Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’re already aware of the rising popularity of voice assistants in our daily lives. Our smart phones provide this via “OK Google” or “Hey, Siri” for Apple. Additionally, Amazon has been pushing their Echo devices with “Alexa” quite heavily. Recently I upgraded my thermostat to a new device that adds the latter, baked right in. Here are my testing results.
Prior to upgrading my thermostat to the new Ecobee4 I had already been using their prior device, the Ecobee3. To read more about my thoughts on that device and how it compares to others in the market, check out my full review here. It remains my favorite smart thermostat on the market today. That was, until the new one arrived.
SETUP & PHOTOS
Installation of this unit mimics that of pretty much all the smart thermostat devices on the market today. You get a step-by-step instruction booklet with the device, labels for your wires as you remove them from your old device, and so forth. With the Ecobee4 there have been some improvements, such as a smaller footprint on the wall, slightly easier wire system, and a nicer level.
See my prior review as well as the photo gallery below for more setup details.
At the tail end of the setup, you are given a chance to setup the Amazon Echo features. I’ll spend more time in the next section talking about how those features work but for now I’ll address the setup just a bit. Simply put, you just enter your Amazon login credentials and you’re done! It truly is just that simple.
Likewise, same as with the Ecobee3 that I had been using, the new Ecobee4 integrates with your smart home system. Not only does it link up to your Apple HomeKit, which is still my preferred platform, the new Ecobee4 also continues to work with the Wink Hub platform, which offers some of the broadest hardware compatibility on the market today.
In other words- no matter whether your smart home is just getting going, or you plan to upgrade in the future, the Ecobee4 makes for a great unit, since it works with just about everything else out there. And like before, it allows for remote sensors, helping to maximize your comfort no matter how small or large your home. And for those curious, yes the same sensors on the prior version work with the new version, so you don’t have to replace those!
Again my prior testing talked about the automatic room follow features, and all the other bullet points that make the Ecobee4 my top-pick in this category. But here, they’ve added voice assistance. So check out the photos below, then keep scrolling to learn more about how Alexa/Echo works, plus some videos!
Click on thumbnails below for larger images
USING ALEXA & VIDEOS
If you’ve used an Amazon Echo before, then use of the Ecobee4 will be extremely similar. However, the first thing we quickly learned is that, unlike the standard Echo devices, this one is a slight bit slower. Not so much with parsing the data as much as just the first listening of your voice. Where with the standard Echo you can rattle of the Alexa name, immediately followed with a command– the Ecobee4 does better if you say Alexa, wait for the confirmation beep that she heard you, and then speak your request.
This isn’t to say that you have to wait– we simply found the results were better and more accurate this way. If you say something like “Alexa, what time is it” (with no real pause) it works 95% of the time since the word “what” is a bit of a filler. But if you quickly rattled “Alexa, play jazz music” and she missed the word “play” then she might say “I’m not sure I understand” or similar.
Here is a video without any pause, where I ask for the weather, but she works fine:
It is definitely worth noting that if you have an Ecobee3 device, and you already own any sort of Amazon Echo device, you can use the Echo to solicit changes to your thermostat. What the Ecobee4 does it actually places the microphone & speaker right into your thermostat. This allows people who don’t already have an Echo to suddenly have one, helping consolidate technology into a single vessel. And in that regard, we LOVE it!
You can disable the microphone on the Ecobee4 if you desire. You can also tweak the volume to fit your space. And, should you desire it, you could trigger Alexa simply by using the on-screen display, rather than saying “Alexa” aloud. I’m not sure why you would want to do that last thing, but hey… nice feature to have I suppose!
What this whole Echo addition does though is brings a whole range of features to your wall mounted thermostat that it never had before. Suddenly you can ask your Ecobee4 how many ounces are in a gallon, or what is on your task list or calendar. Check out this Amazon page for many of those cool features.
For me the BEST thing that the Echo integration does is home automation. We have scenes at our home for dinner, watching TV, lounging, you name it. And although I primarily use HomeKit and my Apple/Siri devices for that, I’ve created redundancy in the Amazon cloud for these features. Here is an example of me setting our “lounge” scene. In this case I had to use some fancy footwork to make things work:
What you’re seeing occur here is IFTTT, but if you have a Wink Hub this could occur even easier. In my case IF does the job I want by a scene/trigger, which allows both my Philips Hue color bulbs, as well as my Lutron Caseta light switches, to all adjust to the desired color & brightness. Latency isn’t bad, either!
Another point worth making here is how two Amazon Echo devices work within the same range. If they are both genuine Amazon hardware, they are usually smart enough to cancel each other out, using only the device which is most near to your voice. However, in this case, that function doesn’t work quite as nicely. This meant that our Echo DOT would often try to reply to commands the same time the Ecobee4 did, too. But what this ended up doing was allowing us to move the DOT further away, and gave the Ecobee4 the main floor. As a matter of fact, the Alexa features on the Ecobee4 work nicely, even “around the corner” on the same floor.
Having now had a few weeks to play around with the Ecobee4 it has become quite obvious to us that this unit will help a lot of people delve deeper into a smart home. For many of my friends they can justify a smart thermostat, but wouldn’t spend $50-200 for a voice assistance. But those who make the plunge for the Echo have always been very happy they did!
Prior to the Ecobee4 we already have an Amazon Echo in our kitchen. For us this allowed us to consolidate devices, and move the DOT elsewhere in our home. My wife loves using the timer on the device when she is cooking around the corner. For me, I find using it for home automation (turning on/off lights, for example) is my primary use. And my daughter, she loves to ask Alexa random trivia questions!
If you haven’t already made a smart thermostat purchase, now is the time to make that happen. There has never been a better device that can help save you money on your HVAC system, while also adding function and usefulness to your life. Enjoy!