There was a time when $250 was a typical price for a smart thermostat. The industry was relatively new and brands like Nest and Ecobee introduced top-of-the-line models with long lists of features. But, increasingly, other companies are entering the market with sub-$100 app-enabled thermostats. Suddenly, $250 gets a lot more difficult to justify, even for a luxury product with lots to offer.
Enter the Smart Thermostat Premium: Ecobee's new high-end model that replaces the SmartThermostat with Voice Control. The Premium retains a lot of the unique features of the past iteration -- most notably a built-in Alexa speaker -- and adds in new ones, like an air quality sensor. It also sports a larger, redesigned touchscreen and a zinc body instead of plastic.
It's an impressive thermostat that does what it claims, even to the point of offering a decent overall value despite the high price. That said, I really wish Ecobee had found a way to add in these updates while also slightly lowering the price of its new flagship model. The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium is a solid thermostat worth considering if it fits in your budget, but given the growing number of affordable smart thermostats out there, it's just too expensive to be universally recommendable.
At a glance, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium looks just like the Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control. But the smart thermostat maker, which was acquired in 2021 by generator company Generac, gave this replacement model some extra features.
Some of the key differences include the added air quality sensor, the zinc thermostat body, the redesigned touchscreen and the radar sensor, which Ecobee says is better than the passive infrared sensor built into the previous version.
Fortunately, the installation and configuration process closely mirrors the last-gen model. Check out my article detailing how to install the SmartThermostat with Voice Control for more details. In short, you'll need to download the Ecobee app, select "Add a device," then "Thermostat" and follow the steps to get yours up and running.
Ecobee includes a C-wire adapter in the box if you don't already have a C-wire installed with your HVAC system. That requires some additional steps Ecobee goes into in its support section.
Installation time can vary, depending on whether you need to install the C-wire adapter and if you need to drill new holes to fit the thermostat frame and patch and paint old holes. Overall, though, it's a straightforward process that's spelled out clearly in the app.
Testing it out
Here I'll walk through my experience testing out some of the Premium's key features and claims:
Updated thermostat design
Ecobee says its display is "50% larger" than the last version. I didn't notice a major difference here either way, but I could clearly read the current temperature across the room without issue. I did, however, notice a significant difference with some of the layout changes in the menu and with the Alexa integration.
The touchscreen was very responsive; I never had to press more than once to get to a desired setting. Ecobee also rearranged some things in the menu to make it a bit more user-friendly, and this absolutely paid off. I had no issues navigating around to view or make changes to a particular setting.
Ecobee also ditched the SmartThermostat with Voice Control-style Alexa light bar at the top of the thermostat. Instead, this model has Alexa built into the display itself. When you say, "Alexa, tell me a joke," or any other command, the entire display responds, letting you know the assistant heard you.
You can also clearly feel the difference between the zinc body and the previous plastic design. This one is heavier and more substantial, with silver accents rather than white plastic. Since a thermostat stays put on the wall after installation, this new design won't likely do anything for the durability of the hardware over time, but it does give it a more luxury look than past models.
Radar sensor and SmartSensor
Passive infrared sensors are standard features in home security products and thermostats to track motion. In a thermostat, this feature helps determine whether you're home or not. If a smart thermostat hasn't detected activity for awhile, it might automatically switch to "Away" mode to conserve energy and save you money.
If your thermostat is in one section of the house and you spend a lot of time in another, this feature can be faulty, assuming you aren't home and moving into an energy conservation mode.
One way Ecobee and other companies have worked to mitigate this issue is via temperature- and motion-detecting remote sensors. One SmartSensor is included with your Ecobee SmartThermostat Premium purchase, and you can add up to 32 to cover larger homes. If you don't walk past your thermostat regularly, stick your SmartSensor somewhere you will be more active to help improve the Home/Away mode accuracy.
But Ecobee is also making changes at the thermostat itself, by opting for a radar motion sensor over a passive infrared model. According to Ecobee, the new radar sensor built into the Premium model provides the "most accurate motion and occupancy readings yet." I didn't have a SmartThermostat with Voice Control set up for side-by-side comparisons, so it's difficult to comment on whether the Premium's occupancy sensing really was better. That said, with one SmartSensor in my home office and the thermostat installed in another part of the house, I didn't have any issues with false Away modes while I was still home.
Air quality sensor
The air quality sensor designed to detect volatile organic compounds and carbon dioxide is the most interesting addition to Ecobee's new thermostat. It's a subtle indicator on the main display screen that, thankfully, in my case read "Clean." If you click on "Clean" (or whatever your reading is) on the main screen, it takes you to another screen displaying a range from poor to clean. You don't get much more detail, but mine shows that the area around the thermostat sits in the middle of the clean rating -- not the highest possible marks, but close. It also says:
Volatile organic compounds: Low
Carbon dioxide: Low
Keep in mind that I didn't test the accuracy of the air quality sensor to determine how the thermostat arrives at these readings. Also, the thermostat is only able to detect the area immediately surrounding it, so a "Clean" rating in one area doesn't necessarily mean other parts of the house would receive the same rating.
Everything else worked as expected. The air conditioning kicked on quickly, the app mirrors the thermostat's design and is easy to use. And the integrated Alexa speaker continues to add an interesting feature that isn't offered on any other thermostat I've tested in quite the same way (although some have tried). Like past models, the Smart Thermostat Premium also works with Google Assistant and HomeKit, if you have a compatible smart speaker or display, as well as SmartThings and IFTTT.
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The new Smart Thermostat Premium is a strong offering from Ecobee. It builds on the many features available on the last-gen model and adds in new ones. However, given the growing number of $60 and $70 smart thermostats out there with solid performance, it's getting harder to justify spending a whopping 250 bucks on one -- even if delivers some new and interesting things.
The air quality sensor, in particular, stands out here. If you have the budget and you'd specifically like an air quality sensor in your thermostat to monitor the surrounding area, the Premium might be worth it (although, again, I wasn't able to test the sensor's accuracy). Otherwise, I'd suggest looking at our lists of best thermostats and best affordable thermostats for some more options.
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Frequently asked questions
Can a smart thermostat save you money?
By automating your heating and cooling schedule, you can save on your utility bills without having to adjust your thermostat. This thermostat, like others, will adjust the temperature if it doesn't detect anyone in the house.
Is there a downside to a smart thermostat?
Smart thermostats can be more expensive than their counterparts, but affordable options exist. CNET's best list highlights models that cost anywhere from $56 to $250.
Originally published May 17, 2022: In this update on October 9, 2023, we confirmed pricing and availability and added frequently asked questions.