We are always looking for a way to cut energy cost and save money in every manner we can. Cutting energy cost will help up to put money towards other things we need the most.
One of the simplest ways to cut energy cost is concentrating on the things we use the most. More than likely the most used appliance in any home is the heating and cooling system.
Bottom Line up Front: If you want to take my word for it (without reading the entire post), here are the reasons I’d go with each:
- Click here to get the Nest IF….
- 1) You have already invested in Nest compatible devices; and/or
- 2) Want the industry leading “smart learning” system that is truly automated and doesn’t require messing around with too many specific settings and inputs; and or,
- 3) Want a device that is simple to install
- Click here to get the Ecobee IF…
- 1) You have a larger home (2000+ square feet) that will need multiple sensors; and/or,
- 2) Have rooms with widely varying temperatures (that will also need more sensors); and/or,
- 3) Want something that plays well with many different smart home protocols (IFTTT, Works with Apple HomeKit, Works with SmartThings, Vera, Wink, etc..)
Either way: Using a wireless “smart” thermostat will help you accomplish this task and help you cut energy cost and saving money by helping your unit to run at peak performance.
Contents (Jump to)
- 1 Introduction to Smart Thermostats
- 2 Cut to the Chase: Take the Quiz
- 3 What is a “Thermostat?”
- 4 “Smart” Thermostats Explained
- 5 Nest Thermostat – The Key Features
- 6 Ecobee3 Wifi Smart Thermostat – Key Features
- 7 Core Features Compared – Ecobee vs Nest At a Glance
- 8 Final Analysis – Which to Choose?
Introduction to Smart Thermostats
Being able to find a comfortable thermostat reading can be hard to do. We try to save energy by cutting down on the operating time of our HVAC units. Learning when your unit is operating at peak performance will be the best way to cut energy cost and save money while heating and cooling your home.
It is not always the best decision to turn the unit of when you leave and turn it back home when you get home. Your HVAC unit will run harder to reach a comfortable temperature if you follow this technique.
It is actually cheaper to find a comfortable level with a cutback temperature so your unit will maintain a steady comfort level all day even while you are out.
Cut to the Chase: Take the Quiz
What is a “Thermostat?”
Okay, we all know what it looks like, but how does it really work? You need to understand this first in order to understand how a “smart” thermostat can benefit you.
A thermostat is a temperature monitor that can be set to control the temperature in your home. Most of the earlier thermostat were wired to your HVAC unit and were trigger using a mercury switch.
As the temperature changed a thin wire would expand or contract triggering the mercury switch. This worked well after you figured out yourself what a comfortable setting was.
Later came the electronic digital thermostat that operated more accurately. The digital thermometer could be set to the temperature you desired and could measure the temperature more closely than the wire thermostat.
Some of the later digital thermometers were also designed so you could set it to a setback temperature that you could use while you were away to help your unit to maintain a comfortable setting until you returned home to set the thermostat back to the original setting.
Today there have been huge advancements made in thermostat technology. We will look at some of the changes as well as make a comparison between some of the better choices when it comes to modern thermostat technology.
“Smart” Thermostats Explained
Smart thermostats are becoming hot commodities today when it comes to cutting energy usage cost. These smart programmable thermostats not only help you to cut energy cost they will make it much easier for you to operate once you learn how.
These thermostats are capable of learning and taking notes of your lifestyle and will teach themselves to maintain your HVAC unit to a comfortable temperature and to run your units to match the lifestyle of your family.
You can also operate these thermostats with apps available on you tablets or smart phones. These apps will allow you to operate your system remotely as well as monitoring your system while you are way.
Just imagine leaving your job and setting your unit so it will be at a comfortable setting when you arrive home. Suppose someone leaves you house and forgets to lower or raise the thermostat setting. No problem you can do it from your phone or tablet.
There are some really nice smart thermostats on the market and will take the time to look at a couple of the top choices when it comes to smart thermostats.
Nest Thermostat – The Key Features
With an older thermostat it is easy to leave the house and forget to change the thermostat to a setback setting or a setting that will keep your units from running as much while you are away.
The Nest Learning Thermostat will learn your schedule and program itself, yes program itself. It can also be managed from your smartphone. You can save as much as 20 percent on your energy bill by using the Nest Thermostat.
- Let it get to know you.
You can install the Nest Thermostat in only 30 minutes or less. Once it is installed on your wall it will activate the features that make this thermostat so special. It will start learning about you and your family and the lifestyles that you live as well as what it needs to know about your home.
- Nest will learn to save.
Programming thermostats can be hard to do. It can also be irritating but it will cost you money if it is not programmed. The Nest Thermostat will program itself. Turn it up or turn it down.
The Nest will learns what temperatures you like and will build a schedule according to the way you use it. Teach it a few setting for a while and after a few days it will learn to operate own its’ own.
- Save while you are gone.
With Auto-Away technology the Nest will automatically turn to an energy saving setting while you are away. If you forget to turn it down the Nest will do it if you forget. This is a great feature that will help you cut energy cost.
- Nest on the Go.
Use the Nest app to operate your unit while you are away. This will allow you to change the temperature settings if you are to arrive earlier or later.
UPDATE: Nest has since released an updated device since the writing of this article. You can read this article for the full list of changes, but – at it’s core – the Nest Gen 2 and Gen 3 are very similar.
The key changes for the 3rd Generation are 1) a slightly larger and improved screen interface, 2) introduction of the new “FarSight” detector, capable of detecting human activity further away, and 3) a price reduction for the Generation 2 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) for a lower price.
ADDITIONAL UPDATE 2/5/18: Nest has also recently introduced the more entry level Nest Thermostat E which is targeted as a more affordable and lightweight smart thermostat. My full Nest E review is live here.
Product Details of the Nest
Part Number: T100577
Item weight: 1.8 pounds
Product dimensions: 3.2 x 3.2 x 1.6 inches
Item model number: T100577
Display style: Digital
Nest Learning Video Overview
Nest Pros and Cons
- Easy setup.
- Touchscreen is great and responsive.
- Shows local weather in your area.
- Time display on home screen.
- Default from factory not set.
- Nest Technical support.
- Doesn’t have extra “sensor” system like Ecobee
Ecobee3 Wifi Smart Thermostat – Key Features
Another big advancement in thermostat technology is the Ecobee Wifi Thermostat. Imagine controlling your thermostat from anywhere. While you are away you can make the changes you need with your tablet or smartphone.
While you are at home you can still use your tablet and smartphone to maintain the settings you desire. Take advantage of these thermostat advancements to help you to save energy and cut energy cost.
You can read my full Ecobee review here.
- Learns what it needs to know about you.
This thermostat we also take note of your everyday lifestyle and will adapt itself to the changes you make. After a few days you will not have to worry about maintaining the settings you desire the Ecobee Thermostat will do it for you.
- Lower your energy bills.
Heating and cooling cost can be responsible for 50 percent of your energy bill. The Ecobee will help cut your heating and cooling cost as much as 20 percent. This is a huge step in cutting energy cost and saving you money.
- Mobile app control on the go.
You can control the Ecobee from anywhere you are located using the Ecobee app. Using you smartphone or tablet you can adjust the settings if your arrival time at home changes. Arriving early or late you can make the necessary changes needed.
- Multiple Room Sensors
One of my favorite features of the Ecobee is the extra remote sensors you can place throughout your home to properly calibrate data collection.
As smart thermostats are only as good as the data they collect, this is a significant advantage over the Nest (which generally requires purchasing multiple Nest’s to achieve the same data reach). For example, my basement heats and cools very differently than the upstairs bathroom.
Only having a room sensor in the downstairs living room isn’t allowing my “smart” thermostat to intuit these different needs.
Ecobee thermostats use hundreds of data points to automatically adjust to personalized heating and cooling decisions. It will improve your units’ performance making you more comfortable and optimizing your energy savings.
Ecobee3 Product Details
Part number: EB-STATe3-01
Item Weight: 1 pound
Product Dimensions: 3.9 x 0.9 x 3.9 inches
Item model number: EB-ecobee3-01
Item Package Quantity: 1
Special features: Color touchscreen, free operating apps, home energy report, free software upgrades and no monthly fees.
Ecobee Video Demonstration
Ecobee Pros and Cons
- Nice looking appearance.
- Easy installation.
- Free android apps.
- Stronger Ecobee support system.
- Good price: (For the latest prices and discounts, check here). Note: the Ecobee 2nd Gen actually tends to be cheaper than the 1st Gen.
- Android app could use improvement.
- Takes longer to develop away settings.
- Will not reset after power outage.
Core Features Compared – Ecobee vs Nest At a Glance
As a summary, here are the key differences in one take:
|Nest Learning Thermostat||Ecobee4|
|Price||(Check Prices Here)||(Check Prices Here)|
|Professional installation fees||$119 for the first unit + $25 for additional units||Varies, ask for quote|
|Activity/Motion sensors||Proximity sensors, near-field and far-field activity sensors||Yes|
|Ambient light sensors||Yes||No|
|Security protocols||HTTPS, SSL and 128-bit encryption||WEP, WPA2, SSL|
|LCD Display||24 bit color, 320 x 320 pixels display||Touch screen, 3.5″ full-color, 320 x 40 pixels|
|Diameter||2.92″||3.9″ x 3.9″|
|In the box||Display, Base, Nest screwdriver, Start Here Guide, Installation Guide, mounting kit, mounting screws & labels||ecobee4 thermostat, Remote Sensor, detachable stand, Power Extender Kit, Screws and drywall plugs, Standard and large trim plates, Quick Start Guide, Installation Guide and wire labels|
|C-wire||Optional||With power extender if you do not have C wire|
|Live weather report||No||Yes|
|Automatic software updates||Yes||Yes|
|Change Filter Reminder||Yes||Yes|
Final Analysis – Which to Choose?
As with any type of purchase you make for your home you will need to do your research and find the right product for you. The things one company offers will differ from what other companies will offer.
Each family will have their own lifestyle and no two will have the same. What works well for one family may not be a great fit for the other.
Regardless of the type of thermostat you decide to purchase be sure to research your specific home set-up to demonstrate and show you the many options you have available to you when choosing a thermostat to save you money.
For example, if you have a smaller area – like an apartment – going with something affordable like the Ecobee Lite version can be perfect (if you don’t need lots of room sensors).
“You will save money and cut your energy cost by choosing a smart thermostat. There is no longer a debate.”
They may be a little costly at first but you will get your investment back in just a few months by cutting your energy cost as much as 20 percent.
NOTE: A smart thermostat that I have NOT discussed here is the Honeywell Lyric, but you can read my review of the original Lyric here, or the newer Lyric T5 here. I still prefer the Ecobee and Nest over the Lyric (slightly), however.
The release of the Nest Generation 3 really hasn’t fundamentally changed the game. In fact, most home automation fans were disappointed it didn’t offer more. It’s still a close battle. A “toss-up”.
However, a new Ecobee smart thermostat release could change things significantly. I definitely like the direction Ecobee is headed! UPDATE for 2018: I now prefer the Ecobee4 available here definitively.
UPDATE: The Ecobee3 now has a “Gen 2” edition which is now Apple HomeKit enabled. This allows a wide variety of additional integration and future potential. If I had to decide today between the Nest Gen 3 vs Ecobee3 Gen 2, I’d go with the Ecobee.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!