Ecobee5 doesn’t win in every category, but it’s more flexible and gives you more smart home control than Nest. Nest has a better build quality and works without the c-wire, but it lack smart home control.
Nest is a little smarter than Ecobee because it learns your patterns and habits without manual input. Ecobee may not learn your habits, but it’s more customizable. When setting up, you will select the preferred temperature when you’re home, away, or asleep.
Ecobee maintains the temperature based on the time and setting, but it changes the temperature based on the occupancy sensors and your phone’s location (geofence). For example, if you set 3 PM as an away time but you’re home (maybe you’re sick or just didn’t feel like going to work), the occupancy sensors will notice you and change the temperature to your home setting. There’s one sensor built into the Ecobee SmartThermostat base, and it comes with one SmartSensor for another room. So you’ll have two rooms that track temperature and occupancy. And you can add up to 32 SmartSensors in total.
Ecobee’s sensors help determine if you left the house, and they help create a more accurate temperature average of your house, which could be crucial in houses with big temperature fluctuations from room to room. These sensors might be better than geofencing if there are multiple people in your home with different schedules. Speaking of geofencing, you can customize the radius for when the temperature turns on or off.
Alexa is built into the thermostat, but you can disable the mic if you don’t want Alexa listening, which is what I do. Ecobee tracks the temperature outside to better predict when the heating and cooling should turn on to reach your desired temperature at the desired time.
The biggest difference is that Nest uses more machine learning and AI to understand your patterns. You shouldn’t have to touch Nest after a couple of weeks because it will understand what temperature you like when you want it changed, and when you’re normally home or away.
It also relies on geofencing to see when you’re home or away, so everyone must have the Nest app. Nest offers room sensors, but these sense temperature rather than occupancy (unlike Ecobee). Nest also integrates with other Nest products (cameras, alarms, smoke detectors) and they network together to better set the temperature.
While Nest’s learning is fantastic, it is sometimes an issue if there are many household members and inconsistent schedules. This is why having the app is of greater importance. Nest also has interesting features like Airwave that keeps your AC fan running for an additional 5-10 minutes to take advantage of the cool air generated by your compressor (it’s cheaper and still cold). It also does a better job of reducing humidity and reducing temperature swings common to radiant temperature systems.
Nest just slightly edges out Ecobee with some superior features and machine learning.
Smarts winner: Nest
There’s no contest here, Ecobee wins by a landslide. Ecobee works with every major smart home assistant (Alexa, Google, HomeKit, SmartThings, Harmony, Wink, Vera, and IFTTT). You can easily set home automations with your other smart home product inside Apple’s Home app and with Alexa Routines. Plus, if you have an iPad, HomePod, or Apple TV set as your HomeKit hub, Ecobee geofencing is easier because household members won’t need the Ecobee app on their phone.
The Ecobee app and thermostat have an identical interface. On top of that, the Ecobee online portal has HomeIQ that shows you savings, usage, and patterns (which I think is neat).
I love Ecobee’s +/- swing feature, which allows you to set a temperature and a range before the furnace or AC turns on. For example, I like setting it to 66 degrees with a 3 point swing. This means the system won’t turn on until the temperature reaches either 63 or 69. It’s a little less comfortable this way, but much better on the wallet. You can also set Vacation Mode with specific dates and times of your departure.
On the downside, the Ecobee app sometimes fails to connect to the thermostat because the servers are down. However, you won’t need the app much as long as your preferences are set and you have a smart assistant.
Let’s compare this with Nest. Nest is owned by Google and only supports the Google Assistant platform. They previously had a “Works with Nest” program, but now you can only use Google systems to interact with Nest. Nest won’t work with Alexa or Apple HomeKit (Siri). This doesn’t mean iPhone users can’t use Nest, just that you can’t control it with your other smart home devices or with Siri and Alexa.
Nest relies more heavily on geofencing and patterns than Ecobee, and everyone in your household needs the Nest app for geofencing to work properly. Speaking of which, while Nest uses machine learning and will adjust according to your preferences, manually changing the thermostat schedule is hard. On top of that, the interface and app are different, which I find annoying.
Lastly, you have no control over the temperature swing. The Nest thermostat temperature swing is +/- 1 degree from your set point. So, if you set the thermostat to 72, the A/C will turn on when the room hits 73, and turn off when the room hits 71. Depending on your personal preferences, this may or may not be an issue. If your house is old or poorly insulated, this may mean that your A/C is cycling every 5 or 10 minutes. If you want to save on utilities, this is not very efficient. This 1 degree temperature band is not overall unreasonable. But, for a sophisticated “smart home” device, having the ability to customize the setting would be nice. We would love to see future versions allow the user to modify this temperature swing band.
Software winner: Ecobee
If you have a c-wire, then Ecobee and Nest are exactly the same. However, if you don’t have a c-wire, then Nest wins this category. Let’s explore why.
Ecobee (check compatibility) and Nest (check compatibility) are both compatible with 95% of HVAC systems, so few people will have issues with compatibility. Ecobee doesn’t have an internal battery, so it needs a c-wire for power. Newer homes have these, but many older ones won’t.
If you don’t have a c-wire (learn more), you’ll need Ecobee’s included power-extender kit. It’s a good workaround if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty. You need to open your HVAC and install the kit. It’s not hard and Ecobee gives you great instructions, but it is extra work and can be intimidating, But, if you already have the c-wire, then setup is simple.
Nest doesn’t need a c-wire because it has an internal battery. You’ll never have to open the HVAC for installation. Plus, the step-by-step instructions are great and provided right on the Nest screen. If something is wrong, it will give you troubleshooting steps to ensure proper installation.
While they are neck and neck if you have a c-wire, Nest pulls ahead if you don’t have one.
Setup winner: Nest
Nest wins the design category by a sizable margin. There’s nothing wrong with Ecobee’s design, but Nest’s smart thermostat looks better.
Ecobee5 has a 3.5-inch touch screen that looks and functions like the app, which I like. It looks good on the wall but feels cheap in the hands. It’s made of plastic and not as sturdy as I would like.
Nest’s thermostat is like art. It’s smaller but much denser. It feels sturdy and looks fantastic. Even the included screwdriver is exceptional — it’s worth keeping and using on other projects. You can choose from seven colors like stainless steel, copper, white, brass, and more. The screen resolution is also much sharper than Ecobee.
You can customize the screen, and the display turns on as you approach. While it doesn’t have a touchscreen, it has a dial for navigation. It looks good, but it isn’t quite as convenient.
Design winner: Nest
You might have noticed that Nest won more categories with Smarts, Setup, and Design under its belt. However, the only strong win was in Design. They are very close in Smarts and Setup is the same providing you have a c-wire. Ecobee wins in Software and it’s a big win.
Ecobee wins this fight because it gives you more control, works with every smart assistant, is easier to use and customize, and needs geofencing as much as Nest (though it works well with this). Nest traps you into the Google ecosystem and wants everyone to have the Nest app to get the most savings.