The ecobee Switch+ is one of the smartest light switches on the market, featuring advanced sensors and seamless integration with ecobee smart thermostats and home automation platforms, such as Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings and others.
I have had a good relationship with ecobee ever since I reviewed the original ecobee thermostat and later the ecobee4. So when I got ready to get my feet wet with smart switches, I reached out to ecobee and they agreed to send me the Switch+. That was in March of 2018, and I feel bad that it took me so long to write a review. On the bright side, I have had ample time to test the unit and all its functionality sufficiently.
ecobee Switch+ Review
- Supports all major home automation platforms
- Seamless integration with ecobee thermostats
- Built-in smart sensors to detect occupancy, ambient light, and temperature
- Easy installation
- Integrated far-field microphone and speaker for native Amazon Alexa support
Among all the smart light switches I have reviewed and tested, the ecobee Switch+ is by far my favorite. When I unboxed the switch, I could already tell that ecobee used only high-quality plastic that feels good and doesn’t have any flimsy parts. In comparison, the Leviton Decora switches I own look and feel just like regular light switches, without that premium appearance you get from ecobee.
We decided to install the ecobee Switch+ in our formal dining room that we use for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In the past, that meant turning the chandelier above the dining table and the corner lamp on and off at least three times a day. Our goal was to automate that process by leveraging the built-in occupancy detector, so the lights would turn on automatically when someone entered the room. Even better, after 15-minutes of inactivity, the Switch+ can turn the lights off again.
The only thing that’s missing in this switch is support for dimming lights, which I think would be a welcome addition for many users.
|Requires a Hub||✘|
|Supported Home Automation Platforms||Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT|
|Built-in Sensors||Occupancy, Ambient Light, Temperature|
|Built-in Microphone and Speaker||●|
|Requires neutral wire||●|
|Supports 3-way installation||✘|
|Automatic line/load switching||●|
|Max rating||600W incandescent, 150W LED and CFL|
|Wireless connection||WiFi 802.11 b/g/n @ 2.4 GHz|
|Smart scheduling||Vacation Mode, Indoor/Outdoor Mode, Do Not Disturb, Smart Off|
|OS Requirements||Android 4.4 or higher/iOS 9 or higher|
The installation of the ecobee Switch+ is incredibly straightforward, and there is little you can do wrong. But before you do anything else, make sure to turn off the breaker and double-check that there is no current flowing through your old switch by using a voltage tester. I use a non-contact tester by Klein Tools that you can get for less than 20 bucks on Amazon.
If you are confident that the power of the old switch is off, remove it and then take a look inside the switch box. In addition to the load and line wires, which are often red and black, you should also see the ground (green) and neutral (white) wires. In my case, the ground and neutral wires were capped off with a wire nut because the old switch didn’t use them.
If you are replacing an old switch that’s inside a 2/3/4-gang switch box, you may see all the neutral wires connected and capped off using a wire nut. Don’t just grab one of the neutral wires and attach it to the ecobee Switch+, but instead, connect the Switch+ to the existing neutral wires. I made the mistake of using one of the neutral wires when I installed a Leviton Decora switch in our family room. By doing so, I prevented the current from flowing back to the breaker box.
Thanks to automatic line/load switching, you can connect the red and black wires interchangeably and the ecobee switch will figure out which is which. That’s a unique feature that most other smart switches don’t offer.
If all of the above sounds complicated and above your head, don’t worry, the ecobee app has step-by-step instructions with photos that guide you through the process. I’m not a handyman but had no issues installing my ecobee Switch+ in less than 15 minutes.
I usually don’t install the dedicated mobile app of HomeKit-enabled devices until the very end. The reason is that I don’t use it except for firmware updates. Most other functionality is available through Apple’s Home app.
With the ecobee Switch+ the situation is different, because many of the settings associated with the built-in sensors of the ecobee switch are not available in the Home app, including:
- Smart On: Automatically turn on the lights when the occupancy sensor detects someone entering the room
- Daylight detection to prevent the lights coming on unless the room is dark
- Do not disturb to avoid the lights coming on between set times
- Smart Off: Automatically turn off the lights after 15 minutes
- Enable/disable the Night Light
- Set Indoor/Outdoor Mode
- Enable Vacation mode
The settings above are relatively self-explanatory, and I mention some of them throughout this review, based on how we leverage them.
One setting worth further exploring is the Indoor/Outdoor Mode. While in Indoor Mode, you can configure the Smart On/Off settings, including daylight detection and do not disturb. If you change the switch to Outdoor Mode, these settings are not available, but instead, you can decide if the lights should automatically turn on at sunset. Schedules based on sunrise and sunset are also possible in the native Home app, so if you use the Switch+ in combination with an outdoor lighting fixture, you may not need the ecobee app for that.
I also like the night light feature that helps at night with locating the switch and navigating dark rooms.
Home Automation Platforms
We are an Apple household and thus invested in HomeKit. As a result, I have no hands-on experience with ecobee’s other integration options, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Samsung SmartThings. However, one of the key features of the ecobee Switch+ is the native integration with Amazon Alexa that ecobee made possible by adding a dedicated far-field microphone and speakers to the Switch+. Using the built-in Alexa service, you can ask to:
- Turn on the lights,
- Play music,
- Get the news, or
- Get help with everyday tasks.
Similar to Siri, if you have multiple Alexa-enabled devices at home, such as an Amazon Echo ($99.99 on Amazon), only the device closest to you responds to your query.
If I wasn’t as invested in the Apple platform and would trust Amazon enough to listen to my every word, I could imagine leveraging the far-field microphone of the Switch+ to issue commands. Given our particular use case for this switch, I probably wouldn’t use it to turn on the lights, but I could imagine changing the temperature on our ecobee4 thermostats or asking Alexa to play music on a connected speaker.
But I don’t trust Amazon, and so I disabled Alexa and the built-in microphones of both the ecobee Switch+ and ecobee4 thermostats, and I appreciate that ecobee provides such an option.
Plus, both my wife and I have Apple Watches and thus a digital assistant (Siri) on our wrists. Starting with iOS 12, I only have to raise my wrist and start talking to Siri, without having to use the “Hey Siri” phrase. That’s at least as convenient and surely more secure as calling as always-listening Alexa.
We have configured our ecobee Switch+ for indoor mode and to automatically turn on the chandelier of our dining room when someone enters the room, regardless of what time of day it is. After 15 minutes, the Switch+ automatically turns the chandelier off. The latter only happens if the switch doesn’t detect any occupancy, so we don’t have to worry that the lights go off while we are having dinner.
When we go on vacation, we enable vacation- or “Appear home” mode using the ecobee mobile app (iOS), which causes the selected switches to turn on and off at different times to make it look like you are home.
I mentioned above that we have a second lamp in the corner of our dining room that I wanted to “control” from the smart switch. Unfortunately, the lamp is connected to a power outlet on the floor that doesn’t have a separate switch to control it.
My goal was to automatically turn on and off the corner lamp when the chandelier turns on/off. To make that work, I purchased a HomeKit-enabled smart plug from iDevices ($29.95 on Amazon) and connected the lamp to it. Then I went to the Apple Home app and set up two automation routines to turn the plug on and off, based on the status of the ecobee Switch+.
In my first automation attempt, I created only the “turn on” automation and enabled the “Turn Off After 15 Minutes” setting in the Home app. Unfortunately, the “Turn off after XX” setting in the Home app doesn’t take occupancy into account, so our corner lamp would turn off after 15 minutes, regardless if we were still in the room or not.
That’s why I disabled that setting and instead, created a second automation routine that would turn off the corner lamp when the ecobee Switch+ turned off the chandelier, which only happens 15 minutes after the occupancy sensor has stopped detecting motion.
Integration with ecobee thermostats
One of the benefits of smart thermostats from ecobee vs. Nest is their support for remote sensors. We have several ecobee sensors ($79.00 for a 2-Pack on Amazon) spread out across the house to get exact temperature readings from the areas we occupy most throughout the day. The ecobee Switch+ has a built-in temperature sensor and, as a result, you can use it as an additional remote unit.
I don’t care about the temperature of our dining room, but we have a couple of spots in our home where having additional sensors and smart light switches would be beneficial. The ecobee Switch+ meets both of these requirements in a single device, thus reducing “IoT clutter”.
ecobee Switch+ Review
The best technology is the one you don’t have to think about because it works seamlessly in the background without constantly begging for your attention. The ecobee Switch+ fits that bill by flawlessly doing its job in the background without interruption. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it took me so long to write a review – I barely had to think about it.
But I do interact with the ecobee Switch+ from time to time because, from my office, the shortest route into the kitchen leads through the dining area. Going through the dining room saves me approximately two seconds as opposed to using the door right next to it. It’s a force of habit, and so I catch myself triggering the occupancy sensor of the Switch+ on occasion, which turns on the two lights in that area. Being a good “earth citizen”, I’m trying to be conservative with the available resources and so I usually push the button of the ecobee to turn off the lights as I pass through the dining room.
If it wasn’t for that, I would not interact with the ecobee Switch+ at all, neither by voice nor by physical contact. That’s a testament to how well the gadget works and why the ecobee Switch+ is one of my favorite home automation devices by far.
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