You may not have heard of Ecobee, a company founded in 2007 that makes connected thermostats. But you’ve probably heard of Nest, which makes a similar product but has been given the hype endowed upon any company created by senior Apple engineers and purchased by Google.
Based on reviews, both the Nest and Ecobee thermostats are high-quality products. They both adjust their settings based on temperatures inside the home as well as weather reports and can be controlled via smartphone. They both can be connected to other devices, allowing users to add on features like voice activation, and, in the case of Nest, connection to a car with an in-dash screen (one reviewer points out that Nest’s thermostat has more devices connected to its API since it has thus far been the more popular product). They both offer detailed energy histories that offer insights into how homeowners can save money in the future.
You get the idea.
Now, Ecobee is releasing its newest product, and it has one-upped its competitors, including Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric thermostat, with a new feature: remote sensors that measure temperature and motion in other rooms all over the house. The sensors are powered by coin cell batteries, while the thermostat itself is hardwired into the house.
The remote sensors, small and unobtrusive, can be placed on tiny stands in rooms that are used often. In addition to allowing the thermostat to better calibrate temperature, these motion-detecting sensors also can more accurately determine whether someone is home. “We say that it’s for homes with more than one room,” says Rahul Raj, VP of marketing at Ecobee. Each thermostat comes with one remote sensor; the device can support up to 32 in total.
Ecobee founder and CEO Stuart Lombard walked me through the new product: Upon launching for the first time, it auto-detects which wires it has been connected to, finds available Wi-Fi networks, and starts its temperature analysis. Customers can easily stick to the basics, letting the thermostat do its thing–or they can go more in depth on their energy use.
“We offer visualizations over time. We can break out savings and give tips on ways to improve savings. But we don’t want to overwhelm people with features in the beginning,” says Lombard.
The previous generation of the Ecobee thermostat wasn’t much to look at–it wasn’t ugly, exactly, but it wasn’t a design item like the Nest thermostat, either. The latest Ecobee thermostat, designed by Lunar Design, has a simpler display and a clean look.
Ecobee’s thermostat is available for $249, and Lombard says that it pays for itself in 12 to 18 months.