Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite Review

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I’m all about saving money, which is why I initially invested in a smart thermostat. Nest thermostats save an average of 10 to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling, according to an independent study. Think that sounds good? According to their website, ecobee thermostats can save you up to 23% on heating and cooling, paying for themselves in only a couple of years! Of course, there are a bunch of other factors that go into picking a smart thermostat, so which one is for you?

In this review, I tell you everything you need to know about the Nest Thermostat E vs. the ecobee3 lite in terms of their key similarities, key differences, designs, features, installation processes, and apps. Let’s get started!

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ecobee3 lite
  • Senses humidity and proximity
  • Integrates with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, etc. 
  • $169 

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Nest Thermostat E
  • Senses humidity, proximity, occupancy, and ambient light 
  • Integrates with Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc. 
  • $139 

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Key Similarities of Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite

First, let’s talk about what the Nest Thermostat E and the ecobee 3 lite have in common, just to make sure we’re on the same page:

  • Neither requires c-wire: Although the thermostats have different compatibilities, neither one of them require that your home has a c-wire, which connects the thermostat to power.
  • Integrations with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa: Whether you’re in the Google or Amazon ecosystems, you’ll be able to vocally command your smart thermostat with either option.
  • Geofencing and schedules: Both thermostats allow you to set schedules for your thermostat and connect it with your phone’s GPS.

Key Differences of Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite

Of course, the differences between the two are probably what’s most going to influence your buying decision:

  • Installation: While the Nest Thermostat E runs on a rechargeable battery, the ecobee3 lite is hardwired into your home.
  • Occupancy and ambient light sensing: Only the Nest Thermostat E can sense occupancy and ambient light, although they both can sense humidity and proximity.
  • iPhone app: While the Nest app only has a 2.1 rating on the Apple store, the ecobee app has an awesome rating of 4.3.

Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite Design

In terms of aesthetics, I find the Nest Thermostat E way more pleasing than the ecobee3 lite. First of all, it’s much more minimalist, which I prefer, and I also like the circular shape, while the ecobee3’s shape is a strange, rounded square shape. Both feature color LCD screens, although the Nest’s is frosted to blend into walls. The ecobee3’s screen is slightly bigger than the Nest’s by about an inch, so if you’re looking to be less conspicuous with your thermostat, I’d go with the Nest Thermostat E. However, if you’d like a touchscreen thermostat, go with the ecobee3. The Nest Thermostat E actually doesn’t haven’t a touchscreen. Instead, you’ll rotate its rim like a regular thermostat.

Now, a major factor that you should take into consideration is what the thermostat’s home compatibility is. While the ecobee3 works with gas, oil, electric or dual fuel heating and cool systems, the Nest Thermostat E works with 85% of 24 volt systems, and neither requires a c-wire. Another major difference is installation. You’ll power your Nest Thermostat E via a rechargeable battery, while the ecobee3 lite will be hardwired into your home. Both will connect to their respective apps via Wi-Fi, although the Nest also uses Bluetooth.

Both smart thermostats are ENERGY STAR certified, meaning that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed them to be energy efficient. You can have up to 20 Nest thermostats in up to three homes per account, while you can have up to 16 ecobee thermostats in as many houses as you want.

That’s it for design! Now, let’s move on to features.

Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite Features

Now, the main purpose of a smart thermostat is to allow you to change your home’s temperature remotely through a mobile app, but there’s a number of different ways to control your Nest Thermostat E or ecobee3 lite.

Smart Thermostat Schedules

Both offer schedules and geofencing, available for the ecobee3 lite in the Android and HomeKit apps. However, only the Nest Thermostat E can be set to Auto-Schedule so it can learn your schedule after a few days. Pretty cool!

Geofencing means hooking up your smart thermostat with the GPS on your phone so that your thermostats automatically adjust based on whether you’re home or not. Imagine walking into a warm and cozy house from the freezing outside, but knowing that you haven’t wasted energy on an empty home!

Smart Thermostat Geofencing

Schedules are pretty self-explanatory. If you have a regular routine, it makes sense to put your smart thermostats on schedules so you don’t have to worry about adjusting them.

Of course, you’ll also be able to vocally command your thermostats, which brings me to my next section…

Smart Platform Integrations

Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite Smart Platform Integrations
Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite Smart Platform Integrations

As you can see, both the Nest Thermostat E and the ecobee3 lite wok with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, the two most popular voice assistants. Nest also has a plethora of integrations with companies like LIFX, Wemo, Logitech, Jenn-Air— the list goes on. You can sync your Nest Thermostat E with connected devices from these brands to automate your smart home. For example, I like to have my camera disarm as soon as my thermostat goes up to a comfortable temperature, as it means I’m home.

The ecobee3 also works with Apple HomeKit and Microsoft Cortana for voice commands, and Samsung SmartThings, Wink, and IFTTT for home automation. While it has more smart home platform integrations than the Nest thermostat, it won’t sync with as many connected devices.

Sensing Capabilities

Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 Sensing
Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 Sensing

Temperature isn’t the only thing that these smart thermostats can sense. While the Nest Thermostat E can sense humidity, proximity, occupancy, and ambient light, the ecobee3 lite can only sense humidity and proximity. Let’s talk a little bit more about why each capability is important.

  • Humidity: Humidity can make the temperature feel warmer, even if it’s technically not, so it’s a good thing that both thermostats can take that into account.
  • Proximity: Both thermostats sense motion and will know if someone walks in front of them, making sure your home is using the least amount of energy possible.
  • Occupancy: Only the Nest Thermostat E can sense occupancy, measured by humans’ unique heat signature. Say you’re home but in another room, or asleep— the Nest thermostat can adjust accordingly, and can also sense when you’re not home versus whether you’re just in another room.
  • Ambient light: Another feature unique to the Nest Thermostat E is the ability to dim or brighten its screen based on the amount of light in the room, another way to save you energy.

Clearly, the Nest Thermostat E wins in terms of sensing capabilities, but both thermostats impress. Now, as far as saving you energy goes, both offer an energy usage report so you can see exactly how much money your thermostat is saving you. You’ll also be able to add multiple users to each thermostat so that they too can join in on the fun, although the Nest only allows nine people to have full access while the ecobee has no maximum. And that’s it for features!

The Nest vs. ecobee Apps

Nest vs. ecobee Apps
Nest vs. ecobee Apps

Without a user-friendly mobile app, a smart thermostat is just a regular thermostat, which is why I wanted to make sure that Nest and ecobee have great apps both both iPhone users and Android users alike.

Both apps are where you’ll control and monitor your thermostats, add multiple users, set up schedules, geofencing, and smart platform integrations, and view your energy usage reports. While the ecobee app has awesome ratings on both the Google Play and Apple stores, iPhone users weren’t as pleased with the Nest app.

“This app was designed mainly for the Nest thermostat and cameras and whenever they launch a new product or additional service like “Nest Aware” it seems to be modge podge’d into the app without any real development,”

wrote an iPhone user in a one-star review. Personally, I didn’t see any huge issues with the Nest app for iPhone, but many people had problems.

Recap of the Nest Thermostat E vs. ecobee3 lite

Now let me address the elephant in the room: cold, hard, cash. Shockingly, the ecobee3 lite is actually $30 more than the Nest Thermostat E at $169. I say shockingly because Nest products are usually the most expensive around. Both of these thermostats are below the average price of a smart thermostat, which tends to be at around $200.

Personally, I’d choose the Nest Thermostat E over the ecobee3 lite for its occupancy and ambient light sensing, lower price and battery-powered installation, but the choice will really come down to what you’re looking for in a smart thermostat.

I’d go with the Nest Thermostat E if you want…

  • Battery installation: Installing the Nest Thermostat E will be a much more simple process with Nest than with ecobee.
  • Integrations with LIFX, Wemo, Logitech, etc: If you already have smart home products from these brands, you’ll enjoy syncing them up with the Nest Thermostat E.
  • Occupancy and ambient light sensing: As far as energy saving capabilities go, the Nest Thermostat E truly has it all.
  • Auto-schedule: Just use your thermostat normally for a few days and your Nest Thermostat E will program itself.

To learn more, read our full review of the Nest Thermostat E.

But go with the ecobee3 lite if you would like…

  • Hardwire installation: The advantage? You’ll never have to worry about the batteries running out.
  • Highly-rated iPhone app: The ecobee app has a 4.3 on the Apple store, over twice as high as the Nest app for iPhone.
  • Integrations with Apple HomeKit, Microsoft Cortana, etc: If you’re in the Apple or Microsoft ecosystems, you’ll be able to command the ecobee3 lite using your voice alone.

For more information, check out our full review of the ecobee3.

To see more options, check out my review of 2019’s best smart thermostats.

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner

Gabe Turner is an attorney and journalist with a passion for home tech and secure, efficient living. Since graduating from NYU Law, he has maintained a paradoxical existence of trying to live life adventurously while remaining staunchly risk-averse. He is torn by the dual desires of wanting to only be in Brooklyn writing about housing policy and smart home tech and aspiring to visit his friends scattered across the globe. Gabe believes that stable, safe communities are the cornerstone to a vibrant and healthy society, and it is this passion that brought him to contribute to Security Baron.