Ecobee3 vs Ecobee4: Which One is The Best Smart Thermostat?


Ecobee3 vs Ecobee4

The Ecobee is one of smart home system which allows you to control the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning in your home. Paired with sensors in each room, it works like a digital thermostat for the 21st century.

In this article, we are going to compare the brand new Ecobee4 and see how it matches up with the Ecobee3, which received rave reviews and widespread acclaim within the industry.

We are going to get into the nuts and bolts of the difference between the two models, especially in terms of their features and functionality. Then carry out a side by side in-depth comparison looking at how they compare in terms of Design and Interface, Third Party Integrations, LCD Touch Screen, Sensing and Operating Patterns, and Far-field Voice Recognition.

So, let’s dive on with an overview of the differences and similarities between the Ecobee3 and 4.

Differences Between Ecobee3 and Ecobee4

The headline improvement that the Ecobee4 thermostat brings is having Amazon’s Alexa built in with microphone and speaker. The Ecobee3 thermostat was labeled as being compatible with Amazon Alexa, but what this meant was that it could be paired with an Amazon device in the house.

Now your Ecobee 4 is like having another Amazon Alexa in the house. A must for anyone committed to voice controls within the home.

As a result, there are some changes in the Ecobee4’s interface, which allow you to turn on voice controls. Also, an LED light on the unit lets you know that Amazon Alexa is ready.

The casing and unit itself are slightly bulkier and heavier to accommodate a microphone and speaker which is to be expected. This also means that the Ecobee4 thermostat is compatible with a much wider range of third-party application through Amazon Alexa, which we go into detail later in the article.

The Ecobee4’s sensors being newer are more advanced and possess a Learning feature, which means over time the unit adapts to the energy consumption patterns of the household and adjusts accordingly.

The Similarities between these two Ecobee Thermostats

In many ways, Ecobee3 and 4 thermostat are still very similar. The units are almost the same size, with the Ecobee4 thermostat now slightly bigger.

They both feature a 3.5-inch LED display, which can either be controlled at the unit, by remote control or using the mobile application on your phone.

The controls are similar, apart from an additional button on the Ecobee4 thermostat to allow interfacing with Amazon Alexa. Both units feature geo-fencing and smart occupancy setting. As well as providing sensors for humidity, temperature, and motion.

Both units come with an additional sensor for one other room. The sensors for the Ecobee3 and 4 thermostat are interchangeable and both also come with a power extender kit, in case your home thermostat does not have a C wire to connect easily to mains power. Meaning the units can be adapted for any home.

Side by Side Comparison – Detailed Reviews

 Ecobee3 Smart ThermostatEcobee4 Smart Thermostat
ecobee 3 Smart Thermostatecobee 4 Smart Thermostat
Size3.9 x 3.9 x 0.9 inches4.29 x 4.29 x 1.0 inches
Wi-Fi Compatibility2.4 GHz b/g/n2.4 GHz b/g/n
Maximum No. of devices530Unlimited
Remote Sensor CompatibilityTemperature/ Humidity/ Motion/ ProximityTemperature/ Humidity/ Motion/ Proximity
Voice RecognitionCompatible but not includedIncluded with built-in Alexa
Warranty1 year3 years

As you can see from the table, there isn’t much difference at first glance between the Ecobee3 and 4 thermostat. Though the 3-year warranty for the Ecobee4 will appeal to some, and the Ecobee3 being slightly smaller might appeal to others.

We are going to look at five key areas that are crucial for any smart thermostat and understand what differs between these two units.

Design and Interface

The Ecobee thermostat has been commented on by customers and industry experts alike as being one of the most beautifully designed thermostats on the market. The Ecobee3 and 4 have a very similar design, but there are some changes in the Ecobee4.

First, the almost imperceptible increase in size between the Ecobee3 and 4 thermostat. As you can see from the comparison table above, we are talking less than a quarter of an inch in terms of width and length, which is barely noticeable. The unit is also slightly deeper than the 3, but again this is almost imperceptible.

ecobee4The Ecobee4 thermostat is bigger because it not has an Amazon Alexa unit built into the thermostat itself. The extra space is needed to fit the speaker and microphone which will pick up voice commands from the user, and also give messages back when asked. For example, questions like “Will it rains today?”.

The microphone and speaker use far-field voice recognition, which we speak about later. Which, in short, means that your voice can be picked up from a greater distance away than a standard microphone.

The speakers can be used to play music and return verbal confirmation for voice commands. Though don’t expect high-quality speakers which are comparable to an Amazon device, as they are not primarily designed for playing music, but there are perfectly fine for other uses.

Both the Ecobee’s come with a Power Extender Kit for homes which do not have a C wire for their existing thermostat system. The C wire provides typically power directly to the device. Without a wired power source, your Ecobee will need to be wired straight into the HVAC control board. This may sound complicated, but thankfully, Ecobee provides a ready-made system for installation. Though of course, we recommend you allow a professional to this, as installing to main’s power is incredibly dangerous.

Third Party Integrations

An important consideration when choosing your Ecobee thermostat is firstly how complicated your home HVAC system is. If you have a humidifier, dehumidifier, or a ventilator which you also wish to control. You will want to choose the Ecobee4, and the newer technology means it is compatible with a wider range of accessories than the Ecobee3. The Ecobee4 offers excellent compatibility across a wide range of third-party applications.

The Ecobee3 is compatible with voice-activated programs like Amazon’s Alexa, but you need to have bought a separate device a have paired to the Ecobee3. So, if you don’t have an existing voice control system, you won’t be able to tell the Ecobee3 thermostat to raise or lower the temperature. This will have to be done manually by standing at the unit or from the mobile application.

The fact that the Ecobee4 has the Alexa built into its systems means that you can access a wide range of third-party applications, which transcends the utility of device as a smart thermostat system.

Through the inbuilt Alexa, there isn’t an end to what you can do. From ordering groceries that you just remembered, to booking an Uber, checking the weather, or only accessing your music playlist. You will need to call Alexa by name, and this cannot be changed, but apart from that minor inconvenience, you get all the functionality of two devices for the price of one.

However, certain functions are disabled on the Ecobee compared to say the Amazon Echo Dot. You cannot send messages of any kind, connect to Bluetooth, and you are unable to order from Amazon. It is worth mentioning that the quality of the speaker is better in Amazon designed products compared to the Ecobee as the primary purpose of the Ecobee is to control the HVAC system not to be a home assistant system in the fullest sense.

LCD Touch Screen

Both the Ecobee4 and Ecobee3 thermostat have an almost same 3.5-inch touch screen.

The Ecobee’s 4 thermostat screen varies slightly as it now includes a small microphone icon next to the standard icons, to allow you to turn on the microphone and voice control when speaking to Alexa.

From the LCD screen, you can enable and disable Alexa, which also activates a small LED light, letting you know from a distance whether Alexa can pick up your voice commands or not. You can also adjust the voice controls for Alexa’s voice as well as forcing the home assistant to hear your voice over ambient or loud background noise.

Sensing and Operating Patterns

The Ecobee has an inbuilt sensor within the thermostat itself. This sensor detects heat and motion and seeks to adjust based upon the patterns of the household’s comings and goings. You can also set Home and Away mode from your phone. So that Ecobee can start to warm or cool your house in time for your arrival.

One significant improvement that the Ecobee4 has is the “learning mode.” The other big competitors for smart thermostats Hive has offered this function for some time. Ecobee now provides this in the newer Ecobee3 Lite and Ecobee4 models. What this means is that instead of having to program the thermostat manually all the time. The thermostat learns from your energy usage patterns and then begins to set your HVAC at the settings it believes you will like based upon past usage patterns. This is a much-needed function, particularly for those with a busy household.

Also, you can also buy room sensors for each room of the house as the Ecobee can only detect heat and movement for the place that it is installed. These additional sensors provide additional information which can be used by the Ecobee’s algorithm to improve electricity and heating bills by a manufacturer reported 23%.

The Ecobee 4 does improve on some elements on the Ecobee3 sensing system. The motion detector system is not so prominent and evident on the Ecobee4. However, both the Eco bees use the same sensors and proprietary design for humidity, temperature and motion sensors, and the additional sensors are compatible with both models.

Both models also incorporate geofencing, which was a new function added to the Ecobee3. Geofencing means that your home system tracks your location through the Ecobee mobile phone application. This means that your home system knows where you are and when you are coming home. So, it can adjust the temperature at home to your preferred settings. In addition, both models also have motion detection, which is also known as smart occupancy. That way, the thermostat will keep the home setting at your preferred level until the system detects you are leaving the house.

Far-field Voice Recognition

The quality microphone and speaker that comes with the Ecobee4 means that the unit uses the same technology as the Amazon Echo uses. Namely, the thermostat can hear you from further away, and you do not need to be standing close to the model to have your commands heard.

Amazon released the use of its Far-Field Voice recognition software in 2017, with the hopes that companies like Ecobee would use it to improve their voice recognition technology and embed Amazon software in more hardware devices. Far-field voice recognition offers significantly improve recognition of not just your voice, but also the words that you are saying of ambient noise. Say someone on the phone or tv in the background.

One drawback of the far field voice recognition software, and having Alexa built into the thermostat itself, is that it is quite sensitive, and could easily be set off by a tv advert or children messing around with the system. You can switch Alexa off if it keeps asking for instructions.

The Verdicts

Frankly speaking, there is very little in price between the Ecobee3 and Ecobee4. For those on a budget who want to go for a more wallet-friendly model, you are better off looking at the Ecobee3 light.

The Ecobee4 having Alex in-built is a game changer, because now you have access to a wide range of third-party applications which would tip the scales for someone in two minds about jumping into the smart home revolution. Instead of buying two separate devices, you can amalgamate the purchases of both in an Ecobee4.

The design is slightly bulkier but not that it will make any difference hanging on your well. The whole point of having a smart thermostat is convenience. The second main reason we chose the Ecobee4 is the “learning” mode, which means that it will learn and adapt to your house’s energy consumption over time. That and the fact that it is also compatible with a wider range of devices you can expect to find in the home like ventilators and humidifiers.

The Ecobee4 offers the greatest level of choice and convenience and comes out as our winner. For paying slightly more, you are almost sure to save more than with the Ecobee3 in terms of energy savings and time. author Charles Mann
Charles has a day job as an author in some tech magazines, his passion about science and technology always encourage him to learn new trends in technology business.
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