Mar 31 AT 7:39 PM Brooks Barnard 0 Comments

Wink home automation via your Android device: ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat

ecobee3-1

Automating and controlling various aspects of your home is both convenient and fun in a geeky way. A small portion of these home automation devices will also add comfort and have the potential to save you money. What? Save money? Yes. A smart thermostat can help you save money on your monthly bill. Unfortunately, you need to spend money to save money. But again, a smart thermostat is more than just a long term investment. It’s changing the temperature of your house from the comfort of the couch or bed. It’s monitoring the temperature of your baby room. It’s convenience, easy access, and money saving all in one nice package.

Today we are reviewing the 2nd generation ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat with Remote Sensor. The ecobee3 can be used with or without Wink, but if you want to use the various other sensors available via Wink to trigger your thermostat to do things, or use your thermostat to trigger other devices, you need to buy into the Wink system which we reviewed here. Wink graciously provided me with an ecobee3 thermostat for review and I’ve had it installed in my home for over a month now. I’ve had a good experience with it so far and I have a second one on my wishlist now to control the other floor in my home.

ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat with Remote Sensor

The ecobee3 Smarter Wi-Fi Thermostat is simply smart thermostat that can be controlled via your phone or computer. The thermostat itself has several sensors such as motion, proximity, humidity, and of course temperature. The thermostat itself has conventional (2H/2C) system compatibility as well as heat pump (4H/2C) incl. 2-stage auxiliary heat, gas, oil, electric, dual fuel support, humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, HRV or ERV compatibility. Ecobee says it’s residential thermostats are compatible with 95% of residential heating and cooling. They also have a compatibility checker here.

The ecobee3 system also comes with a remote sensor that contains a motion and temperature sensor that can be placed wherever else you want in your home to monitor temperature and occupancy. This is a pretty spectacular feature if you live in a home with multiple rooms controlled by one thermostat. What the ecobee3 does is average the temperatures read by the different sensors to determine when it’s going to turn on the heat or air conditioner. So no longer will your hallway be the perfect temperature and your baby room be freezing. Put the remote sensor in your baby room and let ecobee3 keep your baby cozy.

Installation

I live in a relatively new home. It was built in 2004, so I thought installation would be a breeze. I thought all the wires would just be ready to go and I could unplug them from my old dumb thermostat and plug them in the ecobee3. However, My old thermostats didn’t require the common wire, and whoever installed the wiring for my home’s HVAC system elected to not hook up a common wire running from the furnace. So as soon as I realized this, I was a little disheartened because I knew I would have to be patient and do a little homework before I could get my ecobee installed.

Fortunately, the ecobee3 doesn’t require a common wire if you home isn’t set up for one. It comes with a Power Extender Kit that “enables you to reliably power your thermostat without having to run a fifth wire.” After a little detective work, I realized my furnace was setup to run a common wire and a wire was there to be used as the common wire, it just wasn’t hooked up. So it was an easy fix for me. It took a little bit of internet research and it was really nice to have a digital multimeter on hand to make sure I had everything working properly before the ecobee3 install. If you’re not comfortable with the electrical work and install, both Wink and Ecobee offer options for professional install.

In addition to electrical work, my old thermostat was wide and even with the base plate that comes with the ecobee3, there was still unpainted wall the would have been left exposed. Luckily, I had paint on hand and painted the wall while I was doing the electrical work. I prefer the look of the ecobee3 without the baseplate, so I went ahead and painted all the way up to the hole for the electrical wiring. Just keep in mind you may want to have some paint handy for the install.

Once installed, you can follow the directions on the ecobee3 display to hook up the the thermostat to your wifi and begin determining your comfort settings and schedule. You’ll also set up an account with ecobee so that you can access the thermostat from other remote locations via different devices.

Use

There are several different ways the ecobee3 thermostat can be used. First off, the thermostat is smart. It has proximity sensors to track when you’re home or not. You are able to set a schedule on the thermostat, but it uses this proximity sensor to make smart choices to save you money or keep you more comfortable. Additionally, it knows where your house is and the weather around you and uses this to your advantage to save you money. So, the ecobee3 will do work for you even if you’re not interfacing with it.

As for the different ways one can interact with the ecobee3, I’ll start with the thermostat interface. The ecobee 3 thermostat has a 3.5″ full-color LCD touchscreen, 320 x 480 pixel display that is activated via a proximity sensor. Until it detects you, the ecobee3 displays the average temperature between the connected sensors as well as a weather icon and outside temperature. For example, right now the temperature in the hallway where the thermostat lives is 72 F and the baby room is 74 F, so the thermostat is reading 73 F. Once the thermostat detects you near, it quickly changes to a different display that shows the average sensor temp, the humidity at the thermostat, indicators telling you if it’s currently heating or cooling, the current upper and lower temp trigger settings, and soft buttons for the menu, current weather, and quick settings. From this screen the current comfort settings can easily be changed if it’s too warm or too cold using the sliders on the right side. Within the settings menu you can check individual sensor temperatures, setup your comfort settings and schedule, and even schedule the ecobee3 to be in away mode during your next vacation.

There are two ways to access the ecobee from your phone. First, the ecobee app. Something that I think is really nice about the ecobee3 system is that the phone app is a mirror of the interface on the ecobee3. If you know your way around one you know your way around the other. You can do all the same things with the ecobee3 while standing in front of the ecobee3 thermostat or while you’re anywhere else in the world with a data connection. You open up the app, it accesses the thermostat, and you can see what it’s doing and adjust it. It’s very easy.

The second way to access the ecobee3 thermostat from your phone is via the Wink App. In the Wink App the ecobee3 can be accessed in the thermostat section. Within this section the average temp is displayed as well as the indoor humidity. You can also view the upper and lower temperature comfort settings. Additionally, you can toggle the heating, cooling, and fan as well as put your ecobee3 in home or away mode. Additionally, we can see the ecobee3 sensors in the Wink sensors section. Within the sensors section it displays the average temperature, average humidity and tells you if any of the rooms the ecobee3 sensors are in are occupied.

Last, you can access your ecobee3 from your computer at ecobee.com. The interface on the computer is laid out differently than the phone and thermostace user interface, but all the same information and access is there. However, there is information provided online that isn’t provided anywhere else that’s fun for geeks like me. Ecobee provides you with your Home IQ. There it helps you understand how much money you’re saving compared to a standard thermostat. According to my Home IQ, the ecobee3 saved me 34 hours of run time in February. Additionally, it says my home is in the top 39% for energy efficiency in California and shows me where I could adjust my comfort settings to improve my runtime and money savings. You can also monitor how your system operated on a given day in the past and see how the outside weather impacted your heating and cooling use. I think this is a really neat feature. It’s fun to look at. I wish we could access it right on the ecobee3 or on the phone app and didn’t have to use the computer to get this information.

Home automation with Wink and the ecobee3 thermostat

Here are a couple of examples of how I use Wink with the ecobee3 thermostat to automate my home:

  • I have an “Away Mode” shortcut on my home screen that I can select when I leave my house. It closes my garage door, turns on security notifications, turns off all of the lights, and puts my thermostat in away mode.
  • Through Wink I created a robot that detects when I am arriving home. When this robot is triggered I have it put the ecobee3 in home mode.
  • I have a robot in Wink that monitors the temperature in the baby room via the remote sensor. If the temperature drops below 70 F in the baby room I adjust the ecobee3 minimum temperature so that the heating will automatically kick on. This way I can ensure the baby stays warm.

Wishes and concerns

I have a couple of wishes and and one concern. First, the wishes: The ecobee3 thermostat and remote sensor both have proximity sensors on them. The ecobee3 uses these sensor to detect if your home or not so it can save of energy if you’re not home or make sure it’s at the appropriate comfort level if you are home. I wish I could use these sensors within Wink to trigger a robot. You can use sensors like temperature and humidity to trigger a robot, but I’d like occupancy detection to also trigger a robot. Within the sensors section of the Wink app the occupancy information is there, it’s just not accessible in robots. Please change this, Wink. Give me access to all the things.

Additionally, I would like it if there could be a setting to change the ecobee3 comfort settings for a specified ammount of time. Right now, I change the comfort settings to turn on the heat if the temperature drops below 70F in the baby room. I’d like to be able to have the comfort settings return to the standard comfort settings after 10 minutes. I don’t need the comfort settings adjusted until I leave for work the next day. This would be a convenient feature to have. I also wish I could have robots only operate at certain times so I could use this robot only during my daughter’s sleep schedule.

Lastly, my concern: It hasn’t been uncommon for me to catch the ecobee3 thermostat restarting. I’ll be walking by and notice the display is completely black. The couple of times I have noticed this, while I’m standing there it will boot up and everything will go back to normal (see pictures above). However, my concern lies with how often it’s rebooting. If I’ve caught it on occasion while walking by, how often is my ecobee3 restarting when I’m not around? And I have to assume that while it’s randomly rebooting it’s not controlling the temperature which seems inconvenient. This is something I’ve briefly tried researching on the internet without finding anything yet. So, I’m not sure if it’s an issue with the ecobee3 or my house, but it’s a concern.

The bottom line

I love the ecobee3 Wi-Fi thermostat. This is my first experience with a connected smart thermostat and I haven’t been disappointed. I love ecobee has created a system that can be used with remote sensors. I think it makes so much sense to have sensors in different rooms. My house has rooms that are super warm while others are cold, and its fantastic to have a thermostat that can be aware of that and work accordingly. I really like how the thermostat works with the Wink automation system and hope it continues to grow in capability there.

The ecobee3 Wi-Fi Thermostat with remote sensor can be purchased from many different locations including Wink.com and ecobee.com for about $250 and Amazon for a slight discount right now at about $240 with Prime shipping. Something you may want to look into is rebates for using smart thermostats. Ecobee’s website has a rebate finder searchable by location. Additionally, Wink’s and ecobee’s websites can help you get setup with professional installers if needed.

How do you feel about automating your home? And what do you think about the ecobee3 smart thermostat? Can you see this adding some convenience to your life? Do you already own a smart thermostat? Let us know what you’re using and any thoughts or quesitons by commenting below.

Brooks is an engineer living in the Bay Area recently dislocated from the Great Northwest. He's an Android enthusiast who decided to start doing something (productive?) with his countless hours Android modding and theming. He has a hot wife, is a father of three, an avid F1 fan, and enjoys watching sports when he can. His current devices include the Nexus 6 and 7 (2103) both running stock roms and may or may not be rooted. You can follow Brooks on Twitter @Brooks_Barnard.

    Most Tweeted This Week