nest vs ecobee thermostat

Nest vs. ecobee: which smart thermostat is right for your home?

In the past few years, smart thermostats have gone from a niche product to one that’s accessible to most homeowners. If you don’t have them installed in your home already, you’ve probably seen the small screens on walls at a friend’s house or on display at a local electronics stores.

While many companies are starting to produce their own smart thermostat technology, the two most popular products were some of the first to hit the market. The Nest, backed by Google, turned 10 years old in 2021. Their main competitor, the ecobee, first hit the market 12 years ago.

If you’re considering installing a smart thermostat, you need to understand the major differences between these two leading brands. The third generation Nest and the ecobee4 are priced similarly, between $115 and $250 on Amazon, so an understanding of the devices’ unique features can help you make a choice.

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Nest vs. ecobee: starting with the basics

Both the Nest and ecobee4 include the main functions of a smart thermostat. You can use them to change the temperature throughout your home and, because they’re “smart,” you can communicate with them through your smartphone (as well as some compatible smart speakers).

The Nest and the ecobee also offer geofencing. Geofencing technology sets up virtual perimeters around your home. When the technology is enabled, these smart thermostats know whether you (or, more accurately, your phone) are either inside or outside the perimeter. As a result, smart thermostats with geofencing can detect when you’ve left your home and adjust the temperature accordingly, allowing you to save money. Similarly, they will know when you’re about to return, and can program the home back to your preferred temperature.  

Room temperature sensors, a feature that was long unique to the ecobee, is now available for the Nest as well. Adding additional sensors throughout your home means the thermostat system no longer relies solely on the temperature reading where the main thermostat is located. It’s often the case that the thermostat itself is located in a hallway or kitchen. That location may have a temperature which is much different than a basement or bedroom. Now with both the Nest and the ecobee you can add sensors to those areas, so your thermostat will have a much better understanding of the true temperature throughout your home.

Finally, the Nest and the ecobee4 have both earned the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR label. According to the DOE, “smart thermostats that earn the ENERGY STAR label have been independently certified, based on actual field data, to deliver energy savings.”

Unique features of the Nest smart thermostat

Learning

If 71 degrees is your preferred temperature for your morning coffee, after you’ve made the adjustment a few times, the Nest will do it for you.

Nest calls its flagship thermostat a “learning” thermostat. It can learn from your preferences and adjust your home’s temperature to your liking automatically. After a few days or weeks of observing your habits and preferences, the Nest gathers enough information to understand when it should make automatic adjustments for you.

For example, if you like the temperature a few degrees lower while you sleep and you lower the temperature down to 65 degrees around the same time every night, eventually the Nest will understand this habit and make the adjustment for you.

Seasonal savings

In some locations, Nest offers an opt-in service that will adjust the temperature for you in an effort to help you save money. If you qualify for and opt into the program, the Nest will use both your preferences and data from your utility to make temperature adjustments, which can reduce your electric bill even further.

Aesthetics

The Nest has a clean, simple interface and it comes in four different styles: copper, stainless steel, black, and white.

Integration

Google, and its holding company Alphabet, have owned Nest since 2014, but until February 2018 it was considered an Alphabet subsidiary and not fully integrated with Google’s other smart home products. It’s now being developed by Google as part of its division that handles other devices like the Chromecast, Pixel, and the Google Home.

Google’s blog post about the move says it “combine[s] hardware, software, and services.” In the future, developing these devices together could allow Google’s suite of products to become smarter and add more features.

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Unique features of the ecobee4 smart thermostat

Room sensors

ecobee room sensors can help your thermostat detect temperature changes throughout your whole house.

Though Nest recently added room sensors, their version lacks some of the functionality of ecobee’s. Both allow you to extend the temperature readings of your thermostat, but the ecobee’s room sensors also sense which rooms are occupied. Understanding which rooms are occupied helps the device prioritize, and it contributes to its geofencing readings.

Let’s say you and your family are in the basement, which tends to run colder than the rest of the house. If you’ve put a room sensor in the basement, the ecobee will know that’s the room to prioritize. It can make sure you’re comfortable there and, while you and your family are in the basement, it will care a bit less about other rooms in the house.  

Another example is at night. You probably spend most of the night in your bedroom, which might run a little warmer than other areas of the home. With ecobee’s room sensor, the bedroom temperature gets priority instead of the kitchen or a hallway.

The ecobee can account for up to 32 room sensors, which you can control from the main thermostat or on your phone through an app. (The ecobee4 comes with one sensor, but additional sensors must be purchased separately.)

Intelligent scheduling

While the ecobee4 won’t learn your temperature preferences on its own, it can store that information and adjust the temperature accordingly. Through its scheduling features you can set your preferred temperatures for when you are home, asleep, or away. You can also input your calendar that it knows when to make adjustments.

Built-in Alexa voice service

The ecobee’s newest model also has Alexa voice service integration. A smart device with Alexa voice service integration means that the ecobee4 can act as a physical Alexa-enabled smart speaker and receiver itself.

Through its Amazon connection, the ecobee4 has more integration possibilities than the Nest, but not all Alexa “skills” are compatible. You can change the temperature with your voice, play music, and create lists, but most third party skills will not be available.

Amazon’s venture capital wing, the Alexa Fund, is an ecobee investor, so it would be fair to expect their integration to continue to deepen. If you feel committed to Amazon and Alexa products, ecobee could be a good choice.

Nest vs. ecobee smart thermostats: the bottom line

Google and Amazon compete head-to-head in many areas these days, and the smart thermostat category is no different. While Google has owned Nest for a few years, it recently fully integrated the thermostat with its other smart home products, meaning the products will learn from each other and continue to be developed together. The ecobee4 is backed by Amazon’s venture capital wing, and is itself an Alexa-enable smart speaker.

Choose the Nest for style & intelligence

If you’re a Google loyalist or if you care more about having a thermostat that develops a deep learning of your preferences over time, the Nest might be the best choice. The Learning Thermostat will take a few days to understand your habits, but will then start adjusting the temperature for you. If aesthetics are important, the Nest also has a slightly cleaner design that comes in four styles: copper, stainless steel, black, and white. In short, the Nest provides style and intelligence.

Choose the ecobee4 for maximum control & integration

If you put your faith in Amazon and its affiliated products, or if you care most about maintaining an efficient and balanced temperature, the ecobee4 may right for you. The ecobee4 isn’t just a thermostat for one room or hallway – it allows you to control the temperature in each room of your home individually. That can mean a more balanced home or a more efficient home, depending on your choice. In short, the ecobee4 provides maximum control and integration.

Compare and shop for smart thermostats with the EnergySage Smart Thermostats Buyer’s Guide.

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17 thoughts on “Nest vs. ecobee: which smart thermostat is right for your home?

  1. Kurt J Dicke

    Ecobee is hogwash. I set up 2FA and it makes me change my password every time I try to login outside of Google home and it won’t let me use a password I’ve ever used before. I ran out of passwords that I could remember and they haven’t fixed the problem nor will they clear my password history. Boo ecobee!

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    Install the nest in the wrong spot and is performs poorly. Will turn on and off in werid times or runs forever when it 1degree shy of the target. Wish I stayed with my old Honeywell, but after 5yrs malfunctioned.

    Reply
  3. Mark

    I bought an Ecobee4 (from Costco, thankfully) and really want to like it with the hopes of replacing my original Nest Learning Thermostat. Upon opening the Ecobee4 I began remote protective film only to find a plastic face with a black jellybean shaped stick on the lower left, and it is not intended to be remove. The plastic face scratches very easily and simply looks cheap compared to the Nest. I’m not a Google fan and was willing to swap my Nest for an Ecobee4. The Ecobee4 promo pictures are misleading at best. Sticking with my Nest for now.

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  4. Brian Spahn

    I have the Nest 3rd gen now but I use to have the E learning one and love it. I have 3 room sensors that all work great I can set which room I wanna keep temp at. I never had any issues in both thermostats I owned for last few years. I also have the nest alarm system and the nest smoke detectors that all talk with each other. I tried it out and made the smoke alarm go off on purpose and it did what it said and shut down thermostat until issue was fixed. Love that it learns schedule just gotta set it for a few days and after that it does itself. I like it little cooler when going to bed and when I wake at 4am i like it a little warmer when i get up and shower. Now it automatically does it itself. It’s already warmed up when I wake and when I leave it goes into eco mode. Gives me a report once a month showing how much I saved. I save about 4 hrs a day in heat since I installed it.

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  5. Joey Smith

    Nest is a joke. I purchase three Nest 2 thermostats a few years ago. I had two baseplates fail in separate devices just after the warranty expired. Many have had this issue but Nest won’t do anything about it. Your only option is to buy another Nest baseplate for almost the cost of a new replacement thermostat. Both professional HVAC installers I used hate Nest and have had a lot of problems with them. I had to call in 2 separate installers to identify my base plate issue. That was after spending a lot of money replacing wiring as suggested by Nest. Meanwhile, they rejected my review but get to maintain their 4.8/5 star review status. Avoid the trainwreck known as Nest.

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  6. Clark

    I installed a Nest 3 in my home in February and it works great in heat mode, saved me money. Put it in cooling mode and hate it. I will probably re-install my old plastic programmable one. Stay away from Nest. Complete crap.

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