I first wrote about the wireless internet programmable smart thermostat by Ecobee over 2 years ago when I had one installed in my home. This thermostat enables me to easily program my thermostat over my computer or iPhone and makes it easy to put my system in vacation mode while I'm sitting in the airport.
The biggest complaint from comments on my original Ecobee post was the price of the thermostat. At around $500 installed many homeowners felt the thermostat was just too expensive to justify for their homes, no matter how many features there were. The new Smart SI thermostat works almost exactly as the Ecobee Smart thermostat, but costs about $350 installed, about $150 lower than the original Ecobee thermostat. You can see a comparison of the features between the two Ecobee thermostats here. The big news is that the Ecobee Smart SI will probably cost homeowners less money to install than the new cool kid on the smart thermostat block, the Nest thermostat by Tony Fadell (of Apple fame). The Nest unit is being sold for $249 and they have an option to buy the installation on their website for $119, for a total install cost of $368. Ecobee recommends that you have it professionally installed (which would have been required in my case because some wires werent connected properly by my homebuilder and I wouldnt have been able to figure that out), but you can find it online for $199! That's $50 lower than Nest.
Keep in mind that for small businesses and commercial applications, smart thermostats make even more sense because those HVAC systems may be larger and employees probably don't care too much about energy conservation.
The biggest change that most will notice is that the Smart SI thermostat doesn't have a touch screen (which doesn't bother me because it's just as easy to use). It's display (shown above) shows the outdoor and indoor temperature and humidity levels. One feature that may be nice to see on future editions is the indoor set temperature. This way you could see what the temperature is set at vs. what the temperature is inside. This would save energy because if it was in cool mode and the thermostat was set at 74 but you noticed it was 76 and you were comfortable, you could readjust your thermostat to the higher settings.
From Ecobee president Stuart Lombard:
Most homeowners don’t know home heating and cooling systems represent 50-70 percent of home energy use. Programming an ecobee Wi-Fi-enabled Smart Si thermostat is one of the easiest ways to reduce home energy consumption, reduce your environmental impact and save money,” stated Lombard. “ecobee customers are seeing great results. An extensive research study conducted by the ecobee Energy Modeling Team found that our customers are saving an average of 26 percent on annual energy costs,” said Lombard. “We’re very proud that 96 percent of ecobee customers would recommend our products to their friends.
Aside from ease of programming, internet control of your home's heating and cooling, and reporting features, is $350 worth the expense? There are lower cost wi-fi thermostats out there and some that may look cooler (like the Nest). Most homeowners may still not be willing to shell out the money....BUT WAIT.... (in the spirit of many late night shopping TV hosts)...there's more!
(Mapawatt Update - 6/5/12 - Ok, so after some evaluation I realize that I might have unintentionally misled some readers when the post first went up. I thought the Smart SI had the Ecobee Accessory capability - discussed in the next paragraph - but it seems like only the Ecobee Smart Thermostat has this. I will blame this on my inability to tell two things with names that are very similar apart)
Aside from smart control of the largest energy hogs in your house, the other advantage to the Ecobee is that it has the capability to become a home energy manager with the new Ecobee accessories. Ecobee provided and installed the Smart SI unit for my home, but I went to their website and shelled out the money to try out their Zigbee wireless energy control and monitoring accessories (Mapawatt Update - 6/5/12 - which I can only use with my Ecobee Smart Thermostat, not the newer Ecobee Smart SI Thermostat). Now I will be able to turn on lights from the Ecobee dashboard and I hope to add on home energy monitoring capabilities in the near future. I've tried out several stand-alone home energy monitors, but I feel the future is in a home energy monitoring AND control system, and Ecobee may have the potential to be a big player in this area.
I've been very happy with both Ecobee thermostats, and I think the new Smart SI thermostat is one of the best options on the market. I'm excited to try out their Zigbee energy monitoring and control capabilities, so maybe now I can quit relying on the electronic timer that never seems to work for me. But what do you think? Would you invest in this type of thermostat with energy monitoring and control capabilities.
Screenshots for the Ecobee web dashboard can be seen below: