Ecobee3 & 4 vs Nest – Four Models Compared [2018 Update]

If you’re hunting for the perfect device for climate control, you may be focused on the Ecobee vs Nest debate. You aren’t sure which one to choose, and that’s all right. Fortunately, there’s help available. If you want to know which of these two to choose for your particular needs, read on.


Meet The Four Contestants

It’s important to get the right smart thermostat that does exactly what you need and you don’t have to worry about problems later. Consider the Nest, which has two models that are popular in today’s market:

  • Nest Thermostat E
  • Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation

But also think about the Ecobee, which offers two popular options as well. These include:

  • Ecobee3 Lite
  • Ecobee4

All of these thermostats are unique in their own ways, so diving into the differences and similarities between them can be a great way to find what you really need.

Ecobee4/Ecobee3lite vs Nest 3rd gen./Nest E Comparison Chart

One of the best ways to compare the Ecobee and Nest smart thermostats is through the use of a chart. I’ve put together a comparison chart, which will offer you a quick overview of their features.

Nest vs Ecobee Common Characteristics

In order to find the right thermostat for your needs, let’s first take a look at the basic features that all smart thermostats share:

  • iOS and Android applications
  • Wi-Fi
  • Setting a schedule for your home’s climate and comfort
  • Remote control ability using your smartphone

Any of the four thermostats we’re going to talk about here can be used to control and monitor temperature. But there are price differences and added features that have to be addressed.

Depending on those features and your budget, that could prompt you to choose one make or model of thermostat over other ones. It’s time to dig into the comparisons a bit deeper.


Both models of the Nest offer a round design, much like an old-school thermostat, that comes with a rotating wheel. But that is where the similarities mostly end.

What I Like About Nest v3
The Nest Learning has a solid case made from stainless steel, that actually comes in copper, silver, white, or black to help match décor or stand out as a type of accent piece.

The Nest Thermostat E is made from a plastic-like material called polycarbonate, and you can only get it in white.

Additionally, the Nest v3 is just a little bit larger than the Nest E and comes with a bigger display that offers a higher resolution. Its display is 2.08 inches and the resolution is 480 x 480, where the frosted glass display of the E model is 1.76 inches and has a 320 x 320 resolution.

As a Nest competitor, both Ecobee models have a full-color, 3.5” LCD touchscreen, with a 320 x 480 resolution.

But they do have a difference – the Ecobee3 Lite is just a bit smaller in size than what is offered with the Ecobee4.

Both of the Nest models look great on a wall, but the Ecobee design is cool, as well. In my opinion, Ecobee is more futuristic and has an elegance that provides a fantastic look. It’s made of plastic, though, so it loses the well-built feeling that the Nest offers.

Final thoughts on the Ecobee or Nest match-up? The Ecobee is a nice option, but the Nest wins.

Nest’s Home/Away Assist vs Ecobee’s Geofencing

If you’re still trying to decide, you should know that all four models use activity sensors in order to determine if rooms in the house are occupied or empty.

What I Like About Nest models
Nest’s Home/Away Assist works with your mobile device and uses your phone’s location to see if you’re home. Essentially, it thinks you and your phone are one and the same, so if your phone can be located in the house it assumes you are home, as well.

But Nest is not tracking your movements. It is only determining if your phone is within the sensor’s range in the house, to decide whether you are there.

It’s also possible to use a feature called Family Accounts, so up to 10 people can get access to the thermostat. If a family member has opted in, the Home/Away Assist uses the data from their phones, too. That way it only switches to Away mode if everyone is gone from the house.

Ecobee uses a type of location-based triggering called geofencing.

That means it uses your phone to check if you are past a virtual boundary around your house. You can set the size of the area up to a point, and when you leave that area it switches to Away mode. Coming back into that area means it goes into the Home mode.

In the past, this was a feature exclusive to iOS users. Generally, Android users created geofencing through a Life360 and IFTTT combination. Now, though, there is support for geofencing on Android, as well.

In sum, it’s still easier to use these features with Nest’s Home/Away Assist, but Ecobee is making it easier. Most Ecobee users still choose the IFTTT/Life360 combo, so Nest is the winner of the discussion in this regard.

Power requirements

What I Don't Like About The Nest
If there is no common wire in your HVAC installation, The Nest thermostats get their power using a method called power stealing which could cause some problems. This relies on a rechargeable, built-in battery that will work with HVAC systems that don’t have a C wire.

If you aren’t familiar with power stealing and C wires, you’ll want to read my Thermostat C Wire article.

Neither one of the Ecobee models have any batteries. So if they’re used with HVAC systems and no C wire, they will not rely on power stealing as a means to keep batteries charged the way Nest does.

What I Like About Ecobee
To provide a reliable power source for users without a C wire in their HVAC system, Ecobee offers the Power Extender Kit (PEK), which is a much more efficient solution in my opinion.

Both of the Ecobee models come with PEK, so they aren’t relying on other equipment to stay charged. The PEK is a small device positioned between the HVAC control board and the thermostat wires during installation. To understand how the PEK is installed, watch the video below.

My final thoughts on the debate when it comes to power: if you have an HVAC system without a C wire, I would recommend the Ecobee.

I found it’s option to solve the C wire issue a better choice than the power stealing function of the Nest.

Check Thermostat Compatibility with Your HVAC System

One of the most important things you can do when choosing your wifi thermostat is to make sure the one you like is compatible with your HVAC system.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to determine which of these thermostats can be used with the system you have in your home. I’ve collected links to tools that will help you check compatibility, use them to find the thermostats that will work with your heating and cooling system.

Nest Compatibility Checker

Ecobee Compatibility Checker

Remote Sensor(s)

What I Don't Like About The Nest
Nest doesn’t offer any remote sensors, and all environmental data is collected in one place. Usually, that’s in a hallway, where the thermostat is located. For big homes, that can be an imperfect solution.

On the other side of the debate, Ecobee has extra sensors which can be remotely placed throughout your home. That allows for better calibration when it comes to data about the environment.

What I Like About Ecobee
The Ecobee4 comes with remote sensors already in the package, but the lite version does not. Fortunately, you can purchase these sensors separately and use them with this thermostat.

A downside is that they only offer these additional sensors in a two-pack, so you will be required to buy even numbers of sensors whether you need all of them or not.

By having remote sensors, Ecobee can collect data from a number of different locations. And it can be paired with as many as 32 remote sensors.

With both temperature and occupancy sensors inside, each remote sensor is like a satellite thermostat. That makes the thermostat smarter and allows it to understand the temperature throughout the house, instead of in only one spot.

If you have a big house, you’ll find that Ecobee offers important advantages over Nest.


The Nest Home Report

Every month you will get a monthly report, called the Nest Home Report. This summarizes the energy use in your house, together with information from the previous month.

Even though that seems very cool, just wait and see what the Ecobee can do. My personal opinion is that Ecobee is definitely the winner in when it comes to reporting.

The Ecobee Web Portal

The Ecobee offers free access to a Personal Web Portal, where data and insights are provided. The main feature important to talk about here is HomeIQ, and it takes the raw data collected from your HVAC system and turns that into insights that help you optimize your home’s cooling and heating needs.

Apple HomeKit Compatibility

There is no Apple HomeKit support offered by Nest.

Why? Because Nest is owned by Google. Large companies generally fight for customers, and they aren’t exactly friends with one another. I would be very surprised to see any Apple HomeKit support on Nest anytime soon.

The Ecobee is fully Apple HomeKit compatible. If you use HomeKit already and have enabled accessories that you don’t want to lose, you’ll want to select the Ecobee rather than Nest.

Because of HomeKit compatibility, you can control your Ecobee thermostat with the Home app and Siri.

Amazon Echo & Alexa

All of the thermostats I have reviewed here offer compatibility with Amazon Echo. If you own one of these, you can use it to voice control the thermostat.

What I Like About Ecobee4
Ecobee4 went even further, and it is the only thermostat discussed here that has Amazon Alexa Voice Service built right in. It comes with a speaker and microphone, so you can use it just like you would use an Echo.

Ask Alexa to adjust temperature, play music, set a timer, or other functions, right from your thermostat. But not all Alexa features are compatible. For example, Alexa calling and Spotify aren’t supported at this time.

Adding Alexa added to the price, but consider whether it is worth the cost. If the thermostat is in the hallway, how much will you use this feature?

If you don’t need this feature at all, you can save money with the Ecobee3 Lite.

Google Assistant on Google Home Compatibility

All models are compatible with Google Assistant, so you can use devices that offer the Google Assistant and control the thermostat with voice commands.

Samsung SmartThings Compatibility

If you use SmartThings and want to integrate it with your thermostat, you’ll need to pick the Ecobee models. Both of them work with Samsung’s SmartThings, but the Nest models don’t.


To some customers, the kind of warranty smart thermostat offers can be very important. If you’re someone who is focused on a longer warranty, you should consider the Ecobee instead of the Nest.

Nest offers a two-year customer install warranty, and Ecobee offers a three-year warranty from the date of the purchase.

The Biggest Challenges


The ability to learn can be positive, but it can also be negative, too. In a way, it is a bigger part of user control when thermostats don’t learn as much. If everything works the right way for a learning thermostat it can be a great thing, but if there are problems it can be harder to make adjustments.


Ecobee’s Geofencing still can’t match Nest’s Home/Away Assist. There is the option to come close by using IFTTT/Life360 combo, but that requires technical skills. Not all users may have those skills, so it can be difficult for them to create what they need.

Conclusion: Which One Is Better For Your Scenario?

Reasons to Buy Nest:

  • It looks great, with a stylish design
  • Over time it learns your habits through machine learning and pattern detection
  • It works well if you have a regular routine
  • It’s good for people with low technical skills who want the thermostat to have control

Don’t Buy Nest If:

  • You want to use Apple HomeKit with your thermostat
  • You have a schedule that isn’t predictable
  • You live in a big house where you’ll need remote sensors

If Nest gives you what you need but you want to save money, and you don’t mind that the low-resolution display is dim or the case is plastic, choose the E version.

When thinking about Ecobee, keep in mind that it isn’t a learning thermostat, and it works based on schedules that you create.

Reasons to Buy Ecobee:

  • Remote sensors to have better control over the house climate
  • Integration with Apple HomeKit
  • Great solution for HVAC sytems without a C wire.

If you choose this brand but what to save some money, and you don’t need remote sensors right now, go with the Ecobee3 Lite for a great choice at a fair price.

About the Author David Waller

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