This week we’re continuing our series on automating home automation tasks with the IFTTT (IF This Then That) service, with a look at what you can do with Ecobee’s smart thermostats, including the ecobee3, ecobee3 lite and ecobee4.
This article — and those that will follow — assume that you have a working familiarity with IFTTT, so be sure to take a look at our introductory article if you haven’t used IFTTT before or simply need a refresher on the basics.
Unlike the services we’ve looked at in our prior articles, IFTTT’s service for Ecobee’s smart thermostats actually provide both triggers and actions, so you can kick off IFTTT automation routines based on information from the thermostat, and make changes to the thermostat’s settings when conditions change from other triggers.
Today in part 1, we’ll focus on Ecobee’s IFTTT triggers. We’ll cover the IFTTT actions for Ecobee later on in part 2.
The IFTTT Ecobee service provides ten different triggers; four are used for detecting actual temperature and humidity changes inside your home, while four others detect temperature and humidity outside. The last two triggers in the set are used to fire off events when the thermostat switches between Smart Home and Smart Away occupancy modes, or when any schedule override occurs.
Each possible temperature or humidity value has two triggers — one to cover “greater than” and one for “less than.” Also keep in mind that although four of the triggers are used to detect outside temperature changes, these are based simply on the weather service used by the Ecobee thermostat, so your mileage may vary and some users may find IFTTT services like Weather Underground to be more reliable, depending on where you live.
Still, IFTTT’s triggers make Ecobee’s theromstats even more versatile than they already are, and can eliminate the need to deploy other temperature sensors around your house. This is also particularly great if you’re using multiple room sensors, as the temperature reported to the IFTTT service will be the overall temperature within your home, not just the temperature in any one room. (Unfortunately, however, there’s also no way to target an individual room sensor in an IFTTT trigger — only the averaged temperature for the whole home is reported to IFTTT.)
Turn on the air conditioning when it gets hot inside
While an Ecobee thermostat is more than capable of handling an air conditioning system, not everybody is fortunate enough to have central air. If you’re using a split air conditioning system, or even a window unit, there’s no direct way to interface that with the thermostat. But if you add a device like <a href=”https://sensibo.com”>Sensibo’s Sky</a>, which also supports IFTTT, suddenly you’ve got a great way to tie your smart thermostat into your “dumb” air conditioner.
We’d suggest creating two recipes (or “applets” as IFTTT calls them now): one to turn the air conditioner on when the temperature gets hot, and another to turn the air conditioner back off when the temperature drops below a certain level. Although the best way to handle that may depend on how sophisticated your air conditioner is as well, as Sensibo Sky can set mode, temperature, and fan speed on a supported external AC unit.
Similar recipes can be created using a variety of IFTTT supported smart outlets to turn on space heaters or dehumidifiers as necessary.
Alert me if the schedule is overridden
Here’s a handy recipe if you have kids who are always trying to drive up your energy bills. Although you can lock down the thermostat to prevent it from being changed at all, you might not want to do that in case your family really does need to adjust the temperature. Thanks to IFTTT, you can still keep an eye on it by getting notified when somebody overrides the set schedule.
This works whether the override is done from the thermostat itself, from an app, or even from another service such as HomeKit. You can customize the message, and the IFTTT Ecobee service provides ingredients so you can see what the override is.
Log schedule overrides
You can also simply log all of the schedule overrides on your Ecobee thermostat. We looked at how to use the Google Sheets IFTTT action in our look at August IFTTT recipes, so today we’ll talk about how to do this to a text file in Dropbox instead.
This recipe simply appends to the bottom of a text file with whatever information you specify in the “Content” field. Of course, IFTTT’s Ecobee ingredients are available here so you can log the time, the thermostat name, and the type of event. Note, however, that you can also use ingredients in the file name and folder path fields, so if you wanted to create separate logs for each event type, and break them out into subfolders for each thermostat, you can do that too.
Also, if you change the “Content” field to simply put commas in between the ingredients, you basically get a CSV file that you can easily pull into Microsoft Excel or Apple’s Numbers or use as a data source for other software apps.
More To Come
Unfortunately, while IFTTT opens up some nice possibilities for Ecobee’s theromstats, we’re disappointed that the schedule change and home/away triggers aren’t more granular. For example, there’s no practical way to use your Ecobee’s occupancy sensors to turn off all the lights when it goes into “Smart Away” mode, since the trigger fires whenever the mode changes, regardless of what it changes to. Similarly, you can’t build triggers based only on what a schedule is changed to, or what a temperature is set to, so you’re limited to firing off actions when anything changes.
That said, there’s still a lot you can do here, and in part two we’ll take a closer look at how an Ecobee thermostat can be used to respond to triggers from other IFTTT-compatible devices.