Since moving through the somewhat painful process of hooking up Toronto-based ecobee’s latest thermostat, the ecobee3, to my rental condo’s air conditioner and furnace, I’ve been astounded by how much money the Wi-Fi enabled device has managed to save me on my monthly utility bill.
On average — in the summer months the benefits are even more apparent — the ecobee3 has saved me approximately $20 to $25 on each bill over the now disconnected Honeywell ‘dumb’ thermostat I used prior to this. The ability to wirelessly change temperature on the go, as well as the ecobee3 adjusting temperature in accordance with real-world weather conditions, are significant factors related to why the smart device has saved me a surprising amount of money.
So let’s get into it; here’s how the $299 ecobee3 is saving me money.
Somewhat painful setup process
The condo I’m currently living in doesn’t feature a furnace/air conditioner unit that includes a c-wire (common wire), a special connection with the ability to power a high-end thermostat like the ecobee3 or Nest. This resulted in the process of hooking up the ecobee3 becoming considerably more difficult than I initially expected. Most older thermostats don’t come equipped with a c-wire, which makes setting up the ecobee3 a stressful experience depending on how comfortable you are playing around with your furnace/air conditioner’s insides.
After uninstalling my Honeywell thermostat, which required removing two screws and popping out a collection of wires, I quickly realized I was about to experience a nightmare of difficulties (see the photo above). The backing of the ecobee3 is the first thing that needs to be attached to the wall and is thankfully labelled very clearly, but that wasn’t going to help me.
Things started to become difficult when it came to figuring out exactly what wire goes where. Cords can be labelled with included stickers, but generally, matching colours with corresponding plugs is the best course of action. In my case, however, because my condo lacks a c-wire (as I stated earlier), I was forced to utilize ecobee’s Power Extender Kit, which comes included with the ecobee3.
Thankfully there are simple video guides created by ecobee designed to make this process as painless as possible. However, there’s no getting around the fact that removing a furnace’s control panel and playing around with its wiring is a little scary. Because of this, some people may opt to hire a professional to install the ecobee3 if they run into similar c-wire issues.
On a very basic level, you unhook your current thermostat from the furnace/air conditioner, label the corresponding wires once again with included stickers, match the cables to the extender kit, then plug the extender kit into your thermostat, replacing the old one, bypassing the power problem and retrofitting your heating and cooling device for ecobee compatibility.
While I did eventually get the ecobee3 up and running, the process took a great deal of trial and error due to the fact that my furnace featured more wires than the demonstration in the company’s YouTube video and included written manual.
It’s also worth noting that I set up three different sensors in my apartment. One in my living room, one in my bedroom and finally, even one in my kitchen, all with the the ecobee3 located in the centre of my home. This lets the device detect temperature more accurately and according to ecobee, allows for intelligent heating and cooling of my home. Since I live in a relatively small space, three sensors is overkill, but those with big homes will definitely want to pick up a few sensors.
Let the fun begin
Now that I’ve told you how difficult it is to set up the ecobee3, at least in some cases, it’s time to delve into how the device actually manages to save me money on my utility bill.
Since the ecobee3 is a smart thermostat, it can be controlled from any iOS or Android device, as well as via Homekit, and my personal favourite smart home connecting product, Amazon’s Echo (it also works with the Apple Watch). Through the Echo, as well as Homekit, you can say audible commands that will either increase of decrease the ecobee’s temperature. While talking to your thermostat feels inherently silly in some situations, it’s also undeniably cool.
In general, I opt to maintain the ecobee3’s standard heating and air conditioning target temperatures, as they seem to fit well with my life. When it makes sense, however, for example when I’m watching a movie or about to go to sleep, I’ll often alter the temperature settings to be slightly cooler than normal. In fact, I actually have a temperature setting that makes my apartment a few degrees colder at 10:30 every night, just as I’m going to sleep.
In the hot summer months after fighting crowds on the sweltering Toronto streetcar, I often prefer my apartment to be chilly when I get home. With the ecobee3 I’m able to pump up the temperature 15 minutes away from my apartment, ensuring I’ll cool down in its icey cold temperatures as soon as I get home. Likewise, if I happen to forget to turn off the air conditioning when I step out, or even if I’m away on a work trip for a few days, I can always turn it off again from my phone, where ever I have a data connection.
This is where the money saving comes into play as far as my use case for the ecobee3 goes. I can alter the Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat’s temperature settings to my liking in a convienent, simple way, which means I do so far more often than I would with a regular thermostat.
So while the ecobee3’s setup process was difficult, the payoff and the amount of money I’ve saved over the last few weeks is more than worth the $300 price of the Canadian-developed device.
Come to think of it, in just a few months, the ecobee3 will have almost paid for itself.
Note: I have not used Google’s Nest Wi-Fi thermostat before but my understanding is it has comparable features to the ecobee3.