The hot, humid summer in Pennsylvania is a perfect time to test a new smart thermostat. Luckily for me, the new $249.99 Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium recently launched and I’ve been using a review unit for the past week or so. Our house feels more comfortable than it did with the older Ecobee we’ve used for several years. It’s also more accurate in measuring the temperature and, detecting motion or presence, and we can use the sensors for home automation. Lastly, it has some nice information on the quality of air in our home.
Before getting into all of those details, let me share what’s new here.
The Premium model looks much nicer than our old unit. That’s because the outer edge is covered with a clean, zinc plate. It’s a more modern, cleaner design. The slightly larger display appears to be a higher resolution as well. I can see much more information on it.
There’s also a built-in speaker and microphone that our older Ecobee doesn’t have. With it you can talk to Alexa or Siri; we use the latter. It also comes with one remote sensor, which I found was far more accurate than the aging one we bought for the old model.
Inside the thermostat are more accurate sensors to detect presence and motion. As we noted on the podcast last week, the millimeter-wave sensor can tell the difference between a pet and a person. This radar-like sensor is very impressive. I’ve tried to “sneak up” on it, but even from around a corner, it can see me.
The new Ecobee also measures air quality for VOCs and carbon dioxide. If either the CO2 or VOCs reach a set level, the new Ecobee can turn on other devices such as a ventilator
or dehumidifier wired to your HVAC to mitigate that problem. Even if you don’t have a device like that, you’ll still get air quality alert notifications.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any such devices, so I couldn’t test that feature. However, I appreciate this integration, which is something the Airthings Wave Pollution I recently reviewed didn’t have. The remote sensors unfortunately can’t measure air quality, which would be very useful.
It’s also worth noting that Ecobee exposes the presence and motion sensors so you can use them with other devices. I don’t believe that was the case with the old model we had; if it was, I never saw them.
But they now appear as individual devices in my Apple Home app. So I was able to use the remote sensor in our bedroom to automatically turn on a HomeKit bulb when it detected someone entering the room.
From an installation perspective, the process is as simple as it was when I installed my first Ecobee a long time ago. All of the mounting hardware is included, as is a new backplate to fit this model.
Since my old HVAC system doesn’t have a C-wire, I used the included adapter for my installation. This device is directly connected to an HVAC control board to supply power to the thermostat. I thought I could save some time by using the adapter from the old Ecobee since I already had it wired to my HVAC system. Alas, that was not the case. So any upgraders that replace an older Ecobee with this one will need 10 minutes to swap the adapters out. Oh, and pairing the remote sensor is a snap too. It takes all of 30 seconds.
All in all, the Ecobee app does a great job at walking you through the installation process. It took me around 25 minutes to uninstall the old thermostat and replace it with the new one. The setup process that takes place directly on the thermostat adds another five minutes. You can easily add the Ecobee to your smart home platform in a minute or two.
I didn’t think we needed a thermostat with a digital assistant, but I stand corrected after using one. I enabled the Siri functionality on the Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium and have already found it useful. It’s handy for me to open or close our garage door, for example, or to adjust the temperature by voice. Note that the prior generation of Ecobee thermostats has this feature as well; my existing model is older than that. You can also stream music from Spotify or over Bluetooth to it if you want a small but decent sound experience.
I’m loving the new Ecobee user interface enough, however, that I’d rather change the temperature with a touch. Gone is the old, hard to control up or down temperature setting. It’s now replaced with a simpler approach showing the current setting front and center with plus/minus controls on the right. Change the setting and tap the center of the Ecobee to enter the temp.
Given the price tag and the fact that our old Ecobee still works, I wasn’t sure if I’d feel this would be a good upgrade. With its new features, improved sensors that use millimeter wave technology, and better looks, I think we’ll be buying this smart thermostat.
If you don’t want some of these features — the remote sensor, air monitoring, and the microphone/speaker — you can buy the new Ecobee Smart Thermostat Enhanced for $189.99. It doesn’t look as nice because the zinc edging isn’t there, but it has all of the main features you might want in a smart thermostat.
Updated at 10:41 am on June 7 to correct information about air quality management integrations.