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November 1, 2018

The best smart multi-zone thermostat

by John_A

We’re a company of tech experts who love the products we write about every day. We need the tech that powers our smart homes to be top-notch, just like you do.


The Ecobee 4 is the best smart thermostat for multiple zones overall. It’s relatively inexpensive, easy to set up and use, and best of all comes with a remote sensor in the package.

Our pick

Ecobee 4


  • $249 from Amazon
  • $249 from Best Buy

Even homes that need multiple zones usually only have a single thermostat.

The Ecobee 4 was designed and is sold for people who want to adjust the temperature of the room they are in, not the room the thermostat is in.

A fix for those hot or cold spots

If your home is like most, you have a single source to heat and/or cool it. That also means you have a single spot on the wall where you set the temperature that makes you feel comfortable and rely on that to do the job no matter which room you happen to be in. That’s great for a lot of us, but not every room in your house can be the same temperature all the time. The advent of the smart thermostat has changed thing, and now you can be comfortable no matter which room you’re in by using remote sensors to create multiple zones.

After setting up the zones, you’ll be able to heat or cool things based on a pinpoint location instead of adjusting the whole-house temperature until you feel comfortable. Depending on your situation, it may not be the most economical way to stay warm or cool enough, but it’s by far the most convenient. I know, because this is my situation in a nutshell — I work in my basement office and my thermostat is in the living room. Now I don’t have to adjust the temperature of the single largest room in the house to change it in my small office.

Reasons to buy

  • Comes with a room sensor
  • Amazon Alexa built-in
  • Full integration with Google Assistant, Alexa, and HomeKit

Reasons not to buy

  • No internal battery
  • No automatic programming mode

Multi-zone ready

There are several ways to heat and/or cool a home. You might have multiple sources of heating or cooling, like window unit air conditioners and electric line-voltage baseboard heaters, and those are using multiple zones by their very nature. Set each unit for the desired temperature and they each work independently. But the most popular way to maintain the temps is with one source and one point of control — a heat pump or other type of furnace or central air unit and a wall-mounted thermostat to control it.

That means the temperature you set is maintained at the place you set it — the wall thermostat. When it gets too warm there the AC can turn on; when it gets too cool the heat can. And either will stay running until the right temp is reached.

That’s great if the room you’re in has the thermostat, but what if you’re trying to get cozy in the den while the thermostat is on the wall in another room? You can try to adjust the main thermostat up or down a couple of degrees, but if one room is much larger than the other, this is often futile — it takes a lot longer to change the temps in a bigger room, and while it’s happening you keep getting warmer or cooler and overshoot what you wanted.

The Ecobee 4 also includes extras like Alexa built-in and HomeKit integration.

I work in a basement office in my home, and with the thermostat upstairs in the living room I was constantly chasing the temps. If I got too hot in the summer, by the time the living room cooled down my office was too chilly, and the reverse was true in the winter. Putting a room sensor in my office changed everything, and now I can be comfortable where I’m working, while I’m working.

If you’re in a similar situation and looking to buy a new smart thermostat to fix it, you should buy the Ecobee 4. You’ll find a high-quality and feature-packed smart thermostat and a room sensor in the box and it only takes a few minutes to get everything programmed. Tell the thermostat where you’ll be during the day and night, and it will use the temperature it reads from the right sensor to adjust things. You’ll stay comfortable and won’t be trying to chase the right setting at the right time to get there.

Alternatives to the Ecobee 4

Nest also sells a room sensor and they work the same way. The difference is that the Ecobee 4 includes a sensor in the box, has Amazon Alexa built-in to the main thermostat and is HomeKit compatible. A Nest Thermostat E and extra room sensor are comparably priced, but having Alexa built-in adds considerable value and it’s doubtful that Nest will ever see HomeKit certification.

If you already have a Nest thermostat though, you’re better off buying a room sensor to add to it. You’ll see the same functionality (if your model has the option, be sure to turn off occupancy-sensing for best results) without having to buy extra equipment you don’t need. And if you’re one of the few people who live in a home with a single source and multiple thermostats, you’ll want to buy a Nest Thermostat E to replace each of them after checking compatibility.


Nest Thermostat E


If you don’t want Alexa or HomeKit integration

$175 at Amazon

Maybe you don’t want or need HomeKit and Amazon Alexa integration. If so, the Nest Thermostat E and a room sensor will solve your multi-zoning woes when it comes to comfort.

Nest has been a reliable pick for anyone wanting a smart thermostat since its inception, and the “E” series provides most of the features you’ll find in the more expensive models at a considerable saving — including the ability to work with a Nest Room Sensor. If you would rather not have Amazon Alexa integration and know you’ll never use HomeKit for a smart home platform, you’ll find the multi-zoning functionality to be equal to what the Ecobee 4 offers.

Also, if your existing setup uses multiple thermostats (and is Nest compatible) buying a Nest Thermostat E to replace each can save a good bit of money over buying multiple Ecobees.

Value pick

Nest Temperature Sensor


Required to use with a Nest Thermostat E

$40 at Best Buy

Pair with a Nest Thermostat for multiple zoning.

If you already have a Nest Thermostat or plan to buy Nest products instead of our top pick, you’ll need to pick up at least one Nest Temperature Sensor to create a multiple-zone heating and cooling system..

Bottom line

We think the Ecobee 4 is the best smart thermostat for multiple zones overall. You get the convenience of having a multi-zone heating or cooling system without buying any extra equipment, have Amazon Alexa built into the thermostat itself, and it’s more future-proof with the addition of HomeKit support. If you already use Nest products or would rather not have ALexa and HomeKit support, the Nest Thermostat E and an additional pruchase of a Nest Temperature Sensor offers the same functionality at a similar price.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide


Jerry Hildenbrand is Mobile Nation’s Senior Editor and works from a Chromebook full time. Currently, he is using Google’s Pixelbook but is always looking at new products and may have any Chromebook in his hands at any time. You’ll find him across the Mobile Nations network and you can hit him up on Twitter if you want to say hey.


Daniel Bader is the Managing Editor of Android Central. As he’s writing this, a mountain of old Android phones is about to fall on his head, but his Great Dane will protect him. He drinks way too much coffee and sleeps too little. He wonders if there’s a correlation.

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