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

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.

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.

Now playing: Watch this: Install the Sensi thermostat in a few minutes
3:05

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.

Inside the Ecobee iPhone app.

Screenshots by CNET

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.

You can also control the Ecobee3 Lite from Apple's Home app.

Chris Monroe/CNET

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.

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