ecobee3 Room Sensors #FAIL

The ecobee 3 Smart Thermostat the coolest thermostat since the last cool thermostat? via ecobee.com
The ecobee 3 Smart Thermostat the coolest thermostat since the last cool thermostat? via ecobee.com

The ecobee3 was launched with massive fan fare this year and since than it has drummed up positive press from just about every major tech blog.

Although the nerds just now figured out who ecobee is ecobee is the father of smart thermostats and their HomeIQ heating algorithm is the Mercedes Benz of heating / cooling algorithms which can mean significant energy savings.

The praise on ecobee for the new ecobee3 is well deserved but as cool as the ecobee3 is one feature in particular, the remote wireless sensors is being misunderstood.

My home has really hot spots and really cold spots and at times my upstairs bedroom is almost unlivable. Despite what online bloggers are saying the ecobee3 remote sensors will not properly solve this problem and even when they do could be at a cost.

For those not familiar here is how the ecobee3 remote sensors work;

The ecobee3 smarter wi-fi thermostat and remote sensors measure temperatures in multiple locations to address hot and cold spots in the home and deliver comfort in the rooms that matter most.

In addition, working with its remote sensors, the ecobee3 recognizes which rooms are occupied and automatically adjusts the temperature based on the readings in those rooms.  If you have a change in schedule and you leave your home, the sensors will recognize this and prevent your heating and cooling systems from running unnecessarily when your home is empty. The more sensors you add, the smarter your ecobee3 becomes at delivering comfort where it matters and savings where it counts. [ via ecobee ]

If you were to install the sensors into various rooms in your home it will give you a great idea of the operative temperature in your home but if you have an incredibly cold / hot room these little sensors are not always going to be the solution.

Why is my Bedroom Cold in the winter hot in the summer?

In my own case my upstairs bedroom is freezing in the winter and hot in the summer because the ductwork in my home is the punch line of a really bad joke. Added to that very poor insulation in my attic is causing BTU’s to aggressively evacuate my home when I need them.

My bedroom also has lots of glass which causes infiltration, heat loss and solar gain issues. Combine all these things and you have a heating/cooling nightmare.

The possible fixes for my bedroom heating/cooling fiasco are;

  1. Install proper ductwork which requires me ripping out walls and ceilings which frankly is a non starter.
  2. Install a secondary heating system in the room like REHAU radiant floor heating or a JAGA hot water radiator
  3. Rip out the walls and upgrade my insulation and replace my windows.
  4. Zone my house. By zoning my home I can shut off the heating/cooling runs that feed my other rooms and push the heating and cooling into the rooms that need it. This one also requires ripping out the walls. ( Update: Now with the new product ecovent I can do it without disturbing my house at all so this is the definite best answer ) 
  5. Use a Smoke Pencil to locate and fix any window drafts in my bedroom is also a great and really low cost method to at least find the leaks and fix them with weather stripping.

Wait why can’t the ecobee 3 sensors fix the cold room?

The ecobee3 remote sensors will absolutely fix a cold or hot room but at what cost?

If I put an ecobee3 remote sensor into my cold bedroom in the winter it is going to tell my ecobee3 to run longer to heat that room. The problem is the sensor can not change the fact I have horrible ductwork and minimal air flow in the room. What potentially happens is three things;

  1. The cold bedroom becomes more comfortable thanks to my remote sensor which is a great thing.
  2. The rest of my house potentially could get over heated because the thermostat is trying to heat my bedroom and has no ability to stop other rooms from over heating.
  3. My Heating bill could go up.

The point here is not that the ecobee3 sensors are a #FAIL but rather some people’s understanding of what they do is. Yes the ecobee3 can try to make rooms more comfortable but it has no dampers to shut off the heat to rooms that do not need them. So while your ecobee3 remote sensor is telling the thermostat to crank out heat to a poorly ducted bedroom the rest of your home can potentially get overheated.

So How does the ecobee3 deliver comfort where it matters most?

The ecobee3 does not have a design flaw and again the #fail is not the ecobee or the sensors it is our understanding of how they work. When used properly they can do magical things like improve my overal comfort. it comes down to people not understanding its use.

In my own home the thermostat was installed in a small room, against a cold outside wall so it is constantly trying to heat my house and doing it very poorly.

For me putting an ecobee3 Remote Sensor into my living room and kitchen on the main floor improved the thermal comfort in my house because the ecobee is doing a temperature average across two common living spaces not an empty room that I do not use.

Final Thoughts on ecobee3 Remote Sensors.

The ecobee3 sensors offer a great way for homeowners to make their homes more comfortable. At the end of the day this is why the ecobee sensors are a #winner. Homeowners want comfort in their homes and the ecobee remote sensors when used properly can improve your overall comfort in this overly cold and hot spots in your room.

This post is in no way saying the ecobee3 remote sensors are not any good. Read that line twice so it sinks in. I am a huge fan of ecobee, their founder is a class act and their team is one of the best in this industry. The ecobee3 Sensor #FAIL is not on ecobee it is on people trying to use them incorrectly.

If you want to improve comfort in a room at any cost they will do it at the expense of running your furnace or air conditioner for a bit longer or alot longer depending on where you put them and how you use them.

The ecobee3 remote sensors enable you to improve the comfort in your home but they are not a replacement for zoning. If you have poorly insulated rooms, shoddy ductwork or an issue with your heating system putting a sensor in one of the impacted rooms may increase comfort in that room but understand how it could hamper comfort in other rooms and how that might look on your next gas/hydro bill.

The ecobee3 is fantastic and I encourage anyone looking for a smart thermostat to pick one up but recognize it is not a zoning system. One way that you can really take advantage of the ecobee3 remote sensors is to combat Solar Gain in rooms where lots of glass results in over heating.

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8 Comments

  1. I know this is old but you are being dishonest with your review.
    You state “This post is in no way saying the ecobee3 remote sensors are ‘no good’ or ‘dissing’ ecobee.”
    Then when you read the headline it states
    “ECOBEE3 ROOM SENSORS #FAIL”

    Ecobee never states that this is a zoning system on the site, the only thing they state is that it regulates room temperature between rooms, OR by motion in each room.
    It sounds like your room barely has any Heat/AC at all and you expected this product to…. what… fix your ducting issues?

    I have a house where my son’s room is the coldest room in the house and ecobee has been great at keeping the temp at 71 during sleep mode. Yes some of the other rooms get a bit warmer but not significantly.

    We also use the follow me feature.
    When we are home it takes the motion based on the room into consideration and only bases the average heating/cooling temperature based on those room.

    Great product.

    1. Completely agree. The ecobee remote sensors are a great product when used and understood properly.

      I have many conversations with people who do not understand their application and this blog post was derived from personal experience of putting a sensor in a room that was so shoddy that my other rooms got so hot my children were sweating to death.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback! Sorry you took this as a slap in the face to ecobee and their killer product. It was not intended that way.

  2. Are you able to set up the system so that when the remote sensor differs from the thermostat sensor, the system will only run the fan in order to even everything out?

  3. Boy does this author miss the point. Ecobee3 never claims to solve this problem only address it and address awesomely it does for sure. The one and free solution to this misguided authors problem is adjusting the duct air flow valves so you can balance each rooms supply of heat or cold throughout the year…I doothis every spring and fall and its free!

    1. Adam, thanks for your comments. The issue is not the intent ecobee has for the sensors it is how they are being applied and misunderstood by lay people.

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