Ecobee Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle review: An underwhelming home security solution

 techhive.com  08/14/2020 10:00:00   Michael Brown

Ecobee makes the absolute best smart thermostat weve tested, and it has a pretty good home security camera. Both devices connect to sensors you can scatter around your home, and either can act as the hub for a self-monitored home security systemprovided youre willing to pay either $5 or $10 per month for Ecobees Haven service.

Okay, Haven service is not mandatory, but Ecobee doesnt have much of a security system without it, primarily because you get only real-time access to its security camera if you dont subscribe. Whats the difference between the two Haven plans? For $5 per month, you get self-monitoring and 14 days of video recording for one Ecobee Smart Camera. You get the same self-monitoring with the $10-per-month plan, but the 14 days of video recording extends to an unlimited number of Ecobee cameras.

You dont need to have any cameras to subscribe to Haven home monitoringyou can get by with just an Ecobee thermostat and a collection of occupancy and door/window sensorsbut a home security system without a camera leaves you blind. Youll know someone has opened a door or window or is moving around inside your house when its supposed to be vacant, but you wont be able to see who or what triggered the resulting alerts.

This review is part of TechHives coverage of the best smart home systems, where youll find reviews of competing products, plus a buyers guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
total home comfort and security bundle Ecobee

Left to right: Ecobees smart thermostat, room SmartSensor, smart camera, and door/window SmartSensor. Either the thermostat or the camera can be the systems hub.

Three configurations

The Total Home and Comfort and Security Bundle reviewed here costs $499 and consists of Ecobees SmartThermostat with voice control, its SmartCamera with voice control, three of its SmartSensors, and two of its SmartSensors for doors and windows. The $313 Home Comfort with Voice Control bundle consists of the thermostat and three SmartSensors, and the $279 Home Security Bundle drops the thermostat but includes the camera, two SmartSensors, and two SmartSensors for doors and windows. You can start with any bundle and add components a la carte.

Ecobees SmartSensors are one-piece devices that you mount to a wall or set atop furniture to monitor both motion and temperature. In addition to their security function, they also send ambient temperature readings to Ecobees smart thermostat and report whether a room is occupied or not. The thermostat takes those readings into account when controlling your HVAC system to reach the programmed target temperature.

Ecobees SmartSensors for doors and windows detect motion and report the state (open or closed) of the door or window theyre attached to. These are two-piece units consisting of a sensor and a magnet. When the door or window opens, the magnet separates from the sensor and triggers a message to the hub (the smart camera or thermostat).

ecobee smartsenso Ecobee

Ecobees SmartSensor for doors and windows can detect nearby motion in addition to reporting the current state of the door or window its attached to.

Depending on the systems armed state (more on that in a moment), the hub (the thermostat or the camera) will in turn send a push notification to your smartphone. In addition to these discrete sensors, the thermostat has an integrated motion and ambient temperature sensor, and the camera has an integrated motion sensor.

Its worth noting that this is not a complete smart home system: Ecobee does have a smart light switch, but it cant be integrated with any of these bundles so that motion triggers a light to come on. There are no third-party integrations for smart locks, smart bulbs, or other smart home subsystems, either.

How it works

activity alert Michael Brown / IDG

Ecobees home security system doesnt have a professional monitoring option, so you wont want to miss one of these alerts. Pushing the Play siren button is the only way to sound the alarm.

Like most home security systems, Ecobees has three states: Disarmed means no devices are monitoring motion, and the door/window sensors wont report when doors or windows are opened (you can still determine their current state by checking the app). Armed Stay means the door/window sensors are monitoring when those access points are opened, but theyre not monitoring other types of motion (so you can move about freely while youre home). Armed Away means youll be alerted when any sensor detects motion and when any monitored door or window is opened.

I wont get deep into the Ecobee Smart Cameras features, since we published an in-depth review in July (which you can read here), but youll want to know that when motion or the opening of a door or window is detected in either of the armed states, the Ecobee Smart Camera will record a two-minute video (provided you pay for a Haven plan). The forensic value of this clip will of course be determined by the intruders path through your house. If they enter the cameras field of view, great; if they dont, youll get a two-minute view of an empty room. Having more than one camera, therefore, is highly beneficial, but the existing camera is designed strictly for indoor deployments (although you can aim it out a window and disable its infrared LEDs for night vision if you want to monitor an outdoor space).

Ecobees camera and its smart thermostat both have sirens onboard. These sound like a clanging metal bell in the midrange of the frequency spectrum, with a higher-frequency electronic tone oscillating in the background. The sirens are not at all loudjust 76dB for each deviceand would at best annoy an intruder versus driving them out of the house the way a more robust siren would (not to mention possibly garnering the attention of your neighbors).

But the bigger problem with the siren is that it doesnt sound off automatically in the event of breach. Ecobee instead depends on you to push a button in the app to trigger it. So, if you dont hear the alert, or you ignore it, the intruder wont know theyve been detected and might be inclined to hang out in your house longer.

Its also worth repeating here that Ecobee Haven is a self-monitored security system. That makes it inherently more private, but one of the benefits of a professionally monitored system is that someone will notify a law-enforcement dispatcher of a potential break-in if you cant. Ring offers a professionally monitored plan for its Ring Alarm system for $10 per month, while Nest charges $29 per month ($19 per month with a three-year commitment) for professional monitoring of its Nest Secure system.

ecobee smartsensor copy Ecobee

Ecobees other SmartSensor can detect motion plus ambient temperature, which Ecobees smart thermostat will take into account.

Another shortcoming in Ecobees home security offering is the system has no entry or exit delays. Youll need to remember to disarm the system before you enter the house, and you cant arm it until youre out of the house. Better security systems give you a few seconds to enter and disarm, and arm and exit respectivelytypically while sounding a warning tonebefore the alarm siren goes off. Granted, entry and exit delays give an intruder a few more seconds to be in your home undetected, but in my experience, the convenience far outweighs the risk.

The absence of an entry/exit delay is somewhat offset by an AutoPilot feature thats supposed to arm the system when you leave and disarm it when you return, using your smartphones GPS feature. If theres more than one person in the home, AutoPilot will arm when the last person with the app on their phone leaves, and it will disarm when the first person with the app on their phone returns.

smartcamera recording Michael Brown / IDG

The Ecobee SmartCamera will focus on and track a person who enters it field of view.

I was able to get this to work for the cameratheres a privacy-enhancing geofencing feature that defaults to turning off the camera while youre home, and turning it on when you leavebut the security side of the system never armed and disarmed for me this way. Ecobee says my experience is not typical, so your mileage may vary. You can also arm and disarm the system with an Amazon Alexa voice command (youll need to set a four-digit PIN to accomplish the latter). Ecobees Google Assistant support is currently limited to its smart thermostat and light switch.

Bottom line

I havent encountered a better smart thermostat than Ecobees top-of-the-line product, and its home security system has some very good features. AutoPilotif it worksis convenient, and Ecobees sensors are top notch. But as a security system, its essentially worthless without a subscription, and Ecobee doesnt deliver a lot of value for the monthly fees it seeks to collect.

In the end, as I said of Ecobees security camera, there are strongerand more comprehensiveDIY home security systems to choose from. If security is your primary focus, Id put Ring Alarm at the top of your list, with Abode Iota a close second if you want to self-monitor.

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