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The Ecobee Smart Security Starter Kit is clutter-free, super-smart, and a surprise contender for your next home alarm.
I’ve been a fan of Ecobee’s SmartThermostats for years. But when they announced they were dropping a whole smart security system, I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical. I mean, smart thermostats are one thing. But complete home security? That’s another kettle of fish entirely.
Or so I thought.
Ecobee actually got a lot right, at least enough to make their home security kits worth a serious look. This is especially true if you want your security uncluttered with both Alexa and Siri built-in integration. Ecobee also has one of the cheapest professional monitoring plans around — backed by RapidSOS, a feature I rightfully raved about when I reviewed Cove home security systems. Consequently, it’s really made me rethink what I need from a home security service.
All right, ready for home security via thermostat? Here’s my full report on Ecobee, including a complete breakdown of costs, components, and monitoring plans, and my experience installing an Ecobee Smart Security Starter kit.
FYI: Ecobee launched the world’s first smart thermostat in 2007. The story goes like this. Founder Stuard Lombard had turned his heating way down to save on bills while he was away on a vacation. When he got back, his house was a chilly 50 degrees. Next time, Lombard vowed, he’d return from vacation to a toasty home. The rest is thermostat history.1
One thing I noticed right out the gate with Ecobee was that I wasn’t going to have to worry about installing a hub or control panel like I did with practically every other top home security service I’d reviewed. Instead, I used Alexa (you can use Siri, too, or Google Assistant) to program and control my wireless security network directly through my SmartThermostat.
I’ll admit, the idea of interfacing with a thermostat was a little weird at first, and hardwiring wasn’t a piece of cake like it was with the Simplisafe equipment I tested. But over time I began to see the advantage in it: one less hub to worry about.
One thing my SmartThermostat couldn’t do, however, was keep an eye on prowlers. For that, Ecobee’s Smart Security Starter Kit ($249.99), their popular, entry-level option, gave me three sensors. Two were window- or door-mounted entry sensors, the other was a motion/occupancy sensor.
I found out pretty quickly these weren’t normal sensors. Ecobee’s SmartSensors actually paired with my SmartThermostat to automatically adjust room temperatures based on my activity. Pretty neat. Over time, I was hoping this would actually save me the 10 percent per year on energy bills the EPA claims it would.2
Finally, at $10 per month, I wasn’t going to find anything cheaper than Ecobee’s professional monitoring plans. (You can’t even swipe up a Cove monitoring subscription for ten bucks.)
Bottom line? Ecobee is certainly stripped-down and multifunctional. But is it a fully rounded security system? Not quite. For one thing, a lot of homeowners (and I’m one of them) will be looking for a quality video doorbell as a first line of defense against unwanted houseguests. At present, Ecobee can’t deliver that. The same goes for glass sensors and environmental sensors like smoke and CO detectors.
But does that make Ecobee the wrong choice? Not necessarily. Here’s why.
Did You Know: Ecobee doesn’t sell smart smoke detectors, but their SmartSensors can detect the sound a smoke detector makes when you’ve got trouble. When it hears that noise, you’ll get an alert on your smartphone.
Ecobee’s pricing is pretty straightforward. I had two choices: the Smart Security Starter Kit (on sale now for $249.99) and the Whole Home Solution ($369.99). The only difference in terms of components was an indoor camera that came with the premium Whole Home plan.
But here’s the thing. With the starter kit, I had the option of purchasing an extra camera for $99.99, bringing my final price tag up to $348.98 with the discount, or about $20 cheaper than the $369.99 Whole Home Solution!
Twenty bucks isn’t an earth-shattering saving, but every dollar counts when you’re trying to drive down household bills. So I went with the starter kit.
How does that price tag compare with other best-in-class wireless home security systems we like? At first glance, Ecobee is a little pricey. An entry-level Ring alarm (with an indoor camera) will set you back $260, for instance. You can score a camera-equipped starter Abode package for even less ($229). But remember, neither of those options give you smart AC. So if that’s what you’re shopping for, Ecobee’s higher bottom line holds its own.
Still not sure if it’s the right choice for your home? Here’s what those costs look like.
|Equipment||Smart Security Starter Kit||Whole Home Solution|
|SmartThermostat with voice control||1||1|
|SmartSensor (motion and occupancy sensor)||1||1|
|SmartSensor for doors and windows (entry, motion, and occupancy sensor)||2||2|
|SmartCamera (indoor camera)||+$99.99 per camera||1|
Pro Tip: Ecobee’s three sensors might not be enough for your house. In that case, a two-pack of extra sensors costs $79.99. This is frankly a bit higher than plenty of sensors we’ve tested. (I’ve seen entry sensors for as low as $7.50 apiece). That said, none of the other sensors I reviewed could control the temperature of my living room.
After I chose my Ecobee package, I still had one big decision to make: monitoring plan or no monitoring plan.
I went with a monitoring plan for one important reason: I couldn’t unlock its smart security features without one. Here’s what I mean.
If I wanted my SmartSensor to tell my thermostat when I’d entered the house, I was ok without a plan. But if I wanted an alert on my phone when someone else had entered the house, that required a monitoring subscription. Here are the two options I had.
|Smart Security features||Standard Plan||Complete Plan|
|Price per month||$5||$10|
|Compatible with Alexa and Siri||Yes||Yes|
|Professional monitoring with RapidSOS||No||Yes|
|Motion and entry alerts||Yes||Yes|
|30-day SmartCamera cloud storage||For one camera||For unlimited cameras|
|Automatic arm/disarm with geofencing||Yes||Yes|
|Smoke alarm detection||Yes||Yes|
|Home IQ monthly savings reports||Yes||Yes|
|Equipment warranty||3 years||3 years|
Ecobee’s Standard plan ($5 per month) is a self-monitoring option, which means you’ll get security alerts, but you’re also in charge of managing them.
Let’s take a closer look at what that means.
Say my living room SmartSensor detected suspicious movement. Instead of sharing that information with RapidSOS — a feature that only comes with Ecobee’s premium plan — I’d get an alert. If I thought I was in danger, it’d be my job to notify 911.
If you prefer hands-off security, the Standard plan comes with 30 days of cloud storage for one camera. Ecobee’s surveillance footage feature works pretty much like it does in the movies, by the way. If there’s a break-in, I’d go right to my footage, rewind the tape to the day, hour, and minute, and I’ve got my perp.
Ecobee’s Standard Plan also has a limited form of environmental hazard protection. The company doesn’t make CO or smoke sensors, but their SmartSensors are trained to recognize the “sound” of a smoke detector in distress. When they hear that noise, they’ll alert you via the company’s smartphone app. Not exactly foolproof, but a step in the right direction.
FYI: A real-time heads-up of a fire in the works could save you a huge repair bill. Cleaning up fire and smoke damage typically runs $20,000.3 While your insurer will likely eat those costs, they’ll eventually be passed on to you in the form of a higher monthly premium (not to mention the remediation and renovation headaches).
Ecobee’s premium Complete Plan ($10 monthly) builds on the Standard plan in two major ways.
First, the Complete plan comes with 24/7 professional monitoring. Granted, Ecobee doesn’t offer cellular monitoring, which we generally recommend over Wi-Fi or even a landline because it’s more reliable. (If you’re shopping for a cellular plan, check out Cove’s subscriptions. They’re cheap and deliver a comparable set of features and components.)
But Ecobee’s premium monitoring plan is backed by RapidSOS, which means first responders get faster, more detailed sensor data in emergencies. This has been proven to speed up 911 dispatch by five minutes or more.4
The other big treat you get with Ecobee’s Complete Plan is cloud storage for an unlimited number of cameras, which in their case means anything more than one.
Did You Know: RapidSOS is a digital platform used by millions of emergency services throughout the country. Their system, RapidSOS Ready, delivers precise, real-time location and sensor data to over 5,000 local public safety agencies over 350 million linked devices.
One of the ways Ecobee brings costs down is by keeping components to a minimum. While a premium ADT Smart package typically comes with seven to 12 components, with Ecobee I was looking at six, tops.
Ecobee is also the only best-in-class DIY home security system I’ve reviewed in these pages built around an Alexa-enabled thermostat.
I’m not going to beat around the bush: going from a feature-packed Vivint security hub to a talking thermometer took some getting used to. But when I thought about all the gadgets, apps, and passwords we homeowners are juggling at once to make our homes safer and greener, a little simplicity wasn’t a tough sell. The fact that Ecobee’s latest generation SmartThermostat could now handle phone calls and messaging via Siri and Alexa? Even better.
Let’s take a closer look at those upgrades and everything else the new and improved Ecobee ecosystem brings to the home security table.
Ecobee’s latest generation SmartThermostat has indeed gotten smarter. Now, I could do more than just tell Alexa to turn my heat on and off when I wanted. It actually studied my routines and suggested energy-saving changes, with a free monthly savings report thrown in!
Just be aware that if you want to talk to your SmartThermostat via Alexa, you’ll need to subscribe to one of Ecobee’s budget-monitoring plans (see above).
Occupancy sensors — built in to every Ecobee SmartSensor — also told my thermostat if I was in a room or not. If I wasn’t around, the sensors tipped the SmartThermostat to stop heating or cooling. (When I was back, they’d kick back to life.)
Homeowner’s Tip: Ecobee’s brainy approach to energy consumption goes one step further than room sensors. If you sign up for their free eco+ upgrade — and you have time-of-use rates where you live — the system will take advantage of local peak/off-peak electricity pricing, precooling or preheating rooms when demand is low.
This was all very neat. But I was looking for an alarm system that would keep my family and possessions safe from more than just high electricity bills. How did my SmartThermostat hold up there?
The same smart tech that informed Ecobee if I was in a room also told my SmartThermostat if I’d left the house. It’s called geofencing, and it worked like this.
Once I reached a specific distance from my home — 20 yards in my case — the SmartThermostat would arm my house automatically, or vice versa (disarm upon arrival). How did it know where I was? I don’t have sensors on my porch or on my forehead. Easy. It was via my smartphone, which is also where I got all my Ecobee alerts.
And that brings us to the fly in the ointment. Ecobee is really smart and the energy savings you can expect to see are very real, but for all its brains, it didn’t know how to trip my siren. In other words, if I ever got an alert I wanted to act on, I had to open the app and turn the siren on manually. Ugh!
Ok, it’s not the worst scenario if you’re on the professional monitoring plan. (RapidSOS will know what’s going on with or without a siren.) But what if I’d been on the self-monitoring plan? I don’t even want to go there. Let’s just hope the folks at Ecobee find a better solution quickly.
FYI: Ecobee isn’t the only home security system we’ve reviewed that’s a two-in-one device. The Ring Alarm Pro base station is a hub plus Wi-Fi router. Check out my take on the Ring Alarm Pro in my complete Ring Alarm review.
In the past, Ecobee’s Room Sensors were basically spies for the SmartThermostat. They’d keep an eye out for movement. If it was you and not your dog — Sorry, Fido, no AC for you — the SmartThermostat would adjust the room temperature accordingly.
The new SmartSensor doubles as both an occupancy detector and security guard. It can also do a few things the older Room Sensor couldn’t, like detecting and correcting for cold or hot pockets.
Otherwise, the SmartSensor is your standard Wi-Fi component, with no hardwiring necessary. You can set it down on any flat surface or fix it to the wall, as long as it’s within 60 feet of the SmartThermostat. Because of its 140-degree viewing range, you won’t have to mount it in a corner, which is nice.
Did You Know: Unlike ADT, a true hardwired alarm system, only Ecobee’s SmartThermostat requires wiring. The rest of their devices communicate with each other via Wi-Fi.
At first glance, Ecobee’s SmartSensor for doors and windows was your average, unassuming security sensor. I stuck the magnetic part on my window frame, and the sensor onto the window, and I was in business. (Setting up my door was just as easy.) Since I had one of the system’s two monitoring plans, I started getting motion alerts right away.
Here’s what I didn’t expect. Because Ecobee’s SmartSensor for doors and windows detects both occupancy and movement, I didn’t need a stand-alone SmartSensor in any room where I’d installed a door or window sensor. Very nice.
If you’re doing the math, that gave me a total of three rooms covered by sensors with the starter kit, which was fine for a two-week test. If I’d been considering Ecobee as a permanent solution for my home, I’d probably buy a few extra sensors.
The newer, brainier SmartSensor for doors and windows did one more thing I really liked. It knew if someone had left a window (or door) open while the heat or AC was running. If the window stayed open for five minutes, the SmartThermostat paused my HVAC system. Saving a bit on electricity was, of course, great, but finally having proof it was my kid leaving the back door open? Priceless.
Ecobee isn’t the only smart security system I’ve tested with impressive home automations, but as far as smart thermostats go, it was about the best. For more on the latest smart home automations, check out my full report on ADT or my breakdown of the younger, sleeker Vivint.
Homeowner’s Tip: Not that you’ll need them, but you can connect up to 32 sensors to your Ecobee SmartThermostat (SmartSensors and door and window sensors included).
Can you sport a smart home security system without a trustworthy video camera to match? For a lot of us, the answer is no. Typically, the place we put our security cameras is at the front door. As I mentioned up top, I didn’t get Ecobee’s video doorbell option.
But for another $99.99, I could (and did) add an Ecobee SmartCamera to my starter kit. To put that price tag into perspective, it certainly wasn’t the cheapest. Ring indoor cameras start at $59.99. Cove cams — $49.50 with the going discount — are even cheaper. But Ecobee’s indoor camera isn’t the most expensive either, especially as far as hardwired home alarms go. Indoor security cameras from Vivint, for example, retail at $199.
Now for the more important question: What did I get with my Ecobee smart cam to justify the slightly higher cost? Pretty impressive 1080p HD resolution, infrared night vision, and two-way audio, which are frankly par for the course.
If you’re really into home security cameras, you’re likely looking for a camera that can tell a pet apart from a potential intruder and divide the room into “motion zones.” Your toddler wobbling onto the couch? No alert. A six-foot human passing in front of the staircase while you’re at grandma’s? Let’s check that out.
Ecobee passed both of those tests pretty solidly. Is that enough to make me forget about my missing doorbell cam? I think it is.
Did You Know: Ecobee Smart Security is one of the few home security systems that work with Apple’s smart home platform, HomeKit.
How comfortable are you rewiring terminal blocks? Just kidding. Sort of. To get your Ecobee security system up and running, though, you will need to remove your old thermostat and rewire your new Ecobee SmartThermostat. The good news is that it shouldn’t take all that long. Even if you’ve never handled a pair of pliers in your life, I bet you can get in and out in 30 minutes.
To take the guesswork out of the installation, Ecobee has all the resources you need online. (You can find them on the company’s smartphone app, too.) If in doubt, customer support is only a chat away.
FYI: If the thought of touching HVAC wires paralyzes you, don’t chance it. Call in your electrician. The whole job won’t take more than an hour.
Ecobee Smart Security is definitely where household IoT is headed: an automated ecosystem of (mostly) wireless devices working in sync to make our houses smarter, safer, and greener. Or what else would you call a security system that can tell your AC to shut itself off when it senses your 10-year-old left the back door open again?
Ecobee’s SmartThermostat, in particular, is now in its fifth iteration and offers some great improvements. You can use your thermostat to send messages, for example, and arm and disarm your alarm automatically with geofencing.
But the system still has a ways to go in the security department.
I’d like to see an Ecobee video doorbell and some environmental sensors, for starters. Cellular monitoring would be a big improvement, too, even if it cost a few dollars more per month. But probably my biggest gripe is that even when I’m paying $10 per month for professional monitoring, I’ve still got to turn on the alarm siren myself. Ecobee should take care of that pronto.
Otherwise, for households looking for affordable home security, lower electricity bills, and one less hub in their lives, Ecobee is a serious contender.
Homeowner’s Tip: Protective devices like burglar and fire alarms and smoke and CO detectors don’t just make our homes safer, they can lower our home insurance rates substantially.
Not exactly. Ecobee rolled out Haven in late 2020. In 2021, Smart Security replaced Haven. While the core system is largely identical, Smart Security is fully Alexa- and Siri-enabled.
Ecobee isn’t bargain-basement cheap. But their $249 starter kit is par for the course for wireless, DIY security systems. Ecobee is also good value for the money if security and energy efficiency are your primary concerns.
No, you don’t. You can control your home’s temperatures and set up energy-saving routines without a monitoring plan. But you won’t get any motion alerts and you won’t be able to use Siri or Alexa, among other things.
Unfortunately, only the newer SmartSensors for Rooms have smart security features. You can pair your Room Sensors with the latest Ecobee SmartThermostat, however. They’ll help with temperature control, but they won’t give you motion alerts.
Absolutely; it’s not that tough, especially if an Ecobee customer service rep walks you through it. But if the thought of black, yellow, and red wires makes you sweat like a bomb squad, consider calling your electrician.
Ecobee. (2019, Apr 17). The Untold Story of the First Smart Thermostat. Citizen by Ecobee.
Energy.gov. (2022). Programmable Thermostats.
Insurance Information Institute. (2022). Facts + Statistics: Fire.
RapidSOS. (2022). WhyRapidSOS: Tansformative technology to save lives.