Smart Home Consultation: Why Amazon, Not Apple, Will Win the Home Automation Game

Amazon’s Smart Home Consultation will help Amazon win the home automation game. Here’s proof that your home will be run by Alexa, on Amazon devices, in the next couple of years.

Amazon recently launched the ability to schedule a Smart Home Consultation (you may be able to schedule one for free by clicking here).This strengthens the argument that Amazon is trying to own the home automation game.

Amazon Smart Home Consultation

On the surface, the 45-minute consultation includes:

  • A personalized recommendation on setting up your smart home from a trained Amazon employee
  • A wifi assessment to identify and troubleshoot any issues
  • A demo of “popular smart home products”

But looking deeper, you can see that this is a very deliberate way for Amazon to position itself as the power player in the home automation market.

Echo Was Just the First Step

Amazon Echo and Echo Dot

Do you know anyone who didn’t get an Echo or Echo Dot recently? An estimated ten millino people already have one.

I use mine daily to read me the news and play music (and when I’m feeling super lazy, even change the temperature).

However, if you would have asked me six months ago, I would have told you that you’re crazy. I would have said that there’s no way Amazon will create a virtual assistant that’s any good, and that Apple is going to win this battle.

Boy, was I wrong.

I Was (Am?) an Apple Fanboy

Apple iPhone iPad Macbook

When I started designing my smart home, I was determined to only install products that worked with HomeKit. My wife and I have iPhones and Macs, we have an Apple TV, and we use iTunes and iCloud. We even have an Airport Express.

If Apple ever made a TV, I’d most likely consider buying it.

I assumed that Apple was the strong player, with a strong hardware userbase, and that they would figure out how to make the connected home easy for the common man.

But HomeKit Failed Me Right Off the Bat

Ecobee Screen

The first device I installed was the ecobee3 smart thermostat. I picked it primarily because it had the ability to use remote sensors, but also because it would connect with Apple HomeKit.

Read: Ecobee3 Installation (The Easy Way)

I was so excited to get my ecobee3 thermostat up and running, but I was even more excited to show my wife that we can ask for, and change, the temperature by talking to our phones.

From the very beginning, I had problems getting my ccobee3 to appear in HomeKit.

One thermostat would never register correctly. Remote sensors wouldn’t respond.

Not to mention that Siri takes forever to react.

This wasn’t Ecobee’s fault – it was Apple’s. HomeKit failed me.

Alexa Worked Immediately, Which is Surprising. But Should It Be?

Amazon Kindle

On the contrary, making my ecobee3 to work with Alexa took a couple of taps.

And that’s it.

Alexa just feels like magic. If you’ve ever used it for more than music, you probably feel the same way. (And if you’ve used Alexa for music, you probably feel the same way, too.)

I’m legitimately surprised that Amazon put out hardware of this caliber since the relative failure of the Amazon Fire Phone wasn’t that long ago.

But then I thought about all the products that Amazon has done a great job building and selling:

Each of these are some of the best-reviewed in their market (the Paperwhite has a 4.5 star rating with 37,000 reviews!).

And each of them are the lowest priced device in the market.

Amazon makes high-quality, inexpensive items that people love. It shouldn’t surprise us that Amazon can build hardware.

So Let’s Stop Being Surprised That Amazon Nailed Product Market Fit for Alexa

Amazon Devices

I think Amazon is going to win this battle because it’s great at building products.

Think about it. There are so many things that Amazon has executed on really well:

Amazon has seemingly figured out how to get an always-on speaker in homes without creeping people out. It’s stylish, it’s powerful, and maybe most importantly, it’s cheap.

Amazon has nailed product-market-fit with Alexa, and made it work before home automation hit mainstream.

Siri Won’t Win the Smart Home

Their biggest home automation threat is from Apple HomeKit. But HomeKit isn’t ready for prime time yet:

  • The HomeKit interface is clunky. As an example, I set up some aspects of my Ecobee in the Ecobee app, and some in the Home app. But I couldn’t tell you which settings are supposed to happen where. The exact same thing happens with my Lutron Caseta lights. I have given up on using the Home app.
  • Apple requires specific hardware. Manufacturers who want to create a HomeKit product are required to use special HomeKit chips priced up to $2, along with specific WiFi and Bluetooth chips. Those devices just got $2 more expensive to be included in a more clunky interface.
  • Apple requires manufacturing in specific factories. HomeKit devices have to be made in factories designated by Apple to be MFi Manufacturing Licensees (see the entire list of MFi Manufacturing Licensees here). The device creator loses a significant amount of control over the manufacturing of their own product.
  • Apple requires final approval. HomeKit devices then have to be sent to Cupertino for rigorous testing, a process that can take three to five months and must be conducted in secret. Now, the manufacturer gets even less control over time-to-market. Apple has a history of rejecting iOS apps with little-to-no explanation. This may be a deal breaker for new manufacturers.

The Amazon Smart Home Consultation Will Help Amazon Dominate the Smart Home Market

Amazon’s Smart Home Consultation is proving that they will go deep on home automation. And I think they’ll do great.

  • The Smart Home Consultation will reduce the mental barrier of what a “smart home” is. There’s a lot of confusion around what a smart home is. Having a friendly person visit your home to answer questions is one way of overcoming that barrier.
  • The Smart Home Consultation will allow Amazon to get a better understanding of the current smart home and automation landscape. I would even bet that these consultants work on the Amazon product team.
  • Alexa’s interface is as simple as is possible. You control Alexa with just your voice. No UI, no fingers, no colors or fonts. You talk to Alexa, and she takes action.
  • To integrate with Alexa, you simply write software. Amazon makes it easy to create and run software on Alexa.
  • Simple hardware integration. If you’re a device manufacturer, you can use whatever hardware you want, built wherever you want, as long as it can connect to the Internet. You don’t need Amazon to approve it – you just need people to buy it.

Amazon’s Next Move: Alexa-Branded Smart Home Hardware

Alexa Devices

And when they do go deep on home automation, they’re going to build their own home automation hardware that uses Alexa as a hub.

  • People are comfortable with Amazon in their home. Amazon is not considered creepy.
  • The software works, and people love it. There are more than 8 million Alexa items in homes today.
  • Smart home and wifi devices are becoming available on white-label sites like Alibaba. This shows that manufacturing these devices is cheap and plentiful.
  • Amazon has experience selling and shipping their own white-label products. Amazon Basics works for them.

The writing is on the wall.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Amazon (or Alexa) branded sensors, light switches, light bulbs and electrical outlets on sale in 2018. Maybe cameras and thermostats in 2019.

See if you can get a free Smart Home Consultation by visiting the Amazon site here.

SOLVED: Ecobee Displays Weather Unavailable and Sad Cloud- How Do I Get Weather Information on My Ecobee?

Are you wondering why your Ecobee3 shows a sad cloud and “Weather Unavailable”? Why doesn’t my Ecobee3 display weather information? Read below to find out how to fix this bug.

Ecobee Weather Forecast

When an Ecobee3 thermostat knows your location, it will display the current temperature and a local forecast on your thermostat screen. Additionally, your Ecobee will be smart enough to include the indoor and outdoor temperature as part of the Home IQ reporting. This makes your home heating and cooling system smarter, which will lower your energy bills.

So, when I didn’t see any weather information after installing my first Ecobee3 thermostat, I was worried that it had been installed incorrectly.

Are you seeing a sad cloud on your thermostat screen, instead of the weather? There’s good news: I figured out how to fix it the Ecobee weather bug! (And it’s not your fault)

I’m sure that this fix works because I have weather on my Ecobee3 thermostat. And I know that it’s not your fault because I  had to repeat the process on my second Ecobee3 installation.

When I originally set up my Ecobee, I was asked for a location. I entered my location and completed installation, but my Ecobee still wasn’t showing weather information.

I tried unplugging my thermostat from the wall and reconnecting it, but I still didn’t see the weather. I even completely re-installed my thermostat, and removed it from HomeKit. But I was still seeing a sad cloud on my Ecobee3 screen or in the Ecobee portal.

So, I was stumped. How can I get the weather on my Ecobee3 thermostat?

Ecobee Screen

Here’s how to add weather information to your Ecobee3 thermostat:

The reason this bug exists is because Ecobee accepts this location but doesn’t store it correctly!

Here’s how you can get weather information  to display on your Ecobee screen and Ecobee Home IQ reporting:

  1. Login to the ecobee portal on your computer
    Ecobee Portal
  2. Click on the thermostat that’s not displaying the weather correctly
    Installed Ecobee3 Thermostats
  3. Click the “Settings” tile
    Ecobee Settings
  4. Click “Location” on the left menu
    Ecobee Click Location
  5. Clear out any location information that’s already there and re-enter your address. Be sure to enter your zip code.
  6. Click “save”. You should see the map update with your current location:
    Ecobee Location Settings
  7. Your location is now set! The sad cloud should be replaced with actual weather information on your Ecobee screen within a few minutes.

Read Next:

All Wifi Thermostats – 2017 Edition

All wifi thermostats let you control your home’s heating and cooling system remotely. And while most thermostat manufacturers provide iPhone or Android apps to control the thermostat, some even give you the ability to set schedules and monitor temperature through a web browser.

You can’t go wrong by upgrading your existing thermostat with one from our complete list of wifi thermostats. Below, is the name of every wifi thermostat.

Device NamePriceWorks With AlexaWorks With HomeKitDetails
Honeywell Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, Touchscreen$169.41This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Nest Learning Thermostat, 3rd Generation$249.00This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Ecobee3 Thermostat with Sensor, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation$228.62This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi, UP500W$112.97This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi$133.54This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Ecobee3 Lite Thermostat, Wi-Fi$159.12This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Honeywell TH9320WF5003 Wi-Fi 9000 Color Touch Screen Programmable Thermostat$163.87See It
Honeywell RTH6580WF Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Thermostat$85.14See It
Honeywell Lyric Thermostat, Wi-Fi, 2nd Generation$148.31This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat with Voice Control$180.24See It
Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation$219.99See It
Ecobee Smart Thermostat 4 Heat-2 Cool with Full Color Touch Screen$288.08See It
Lyric T5 Wi-Fi Thermostat$148.95This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Ecobee Smart Si Thermostat 2 Heat-2 Cool with Full Color NON-Touch Screen$144.79See It
iDevices Thermostat, Wi-Fi$105.95This Device Works With AlexaSee It
First Alert THERM-500 Onelink Wi-Fi Touchscreen Smart Thermostat$229.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
Honeywell Wi-Fi 7-Day Programmable Touchscreen Thermostat$124.99See It
Tado Smart Air Conditioner and Heater Controller, Wi-Fi$129.99This Device Works With AlexaSee It
iDevices Thermostat$303.26This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Elgato Eve Weather, Wireless Outdoor Sensor$49.95This Device Works With Apple HomeKitSee It
Sensi Smart Thermostat, Wi-Fi$119.05This Device Works With AlexaSee It

Have an addition, subtraction or edit to this list? Please let me know!

Read Next: Ecobee3 Installation (The Easy Way)

Ecobee3 Installation (The Easy Way)

You can install an Ecobee3 thermostat in less than 15 minutes. This guide will walk you through installing your new thermostat, and includes three Pro Tips that Ecobee didn’t include in the installation guide.

Installing a thermostat sounds like a complex job, but it’s not. I will show you that the Ecobee3 installation is not hard, especially if you follow this guide.

Before You Start Installation

This is a simple job, so you’ll need some simple tools:

For Quick Ecobee3 Installation, You Need a Screwdriver and a Drill

  • Phillips head screwdriver to mount and unmount the trim plates from the wall
  • 3/16″ drill bit and drill to drill holes for your new trim plate

Step 1: Kill the Power

We’re dealing with electricity, so let’s play it safe. You also don’t want to accidentally short out your new thermostat or your furnace.

Before Ecobee3 Installation, Turn Off the Power

Find the main breaker box for your home. This could be in the basement or garage, and has many black breaker switches. Identify the switch that controls the power to your furnace or HVAC system and flip it to the off position.

Confirm that you’ve successfully cut the power to your thermostat by looking at your HVAC system (it should be quiet), or by checking the screen on your existing thermostat (it should be off).

Step 2: Remove Your Old Thermostat

Most thermostats are two pieces: one trim plate mounted to the wall with screws, and a removable face. For right now, you only want to remove the face.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Removing Thermostat From Wall

While every thermostat is different, the face of your thermostat is likely disconnected by pulling down from the top, up from the bottom, or straight out.

Step 3: Verify That You Have a Wire Plugged Into the C Terminal

With the face of your thermostat removed, you should be able to see the current wire connections. It should look something like this:

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Thermostat Wires - With C Wire

Look for the terminal marked “C”. This is your “common” wire and is what powers your thermostat. Your furnace is sending 24 volts of power up this wire, which is necessary to turn on and power the Ecobee thermostat.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Honeywell Thermostat Wires - Without C Wire

Is the C terminal empty (like the one above)? If you don’t have a wire connected to your C terminal, we need to add one more step to your installation. Since this is the Easy Installation Guide, I won’t cover that here. But I will have a free installation guide for that soon – you can sign up here to get an email when it’s ready.

If you have a wire connected to the C terminal, you’re in good shape, so keep reading!

Step 4 (Ecobee3 Installation Pro Tip 1): Take a Picture of the Current Installation Wiring

We haven’t done anything particularly interesting until now, but this is where things can start to go really wrong.

It’s important that we reconnect the Ecobee in exactly the same way as the old thermostat was connected. This ensures that we don’t cause any severe damage to your HVAC system, and that Ecobee will run correctly.

While red should hook up to the R terminal, white should hook up to the W, and blue should hook up to the C,  we may not be able to trust that the installer used the standard wire colors. But assuming that your HVAC system was working before, we can trust the current wiring as a guide.

Take a picture of the current wiring in your old trim plate. Having this picture as a reference will help you ensure that you’re connecting the Ecobee correctly.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Picture of Thermostat Wiring

Obviously, make sure the picture is clear, and that you can see which color wire is plugged into which terminal.

If you don’t have a wire in the C terminal, you’ll need to install the Ecobee Power Extender. I’ll have a free installation guide on that soon – you can sign up here to get an email when it’s ready.

Step 5: Remove the Old Trim Plate From Your Wall, and Unplug the Wiring

Unmount the trim plate from your wall with your screwdriver.

Carefully disconnect the wires from the terminals. Depending on the old thermostat’s manufacturer, you may use a tiny release lever, your phillips head screwdriver, a tiny flat-head screwdriver.

You won’t need to worry about being shocked since we turned the power off in step 1.

Step 6 (Ecobee3 Installation Pro Tip 2): Connect Your Wiring to the New Trim Plate Before Mounting the Trim Plate

The Ecobee installation guide suggests mounting the new trim plate to the wall before connecting the wires. However in my experience, this makes connecting the wires unnecessarily complicated since there’s very little room. I suggest you connect the wires, and then mount the trim plate.

So, hold your Ecobee thermostat trim plate in one hand and feed all the thermostat wires through the hole in the middle.

Now, referencing the picture you took earlier, feed each individual wire into the correct terminal on the Ecobee backplate.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Wiring for Ecobee3 Thermostat

You should be able to slide the wires directly into the wire slot on the side of the terminal. You’ll notice that a little tab on the side of the terminal moves down when the wire is installed – that is fine. This is the release lever: pressing that further down will open the terminal slot, allowing you to slide the wire out.

Give each wire a slight tug to make sure it’s well connected, then push any excess wire back into the wall.

Step 7: Mount the Trim Plate on the Wall

Hold the new trim plate against the wall to make sure that it covers any old holes.

Ecobee3 Installation Sidenote: Your Ecobee box includes an optional large trim plate to cover any holes from your previous thermostat. This is ugly and detracts from the simple look of your Ecobee. If you’d rather not use the additional, large trim plate you can patch the wall. Here’s a link on how to do basic drywall patching – it’s very easy and will make your installation look professional.

Using the trim plate as a template, mark the mounting holes on the wall with a pencil. The Ecobee trim plate includes a built in bubble level to help you ensure that your new thermostat appears level on your wall.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Mark Ecobee Mounting Holes With a Pencil

Drill two 1/8″ holes and mount the trim plate using the screws and wall plugs that came with your Ecobee.

Now, just screw the Ecobee trim plate to the wall using the white screws that came with your ecobee.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Mount Ecobee to the Wall Using a Screwdriver

Step 8: Plug the Ecobee Into the Trim Plate and Turn the Power Back On

Now that the trim plate is hooked up to your HVAC system, and is securely mounted to the wall, we can put the Ecobee on the wall.

Attach the Ecobee to the trim plate by aligning the terminals on the backplate with the pins on the Ecobee. Then, simply push it into the connectors on the trim plate until you hear a click.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Attach Ecobee3 to Trim Plate

You shouldn’t see anything on the screen yet since we turned the power off a few minutes ago.

If the Ecobee is sitting flush with the wall, it’s on correctly. If it doesn’t sit flush with the wall, make sure the excess wires have been pushed back into the wall.

Head down to your basement and turn your HVAC system breaker back on.

With the power on, your Ecobee should show a little, animated butterfly. This means your power is working correctly! Ecobee should then ask you to confirm your wiring. Referencing the picture you took earlier, ensure that your Ecobee is recognizing the same wiring.

When you’ve confirmed that the Ecobee correctly recognizes all of your wires, your new Ecobee thermostat is working!

Ecobee3 Installation Warning: If it’s showing that you are missing wires that you think are connected, or showing wires connected that you didn’t connect, something is wrong. Stop what you’re doing and fix this immediately. Ignoring this message and continuing with the setup process could cause severe damage to your HVAC system.

The cause is simple: you may not have seated the wires securely into the backplate. To fix this, turn the power back off, remove the Ecobee from the backplate, and slide the wires in until they can’t go any further. Re-attach the Ecobee and turn the power back on.

Step 9: Connect to Wifi and Start the Initial Setup

Ecobee3 should automatically detect that you have a wifi network available. You’ll want your Ecobee to be connected to the internet so that you can control it from your phone or laptop, as well as receive software updates from the manufacturer.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Connect Ecobee to Wifi

Ecobee has a couple of ways to connect to your network:

  1. You can simply the network and enter the password using an on-screen keyboard. This works perfectly fine,  however, that keyboard is tiny, and may be frustrating if your wireless password is complex.
  2. If you have an iOS device, you can use it to wireless transmit the wireless network information to your Ecobee.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Connect Ecobee to Wifi on iPhone

On your iPhone or iPad, go to settings, then wifi. At the bottom of the list of available networks, you should “set up new device” with your Ecobee listed. Click your thermostat and follow the on-screen instructions to wirelessly transmit your wifi network information to your Ecobee.

After connecting your Ecobee to wifi, you’ll get a four digit code to register your ecobee3 using the iPhone or Android app. Write down this four-digit code, open the app on your phone, and register your thermostat.

Step 10: Connect the Remote Sensors

The biggest selling point for me in buying the Ecobee3 instead of the Nest was it’s remote sensors.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Ecobee Wireless Sensor

Ecobee3 comes with one (or more) remote sensors, with the ability to connect up to 32 additional sensors. You can buy new sensors for about $25 each. These remote sensors allow you to get the temperate and occupancy of an area that isn’t near your main Ecobee thermostat.

To connect your remote sensors to your thermostat, stand in front of your Ecobee with your remote sensor in hand. Then, simply pull the plastic tab on the back of remote sensor to power on the sensor.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Pull Tab on Ecobee Wireless Sensor

Within a few seconds, the screen on your Ecobee should recognize the sensor and allow you to pair it with the thermostat. Follow the on-screen instructions to name your sensor, then place it anywhere in your home.

Step 12 (Ecobee3 Installation Pro Tip 3): Bookmark the Ecobee Portal on Your Computer

Your Ecobee thermostat is now installed and controlling the heating and cooling of your house!

If you haven’t already, install the iOS or Android apps on your phone. The app is the best way to control your thermostat from anywhere in the house.

Ecobee3 Installation Guide: Ecobee Thermostat Portal

I have also bookmarked the Ecobee portal on my laptop. The Ecobee Portal on your computer allows you to change the temperature and your thermostat settings, just like the phone apps do. Additionally, the it also includes robust reporting that shows you when your HVAC comes on, how long it runs for, and external factors like relative humidity and outside temperature.

What next?

Your Ecobee3 installation is complete! With the Ecobee3, your home’s HVAC system becomes smarter through the power of software. Ecobee3 home save an average of 23% annually, paying for itself in energy savings.