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Ecobee’s Thermostats are Getting Artificial Intelligence, But Not Like Nest

A young woman walking down a set of stairs next to an Ecobee thermostat

One of the significant differences between Ecobee’s Smart Thermostats and Nest’s Learning Thermostats is the “learning” aspect. Nest tries to learn your schedule and adjust intelligently. Ecobee doesn’t. But now, it is getting a lot smarter—just in a different way.

Ecobee Was a “Dumb” Smart Thermostat

Ecobee differentiates its thermostats from Nest through multiple deliberate choices. The company has always focused on external temperature sensors and unlike Nest includes one with its smart thermostats. The company also strives to match the user interface of the thermostat to the Ecobee app (for iOS and Android), which makes it simple and intuitive to use.

And where Nest tries to do all the environmental work for you, Ecobee wants you to be in total control. You can set schedules, and there are a “home and away” modes to conserve energy when no one is home, but even that’s very conservative.

Until today, for instance, it wouldn’t move to away mode unless the thermostat sensors didn’t detect a person for two hours. Beyond that, if you didn’t make a change, Ecobee didn’t either.

Ecobee’s New A.I. Engine

An Ecobee thermostat and two temperature sensors floating over a green background.

Today, Ecobee is changing that with a free new A.I. (artificial intelligence) feature, although it isn’t going down the same route as Nest. Ecobee calls its new A.I. engine eco+, and the company says the update will hit its latest thermostat, the SmartThermostat, today, and roll out to Ecobee 4 and other models later this year.

Eco+ includes several new optional capabilities :

  • “Smarter Home and Away” will improve the current Home and Away modes by reducing the time to switch from two hours to one.
  • A new “Schedule Reminder” function will examine your schedule and compare it to home occupancy during those times. Then it will suggest changes based on its findings, but not make those changes. You retain control.
  • With a new “Feels Like” feature enabled, eco+ will measure the humidity in your home and adjust temperatures to run the system less when air is dry. The primary thought is when humidity is low, your home will feel cooler, so adjusting can save you money.
  • If your utility offers a partner program to reduce electricity usage during peaks, eco+ can now work with it through its “Time of Use” feature. Time of Use will preheat or precool your home when energy costs less, and reduce usage during peaks when electricity costs are at their highest. The thermostat will also display an icon to inform you when peak times are in force so you can avoid running other electric intensive appliances, like your dishwasher.
  • Eco+ also includes a “Community Energy Savings” that works with participating utilities to make small adjustments to your thermostats to help avoid brownouts during peak times.

Every one of these features is optional, and you turn them on or off independently. Each option includes a slider so you can adjust how aggressively it works. You can choose from five levels, with the fifth level introducing the most changes and potentially saving the most energy.

Ecobee says eco+ is free for all users, and it doesn’t have any plans to introduce any paid subscriptions or paid features in the future.

[via The Verge]

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson is the Editor in Chief of Review Geek and is responsible for the site's content direction. He has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smart home enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code. Read Full Bio »