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Ecobee3 Lite review: Ecobee's 'Lite' thermostat is heavy on smart home partners

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The Good A responsive touchscreen and integrations with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Wink and IFTTT give the lower-priced $169 Ecobee3 Lite Smart Thermostat serious appeal.

The Bad "Smart" is a bit of a stretch for the Ecobee3 Lite, since it doesn't rely on activity-tracking sensors or any other sort of adaptive tech to learn your routine. $169 is still a lot to spend, especially on a programmable thermostat.

The Bottom Line No other Wi-Fi thermostat available today offers this many smart home partnerships for this low of a price, but you should weigh the importance of the integrations against the MSRP -- many 7-day app-enabled programmable thermostats cost just $100.

8.0 Overall
  • Features 9
  • Usability 8
  • Design 7
  • Performance 8

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.

Installation

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.

  1. Shut off power to your thermostat at the circuit breaker.
  2. Remove your original thermostat's faceplate.
  3. Take a picture of your existing thermostat wiring.
  4. Label your thermostat wires if they aren't already.
  5. Disconnect your thermostat wires from your old thermostat.
  6. Uninstall your original thermostat's baseplate.
  7. Feed the wires through the new baseplate and screw it to the wall.
  8. Connect the wires to the appropriate ports.
  9. Attach the faceplate to the baseplate.
  10. 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.

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