With the rise of the “Smart Home”, consumers are beginning to realize all the ways a smart device can be used, but have you ever considered a smart thermostat?
In the battle of Ecobee vs. Nest, which is the best smart thermostat for your home?
Today we’ll take an ultra in-depth look at the most popular Ecobee and Nest thermostat models to help you navigate features, installation, and cost, and ultimately pick the right one for you.
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The term “smart Home” can mean many different things to different people. Whether you’re looking for live feed cameras to monitor your entire property while you’re away or just something small, like finding a simpler way to turn the lamp on or off, there is certainly a smart home device meant to suit you.
This guide is going to be looking at smart thermostats, specifically two top brands—Nest and Ecobee.
Although fairly new to the consumer market, smart thermostats are based on an old idea, the simple desire to control the temperature inside the home.
Within these two brands, there is certainly some overlap and some areas where one particular model may stand out from the crowd. Use the table and outlined descriptions below to help you decide which smart thermometer is right for you—Nest vs. Ecobee.
Below we take a high-level look at the specifications around Ecobee vs. Nest. We look at all 8 models of each smart thermostat, including Ecobee3 vs. Nest (Gen 3, 2, & 1) vs. Ecobee4 vs. Ecobee3 Lite vs. Nest Thermostat E.
|Specifications||ecobee4||Nest (3rd gen.)||ecobee3||ecobee3 Lite||Nest Thermostat E||ecobee Smart Si||Nest (2nd gen.)||Nest (1st gen.)|
|Model||4||3rd Generation||3||3 Lite||Thermostat E||Smart Si||2nd Generation||1st Generation|
|Release Date||May 3, 2017||September 1, 2015||(2nd gen) June 2, 2015||October 17, 2016||August 31, 2017||January 23, 2012||October 2, 2012||October 25, 2011|
|Depth from wall||1.0"||1.21"||0.9"||0.8"||1.14"||1.0"||1.26"||1.6"|
|Wifi||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4GHz, 5GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n||2.4 GHz b/g/n|
|Display Size||3.5"||2.08" diameter||3.5"||3.5"||1.76" diameter||2.5"||1.75" diameter||1.75" diameter|
|Resolution||320x480||480x480 @ 229 ppi||320x480||320x480||320x320 @ 182 ppi||320x240||320x320||320x320|
|Room Sensors||Included (1)||Sold Separately||Sold Separately||Sold Separately||Sold Separately||No wireless sensors available||Sold Separately||Sold Separately|
|Ambient Light Sensor|
|Voice Control||Included; with built-in Alexa||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included||Compatible, but not included|
|Energy Savings (avg. determined by manuf)||23%||10-12% on heating; 15% on cooling||23%||23%||10-12% on heating; 15% on cooling||23%||10-12% on heating; 15% on cooling||10-12% on heating; 15% on cooling|
|Free Monthly Reports|
|Returns||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer||30 days via Amazon. Varies by retailer|
|Warranty||3 Year||2 Year||1 Year||3 Year||1 Year||3 Year||1 Year|
|Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price||Check Price|
Ecobee is a Canadian-based company that specializes in smart home devices. The Ecobee lineup is their flagship collection of smart home thermostats. Like Nest, Ecobee has a small collection of models, but the focus is quality, not quantity.
Ecobee’s top models include the Ecobee4, Ecobee3 Lite, or Ecobee3. Aesthetically, all three of these models look quite similar, a square body with radiused edges, black background, with white text and an intuitive user interface.
There is also an older model, the Ecobee Smart Si that still has remote control via a wifi connection, but it lacks the sleek modern aesthetic of the newer models.
Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee4 was launched in the summer of 2017 and is Ecobee’s most recent model. It’s about a quarter inch wider than the Ecobee3 models and slightly thicker, but also includes a few unique features.
SETUP & INSTALL | Setup and install for the Ecobee4 is relatively quick and easy, similar to that of the Nest systems. It can be installed with or without a C-wire and should take under 30 minutes.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The Ecobee4 smart thermostat has a modern look to it, with large a large display. Unlike the Nest smart thermostats which use an adjustment ring on the outside of the unit, Ecobee relies on touchscreen technology to manually adjust temperature or settings for your smart thermostat.
The Ecobee includes the following display settings on the main page:
- Current system mode
- Percent humidity
The Nest Learning Thermostat also will show you all of these things on the display, but it shows one item at a time, not having all of them included on one central screen.
CONTROLS | Like the Nest smart thermostat models, you can also adjust or program the Ecobee4 using your smartphone, tablet, or voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
SMART FEATURES | The Ecobee4 comes with one rooms sensor (and has an optional accessory package that includes two additional sensors.)
These sensors can be placed anywhere and are used as a target area for where the Ecobee is measuring room temperature. The more sensors you have in the house, the more precisely you can make adjustments.
ENERGY SAVINGS | There are a couple included features that are consciously designed with energy savings in mind.
- Programmed Scheduling: First and foremost, programmed scheduling can be a great tool to get the most out of energy savings. Pay for the energy when you need it most, and skip the time when you know you’re away.
- Smart Home/Away: This one is an Ecobee technology that sets preferences to align with you being home or away—it’s that simple. Within these modes, there are motion detectors so if your system senses motion (even when in Away mode) it will kick on and make the temperature comfortable. When it no longer detects motion, it will go back to energy saving mode.
- Follow Me: Follow Me is an occupancy detection technology that is able to detect exactly which room you are in and adjust settings and temperature accordingly. This is made more effective with the add-on Ecobee room sensors. Again, you’re paying to heat or cool the spaces that you are actually in, and saving costs on the rest.
- Weather Impact: The Weather Impact algorithm takes the outside temperature or weather into consideration when planning its system strategy for most effective heating or cooling.
- Smart Recovery: Smart Recovery makes the Ecobee4 smart thermostat even smarter, as it takes into consideration, the time that it takes the system to reach desired temperature status. Combined with the Weather Impact algorithm from above, this allows your system to methodically plan and start adjusting the temperature early, as necessary.
- Access Control: Access control allows the primary admin to set up a password, which is required to make changes. This is a handy feature and could mean big energy savings, in preventing excessive or unnecessary temperature changes.
- Energy Reports: Energy reports are generated using the Ecobee app. These reports allow you to look back at previous energy usages and see how you are saving.
COMPATIBILITY | The Ecobee4 is compatible with conventional (2H/2C), heat pump (H4/2C) including two-stage auxiliary heat, gas, oil, electric, or dual fuel systems.
This model also supports added accessories, like humidifiers, dehumidifiers, ventilator, ERVs, or HRVs.
The Ecobee4 can connect to smart home devices like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, or more using a 2.4 GHz b/g/n system.
VALUE | The ecobee4 is one of the more expensive smart thermostats on the market, but the added energy-saving features can be a real value booster when it comes to getting your money back. The Ecobee4 has many integrations that provide environmental feedback directly to your phone and in some cases will adjust or respond to you so you never have to lift a finger.
Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat
The 3 is one step down from the Ecobee4. Design-wise and size-wise, it’s basically identical, but does has slightly fewer features.
SETUP & INSTALL | The setup and install of the Ecobee3 is basically the same as the Ecobee4. It’s small, quick install, with minimal invasion. If things get a little messy, third-party vendors do make attractive cover plates that can hide any unsightly holes or drywall damage that may occur as a result of removing your old system.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The design of the Ecobee3 is also basically identical to that of the Ecobee4. It’s a square shape with rounded edges and a very slight concave touch screen.
But what are the design differences?
First off, it’s lacking the built-in audio and built-in Amazon Alexa. Naturally, without audio functionality, there is also no voice recognition. That being said, it is still compatible with Amazon Alexa when paired with an Amazon Hub (like the Amazon Echo, Dot, or Spot.)
If you want a smart thermostat with built-in Alexa you’ll want to opt for the Ecobee4.
SMART FEATURES | What it lacks in audio and built-in voice control, it tries to make up for in other comparable features. The Ecobee3 has wifi connectivity which allows you to adjust the temperature from your smartphone or tablet. It is also compatible with any Amazon Alexa device.
When paired with something like the Amazon Echo you are able to control this thermostat with your voice. The main difference is with the EcoBee4, the voice control feature is already integrated.
Room sensors are used to help detect hot or cold areas in your home. The Ecobee3 comes with one sensor, but addition room sensors can be purchased as a pack of two for more sensor points.
- Follow Me – Follow Me is a technology that tracks which room you are in and adjusts accordingly. Save energy by not heating and cooling spaces that are going unused and focus your efforts on the areas that really matter.
- Smart Home/Away – This feature is designed to allow the EcoBee3 to know when you’re home and when you’re gone. In the same way that Follow Me tracks your location in a room, Smart Home/Away tracks your location across the larger geographical field, knowing whether you’re 5 minutes away or 5 hours away, and adjusting accordingly.
- Vacation Mode – The vacation mode can be enabled on your system to use the least amount of energy required, while still keeping your home safe and semi-comfortable while you are gone.
- Weather Impact – Weather Impact allows your system to digitally connect and see the local weather for the day. This allows your unit to plan ahead for whatever weather is moving in and adjust accordingly.
- Smart Recovery: Smart recovery adds an extra degree of smarts to your Ecobee. With this technology, it can consider the time that it takes the system to reach the desired temperature.
- Energy Reports – The Ecobee3 generates monthly energy reports that help to show you your exact savings and energy data as well as additional tips and tricks to be even more efficient. This is a feature that is also found in the Ecobee4.
COMPATIBILITY | The Ecobee3 supports standard 24VAC controls, including:
- Conventional HVAC systems— up to 2-stages of forced air heating (W1, W2) and up to 2-stages of forced air cooling (Y1, Y2).
- Heat-pump HVAC systems—up to 2-stages of compressor (Y1, Y2) and up to 2-stages of auxiliary heat (W1, W2).
- Boiler Heating Systems— up to 2-stages of heating using a boiler system (W1, W2).
You can check out the full break-down on compatibility at the ecobee Support Hub.
VALUE | The overall value of the Ecobee is a little bit tricky to decipher. With the launch of the Ecobee4, it’s not as easy to track down the basic package of the Ecobee3 as you might imagine. Even as I write this review, it is sold out on ecobee.com and on Amazon, the best option actually costs more than the ecobee4 and includes additional room sensors.
It seems like they are making the Ecobee4 a better value to encourage potential users to make the jump and go straight for the ecobee4. Of course, when the Ecobee4 is priced lower, it seems like a no-brainer as to which model is the better value.
Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat
The Ecobee3 Lite is a step down from the Ecobee3, just paring down to the basics, which opens the door for a budget-friendly smart home thermostat.
SETUP & INSTALL | The setup and install is just as simple and painless as it is with the other more advanced models in the Ecobee collection.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The Ecobee3 Lite has a 3.5” full-color display with a 320x480 screen resolution, the same size, and quality of the Ecobee4.
Like the Ecobee3, that doesn’t mean that you can’t control this thermostat with your voice. If you purchase an Amazon device with voice control, like the Amazon Echo, Dot or Spot, it is compatible to be paired up to this smart thermostat.
If you are sensitive about the precise temperature in separate rooms, this could be a bigger deal to you, but if you are not particular about this issue, then the Ecobee3 Lite could certainly get the job done. Just like with other Ecobee smart thermostats, you can always add the sensors, if you decide you want them in the future.
Another difference between the Ecobeee3 Lite and the Ecobee4 is the accessory support. With the Ecobeee3 Lite, there basically is none whereas the Ecobee4 supports accessories like a humidifier, dehumidifier, ventilator, ERV, HRV, and more). If you’re looking to break out beyond the mold of the standard smart thermostat, the Ecobeee3 Lite could be a little too basic for your needs.
ENERGY SAVINGS | The Ecobeee3 Lite lacks a few of the energy-saving features of newer Ecobee models, but still packs in the most popular features.
- Smart Home/Away – The home / away technology knows when you are home and knows when you are away and adjusts according. This is great for energy savings so you’re not wasting time heating or cooling your home when you’re not even there to enjoy it.
- Weather Impact – Weather Impact on the Ecobeee3 Lite is the same as on the more advanced Ecobee models. Basically, this feature allows the Ecobee to consider the daily weather when heating and cooling your home.
- Energy Reports – This model is still capable of producing monthly energy reports so you can track savings and see how the Ecobee is working, compared to the old conventional thermostat.
COMPATIBILITY | This smart thermostat is compatibility with gas, oil, electric, dual fuel, conventional (2H/2C) as well as Heat Pump (4H/2C) systems.
Also, regarding smart home devices, it works with Amazon Alexa (built-in), Google Assistant, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and more.
That being said, there is more compatibility with the Ecobee4 than there is with the Ecobeee3 Lite. These extra connections are mainly for accessories listed above, like a dehumidifier, humidifier or ventilator.
VALUE | It’s no surprise that the price of the Ecobeee3 Lite is less expensive than the Ecobee4, but it’s not without a little sacrifice. Between the two models, you lose some notable features, mainly the included room sensors, which enable you to customize the temperatures of your space.
Buying room sensors in addition to your Ecobeee3 Lite does raise the price a bit, but it also gets the 3Lite closer to the performance and customization levels of the Ecobee4.
Ecobee Smart Si Thermostat
Before we dive into the Smart Si, you should know that this model has been discontinued. Ecobee doesn’t sell it anymore. However, you can still find it used or from some 3rd party retailers.
The Ecobee Smart Si is the only thermostat from the Ecobee smart thermostat lineup with a little different look. Instead of the sleek modern look of the traditional Ecobee, the Smart Si looks a bit more traditional. Despite its traditional look, the Smart Si is still wifi-enabled so you can control everything from your smartphone or tablet with a wifi network.
SETUP & INSTALL | The setup of the Ecobee Smart Si is quick and simple, much like the other Ecobee thermostats. It can be installed with or without a C wire.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The Ecobee Smart Si has a smaller screen than the other Ecobees and relies on physical buttons to monitor and adjust the unit. Unlike the newer Ecobees which have the square body with radiused edges, the Ecobee Smart Si has a traditional rectangular body style three buttons on the right side.
CONTROLS | The Ecobee Smart Si thermostat can be controlled from anywhere using any approved wifi-enabled device, most commonly a smartphone or tablet. There is no built-in audio with the Smart Si, but it is compatible with voice-control add-ons like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa (via Amazon Echo, Dot, Spot, etc.)
SMART FEATURES | The Ecobee Smart Si is the most basic model (and oldest model) of Ecobee’s smart thermostats. It doesn’t have a touchscreen like the newer Ecobee models, nor does it have the modern aesthetic. But it does have wireless control when using a smart device, and a video screen on the unit, making it a step above traditional units.
It is compatible with mobile apps for control and scheduling, is hardwired into your power system, and has a dense collection of sensors that help it to know what’s going on. Sensors detect when to turn the system on or off in order to maintain your ideal temperature.
The Smart Si can’t track you on your nightly commute home to adjust the temperature accordingly, but you can log into the app remotely and adjust it from your phone, even when you’re not home yet.
ENERGY SAVINGS | The Ecobee Smart Si smart thermostat may be an older, simpler model, but there are still a few features that are great for energy saving.
- Live Weather Feed – When connected to wifi, the Smart Si thermostat allows you to preview the upcoming weather patterns and plan accordingly.
- Monthly Reports – Monthly reports, through the Home IQ technology, allows users to track their heating and cooling usage and estimated savings.
- Alerts & Reminders – If something is amiss on your unit, the Smart Si can let you know via alerts and reminders. This is a great way to make sure that the system is running as efficiently as possible.
COMPATIBILITY | The Ecobee Smart Si is compatible with conventional (2H, 2C) systems, heat pump systems (3H, 2C), gas, oil, electric, dual fuel systems, or one-stage auxiliary heat. Overall, this makes it compatible with about 95% of systems.
VALUE | The EcobeeSmart Si was first released in 2012 as a pioneer of smart thermostats. It blazed the trail bringing something unique and new to the market that wasn’t really a “thing” yet. But with time, smart systems have become even smarter and what was once top-of-the-line is now simply, in the line… somewhere.
The price of the Smart Si is usually lower than a brand new Ecobee4, but the problem comes with finding a place to buy the Smart Si. At the time of writing this Nest vs. Ecobee guide, it is listed as “sold out” on Ecobee’s website and the price on Amazon fluctuates depending on which third-party seller is sourcing it.
If you’re looking for a budget smart thermostat, I would recommend checking out the Ecobee3 Lite. The price is about the same as the Smart Si, but it’s a newer model, being released in 2016 (four years after the initial release of the Smart Si.)
Ecobee has a few accessories that are either designed and manufactured directly by Ecobee or third-party products that are designed specifically for compatibility with the Ecobee lineup. These additional accessories help to customize your smart home thermostat system so that it works perfectly for your home.
TEMPERATURE SENSORS | Ecobee offers a set of two room sensors that detect the exact temperature in the room that it is placed. Using a sensor, you can better control the temperature in the rooms that matter most.
Both sensors can be connected to your smartphone or tablet so you can quickly and easily monitor or adjust the temperature in those particular spaces.
SWITCH | The Ecobee Switch functions as a smart light switch and a smart device hub, thanks to built-in Amazon Alexa technology. The Ecobee Switch can be used to control your smart thermostat, lights, music, locks, cameras, or any other smart home devices that you use.
The Ecobee Switch has built-in motion and daylight sensors, which make it nearly autonomous as far as turning lights on or off as needed. There is also a manual mode if you prefer to use your smartphone as needed. It installs quickly and adds an extra helper to your household.
WALL PLATE COVER | Some Ecobee models include a wall plate, which is a nice extra. However, it’s usually a basic plastic all white cover.
If your Ecobee doesn’t include a wall plate cover, or if you just want something a little fancier, there are a handful of 3rd party retailers who sell upgraded wall covers, including this sleek aluminum cover and wood pattern.
Nest, started out as a crowd-funded initiative that has since been bought by Google and is one of the most beatifically simple and intuitive smart thermostats on the market today. There are two main collections that Nest manufacturers—the Nest Learning Thermostat and the slightly more basic, Nest Thermostat E.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has three generations and four models to choose from:
- (T3007ES) 3rd Generation – Residential Model
- (T3008US) 3rd Generation – Professional Model
- (T200577) 2nd Generation
- 1st Generation (no longer available from Nest or most third-party vendors)
The Nest Learning Thermostat is a programmable unit, with easy to understand DIY install instructions and simple programming and control settings.
Aesthetically, the Learning series features a classy round design and comes in four colors—white, black, copper, and stainless steel. The center of the circle is a digital screen which shows a digital display of heating or cooling functions, with a bright color and white text.
There is also a more basic Nest model, the Nest Thermostat E, which just launched at the end of 2017. This model has many of the same features that the Learning Thermostat has, but uses simpler materials and consequently comes in at a lower price tag.
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen.)
The current version of the Nest Learning Thermostat is the 3rd Generation. The Learning Thermostat takes a simplified approach to smart home temperature monitoring.
SETUP & INSTALL | This thermostat can be retrofitted to replace an existing model with a simple and clear DIY instructional install. Once installed, the Nest Learning smart thermostat can be programmed, monitored, or adjusted manually, via smartphone or voice command (when combined with Amazon Alexa).
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The central display shows large, easy-to-read, white text with the target temperature, current temperature, time, weather, or special alerts. The screen is high resolution with 24-bit color on a 2.08″ diameter screen (at 229 PPI, 480x480 resolution)
The Nest Learning Thermostat comes in four different finishes, black, copper, stainless steel, or white.
CONTROLS | The Nest thermostat, third generation, can be controlled through a wifi network using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. This thermostat does not have built-in voice control, but it is compatible with voice control devices, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices.
SMART FEATURES | The 3rd Generation model pulls out all the stops concerning Nest features available. It uses a series of sensors, algorithms, and smart tracking to develop a thermostat system that can predict, detect, respond, and reflect on your family’s energy usable and overall comfort.
In addition to all of the features that are included with the Nest 2nd Gen model, the 3rd Gen model also includes a better wifi connection (802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4GHz and 5GHz), a hot water / boiler control feature, and a new technology called FarSight.
FarSight is a tracking technology that can “see” you from up to 20 feet away as you walk by the unit and adjust the display accordingly. The adjusted display lights up when it senses you to display larger text for temperature, time and weather notifications or alerts. This is only available on the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation.
This model is intuitively smart. It needs very little programming and setup on your part but includes a variety of sensors that help to fully assess the situation and respond appropriately / as needed. The standard 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat sensors include:
- Near-Field activity
- Far-Field activity (new to the 3rd generation model)
- Ambient Light
ENERGY SAVINGS | The Nest learning thermostat saved consumers an average of 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. It has a few other features designed specifically for greater energy savings.
- Self Programming – With the Nest smart thermostat, you can skip the programming since the unit can program itself based on its observations of your actions, habits, and personal schedule.
- Home Away – When you’re away, the Nest can know it and adjust the temperature for energy savings, until it’s time for you to head back when it will automatically adjust back before you arrive.
COMPATIBILITY | The 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat is compatible with the majority of heating and cooling units, including:
- One, two, and three stage systems (W1, W2, W3)
- One and two-stage cooling systems (Y1, Y2)
- Heat pump systems with auxiliary emergency heat (O/B, AUX, E)
- Additions like a humidifier, dehumidifier, or fan (HUM, DEHUM, G)
For power, this smart thermostat can plug directly into the C-wire or be powered by the built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery. (C, RH, RC)
VALUE | Overall, I would say that the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd generation) is a great value. Although the price is higher than some of the other comparable units, there is not more than $50 separating this new unit from older units, like the Ecobee Smart Si or even older generation Nest models.
If the difference was greater, that overall value could be affected, but overall, this is the best Nest on the market right now. Add in the estimated 10-15% energy cost savings, Nest predicts that most people could get their full money back within 2 years of purchasing. Every year that you use the system after that would simply be money in your pocket.
Nest Residential vs. Professional Thermostat?
There are also two slightly different models of the 3rd Generation Learning Thermostat; the Residential versions (T3007ES) and the Professional version (T3008US). The only difference between these models is the warranty and the installer.
The Nest Residential model is installed by regular homeowners or occupants and comes with a 2-Year limited warranty.
The Nest Professional model comes with no warranty and must be installed by a professional. Many times professionals will provide their own warranty, so this isn’t necessarily a strike against the product in any way.
Nest Learning Thermostat (2nd Gen.)
The 2nd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat has many of the same features as the 3rd generation but is also about $50 cheaper.
SETUP & INSTALL | The setup and install of the Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Gen, is basically identical to that of the 3rd Gen model.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | The screen of the 2nd Gen Nest thermostat is slightly smaller than the 480x480 screen size of the 3rd Gen model. It also lacks FarSight display technology.
CONTROLS | This smart thermostat can be controlled via wifi using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. When combined with a voice control device, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, you can also use voice control, but it is not built into this unit.
SMART FEATURES | The features of the 2nd Gen model are slightly more basic than those on the 3rd Gen, but still very similar. Unique features to this smart thermostat include:
- EarlyOn – EarlyOn turns on your unit early when the air is chilly.
- Off Mode – This one can be a useful tool for vacation homes or if you’re taking a long trip from your primary residence. This mode does not turn your unit completely off, but it does conserve energy, keeping it warm enough for safety precautions (like freezing pipes), but wasting no additional energy.
- Sunblock – Sunblock is an upgraded feature that can detect when the unit or sensor is in direct sunlight and adjust the temperature accordingly, so as not to misread the sensors.
ENERGY SAVINGS | Some of the features integrated into the design of the Nest Learning Thermostat are designed specifically for saving energy. On average, the Nest Learning Thermostat saves between 10-15% on heating and cooling bills annually.
- Auto-Away – When you leave the house, this Nest thermostat will notice and automatically adjust itself to save energy.
- Auto Schedule – The scheduling feature to this thermostat is simple because its automatic. By setting the thermostat to temperatures that are comfortable to you at certain times of the day, the unit can begin to self-adjust without prompting. It’s basically a programmable thermostat, that never has to actually be programmed.
- Airwave – Airwave is a technology that will kick the power over to the fan once the system has been sufficiently cooled, allowing it to spread the cool air around and save energy.
- Alerts & Reminders – Safety alerts are also an important feature for this model. With the Nest Learning Thermostat, it will send an alert directly to your smartphone with a notification of the unusually high or low temperature in your home. It also provides alerts and reminders for maintenance like changing out the filter.
COMPATIBILITY | Let’s talk about compatibility. The Nest Learning Thermostat (1st Generation) was compatible with about 75% of units, the 2nd Generation bumped that up to about 95%, the same as the compatibility percentiles of the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation).
VALUE | Overall, the value of the Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd generation, is slightly less than the value of the 3rd generation. Why is it less? Simply demand. The 3rd generation is the current model and it’s more widely available.
Although prices on Amazon are always changing, there is a $20 difference between the price of the Nest Learning 3rd Generation and the 2nd Generation. And you may be surprised to know that the 3rd generation is actually the less expensive option between the two.
As a result, I have a hard time wondering why anyone would ever buy the 2nd generation.
Nest Learning Thermostat (1st Gen.)
As mentioned above, there’s not much information on the market about the 1st generation Nest Learning Thermostat. It’s one of the oldest Nest models and widely discontinued to be replaced with newer, smarter Learning Thermostats.
If you do run across a 1st generation Nest Learning Thermostat, it’s not a bad product by any means. It has many of the same features as the newer models including:
- Auto-Scheduling – After you manually begin to show the Nest the temperature you prefer (and when), it will begin to learn your schedule and program itself to meet your needs.
- Auto-Away – Auto-Away is designed to detect when you have left the house and adjust the temperature accordingly.
- Airwave – This technology activates a fan which can begin to run a few minutes before the system reaches the desired temperature. This helps to keep the humidity levels in check and can cut your AC runtime by up to 30%.
- Time-to-Temperature – This feature will tell you approximately how long it will take for your system to reach the desired temperature.
- Energy Reports – Monthly energy reports show you your energy usage and savings. It documents adjustments, time you were away, and even the weather as potential factors for energy savings.
For the vast majority of consumers, if you’re interested at all in Nest, you’re going to be much better off simply going with a 2nd or 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat. You’ll get more features, a better value, and better hardware support.
Nest Thermostat E
The newer, and more simplified Nest Thermostat E is technically a step down in price from the Learning Thermostats, but it retains many of the same features.
SETUP & INSTALL | The setup and install of the Nest Thermostat E is slightly different than the Learning Thermostat, but still doable in 30 minutes or less, generally. The Nest Thermostat E is designed to be retrofitted into your existing thermostat system.
DESIGN & DISPLAY | Aesthetically speaking, the Next Thermostat E only comes in one white color, versus the bold look of the Learning Thermostat.
With the Learning Thermostat, the outer adjusting ring is metal, but with the Thermostat E, the outer ring is a simple white polycarbonate. This material is a strong plastic, made to feel more like a ceramic. In both cases, the ring is the “command center” so to speak, as there is no touchscreen. Every setting and menu item is adjusted and / or selected by spinning the dial.
The body of the thermostat is 3.19” in diameter and stands off 1.14” from the wall. The display uses 24-bit color LCD technology with a 320x320 resolution screen (at 182 PPI). The screen itself is 1.76” in diameter.
Overall, the design of the Thermostat E is made to blend in, versus the Learning Thermostat which is intended to make a more bold statement. That being said, it is still easily readable and clear.
CONTROLS | The Nest Thermostat E is controlled by a smartphone, tablet, computer, or manually with a twist of the knob. Voice control is not built-in, but it can be enabled when partnered with a smart home voice-control device (like the Amazon Echo or Google Home units).
SMART FEATURES | Regarding features and usability, the Thermostat E is similar to the Learning Thermostat. With a twist, you can manually adjust the thermostat or alter it on your smartphone or tablet via the Nest app.
The Nest Thermostat E is compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant using devices like the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Using geo-tracking, you can also allow your thermostat to track your phone and adjust the temperature of the house as you come and go, just as you can do on the Nest Learning Thermostat.
ENERGY SAVINGS | The Nest Thermostat E has a few special features that are added specifically for the purpose of saving energy. Overall, the Nest Thermostat E is designed to save between 10-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. The following features below are all energy saving smart design features:
- The Leaf – Nest designed their product with a small leaf icon. This icon shows up when you set your thermostat to a temperature that will save energy. It determines this temperature based on the outside temperature and built-in sensors and algorithms.
- Room Sensors – Room sensors (sold separately with this unit) can be a great way to save energy. It allows you to prioritize the rooms that matter the most and decrease priority for rooms that may rarely be used.
- Home or Away – With geo-tracking (listed above), the Nest Thermostat E is able to detect when you are home or away and make changes and adjust accordingly.
COMPATIBILITY | The Nest smart thermostat E works with 85% of 24V heating and cooling systems, including
- forced air
- heat pump
- hot water
To check if the Nest Thermostat E will work with your existing system, use the Nest compatibility checker.
VALUE | Last, let’s talk about value. Overall, the value of the Nest Thermostat E is great, in my opinion. It is priced well below $200 and boasts energy savings that would be around $131-$145 (on average annually, as recorded on nest.com).
With savings like that, you could expect this smart thermostat to pay for itself in a little over a year. Considering its usability, easy setup, and auto-programming, this smart thermostat is a great value and worth the consideration if you are just looking for a simple system.
If you have a larger home, want more features and accessories, or have a complicated existing system, you may want to look into one of the more advanced models, like the 3rd generation, Nest Learning Thermostat or the Ecobee4.
Nest Learning Thermostat vs. Nest Thermostat E
Based on looks alone, these two models are fairly similar. They are simple, sleek, and are easy to use.
There are three main feature differences though and depending on what exactly you’re looking for, these could be game changers for you. FarSight, compatibility, and aesthetics—read below to learn more.
- FARSIGHT | As mentioned above, FarSight technology creates a display that is easier to read from further distances and is designed to “see” and respond to users as they walk near or by the unit.
- COMPATIBILITY | What makes the Nest Learning Thermostat so user-friendly is its ability to work with 95% of heating and cooling systems. It’s easy to retrofit and intuitive. While The Nest Thermostat E is essentially designed to connect the same way, there are limitations to the type of systems it can connect to. If your system is especially complicated, there’s a good chance that you’ll need the Learning Thermostat to get the job done. It’s safe to check the Nest thermostat compatibility checker before clicking the buy button.
- AESTHETICS | The Nest Learning Thermostat is designed to stand out. The bold black body and saturated colored screen are designed to pop, as a design accent in your home. On the contrary, the Nest Thermostat E is designed to blend in. The matte white body and soft colored tones of the screen are subtle and simple. Depending on what your overall design goals are, you may find yourself leaning towards the aesthetics of one model or the other.
In addition to the physical thermostat and pairing app, there are also a few accessories designed to work with the Nest system. These extra accessories can help add additional features and performance to your Nest thermostat, and overall cooling and heating systems.
PLATE COVERS | If your old thermostat base was larger and you’re left with some gaping holes around the install of your new Nest thermostat, there’s a solution for that. Third party vendors developed a series of thermostat plate covers that work with the Nest smart thermostats to cover up holes from an old, outdated thermostat system. It is essentially an enlarged stainless steel back plate that matches the metallic finishes of the Learning Thermostats. There is also a white design, made to match the Nest Thermostat E.
TEMPERATURE SENSORS | Room temperature sensors can be added to any area in the house and help your Nest thermostat to monitor and adjust superficially for the needs of that space. These sensors are compatible with the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation) or the Nest Thermostat E.
SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM | Although not really related to the smart thermostat system, Nest does also manufacture a Smoke & Carbon Monoxide alarm that you can pair with your thermostat system.
This sensor comes as a battery-operated unit or wired, with a sleek and modern look, and will notify you via voice commands as well as text notifications and alerts if something is amiss. With multiple sensors, this system can even tell you exactly where the alert is, for example, “Smoke detected in the kitchen” or similar.
Which Smart Thermostat is Best? Ecobee vs. Nest?
Both of these brands bring premium features and self-adjusting models to give users the most intuitive and responsive smart thermostat systems to date.
Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself when deciding which smart thermostat is right for you:
How do you plan on adjusting the temperature?
All of these models have the option to adjust the thermostat manually, with an app, or with voice control.
The Ecobee smart thermostats are all touchscreen (with the exception of the Ecobee Smart Si). On the contrary, the Nest smart thermostats are not a touchscreen. The process to make a change to your system isn’t hard; turn the knob and you’re good to go, but for some users, this may be a bigger deal—simply user preference.
If you prefer to make adjustments on the app, both Nest and Ecobee are extremely easy to use.
Both have a litany of settings, reports, and controllable features you can adjust based on your desires. Neither the Nest or Ecobee were particularly better or worse than the other. During our tests we found both to be effectively the same when it comes to app control.
Lastly, if you prefer voice-control, the best option is hands-down, the ecobee4 as it’s the only model reviewed above that has built-in voice control. The other units are easy to connect to a smart device that uses Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, but with the Ecobee4, it’s automatic.
What smart thermostat features are important to you?
While all of these models are great smart thermostats, there are some additional features that may also be important.
- For the best in energy savings, this could really be a toss-up. While Ecobee boasts the highest savings (up to 23% annually from your old usages), there are still many factors to consider as to what your overall energy costs will be. Nest claims a more conservative 10-15% in annual energy costs saved. Other factors that could be affecting your overall energy usage include:
- Local utility costs
- Seasonal changes & local climate
- Your home’s insulation or HVAC system (including in-wall insulation, doors, and windows)
- For units with customizable room sensors, we’d generally recommend Ecobee. While Nest does also include the option to add room sensors, we found it to be a little more difficult to find the sensors online
- For the best usability, we have to give it to Nest. The Nest smart thermostats feels the most familiar while bringing a modern aesthetic. The round shape and twisting adjustment knob are traditional, but the design and usability are beautifully simple.
What is your budget?
While this is a common question to ask when contemplating this purchase, for the sake of this review, it’s a bit unnecessary. Most of the models displayed on this review fall right around the $200 mark, give or take a few $20s.
Still not sure which one is right for you? Feel free to contact us directly and we’d be happy to make a recommendation that works for you and your home. Drop us a line!