket which in used for years.  The heat pad, IV rarely turn the thing in past 1.  It has tiny wires I can't even feel.  It's low voltage DC powered,. So it has transformers.  So it's much safer.  Plus heat rises, so makes more sense to have it under you and not above you.    Cheaper to stay warm at night this way than heating the whole house.   I also have fans in all of my rooms.  Where in live, it could be really hot Durning the day, but normally at night the temp drops of quite a bit, so open the window and turn on the fan.  Low and medium speed it's very quite!!!

    My dad lives with me and so does mess with the AC and heat more than in like.  He's retired and so home most of the time.  In could save a lot more power if it wasn't for him.  


  • Reply 10 of 13
    pcmofopcmofo Posts: 6unconfirmed, member
    I picked up two ecobee 4's for $200 around black Friday last year. I went with them over Nest because of the integration options with Smart Things and other platforms for home automation. The Alexa integration is mostly useless. I use Alexa all the time but as someone else here said, the range and location is typically worthless. Also, until Amazon rolled out the feature to have the closest Alexa device answer only I had 3 devices responding to every queue which got old quickly. Thankfully you can easily disable Alexa on the Ecobee. The remote sensors are great. I am using one in the master and another as a motion sensor to trigger SmartThings automation. I still havent figured out how to change the temperature diff. to be less than 5 degrees. Currently set to Heat to 70, cool to 75, A 5+ degree temp swing is fairly noticeable this time of year.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    crabbycrabby Posts: 38member
    I'm still a fan of my Ecobee X~two years now.  The installation into my 30 year-old HVAC system was pretty straightforward- 30 minutes seems about right.  
      The unfixable irritant has been alluded to above: when walking by the sensor in the morning to feed the dog & go on our walk, Ecobee thinks I'm " Home for Now" & turns on the heat as I'm going out the door.  There is no way to set timers for the sensors, so I end up manually setting "Away for Now" as I walk by & sometimes I remember to release that when I get back
    I am positive other users have this same issue & surprised Ecobee folks do not have a fix.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    Roger_FingasRoger_Fingas Posts: 142member, editor
    pcmofo said:
    I picked up two ecobee 4's for $200 around black Friday last year. I went with them over Nest because of the integration options with Smart Things and other platforms for home automation. The Alexa integration is mostly useless. I use Alexa all the time but as someone else here said, the range and location is typically worthless. Also, until Amazon rolled out the feature to have the closest Alexa device answer only I had 3 devices responding to every queue which got old quickly. Thankfully you can easily disable Alexa on the Ecobee. The remote sensors are great. I am using one in the master and another as a motion sensor to trigger SmartThings automation. I still havent figured out how to change the temperature diff. to be less than 5 degrees. Currently set to Heat to 70, cool to 75, A 5+ degree temp swing is fairly noticeable this time of year.
    For reference, Ecobee recently enabled Echo Spatial Perception, so only the closest Echo speaker will respond now.
  • Reply 13 of 13
     Ecobee needs to ditch Alexa and add Siri! 
    Would Apple allow that? Or are you just joking because Siri is useless?
    Nonsense. Despite the pundit techie meme, Siri is just as good as the others — or rather, they all suck about the same, give or take certain areas. For home automation, Siri is more than capable. I use it it trigger scenes and manipulate HK accessories every day without issue. “Dim lights 20%”, “Dim lights to 20%”, “It’s movie time”, “goodnight”, etc...

    Abyway, ecobee already supports Siri:

    https://support.ecobee.com/hc/en-us/articles/227878347-What-Siri-voice-commands-can-I-use-to-control-my-ecobee-
    Supports Siri isn't the same as having it built in.

    I guess everyone has different experiences/expectations but I've found Siri fairly frustrating. It can't answer knowledge questions and just does a web search and even simple questions like "How cold is it outside?" give me meaningless answers like, "It doesn't seem particularly cold to me". If i have to visually look at the phone, the voice assistant isn't much help.
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