HomeKit Weekly: ecobee vs Nest – what is the best smart thermostat for Apple users?

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been a Nest customer for the past seven years. I put it a second-generation Nest when I built my house back in 2013, and I added a second Nest a few years later for our upstairs unit. I’ve been using the Starling Home Hub for the past six weeks to enable HomeKit support on these products, but I recently swapped out my downstairs Nest with the ecobee SmartThermostat. After a few weeks of using it, I am ready to compare them and decide which unit has the best HomeKit integration. ecobee vs. Nest: what’s the best smart thermostat?

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HomeKit Weekly is a series focused on smart home accessories, automation tips and tricks, and everything to do with Apple’s smart home framework.

Despite Nest not having native HomeKit support, it’s still an incredible thermostat. The hardware is reliable, the software helps you save money, and the iPhone app is very well executed. Outside of the lack of native HomeKit support, I have no complaints about the Nest thermostat.

ecobee vs Nest installation process

Both ecobee and Nest have thought through the installation process for customers. Both of them include easy to follow instructions that are meant for the end-user to install. In complicated setups, you still might need to hire an HVAC technician, but otherwise, if you follow their included guides, you’ll be up and running in no time.

One key difference between the two models is that ecobee requires a common wire (or the PEK module listed below) where Nest does not. You might be thinking, well, that is a benefit for Nest. In reality, it’s a bad design, though. Without a common wire, Nest does pulse charging. I know this because my upstairs unit started going offline recently. After doing some research, I found out my common wire wasn’t wired in (it was still in the wall), so the Nest was getting low on battery. This situation was happening in a time of mild weather, so the unit wasn’t running a lot. Once I got the common wire plugged in, it ran fine.

ecobee has a different design, though. If you don’t have a common wire, they require the installation of a Power Extender Kit that they include in the box for free. This PEK module will add a way for the ecobee to receive power.

Interactions with support

As luck would have it, I had extensive interactions with both Nest and ecobee support. When I was working on the low battery issue with my Nest, I talked to Nest support. The phone call was an abysmal experience. The person on the line told me my Wi-Fi was too powerful at one point, and it was overloading the Nest. He had access to my unit at the time, so he could have easily known there was no common wire.

When I was installing the ecobee, I neglected to turn the unit off outside. During the installation process, I must have crossed two of the wires, and it caused the ecobee not to boot since there was no power. I should have turned off the unit, but I just was lazy. I called ecobee support, and the person was awesome. He explained to me that I had probably shorted a fuse, and it was an easy fix. I took the cover off the unit, sent him photos via email, and he showed me exactly what to fix. A $3 fuse is all I needed to replace.

ecobee app vs Nest app

Since I have been using the Nest app for so long, it’s taken a little time to get used to the ecobee app. Both apps are very well done, but they operate in different ways. Both apps allow you to create schedules, control your app remotely, and modify settings. All in all, they are both very well done.

Actual hardware

Nest thermostat

The Nest is a circular design where the ecobee is more square-ish. I don’t have any complaints about the Nest, but I like how the ecobee model is larger and allows you to touch the screen. The larger footprint makes it easier to cover the holes from your old thermostat as well. Both models include a backplate for that purpose, but I prefer to not use it. ecobee supports playing music from Spotify and using Alexa with it, but those features aren’t of interest to me. Both units support temperature sensors, but I prefer how the Nest uses them. You can create schedules to base how the unit runs at certain times of the based on your preference. With ecobee, it pulls the data from all your sensors to create a heating and cooling schedule.

Wrap-up on ecobee vs Nest

All things considered, I prefer ecobee because of the native HomeKit integration. While I love the Starling Home Hub, I would rather have native integration if I was purchasing a thermostat today. I love being able to use HomeKit automations in the home app to create scenes that control my lights, temperature, and other aspects of my smart home set up.

If you are considering a new thermostat, and you want HomeKit integration, I highly recommend the ecobee Smart Thermostat. On the other hand, if you do prefer the design of Nest, I would have no problems recommending it with the Starling Home Hub as an add-on.

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