Ecobee builds some of our favorite smart thermostats, and now the company is rolling out a new collection of features—dubbed Eco+—that promises to make them even smarter and more energy efficient.
This new suite of machine learning and artificial intelligence routines that, among other things, enable homeowners to avoid paying more for heating and cooling in areas where utilities have implemented “time of use” pricing: higher rates when energy is most in demand.
Ecobee says Eco+ expands on an energy-conservation pilot program dubbed Peak Relief that the company has been operating in Arizona, California, and Ontario, Canada. Peak Relief monitors electricity rates, comfort preferences, the home’s energy efficiency, and the local weather forecast and instructs Ecobee thermostats to heat or cool a home to reach the desired temperature before the higher rates that come with peak energy demand kick in.
According to Ecobee, the 75,000 Ecobee thermostat owners participating in the Peak Relief trial collectively saved enough energy in three months to power 1,000 homes for a full year.
Eco+ consists of five primary features:
- Smart Home & Away: An improvement on an existing feature, Ecobee says this will enable the thermostat’s onboard motion sensor to determine when your home is occupied and when it’s vacant even faster than before, so that it’s not having your HVAC system waste energy by heating and cooling an empty house.
- Schedule Recommender: An algorithm that will analyze the schedules you’ve programmed the thermostat to follow and comparing it with temperature patterns and electricity costs to recommend small changes that can reduce your energy consumption.
- Feels Like: Low humidity levels can make temperatures feel cooler, so the thermostat will monitor your home’s humidity and automatically adjust the target temperature to reduce HVAC run time when the air is dry, so your system runs more efficiently.
- Community Energy Savings: If your utility operates a response program for those times when demand for electricity is expected to be high, your Ecobee smart thermostat and its app will display an icon during peak consumption times, so you can delay using high-energy appliances such as washing machines, clothes dryers, or dishwashers until demand has eased.
- Time of Use: This is the Eco+ pilot program described above.
The Eco+ update is available now for the most recent Ecobee model, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat with voice control, which we reviewed in June). Owners of the slightly older Ecobee 3, the Ecobee3 Lite, and the Ecobee4 will need to wait until January to get the new firmware.