I'm not saying $169 is cheap, but it's a darn good price in smart thermostat-land. There, Wi-Fi models regularly sell for over two hundred bucks and very few work with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Wink and IFTTT.
That's where Ecobee's new Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat comes in. Available beginning October 31 at Home Depot, Best Buy, Amazon and Ecobee's online store, the $169 Ecobee3 Lite is the least expensive Wi-Fi thermostat you can find today that supports five major smart home platforms.
So what's the downside? Like the $160 Emerson Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat, the Ecobee3 Lite is only semi-smart -- it doesn't come with a remote sensor or any other advanced features. Instead, it bridges the gap between $100 app-enabled thermostats with no smart home integrations and $250 high-end models with smart home integrations and tech that learns your routine and makes automatic temperature adjustments.
The Ecobee3 Lite is easily the most appealing basic 7-day programmable thermostat on the market, one I can comfortably recommend. Just be sure to consider how much these connected home partnerships matter to you before you buy.
Same Ecobee style
The Ecobee3 Lite looks identical to the brand's existing $249 Ecobee3 Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat. Both have a 3.5-inch glossy black digital display with a touchscreen interface, similar to a phone. Simply tap on the various options to change the temperature, view the current forecast, set schedules and otherwise adjust the settings.
It's worth noting that the layout on the Android and iPhone app mirrors the Ecobee3 Lite's hardware, so there's little-to-no learning curve on that front.
Overall, I like the look of this thermostat and its companion app -- it's particularly great if you're a fan of integrated touchscreen panels. Personally, I prefer more tactile displays with buttons or at least some sort of haptic feedback a la Nest's $249 Learning Thermostat. But the Ecobee3 Lite's interface is intuitive, easy to navigate and extremely responsive.
Always consult a professional if you have questions about installing a thermostat. But, if you're familiar with the general process, getting the Ecobee3 Lite up and running is pretty simple.
There's one caveat: The Ecobee3 Lite doesn't offer a rechargeable battery like Nest, so you'll need to have a C wire to power the digital display or install the included Power Extender Kit.
- Shut off power to your thermostat at the circuit breaker.
- Remove your original thermostat's faceplate.
- Take a picture of your existing thermostat wiring.
- Label your thermostat wires if they aren't already.
- Disconnect your thermostat wires from your old thermostat.
- Uninstall your original thermostat's baseplate.
- Feed the wires through the new baseplate and screw it to the wall.
- Connect the wires to the appropriate ports.
- Attach the faceplate to the baseplate.
- Turn power on to your HVAC system at the circuit breaker.
It took me roughly 15 minutes to replace a third-gen Nest thermostat with the Ecobee3 Lite at the CNET Smart Home. You may need to use a power drill to create new holes, though, and that could add time to your install.
To visualize the process, take a look at this install video of the Emerson Sensi thermostat. It won't be identical to the Ecobee3 Lite, but you'll get the general idea.
Integration and performance
Once the thermostat is installed and powered on, you can start adjusting the temperature, programming scheduled temperature changes and more. But, you should also download the Ecobee app on your Android or iOS device for remote access to your heating and cooling. That way, you can make adjustments and check the status of your thermostat anywhere your phone has a solid cellular or Wi-Fi connection.
But there are also a bunch of smart home partnerships to try out; I tested Alexa and HomeKit integrations to see how Alexa and Siri voice control worked with the Ecobee3 Lite. The $249 Ecobee3 is also Alexa- and HomeKit-enabled, so everything worked pretty much the same.
For Alexa, make sure you have an Echo, Echo Dot or Tap, download the Alexa app and enable the Ecobee skill. Once that's set up, you can start asking Alexa to adjust the temperature for you. The same goes for Siri via HomeKit. To configure HomeKit, you can either follow the steps in the Ecobee app or use Apple's Home app, now available natively on iPhones thanks to iOS 10.
Everything I tested worked consistently well. The temperature changes kicked in promptly, the preprogrammed temperatures updated automatically and the automations I tested out were happily glitch-free.
Yea or nay?
Well, that depends. Ecobee's $169 Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat is responsive, simple to program and seriously in tune with today's smart home market. If you already use or plan to start using Alexa, HomeKit, SmartThings, Wink or IFTTT, that's very good news. But if you aren't interested in asking Siri to change the temperature for you, a less expensive app-enabled model sans smart home partners will do the trick.
Are you intrigued by the Ecobee3 Lite, but not quite sold? Take a look at the $160 Emerson Sensi or the $149 Honeywell Lyric T5 (due out this month). Neither one has as many integrations as Ecobee, but both work with select smart home partners and offer related apps.