When it comes to smart thermostats, there’s a handful to choose from, but the big three that stand out are the Nest, Ecobee3, and Honeywell Lyric. We’ve tried out all three to see which one has the upper edge, and where their features differ.
Each of these three smart thermostats is unique in its own way, so before we dive in and discuss the similarities and differences between them, here’s a brief overview of the Nest, Ecobee3, and the Lyric.
One of the more popular options when it comes to smart thermostat is the $250 Nest Thermostat, which sports a unique design from Tony Fadell, the designer of the original iPod (which the Nest is mildly reminiscent of with its spinning wheel). It’s ultimate feature, though, is the ability to learn your habits and automatically change the thermostat so that you eventually don’t have to mess with it at all.
Its user interface is also very user-friendly, and perhaps the easiest smart thermostat to install and use out of the three.
The Ecobee3 ($250) is the only smart thermostat that we know of that has a touch screen, so if you know how to use a smartphone, then controlling the thermostat will be a breeze. It also has the biggest screen out of the three thermostats, giving room for plenty of information to appear without crowding the display.
The Ecobee3 also comes with a remote sensor that you can place in another room, so if you have larger house with an upstairs, you can place the sensor there and have the thermostat use that sensor for regulating the temperature instead of the sensor that’s on the thermostat itself. There’s also a Lite model of the Ecobee3 that doesn’t come with remote sensor support, but it’s priced at just $170, making it the cheapest smart thermostat around.
The $200 Honeywell Lyric isn’t quite as popular as the above options, but its Honeywell’s attempt at creating a hip and sleek smart thermostat. It has a round shape like the Nest, and even has a similar scroll wheel–although it’s not nearly as tactile as the Nest’s fluid scroll ring.
It was also pretty easy to install, and Honeywell does a decent job of telling you where all the wires go. However, that’s where most of the pleasantries end, as the user interface is quite buggy.
What They All Have in Common
Before we get into the nitty gritty, we thought it’d be a good idea to go over what all three of these smart thermostats can do. They have their major differences, yes, but they all share the basic features of a good smart thermostat, including:
- iOS and Android support
- Control your thermostat away from home using your phone
- Setting a schedule for your A/C or heat
- Geofencing and motion detection, so it knows when you’re home (Note: The Ecobee3 uses IFTTT for geofencing) and can turn on the display when you walk by
- Amazon Echo support, so you can adjust the temperature with your voice
- Family sharing, so other household members can adjust the thermostat
- Weather forecast data, so you know what’s coming
With all that in mind, let’s look at some of the standout pros (and cons) of each.
Nest Doesn’t Have HomeKit
If you’re an iOS user, HomeKit is a feature that you might want with your smarthome products, as it makes easier to control and manage them. However, the Nest Thermostat doesn’t have HomeKit, and probably will never support it.
Nest is owned by Google, and Google is a fierce competitor with Apple. While Google has brought many of its mobile apps to iOS, the chances of Nest products getting HomeKit support are slim to none.
The good news is that the Ecobee3 and the Honeywell Lyric both have HomeKit support, so if you absolutely want HomeKit in your smart thermostat, these two are your options.
Nest Is the Easiest to Install
As mentioned earlier, I found the Nest Thermostat to be the easiest to install, mostly thanks to the Compatibility Check tool on Nest’s website, where you can enter in the wires that your thermostat setup has and Nest will tell you where each of those wires go on the Nest Thermostat itself. After that, it’s just a matter of plugging in wires.
Furthermore, setting up the Nest can be done completely on the unit itself, whereas the Honeywell Lyric required the accompanying app to get it set up. The Ecobee3, like the Nest, was able to be set up on the unit itself, which was a bit easier than the Nest thanks to its touch screen display.
However, the Ecobee3 install was the hardest out of the three, since it may require a Power Extender Kit that has to be installed on the furnace’s circuit board. This wasn’t too hard to do, and Ecobee support flawlessly guided me through the process, but it just a little annoying to have to jump through extra hoops. Luckily, not everyone needs to install the kit–it depends what HVAC system you have.
Ecobee3 Is Best for Bigger Homes
If you have a house like mine, the upstairs is always warmer than downstairs, which can be a problem if your thermostat is downstairs. Since most thermostats use the temperature sensor on the thermostat itself, it doesn’t know what the temperature is upstairs, so it can’t adequately cool your whole house.
However, the Ecobee3 has a wireless remote sensor that you can you place anywhere. In this case, it works best placed upstairs where it’s warmer. From there, you can tell your Ecobee3 to use the sensor upstairs in order to gauge whether the A/C should be running or not.
Of course, you can simply just crank up any other thermostat to compensate for the warmer upstairs region, but the Ecobee3’s remote sensor makes it precise so that you’re not wasting more energy than necessary.
Nest Has the Best User Experience
In the end, I couldn’t stop thinking about the Nest. While it doesn’t have HomeKit or remote sensors, it was the easiest smart thermostat to use. The app is really good and the scroll ring on the unit itself makes it simple and easy to operate. The user interface just looks plain good.
Plus, all of the settings available for it are accessible right from the app, whereas a handful of settings on the Ecobee3 require you to login to the web portal.
The Honeywell Lyric Is Too Buggy to Recommend
The Lyric has all of its settings right in the app as well, but it doesn’t have quite as nearly the number of features that the Nest and Ecobee3 have.
In fact, the Honeywell Lyric simply wasn’t a good experience at all. The app is fairly buggy–some changed settings reverted back to default after I saved and closed it out, and I received several error messages within just the first few days of using the thermostat. Plus, I had to reconnect it to Wi-Fi, and the first few times it wouldn’t connect at all. To be honest, I can’t recommend this thermostat at all–it may be $50 cheaper than the other two, but you’re really better off with one of the more reliable and feature-filled options.
In the end, when it comes to choosing the best one, I think it really depends on what you want out of a smart thermostat. The Nest and the Ecobee3 are easily the two worth looking at, but if you want HomeKit or remote sensors, then the Ecobee3 is the thermostat to buy. Plus, the touch screen on the Ecobee3 makes it easier and quicker to navigate through menus than most other smart thermostats. Furthermore, if you don’t need the remote sensors of the Ecobee3, as well as the smart occupancy detection, then the Ecobee3 Lite might even be a better buy at only $170.
However, the Nest has the best user interface, best app, and best experience overall, making it the right choice if you don’t need the extra features of the Ecobee3.
Title image from Noppanun/Bigstock, Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell