nest vs ecobee thermostat

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

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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. 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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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. Mar

    Is this a review or just some side by side promo talk?

    There is no mention at all on the energy reports; which are a complete joke on the Nest. And nest’s “deep” learning is completely useless to me. The schedule it cooked up based on my daily behavior, was so utterly complex and was costing me more than simply doing it all manually again. If you walk in and out of your house a lot of times, just observe what the learning does with your schedule. Madness.

    Geofencing sounds nice, until you realize that google now constantly knows your location.

    Getting a detailed overview of your energy usage? Forget it, you can only view the last 10 days and there are no statistics at all.

    To add insult to injury: Nest’s customer service is a complete joke as well. And their tech team hasnt been adding cool features to reports for 4 years now.

    All in all, I have a shiny 250 dollar thermostat that I mainly use manually, with crappy reports.

    I’d stay far away from Nest.

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  6. NY Skeptic

    I am deeply invested in Ecobee’s (4 separate thermostats with multiple remote sensors in different locations) When they work they are wonderful. The Alexa integration is okay but but rather slow and do not work as well as a standalone Echo device with respect to hearing commands) There is, however, a significant issue with their service. There is a significant amount of down time for ether routine maintenance or – 2 to 3 hours a night multiple times a week or unscheduled outages – many times a week for periods as short as a half hour to may hours. (In fact their web service is down now.) They have gotten much better at alerting you of these outages through emails but this extreme lack of reliability is very troubling. I have Nest smoke/CO detectors and do not recall a single outage in the years that I have owned them. I can find no on line complaints about unreliability of their thermostat web service so I assume that it is not an issue. While I like the devices, especially the remote sensors which were not available when I chose to go with Ecobee, I am questioning my over $500 sunk cost of them due to the unreliability of their network connection. (I should note that the thermostat themselves continue to function during these outages but monitoring them or changing the settings during these regular service interruptions is not possible.)

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  7. Higgins

    I went with the ecobee because it was supposed to have great reports, and we were going to be installing insulation so wanted to see the difference it made. But the reports are pitiful. You can’t even see how many hours your HVAC has been running like you can on the Nest, and though they have multiple reports online, they aren’t sophisticated analysis at all. They’re just displays of when the ecobee was in Home vs. Away vs. Sleep mode, or when it was running–but the runtime report doesn’t give totals, so you have to eyeball it. Plus, none of the reports can be seen on the ecobee itself or even in the app; you have to get a computer and log into the website. I finally found beestat.io, which some frustrated ecobee user finally developed himself to get some use out of all the data that ecobee is doing nothing with.

    In addition ecobee’s geofencing is fatally flawed. If you come back and geofencing sets the profile to Home, that overrides your normal schedule until you either leave or manually change it. What this means is that if you have geofencing enabled, the ecobee never enters Sleep mode, so your house doesn’t cool down at night when you’re going to sleep. Unless you manually change it, which defeats the whole purpose of a thermostat like this.

    I have friends with Nest who don’t have stupid issues like this. Nest may not be perfect, but ecobee has absolutely ridiculous flaws that make it pretty much just an expensive wifi-enabled thermostat for us. If I did it again, I’d just get a basic wifi thermostat.

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