Testing Your Smart Thermostat’s Shabbos IQ: Part II

Last time, we discussed the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Smart thermostat, which does not pose any Shabbos issues, and contrasted it to the series of thermostats by Ecobee that have several. One reason to consider an Ecobee thermostat is for the way they use remote temperature sensors to address temperature discrepancies from room to room. Another is that Ecobee thermostats attempt to add comfort and save energy by overriding your Home and Away schedules and instead detecIIting in real time if you actually are home or away, and then adjusting the temperature accordingly.

We pointed out that the Ecobee3-lite only had a Motion/Proximity sensor but allowed add-on remote Occupancy sensors. The Ecobee3 and Ecobee4 both have Motion/Proximity and Occupancy sensors.  Either of these two sensors can be an issue on Shabbos. The Ecobee4 had the added complexity of an embedded Alexa that I also recommended you turn off for Shabbos.

The Proximity sensor found on all Ecobee thermostats changes the screen from Standby to Active and should be deactivated before Shabbos. In Standby mode, the screen displays the time as well as inside and outside temperatures. Walking in front of the screen will activate the Proximity sensor and change the screen to Active, which then allows changes to be made. Walking in front of the device will also change the brightness of the screen which of course may also be an issue on Shabbos.

To address the Proximity sensor, go to device Preferences and disable the Active to Standby screen timer. You would also need to set Screen Brightness at the same level for both Active and Standby modes, and disable the screen sleep option. These options are only available on the device itself and not on the App. Users may prefer to keep these options off permanently, even during the week, rather than having to turn them off each week before Shabbos, because they do not represent core Smart functionality. If you do turn these off, then as long as there are no any paired remote sensors, there are no longer any Shabbos issues on the Ecobee3-Lite. For this reason I rate the Ecobee3-Lite a 4/5 for Shabbos use.

To address the Occupancy Sensor, which is an issue on the Ecobee3 and Ecobee4, as well as with the Ecobee3-lite when paired with additional sensors, you would need to disable the Smart Home/Away setting in your Preferences as well as the Follow Me option in the Sensor settings. This can either be done on the device or via the device APP. The “Follow Me” option will only become an issue on the Ecobee3-lite when paired with two or more remote sensors.

Adding chores to your pre-Shabbos to-do list to address Shabbos issues does not make your thermostat Smart. The reason we buy these thermostats is for their smart features. When we disable them for Shabbos and leave it in that state all week, it can defeat the entire purpose of the Smart device.

I have seen it recommended to cover those sensors with tape before Shabbos. I am sure the Ecobee designers who put great care into the esthetics of the product would cringe at this. Aside from the esthetics, tape does not remember to undo itself after Shabbos and still adds an item to your pre-Shabbos to-do list. If you wish to take this approach, for the Ecobee 3-Lite you would only need cover one of the two round IR sensors (one outputs a signal and the other reads it). Different models have the sensors in different locations, and they may be a little hard to find on the device without a flash light. Taping either one of the round sensors will disable the Proximity sensor. If you have the Ecobee3 or 4 you would also need to tape the peanut-shaped Occupancy sensor. In the Ecobee4 the Occupancy and Proximity Sensors are next to each other which allows for a single piece of tape. I used blue Painters Tape backed with Silver foil but other dark tapes may work as well. The tape solution is not something I would personally choose so I looked for a more technical solution for Shabbos using IFTTT.

While Ecobee does offer IFTTT integration, it does not allow you to disable any of the features which pose Shabbos concerns. You cannot disable the Active to Passive Screen Timer, the Smart Home/Away or the Follow Me features. Of course, I’ve made a formal request to Ecobee to upgrade their IFTTT integration. If you follow me on Twitter you can see that request and to help our cause you could retweet, or add your own request to the thread. What I believe you could do to avoid the Home/Away Shabbos issue is use IFTTT to control your full Shabbos schedule.

While every other day of the week will have a Sleep/Away/Home schedule, for Friday evening from well before sunset to Shabbos night well past Havdalah, you will simply leave your device schedule blank.  From your IFTTT account you will then create your Shabbos schedule. For example, beginning on Friday morning, set your temperature to the Home State with nothing further until after Motzai Shabbos (setting it to Sleep at Sat 11PM). Then, using IFTTT, you can set the thermostat to Home from before candle lighting and then to sleep at 10PM. Add another IFTTT to set the Home Mode at 8AM which will stay until after Shabbos. When you use a third-party App like IFTTT to establish your schedule, Ecobee overrides the auto Home/Away feature until the next transition which, in my example, is scheduled for after Shabbos. Since this detail is critically important to avoiding the Shabbos issues, I also confirmed it with Ecobee support and tested the feature.

In each case, since the next transition is scheduled for after Shabbos, regardless of your movement or lack of it around the Occupancy sensors, your home will remain in Home Mode. With this solution, you will still need to address the Standby timer screen and match the brightness, but the main features of the Home/Away will be operational all week except on Shabbos.

You can find this Ecobee IFTTT solution along with my other Shabbos and Yom Tov IFTTT recipes at IFTTT.com/P/TribeTechReview. Given the various possible combinations of features for the Ecobee devices, I summarized with a table below. Chag Sameach!

Thermostat Table

Author: Tribe Home Automation

Tech Enthusiast turned Installer, father

5 thoughts on “Testing Your Smart Thermostat’s Shabbos IQ: Part II”

  1. The IFTTT recipe to set the temp which disables the auto Home/Away feature until the next transition is *brilliant*

    I get page not available with the link above … IFTTT.com/P/TribeTechReview

  2. I have a newly installed ecobee 4.
    I have been told by the Ecobee people, that the proximity sensor is embedded in an internal chip, and is by default always active, causing screen changes once one comes near the thermostat.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: