Ecobee3 Lite Vs. Nest E: Which Smart Thermostat Is Better?

Brigid Levi
by Brigid Levi

Smart thermostats are a beautiful thing. But they can come with a hefty price tag, especially if you have a multi-zone HVAC system. Both Ecobee and Nest created pared-down versions of their original thermostats that are more budget-conscious.

While they don’t have all the bells and whistles of their flagship models, Ecobee3 Lite and Nest E get the job done. However, they have a few subtle differences of which buyers should be aware.

Ecobee3 Lite supports more stages of heating and cooling and comes with a PEK for homeowners without a C wire. It has Apple HomeKit capabilities. While it’s larger overall than the Nest E, it employs a touch screen and allows for manual programming.

Nest E learns your routines, programming itself over time. Similar to Ecobee3 Lite, Nest is compatible with Alexa- and Google-enabled devices and doesn’t offer humidifier support.

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Similarities at a Glance

There are several things about the Ecobee3 Lite and the Nest E that are similar.

  • Their prices are comparable and budget-friendly.
  • They support Alexa- and Google-enabled devices, allowing for voice control.
  • If your HVAC system has a humidifier, dehumidifier, and ventilator, neither thermostat can support it.
  • They come with simple DIY installation instructions.
  • Both are compatible with many third-party apps.

Differences at a Glance

Aside from their visual differences, Ecobee3 Lite and Nest E have subtle variations that might make all the difference to buyers.

  • Nest E has learning technology, adjusting itself to your routine over time.
  • Ecobee3 Lite has a touch screen display while Nest’s display is frosted glass.
  • The Lite comes with a Power Extender Kit (PEK) from homeowners without a C wire. Nest offers confusing advice about C wires, though most people find they need one for their Nest.
  • Ecobee3 Lite offers more support for multi-stage heating and cooling.
  • The Lite is compatible with Apple HomeKit. Nest is not.

Dimensions and Display

While both thermostats are lightweight, the Nest E is almost an inch smaller in all directions. However, small is a relative term. The Nest 3 is about 3 inches in diameter, and the Ecobee3 Lite is 4 inches. The screen display is where the main differences lay.

Screen Design Differences

Nest E has a watercolor-inspired frosted screen, while the Lite has a sleek, sharp, full-color display and a touch screen. Users claim the Ecobee3 Lite looks and feels more like all the other versions.

The bigger diameter of the Ecobee3 Lite means it also has a bigger screen. When it’s idle, the Lite’s screen can show the weather forecast. It displays an icon over the temperature to indicate whether it’s heating or cooling.

Compared to the Ecobee3 Lite, the Nest E screen has a slightly fuzzy resolution. But once it’s installed, you look less at the screen and more at the app. Even though it’s smaller, the Nest temperature reading is large. The Nest shows a blue temperature reading when cooling and orange when heating.

The Winner: It’s a tie. Depending on your preferences, both thermostats are comparable in size and weight, with the Lite slightly edging out the Nest in display quality.


Both the Nest E and Ecobee3 Lite include simple DIY installation instructions that get the thermostat up and running in a little as half an hour. They both require you to install the app which takes you step by step through the installation process.

Both instructions are nearly identical. However, because the Nest doesn’t have a touch screen, you must turn the ring on the thermostat to move through the display screens.

The Winner: Ecobee3 Lite is a bit more intuitive. Its touch screen makes for a faster set-up.

Learning Program

One of Nest’s most famous components is its ability to learn your routine. It remembers the times you set specific temperatures and automatically sets them after about a week. So, if you lower the temperature to 68°F at 9:00 PM as you go to bed, Nest remembers this and sets it for you.

This programming feature makes for efficient use of your HVAC system.

Ecobee doesn’t have a learning program, though it does have room sensors which can also save you money.

The Winner: Nest E gets a point for the ability to learn algorithms.

Room Sensors

Room sensors are Ecobee’s claim to efficiency. By placing these sensors in different rooms, the thermostat can read the temperature. It can also sense if someone is in the room and adjusts the temperature accordingly.

There’s a small snag, though. The Ecobee3 Lite doesn’t actually come with room sensors. You have to purchase them separately.

Rather than room sensors, Nest relies on the temperature around the thermostat and the information from the wireless connection.

The Winner: Seeing as how Nest doesn’t offer room sensors at all, the Ecobee3 Lite wins. Even though they don’t come with the thermostat, you can purchase the room sensors at any time.

C Wire

Nest offers confusing information about C wires. They say a C wire isn’t required for installation. However, many Nest users find that troubleshooting solutions often include installing a C wire.

Nest is designed to charge from the heating and cooling wires. However, some HVAC systems can’t support this, and it’s hard to tell upfront if yours will.

The biggest complaint with Nest E comes from people installing it without a C wire, hoping it works. They end up with disconnects, stability issues, and the furnace running when it shouldn’t be.

Ecobee is straightforward with buyers, telling them you absolutely need a C wire. If you don’t have one, they also include a PEK for homeowners.

The Winner: Ecobee3 Lite gives buyers no room for guessing. They even offer a solution in the form of a PEK if you don’t have a C wire.

Multi-Stage Heating and Cooling

The Ecobee3 Lite supports more stages of heating and cooling than the Nest E. This includes conventional heating or heat pump systems.

With the Nest E, you can have 2H/1C, 1H/2C, or 1H/1C but not 2H/2C. Ecobee3 Lite simultaneously supports 2 stages of heating and 2 stages of cooling.

The Winner: This may not make a difference to some, but if you have a multi-stage HVAC system, the Ecobee3 Lite is your only choice between the two.

Humidifier Support

If your HVAC system has a humidifier, dehumidifier, and ventilator, neither the Ecobee3 Lite nor the Nest E can support them. Only the full-feature versions of Ecobee and Nest support humidifiers.

There may be a way around this, though. It’s possible you have a separate switch to control the humidifier. In this case, you’ll still be able to use the humidifier but can’t control it from your smart thermostat app.

The Winner: Neither. In the case of humidifiers, both thermostats have the same effect—none.

Voice Control and Third-Party Features

The biggest draw to smart home devices is the convenience factor. The less we have to manually interact with the device the better. Both Ecobee3 Lite and Nest E are favorable in this respect.

Alexa and Google

Both thermostats are compatible with Alexa and Google Home, allowing for voice control.

Apple HomeKit

While Nest is only compatible with Google and Alexa, the Lite can also be controlled by calling on Siri.

Third-Party Programs

In addition to the above-mentioned programs, both smart thermostats are also compatible with IFTTT, wink, and SmartThings as well as a few others. But Ecobee3 Lite has the upper hand here. It works with f 75 different programs, apps, and software.

The Winner: While Nest E has many exciting program extensions, Ecobee3 Lite simply has more.

Related Questions

Is Ecobee more accurate than Nest?

Because of the room sensors, Ecobee gives a more accurate temperature reading than Nest. Ecobee may end up being slightly more energy-efficient, too. Rather than heating or cooling the whole house, Ecobee recognizes which rooms are empty and require less heat or air.

If the Nest doesn’t need a C wire, how is it powered?

Nest uses a rechargeable lithium battery which is supposed to get its charge 24/7 from the heating and cooling wires. Sometimes, though, an HVAC system can’t offer enough power to keep the battery charged.After 12-15 months of use, the Nest’s battery tends to die. The thermostat then needs to be removed from the wall and the battery taken out and charged. This means you’ll be without an HVAC system for several hours unless you have a new battery ready to go.

Which saves you more money: Ecobee or Nest?

Nest users report an average savings of 10%-12% on heating bills and 15% on cooling bills. Ecobee reports its users can save up to 23% on their energy bills.

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Summing It Up

Both Ecobee3 Lite and Nest E have wonderful features. And considering they are the pared-down versions of their predecessors, they offer a lot without costing a lot.

Our findings show Ecobee3 Lite slightly edges out Nest E as the better product. The Lite is more user-friendly and intuitive with many third-party features. It can support multi-stage HVAC systems better than Nest. And although the rooms sensors aren’t included, they can be purchased separately to ensure more accurate temperature readings.

Brigid Levi
Brigid Levi

Brigid Levi is a wife, mother, and freelance writer who enjoys a good DIY project and creating beautiful spaces within her home. From cleaning and organization hacks to home decor ideas, she loves helping people in their quest to turn a house into a home. Her hobbies include pretending to be Joanna Gaines while updating her home with her husband and performing in local theater productions.

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