As of May 2017, Ecobee has moved on from the ecobee3 thermostat, and has released the all-new ecobee4 thermostat. And now that Nest has become a household name, we felt the need to compare these three smart thermostats to find out the differences between them. So, let’s compare ecobee3 vs. ecobee4 vs. Nest to help you choose the right smart thermostat for your smart home.
About Ecobee and Nest Thermostats
Ecobee and Nest are two of the leading manufacturers when it comes to smart thermostats. Another major player is Honeywell, whose roots reach all the way back to 1885. We felt the need to mention Honeywell because you’ve probably considered their Lyric thermostat as the choice for your home, and we’re here to say that the Lyric still needs some improvement before it catches up with Ecobee and Nest.
Originally, Ecobee offered two smart thermostats: the ecobee3 and ecobee3 lite. But, as of May 2017, Ecobee has added one more thermostat to their range — the ecobee4. With this new release, Ecobee is making a huge step towards smart home voice control. The goal is to control your smart home not only from your smartphone, but also from any room of your home via voice. This year, Ecobee has announced two major releases: the ecobee4 thermostat (out now) and the ecobee smart light switch (late 2017). Both new appliances have Alexa built-in, which can be a real game changer for the smart home appliances market.
And while voice control is an important part of smart home automation, the technology is still in development and has some flaws when it comes to security. Even though Amazon has been working for years on developing a voice recognition feature that allows Amazon voice assistant to distinguish between individual users based on their voices, it hasn’t yet been released.
Nest doesn’t seem to be chasing any sort of voice control feature; rumors are that the company is working on a lower-cost version of the Nest Learning Thermostat with an expected target price of under $200. Though the lower-cost version might be in a different finish.
Ecobee3 vs. Ecobee4 vs. Nest — The Differences
Difference #1: Built-in voice controller – The ecobee4 comes with built-in Amazon Alexa voice controller. The ecobee4 is not just a smart thermostat, it’s also your personal assistant. Ask ecobee4 to play your favorite music, add eggs to the shopping cart, or read the latest news — it can do it all.
Both the ecobee3 and Nest don’t have built-in Amazon Alexa, but they’re compatible with Amazon voice assistant. So, if you’re looking for voice control over your ecobee3 or Nest thermostat, all you need is to buy an Amazon voice controller separately (like the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, or new Echo Show).
Difference #2: Design – Nest features an iPod inspired design, which really adds nice touch to any smart home. The round-shaped thermostat only measures 3.3” x 3.3”. It has nice, bright display that’s 2.08 inches in diameter.
The ecobee4 and ecobee3 have a very similar design, except that the ecobee4 is a little bit bigger due to its built-in speaker and light bar on the top side: 4.29” x 4.29” vs. 3.93” x 3.93”.
Difference #3: Hardware options – You can choose a trim color for your Nest Learning Thermostat to complement your home’s style. Nest offers thermostat trims in copper, stainless steel, black, and white finishes.
Ecobee3 and ecobee4 don’t have any color variations available. They come in a black finish. Eh, just deal with it.
Difference #4: Bluetooth Low energy – Nest supports Bluetooth Low Energy, a short range wireless signal. Bluetooth Low Energy technology allows to use less battery power while providing high data speeds.
Ecobee3 and ecobee4 do not support Bluetooth Low Energy.
Difference #5: Sensors – Usually, thermostats measure the temperature where they’re installed. This approach usually causes some rooms to be colder or hotter. That’s why ecobee3 and ecobee4 come with room sensors to help the ecobee thermostat even up temperature in all your rooms. The ecobee sensors measure temperature, humidity, occupancy, and proximity. With the ecobee sensors you can even out the temperature in the rooms that matter.
The sensors are also designed to detect movement. So, in the event you’re at home while its “away” mode is on, the ecobee thermostat will automatically adjust the temperature for your comfort.
You can pair up to 32 sensors with one ecobee thermostat. Both ecobee3 and ecobee4 come with one sensor each, but you can buy ecobee Room Sensors separately. And, if you have a big house, look for an ecobee Bundle option.
Nest Learning Thermostat doesn’t have room sensors to report the temperature from other rooms. However, you can use Nest Protect Smoke Detector as a room sensor — a fun, little workaround. The Nest Protect measures temperature and occupancy, so it can be used not only like smoke detector, but also as ecobee room sensor.
Update 05/05/18: You can now buy the Nest Temperature Sensors to even out the temperature between rooms in your home. The Nest Temperature Sensors work only with the Nest Learning Thermostat Gen 3 and the Nest E Thermostat.
Difference #6: Power – First off, we recommend that your thermostat run off of a C-wire. If your current thermostat setup uses a C-wire, congrats! You can skip this section as Nest, ecobee3, and ecobee4 can all be powered via C-wire. Now, as to why a C-wire is important, we’ll point you to this wonderful article which highlights a process called power stealing, “Thermostat C Wire: Everything you need to know about the ‘common’ wire,” by Smart Home Thermostats:
The C wire, or “common wire” enables the continuous flow of 24 VAC power to the thermostat. The popular Nest thermostat claims to work without a C-wire, there are some caveats. Without a C-wire, the Nest gets its power from your heating or cooling system… assuming it’s running. When it’s not running, the Nest still needs to get power. The Nest will “pulse” the heat wire, turning on the furnace to pull a bit of power to keep itself going. In some systems, this is unnoticeable, but in others, the furnace responds as if being told to turn on and then immediately off.
In addition to the what Smart Home Thermostats describes above, which can sometimes make thermostats prone to failure depending on your heating/cooling setup, a C-wire is super important for smart thermostats because it also provides the negative charge needed to supply enough power for features like WiFi.
Nest without a C-wire: so, if your thermostat setup does not include a C-wire, Nest bypasses needing a C-wire by running off its built-in, rechargable, lithium-ion battery, which is charged by the heating and cooling wires connected to your thermostat. With the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, even in the case of a power outage, your Nest Learning Thermostat will continue working for some time before shutting down to prevent the battery from being fully drained. If the power is off for an extended period of time, the Nest Thermostat will need to recharge its battery before it turns back on. Recharging can, possibly, take up to 3 hours. You should note that there are some cases in which Nest requires a C-wire in order to function properly, you’ll need to consult Nest’s guide on “When the Nest Learning Thermostat needs a common “C” wire.” There have been some problems with battery glitches, and even some heating/cooling system setups that, by pulsing the heat wire, can cause some wonky boiler reactions, so be sure to read that guide about when Nest needs a C-wire that we linked above.
Ecobee without a C-wire: As for ecobee, if your thermostat setup does not include a C-wire, the ecobee3 and ecobee4 include a Power Extender Kit. The Power Extender Kit allows you to power your ecobee thermostat without a C-wire, while also protecting you from outages, giving consumers peace-of-mind that their smart thermostat will work smartly. For more information on which wires are necessary for ecobee’s Power Extender Kit, check out their Compatibility Guide.
We haven’t seen or heard of anything about ecobee’s Power Extender Kit causing any problems, so if you don’t have a C-wire setup (look into getting it done), we’d tip this difference in the favor of both the ecobee3 and ecobee4.
Difference #7: Voice & audio – Since ecobee4 has built-in Alexa Voice Service, it also has built-in microphone and speaker. This smart thermostat can listen and respond to you.
Ecobee3 and Nest don’t support voice & audio features.
Difference #8: Warranty – Nest offers a two-year limited warranty. Whereas ecobee3 and ecobee4 offer a three-year warranty.
Difference #9: Compatibility – This difference might be a deal breaker. No matter how much we all want to have a connected smart home, there are usually limits to which smart home appliances we can pair. When you choose between Ecobee and Nest, the deal breaker is support for Apple HomeKit.
Nest doesn’t officially support SmartThings integration, however you can still utilize a custom integration created by a developer in the SmartThings Developer Community. Just note that the integration violates Nest’s Terms of Service. Also, Nest doesn’t work with Apple HomeKit.
Difference #10: Environment Learning – There’s a reason the Nest Learning Thermostat is called a learning thermostat. It is designed to create an automatic schedule built around your habits. Nest takes notes of the temperature you set at different times of the day and week to eventually build an automatic schedule for you. Nest will also help you save energy by providing recommendations for energy-saving thermostat settings.
Ecobee3 and ecobee4 are not learning thermostats. But, thanks to their room sensors, ecobee thermostats can always set up a comfortable temperature level for you and save energy based on room occupancy. Plus, you get monthly reports from Ecobee on how much energy you’ve saved and recommendations on how you can save even more.
Ecobee3 vs. Ecobee4 vs. Nest — The Full Chart of Features
|Amazon Alexa built-in||No||Yes||No|
|Dimensions||3.93” x 3.93”||4.29” x 4.29”||3.3” x 3.3”|
|Hardware color||Black||Black||Copper, stainless steel, black, or white|
|Remote sensors||ecobee room sensors||ecobee room sensors||Nest Protect|
Nest Temperature Sensor
|Power (if no C-wire present)||Power Extender Kit||Power Extender Kit||Heating/Cooling Wires + Battery|
|Voice & audio||No||Yes||No|
|Learns habits over time||No||No||Yes|
|Works with Amazon Alexa||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Google Assistant support||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Works with Wink||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Works with SmartThings||Yes||Yes||No|
|Free monthly energy reports||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Ecobee3 vs. Ecobee4 vs. Nest — The Bottom Line
When choosing between ecobee3 vs. ecobee4 vs. Nest — it all comes down to two questions:
– Do you need Amazon Voice Control in your home?
– What other smart home appliances are you planning on pairing with your smart home thermostat?
If you already have the ecobee3 and are looking to upgrade to the ecobee4 — we think you should hold off; the only real difference between them is built-in Amazon Alexa. You’re better off buying an Amazon voice controller, like the Echo, Echo Dot, Tap, or Echo Show separately, if you need it. The benefit of having Amazon Alexa separate from your ecobee thermostat is the flexibility in its installation. You can have Amazon Alexa in a place where you don’t need to shout for it to hear you.
Now, if you don’t have a smart thermostat yet and are choosing between ecobee3 vs. ecobee4, then the ecobee4 will probably be the better bet for you: Ecobee4 is a combination of ecobee3 and Amazon Alexa, and it’s cheaper to buy this two-in-one thermostat then buying the devices separately. Just make sure to install the thermostat in a common area where you’ll be able to enjoy the Amazon Alexa voice control. But, if you don’t really care about Amazon Alexa, then ecobee3 or ecobee3 lite will be your best choice.
Now, if you’re choosing between Ecobee and Nest, it mostly comes down to their compatibility. Ecobee can be paired with a wider range of smart home hubs. Plus, ecobee supports both Apple HomeKit and Google Home integration. Whereas Nest is heavily oriented just towards Google Home. So, your choice will pretty much depend on which direction you want to go with your smart home devices. Yet, it’s safe to say that as of now, ecobee offers a better deal.