Ecobee launches a new thermostat with location-detection as its killer app

Ecobee, the Canadian company that has been making connected thermostats since 2007, has released a new thermostat that combines many of the features I think a smart home should have. the thermostat, which costs $249, is a marked change in design for Ecobee, whose previous devices and app were very data heavy and utilitarian, to something beautiful yet still smart.

The thermostat has a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen and is connected via Wi-Fi. It also comes with a sensor that you place in a room in your home, and that sensor sends the temperature in that part of the house back to the thermostat. It also conveys information about your exact location inside the house. For HVAC nerds this is cool because it can now make you more comfortable in your home, especially if your bedroom gets really hot or cold at night. The thermostat learns your habits and adjusts the temperature based on where people are in the home.

Additional sensors cost $80 for a package of two. My upstairs thermostat is in a hallway that can get pretty warm, so it’s not uncommon to see the temperatures in my study where I work all day fluctuate between 76 and 80 depending on time of day. I keep the upstairs at 78 because I live in Texas and put on a sweater when the temperature is below 75.

So for me, if I could track the temps in my study while I’m in there and keep it 78, I might be able to use a bit less A/C. That’s awesome. But even more awesome is a planned integration with If This Then That and existing SmartThings integrations for [company]Ecobee[/company]. Stuart Lombard, the co-CEO of Ecobee says that presence detected by the sensors will be shared as triggers on other platforms, which means I can now set rules in my home based on presence. That could be the killer app for this thermostat and the smart home, something we discuss on this week’s podcast.

I’ve long been an Ecobee fan (I have a cheaper Ecobee Smart SI and a [company]Nest[/company] in my home today) and I love the company’s nerdiness around weather and HVAC data as well as its commitment to openness. With the upgraded app and thermostat design I’m really hoping that other people buy in to what Ecobee has built. Its previous products were built for the HVAC distributor market, and it shows. So maybe with a designer gloss, a new app and some really awesome features, others will check out what I think is a really compelling thermostat.

I am currently trying to convince myself I need to replace my older Ecobee with this new one despite the pain of rewiring my thermostats again. I also need to convince myself that I am not insane for spending $500 on thermostats. That may take a bit longer, especially since I tend to see less savings than advertised by Nest and Ecobee simply because I already keep my AC pretty high and am home all the time.