Does your home get too hot in the summer, even as your utility bill continues to climb each year? You may want to consider a “smart thermostat,” which is an evolution in heating and air-conditioning technology. These thermostats can keep homes climate-controlled while promoting energy efficiency.
We reviewed two of the top-selling smart thermostats on the market. Both the Nest and Ecobee models fared well in terms of cost, energy efficiency, appearance, connectivity, voice assistance, and more. However, one product had the edge in the critical areas of voice assistance and sensor technology.
Both the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Ecobee SmartThermostat cost $249 retail. While they can sometimes go on sale, there’s no predicting when this will happen.
You can also typically buy a, which is a lightweight version of the Nest Thermostat with a significantly reduced cost and more limited features, an alternative for those who don’t want to spend as much. And you can opt for an or if you want a lower-cost Ecobee option.
One of the primary reasons many people choose smart thermostats is because they want to cut down on utility bill costs. Although both models mentioned here can help you reach your energy goals, the Nest approach is a little more user-friendly.
When you adjust the temperature in a way that will result in energy savings, a leaf icon appears on the thermostat. Using the Nest Thermostat for heating and setting it to 62 degrees or below will always get you the leaf, as will using the gadget to cool your home and setting the thermostat to 84 degrees or warmer.
As the Nest Learning Thermostat gets smarter and learns the household’s preferences over time, you’ll see the leaf icon show up on the display whenever you choose temperature settings that save energy based on your preferences and habits. The leaf icon doesn’t provide more information besides the icon cue, but Nest’s support documentation about the feature indicates it will challenge people to set the thermostat higher or lower than usual. Making one-degree tweaks could save up to 5% on energy bills.
Ecobee’s SmartThermostat is very similar, using eco+ software and scheduling assistant to learn when the house is active and adjust the temperature likewise. It also has a couple of features that Nest does not, like measuring humidity, focusing on particular rooms with added satellite sensors, and specifically learning how long it takes the house to warm up so the temperature can be ready when everyone wakes up. However, the interface and operation aren’t quite as intuitive as the Nest Thermostat.
You might also like to know that the SmartThermostat is solely a hard-wired smart thermostat, whereas the Nest Learning Thermostat can operate off of either a home’s electricity or batteries in the event of a power outage. If a person lives in an area characterized by severe weather that often causes power outages, the choice of two power sources in the Nest product could be advantageous. That additional option, combined with its smart energy-saving feature, makes Nest the winner here.
Winner: Nest Learning Thermostat
Both thermostats have rounded shapes. However, while the Nest Learning Thermostat is perfectly round, the SmartThermostat is a bit more squared. Both have high-quality screens that can display a variety of information.
You can buy the Nest Thermostat in stainless steel, polished steel, black, mirror black, white, brass, or copper. The Nest Learning also has a far sight feature to detect activity in distant parts of the room, and it lights up so it can act as a nightlight of sorts.
The SmartThermostat has a black front piece with a blue strip at the top, and it doesn’t have color options available like Nest. However, we do like that the screen is larger and can display a wider variety of information, including weather conditions.
Winner: Nest Learning Thermostat
A look at the specifics of each device reveals that although they look similar, there are slight differences in how to make temperature adjustments.
The Nest device uses a dial mechanism courtesy of an exterior ring that you turn manually to change the temperature. If you prefer the same temperature-adjustment technique used for conventional thermostats, the Nest Learning Thermostat is a good choice.
The SmartThermostat utilizes a touchscreen. For those already accustomed to touchscreens on their smartphones, tablets, and home appliances such as ovens, using the SmartThermostat to alter the temperature is a natural extension of those activities.
When people invest in a SmartThermostat, they can also purchase wireless room sensors. These accessories detect occupancy and adjust room temperatures automatically. Each SmartThermostat also comes with one sensor, a lot of added utility for homes where the thermostat is in an awkward position that doesn’t indicate the temperature where people are active.
You can also choose to average the temperatures of selected rooms with sensors regardless of the presence of people with the SmartThermostat. Convenience is one of the primary advantages of having a smart home, and this smart thermostat certainly delivers it.
Concerning the Nest Learning Thermostat, you can buy Nest Temperature Sensors separately. They require you to specify the desired temperature in a room at a particular time of the day, then the Nest responds to that input, making it a must-have accessory for large smart homes. Users can prioritize different rooms as needed.
Compatibility with other home energy devices
Both devices connect with several energy devices for easier use.
The SmartThermostat recognizes when a home has a ventilator and uses cool outdoor temperatures when appropriate to reduce dependence on your home’s air conditioner. In homes with dehumidifiers, the SmartThermostat can regulate indoor humidity to prevent frost buildup in colder weather coupled with high-humidity indoor environments. It can also connect with humidifiers, HRVs, and other accessories to make sure they are used properly as well. The Alexa compatibility also allows for more complex smart home setups.
Conversely, Nest offers a feature that’s beneficial in homes with heat pumps and auxiliary heat. Known as Heat Pump Balance, it allows you to choose how much auxiliary heat to use, which is handy since such heating options can be expensive. The Nest thermostat also fits in very well with all the Nest family of smart products (including security cams, smoke detectors, and more), allowing you to control everyone easily from the Google Home, and creating smart home scenes that include temperature changes.
The Nest thermostat also figures the heat pump’s efficiency, the current weather, and weather forecast into the mix with the Heat Pump Balance feature activated, relying on data to determine the best auxiliary heat usage.
Voice assistant connectivity
Both the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Ecobee SmartThermostat work with Google Assistant or Alexa, albeit in different ways.
When using an Amazon Alexa device, individuals can control their Nest thermostats either via the Alexa app or by speaking, meaning that you can ask Alexa to turn the heat up or down. The same is true of Google Assistant. This also works with any related smart devices that can hear voice commands, like Echos and Nest Hub devices.
However, the Ecobee SmartThermostat has Alexa built right in, which means you don’t need to use other devices, you can just talk to the thermostat directly. That also means that the thermostat can do just about everything an Alexa device can do.
Someone who doesn’t have an Alexa-enabled speaker yet might want to kill two birds with one stone and choose the SmartThermostat, but anyone with a Google Home device should find both thermostats equally usable.
What’s the verdict?
Both of these thermostats offer a wealth of features and cost the same amount. If you have an Echo or aren’t interested in voice assistants, the Nest Thermostat is probably the better choice with its excellent design. If you are interested in getting a voice assistant like Alexa, or have a more awkwardly placed thermostat than needs better sensors, the Ecobee SmartThermostat is the better option.
Regardless of the opinion expressed here, it’s always best to carefully weigh the pros and cons of any smart home device. Doing so increases the likelihood of a satisfying purchase — and a home with a comfortable temperature.