Ecobee review: A Haven subscription is a must with this home security bundle – CNET

The Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle is a high-end home security and automation kit from Ecobee. At $499, it’s expensive — closest to the Nest Secure Alarm System in terms of style and price. But it’s a solid system that makes efficient use of each device and automates settings for you based on your phone’s location so you don’t have to remember to set arm or disarm modes. The system works with Alexa and Siri.

Ecobee doesn’t offer professional monitoring (yet) and you have to pay for the company’s optional Haven subscription service to use the auto-arm/disarm feature called Autopilot, as well as access the camera’s 14-day video clip storage in the Ecobee app. 

How it stacks up

Like

  • All of the devices perform multiple functions and work together to form a dynamic, multitasking system.
  • The automatic arming/disarming feature tied to my phone’s location worked reliably throughout testing.

Don’t Like

  • At $499, this kit isn’t cheap — and you have to pay a recurring monthly fee for some features that should be free.
  • It doesn’t offer professional monitoring, even if you pay the optional monthly fee for the Haven subscription service.

Still, I like this system and recommend it, especially if you want — or already have — an Ecobee thermostat or other Ecobee devices. 

The basics

Ecobee got its start making smart thermostats. Its most recent model, the SmartThermostat with voice control, is our current favorite thermostat. The SmartThermostat has a built-in Alexa speaker that also works with Google Assistant and Siri commands. 

But the company has branched out in recent years to offer a smart light switch, device accessories like ambient temperature sensors — and now home security devices

Amazon helps fund Ecobee, whose thermostats compete with Google’s Nest models.

Ecobee’s $499 Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle includes one $249 SmartThermostat with voice control, one $179 SmartCamera with voice control, two SmartSensors for doors or windows (also sold in a $79 two-pack) and three temperature SmartSensors (also sold in a $79 two-pack). All of those devices sold individually would clock in closer to $600, so you’re technically getting a deal with this home security and automation bundle. If you already have the thermostat (which comes with one SmartSensor), Ecobee does sell a Home Security Bundle for $279 with just the camera, two door or window sensors and two temperature sensors. 

If you opt to design your own system a la carte, keep in mind that you do need either the Ecobee SmartCamera or the SmartThermostat to use the SmartSensors on doors or windows. 

Like the Ecobee SmartThermostat, the SmartCamera has a built-in Alexa speaker. The system’s door and window sensors can track motion (a person walking by) as well as movement (whether the door is open or closed).

Nest’s $399 Secure Alarm System starter kit includes a keypad hub, two key fobs and two motion-and-movement-sensing door or window sensors. Nest’s keypad hub, called the Nest Guard, has a built-in Google Assistant speaker.

Despite a different combination of devices (Ecobee’s system doesn’t have a keypad and Nest’s doesn’t have a camera or doorbell, although you could scale up by adding those Nest devices), they followed a similar pattern with door and window sensors that double as motion sensors and security devices that also offer integrated voice assistants. 

Setting up the Ecobee system starts with downloading the Ecobee app and creating an account. Hit the plus sign in the top-right corner of the main screen to add each new device. Ecobee makes it easy by asking you to scan QR codes on the devices, guiding you through the process step-by-step to name your product and get it online. 

The thermostat is a bit more time consuming to install. (I go into more detail on that installation in the SmartThermostat with voice control review.) In general, if you have questions about your home’s electrical setup, consult a professional electrician before you get started — or hire an expert installer to do it for you. 

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Follow the simple steps to connect each device.

Screenshots by CNET

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The details

You can’t do much if you don’t pay for the optional Haven service. Basically, you can view the SmartCamera’s live feed — and that’s about it. 

With Haven, which starts at $5 per month for one SmartCamera (or $10 per month for multiple SmartCameras), you get 14 days of saved cloud storage clips and Autopilot, a cool feature that arms and disarms the system — and turns the camera on and off — based on the location of your phone. If you add other family members to the account, Haven will also track their location, so the system won’t arm if you leave but another family member is still at home. You also get alerts when motion is detected or a door or window is opened or closed. (Nope, that doesn’t come standard with the system unless you pay for Haven, although Ecobee tells me this will change “in the next month or so.”) 

Haven doesn’t include professional monitoring, either. It’s more of a cloud storage subscription plan that also happens to include the ability to arm and disarm the system, the auto-arm/disarm Autopilot feature and alerts. I find this combination of free versus fee-based Haven services disappointing, since the basic ability to arm or disarm a system yourself manually and alerts are typically free. 

For that reason, I wouldn’t buy these Ecobee devices unless you plan to pay for Haven. 

The devices themselves work extremely well. The motion and door and window alerts were responsive, the camera’s live feed was crisp and the temperature sensors and thermostat add an additional layer of motion detection for the rest of the system. With Autopilot enabled, the system successfully armed when I left home and disarmed when I returned. If you don’t like the auto-arming and disarming, you can adjust the settings in the app for manual arming and disarming. 

The camera’s built-in Alexa speaker doesn’t help much with the security camera-Alexa integrations, since you’d need an Alexa-enabled smart display to pull up the live video feed or have a two-way talk conversation, but it can handle the same basics as any other Alexa speaker — general questions, games, music and smart home control. 

I don’t have an Amazon-branded Alexa device to test out whether the Echo Spatial Perception (ESP) feature works with the SmartCamera, although Ecobee tells me it does have ESP. 

It’s also important to consider a company’s privacy statement and security policies before buying a device or service. You can check out Ecobee’s privacy policy here. Ecobee requires two-factor authentication for SmartCamera customers; it’s optional for everyone else.

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The verdict

The Ecobee Total Home Comfort and Security Bundle works well. I like that every device performs multiple functions, from temperature tracking to motion detection and live video streaming. The camera is well-designed, and its built-in Alexa speaker gives it more functionality than a standard security camera. I like the design of the app; it’s user-friendly and easy to add new devices. 

That said, Ecobee doesn’t offer enough free features for this system to be used as a self-installed, self-monitored system. You can’t even receive alerts or arm the system without a Haven subscription. So while Haven is technically optional in that it’s a month-to-month contract-free service, you really do need it. If that doesn’t bother you, this system might be for you. Otherwise, I’d look elsewhere. 

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