Ecobee Smart SI thermostat review

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:

More info:

USA Today Smart Thermostats

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Yes I know you can look at the reports, they're not laid out as nicely as Nest's were in my opinion. I liked Nest's daily log of hours that the ac/heat runs, it's easy to see and understand. I also realize that you can download the numbers, and while that is an option, not many of us will want to create a fancy spreadsheet. I think a daily log of hours used would be easy for EcoBee to do and I think people would like to see from one day to the next what the run times are, etc. Since I've had my EcoBee, they have fixed (for the most part) the Android interface (login/password remember issue), except it still happens when the app can't talk to the mothership. The next time you run the app, you need to re-enter your l&p again. Blah. No doubt about it, this is still a nice and so far solid product. I'm not having any of the ac/compressor problems with this stat that I had with the Nest.
Mark In the preferences, you have control over the backlighting so you can determine how bright you want the display to be while the Smart SI is in standby mode (0-10 brightness). You also get the outdoor weather! Stuart
I have looked at EcoBee stats for a few months now but ended up buying a Nest. While I really like the Nest and interface, it looks like I have no choice but to return the second one they sent me due to it not turning on my compressor. I've paid for two a/c service calls only to be told that my equipment checks out and after several hours of diagnostic calls to Nest, for whatever reason, the Nest looks like it will have to go back (for good). Now that EcoBee has the SI stat, I think I'm very intereested in that. The main thing I like is that I don't have to have an equipment interface as with the original EcoBee unit. Question for anyone: Can the display be set up to stay on so it is easy to tell at a distance what the temp is? I prefer not to have to get up from my chair and 'touch' the stat to see this, rather it be on (always).
ckmapawatt's picture
It is always illuminated. You need to be pretty much in front of it to view it though, but can see it from about 10 feet away.
Chris, As I read and understand the ecobee website details on their new Smart Si unit you will NOT be able to use the Zigbee wireless energy control and monitoring accessories with it. I think it is a stupid decision as I would like the improved N Wi-Fi of the Smart Si as well as the lower cost but the lack of any additional home automation or monitoring capability, albeit modest, keeps me from making any investment in ecobee at this point in time. I would be very interested in monitoring power consumption along with thermostatic control for an overall green energy management solution and I look forward to somebody producing that product. Maybe ecobee will do it but it looks to me as though they are going in the other direction. I hope you can return your accessories for full credit. -Hugh I quote Attach additional sensors and get more out of your Solution Want to have even more control over your environment? All you have to do is add the ecobee Remote Sensor Module (RSM). The ecobee Remote Sensor Module is the newest technology designed to support the award- winning ecobee line of products. It allows additional sensors to be connected to the ecobee Smart Thermostat or Energy Management System. Smart Plugs: A really smart way to understand and manage your energy usage. At ecobee, we're not just all about thermostats — we're about energy solutions. That's why we've manufactured our very own Smart Plugs, to give you another way to understand, manage, and reduce your energy use. By adding Smart Plugs to your ecobee Smart Thermostat (Smart Plugs are not compatible with the ecobee Smart Si or EMS products) you'll be able to monitor and manage them through your existing ecobee Web Portal.
ckmapawatt's picture
Hugh, After looking over this, I was the one who was confused and you are right. It appears that the Smart SI does not support the accessories. I will correct the post now. I cant address whether the decision is stupid or not, because it may just come down to cost. If the additional cost of adding in the accessory functionality is too much for many consumers, then Ecobee is making the right choice by offering two different varieties of thermostat.
Hi Guys Thanks for the commentary and apologies for the confusion. I am one of the founders of ecobee. The ecobee Smart Si does not currently support plug control. From a hardware perspective it does support the same zigbee module that is in the ecobee Smart however, we have not implemented the firmware to complete plug control. We are thinking about adding the firmware to support plug control, but I do not have a definitive date. We are really looking for feedback from users on how they want to use ecobee. I hope that helps. thanks for your support. Stuart
ckmapawatt's picture
Thanks for the reply Stuart!
OK, so I've had my EcoBee SI for a week or so and really, really like it! I think for a home owner it's easy to use and for a tech nerd like me, it's great to have the web interface, which has some pretty snazzy things on it and it just looks good. The only thing so far that I really miss and I mean really is a daily tally of how long my ac (or heat) runs. That was convenient with Nest. Also, it would be really nice, when logging into the web portal to either know that the unit is actually on, or how long it's been running since it last turned on. Just me, maybe, but it seems like that wouldn't be too hard to incorporate for the geeks out there like me. Great product so far. I hope EcoBee continues to advance on features (web and android/iphone based).
You can look at AC run times, and a lot of other comfort details in the reports area of your Ecobee web portal and even export into a excel spreadsheet in 5 min. intervals if you like. As far as control of equipment goes multi stage equipment is really not intended to be run on the nest thermostat. The nest website has a long list of incompatible equipment whereas the ecobee will work with about any equipment. As far as the question about the screen goes and seeing the temperature. Why get up or strain your eyes when you can just reach down and grab your phone to look at it with the ecobee app. I know that sounded like ultimate laziness but its true you don't even need to be in the same room or country as the stat to control or view it.


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