The first HomeKit enabled thermostat.
I’ve been a Nest owner since day one. I liked it so much I thought I’d be a customer for life. That is until they were bought by Google. That acquisition made me start looking at other companies that had smart thermostats and that’s when I found the ecobee3.
ecobee3 is considered the ‘smarter’ thermostat. It is unique in that it not only takes temperature readings from the thermostat, but it also gets readings from remote battery-powered sensors that you can place throughout your home. These sensors detect when someone is in a room and feeds information back to the thermostat. ecobee3 then averages out the temperature from the sensors and the thermostat and tries to equalize your home based on that average. This feature really makes the ecobee3 stand out in my mind. ecobee3 comes with one sensor, but you can add on more to your system.
So, my journey from Nest to ecobee3 was somewhat rocky. First of all, even though I’m not a fan of Google and Google-based products, I really love the Nest. It’s hardware and UI were monumental and groundbreaking. Looking at the face value of the ecobee line, I just wasn’t sure that the plastic hardware and black and white interface would compare to the Nest.
I originally tried to make the switch to the ecobee3 before HomeKit was actually announced. I was under the impression, as were many others, that the original hardware would be sufficient enough to work with HomeKit. Unfortunately, the world found out that would not so long ago that any device had to have end-to-end encryption in order to work with HomeKit. ecobee remedied the situation quickly by re-releasing the ecobee3 so that it was compatible with HomeKit.
Once ecobee3 was working with HomeKit, I decided it was finally time to make the switch. I picked up a newly released unit and removed my Nest. The installation was very simple as I already had the wires marked thanks to the stickers from the Nest install. I selected the wall cover that would work best with my setup. Then, I pulled the wires through the back of the back plate and placed each wire into its matching terminal.
Assuming the wires are connected to the right terminal, you should be able to snap your ecobee3 into the back plate and it will power up. It takes a few minutes for it to completely startup and walk through the setup process. I found the touch screen interface to be quite a bit easier to work with for the setup process than the Nest’s click wheel. Plus, the touch screen itself is very responsive. That’s something I had been very concerned about when looking at the original demo model at Best Buy.
Even though I am quite familiar with typical home automation devices, setting up HomeKit with a device was a new experience. I would actually call it ‘cumbersome,’ but that might just be because I’ve never set it up before. I do believe ecobee could have had a better explanation on how the setup should have gone. First of all, you can’t use HomeKit commands through Siri until the thermostat completely finishes calibrating. This can take up to 20 minutes and it’s not mentioned anywhere in the instructions. Also, the commands to use the ecobee3 with HomeKit are nowhere to be found in the box or in the instructions. If you want them, you have to find them by visiting their FAQ page on the ecobee website.
Once HomeKit was installed I had no clue how to get it to work with my iPad. Each time I tried asking Siri to do something with the thermostat, the request would fail. I placed a call to ecobee customer support and sat on hold for 30 minutes waiting for a rep to pickup. Once he answered, the question I had was, “I have HomeKit working with my iPhone. I can ask Siri to turn the temperature up or down from my iPhone and it works, but when trying from my iPad, I’m told that I don’t have anything setup. How can I make this work?”
The rep from ecobee told me that HomeKit is device supported and that if it’s working on my iPhone that it won’t work on the iPad. This did not make any sense to me as Apple’s website says HomeKit works for any iOS device thats using the same Apple ID. I decided to reach out to ecobee via Twitter and received a response that said it would work almost verbatim of what the Apple website says. This led me to believe that the rep for ecobee had no clue what he was talking about. It was very disappointing since I have heard that customer support with ecobee is typically exceptional.
After receiving this information, I placed a call to Apple to see if they could help me troubleshoot. I was told if it’s not working then it’s something on ecobee’s side – not Apple’s. At this point, I felt as though I was getting the run around from both Apple and ecobee. So, I kept researching and researching to try to find out what needed to be done to make it work on both of my iOS devices. Between not having any luck and a horrible experience with customer service, I was strongly considering switching back to my Nest.
After a several hours of research and randomly asking Siri to change the temperature, suddenly the iPad started working. I had not done anything differently, but it was working. I was surprised and ecstatic at the same time. The HomeKit commands worked intermittently throughout the evening and I’m guessing that it just took time for HomeKit to recognize all my devices. I feel like this is something that both Apple and ecobee should be able to tell the customer.
I’ve been using the ecobee3 for about three weeks now, and after getting everything setup it’s been great. The only thing I’m not a fan of is the iOS app UI. It’s mostly black and white, instead of the Nest’s vibrant color interface, and it does not rotate on the iPad from landscape to portrait mode. Getting used to this as well as using commands through HomeKit has been a bit of a challenge, but overall, the ecobee3 has made life easier.
My main complaints about the system are things that can be fixed pretty easily and most users wouldn’t be bothered them. I would love to see a brighter color interface on the iOS app and have the ability to rotate landscape to portrait. I think it would also be nice if ecobee made finding the commands to control the thermostat easier. Finally, I would love to see the Apple Watch app be easier to use.
All in all is the ecobee3 worth buying? The answer is yes! It’s very nice and works great.