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1 Year with the Ecobee 4. A bumpy ride.
on May 29, 2018
I, as I'm sure many folks do, went back and forth over purchasing an Ecobee or a Nest. 12 months later, I'm still not sure I made the right choice.
The remote sensors were a major tipping point in my decision, however, you have to know what you are getting into. The sensors are useful, true, but take some getting used to figuring out how they work and effect the function of the thermostat. Your thermostat will treat the average of all active sensors as the overall temperature that it will react to. You can set whether each sensor participates in a particular 'comfort setting' / schedule and will be included in the average. Of course the sensors only contribute to the average when they have recently detected motion, or when none of them show 'occupied'.
This sounds good, but in effect it means number of sensors and their placement become very important. The fewer sensors, the more a single sensor can swing the 'average'. I quickly found I needed more sensors to have any sort of balance and effective heating / cooling in the house. So, if comparing the price of this thermostat with others, keep in mind you will probably end up buying more sensors, which are frankly, overpriced. Only available in 2 packs, that average $60 or more, when the sensors should really be $20 each at most. And regardless of seasonal promotions that regularly offer the thermostats on sale, I've yet to see extra sensors offered on sale.
I expected the thermostat to be smarter, really. Once sensors were set up, smart home / away, geofencing, etc etc. I thought it would be set it and forget it. But ended up spending the first few months bumping temperature settings up or down, adjusting schedules, tweaking settings. So right away was wondering if I should have gotten the Nest instead, since it's whole thing is that it gets trained by those changes, and figures out your comfort settings for you. Instead, we were constantly making those tweaks and corrections, and the thermostat was learning nothing.
I was excited about the usage reports, the data and feedback on our usage and savings. So, after installing the thermostat on June 2, 2017. I was thoroughly disappointed to find that after 30 days, I had no data. Then to realize it required a complete 'Calendar' month of usage to get any data. So all my June usage was tossed, I had to wait through July, and then another week or two into August before any reports showed up. After all that wait, I found the reports were basically useless fluff that just stated our usage vs. if we had the thermostat set at a different temperature. Yes, we saved energy vs if we'd had the AC cranked up all the time. Okay thanks.
The data was also skewed, as within the first month or so of ownership I realized that the outside temperature reading on the thermostat (taken from internet weather reporting) was wayyyyy off. Tracking it for a bit, I realized that it was lagging about 3 hours behind. So of course any 'learning' the thermostat was doing about inside temp and heat pump usage vs the outside temp was all wrong. Contacting support, they just suggested I change weather stations, even though the entire list of 10 local stations they sent me showed temperatures that were 3 hours off. Had this problem come and go for some months, pretty sure I ended up on a weather station that's about 15 miles away, not optimal, but apparently more stable than the closer ones. I haven't noticed problems in a while, though I stopped paying much attention to the data reports after realizing their relative uselessness. So maybe their weather service got their act together, maybe not.
But, the biggest problem came at 11 months in, when I walked by my thermostat one evening and noticed the 'Setup' screen was showing. After 11 months of tweaking settings and schedules, figuring out heat pump compressor / emergency heat limits and thresholds over the winter when it kept swinging between really cold house and overly using the expensive resistant heating element... all of my settings were gone. Are gone I should say.
After weeks and weeks of long silences from support, tickets being closed and re-opened, 'our team is looking into it', etc. Not surprisingly the final answer was 'there's nothing in our logs to indicate what happened'. No answer, no reassurance that this sort of thing might not just happen again at any time. No backups of settings, etc.
So, 12 months later I'm back to square one. No sensors, no custom settings, no heat pump thresholds tweaked to perfection, nothing. Just an expensive thermostat that's not very smart, and a handful of overpriced sensors that don't want to re-associate it with it. Awesome.
Not having used the Nest, I can't say for sure that it's better, I can only say the Ecobee has been less that awesome. When I get it all set back up I will definitely be writing down all the settings as I go, now that I know they can be lost completely at any time. Despite having an online account and the company surely collecting data from all our thermostats all the time for their own use, none of that data is really of any use to the customer when we need it.
Also, I didn't buy the Ecobee for Alexa. We used it some initially, found it more amusing than useful, but in the end Google Home won our hearts and we've since filled our house with that particular assistant. So another knock against the Ecobee4 is that if you decide to disable Alexa from listening to you all the time, your thermostat then has a permanent red glowing bar across the top of it. Supposedly a better solution is being worked on, but has never materialized.
I'm still hoping that the Ecobee will eventually redeem itself when I get further into my smart home / home automation adventure. I haven't checked recently, but at the time of purchase, the Ecobee had a much more robust API open to users, allowing the more robust smart home hub / controllers like openHab to get data from the sensors and thermostat, and possibly trigger various actions on the thermostat. If this ends up working as I hope, it may all be worth it. Of course, if I just end up using it as a networked thermostat that's controlled by a smart controller based on various other (lower priced) sensors throughout the house, well, there's probably cheaper thermostats that allow that sort of external triggering. But hey, they probably don't look as nice!