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Why Does My Ecobee Sensor Say Unoccupied? 17 Simple Steps

Why Does My Ecobee Sensor Say Unoccupied

Ecobee is one of the best smart thermostats on the market.

These devices have some fantastic features that maximize energy consumption and keep your home at the perfect temperature for you.

Ecobee sensors detect movement and target the areas of your home with the most activity, but why does your Ecobee sensor say unoccupied?

Your Ecobee sensor says unoccupied when it doesn’t detect movement in your home. When your sensor doesn’t sense any activity, it stops controlling the temperature in the unoccupied rooms until someone moves in front of the sensor. To fix this, you can set it to “Occupied” on the app.

In this article, we’ll talk about Ecobee’s Occupied and Unoccupied modes. We’ll also let you know everything you need to know about personalizing and troubleshooting your smart sensors. 

What Does Unoccupied Mean on Ecobee?

Unoccupied means that no one has moved near your Ecobee sensor for between 5 and 30 minutes. If you set it to Follow Me mode, Smart Home mode, or Smart Away mode, the thermostat will automatically detect whether anyone is at home. 

Ecobee sensors detect movement. 

If they pick up any activity in a room, they’ll switch to Occupied mode and turn on the thermostat.

If your Ecobee doesn’t sense any movement in the sensor area, it’ll go into Unoccupied mode and turn the thermostat off. 

When Does an Ecobee Sensor Switch to Unoccupied?

Ecobee only detects whether a room is occupied or unoccupied if you have it set up that way.

It only uses the Occupied and Unoccupied settings if you use a sensor and have your thermostat in Follow Me mode, Smart Home mode, or Smart Away mode.

Depending on the mode toggled, your Ecobee switches into Unoccupied mode at a different time. 

In Follow Me mode, if your sensor doesn’t detect movement for 30 minutes or more, your Ecobee will default to Unoccupied until it senses movement again. 

In Smart Away Mode or Smart Home Mode, your sensor will scan for activity every five minutes. If it detects movement, it’ll turn the thermostat on for two hours. 

Smart Sensor vs. Room Sensor

Ecobee sensors are incredibly advanced. 

These sensors use activity to control the temperature in different areas of your home.

Say there’s a lot of movement in a particular room. Then, your thermostat will target that area for the optimum temperature.

There are two types of Ecobee sensors: the smart sensor and the room sensor. Each one works differently to detect movement in your home. 

Room sensors use passive infrared radiation to sense objects and detect when someone moves in front of these objects. They can pick up movements at a range of up to 45 ft (13.7 m).

Smart sensors can detect temperature change. They use the motion and temperature of moving objects to determine if the room is empty or occupied.

Smart sensors can also send you a reading of your room’s temperature on any device and your thermostat.

Smart sensors detect movement farther away than room sensors. They can pick up a motion that is up to 60 ft (18.3 m) within them at any angle. 

Since these sensors turn your thermostat on and target the rooms you’re in, the thermostat won’t turn on if the space is unoccupied.

This feature can save you up to 23% on your energy bill, making Ecobee good for your budget and the environment. 

Read also: 6 Odd Reasons Why Your Ecobee Is Running When It Shouldn’t

How Do You Set Your Ecobee Sensor to Occupied?

You Can Set Your Ecobee Sensor To Occupied

Sometimes, you may not have enough sensors for all of the places you like to sit in your house. 

If you want to set your sensor to Occupied and make it stop sensing your motion:

  1. Open the Ecobee app and open the main menu. 
  2. Select “Calendar Events” to see your calendar. 
  3. Select “Add Event.”
  4. Enter a start time and end time for your event. 
  5. Turn on Occupied mode to indicate that you’ll be home during the event. 
  6. Pick the optimal temperature. 
  7. Press “Save.”

Using this setting will keep the thermostat running during the specified times, even if your sensor detects that a room is unoccupied. 

How Do I Use Sleep Mode To Turn Off Motion Sensing?

When you sleep, your Ecobee sensor won’t detect movement, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your room at the perfect temperature all night.

Sleep mode will keep the thermostat on until you wake up, whether you move or not. 

To turn on sleep mode:

  1. On the Ecobee app, open the main menu and select “Schedule.”
  2. To set your sleep time, press the “+” in the upper-righthand corner. 
  3. Pick a start time to set the time that you want your Ecobee to stay in Occupied mode. 
  4. Select the days that you wish your Ecobee to apply this schedule to. 
  5. Tap on “sleep” and save your schedule. 

How Do I Turn Off Occupancy Detection?

If you want, you can disable your sensor’s occupancy detection and keep your thermostat running all the time. 

To disable one or more of your sensors:

  1. Open your thermostat’s main menu.
  2. Tap on “Comfort Settings.”
  3. Open one of the comfort modes. 
  4. Tap on “Participating Sensors.”
  5. Enable or disable your sensors. 

Using any of the comfort modes can allow you to turn off motion sensing until you switch to another comfort mode. 

Why Does My Ecobee Say Occupied All the Time?

Sometimes, your Ecobee sensor might say Occupied, even when the room is empty.

There are several possible causes for this, including a low battery, windows or moving objects, and a connection error. 

Low Battery

Sometimes, Ecobee sensors have a false occupancy error.

When the battery gets low, your sensor may think that there’s movement in an otherwise empty room. 

Replace the batteries in your Ecobee sensor every year.

When the charge gets too low, the first sign is a false occupancy error. 

Some factors that can cause the battery to die quickly are putting the sensor near a window, in a high traffic area, or keeping it in low temperatures.

So, if you want your sensor’s battery to last as long as possible, keep it in a warm place away from windows. 

Windows or Moving Objects

Sometimes, your sensor can get tricked into thinking that there’s movement in an empty room. The sensor may pick up activity from outside or believe that a moving object like a clock is a person. 

To test your sensor:

  1. Turn it to face a blank wall.
  2. Leave your sensor there for 30 minutes.
  3. Check to see if your sensor says unoccupied again. 

If it says unoccupied, you may need to move your sensor to another place to keep it from reading a false positive. Put it in a spot away from any moving objects and out of sight from a window. 

You may also wonder: How accurate is the Ecobee humidity sensor?

Connection Error

Does your Ecobee have a fresh battery but still read occupied no matter where you move it?

If so, you may need to unpair and reconnect your sensor to your thermostat

To unpair:

  1. On the thermostat, select the main menu.
  2. Tap on “Sensors.”
  3. Select the sensor you want to unpair, then tap on the trash icon. 
  4. Remove the battery from your sensor and put it back in. 
  5. Wait for around two minutes and power your sensor up again. 
  6. Follow the instructions that appear on your thermostat to pair your sensor.


Ecobee thermostats take climate control to a whole new level, and their ability to detect movement in your home makes them a great way to save energy.

You can personalize your Ecobee schedules and events to turn the occupancy mode on and off so that you never have to worry about setting the thermostat again. 

Check out: Why Is Your Ecobee Blowing Cold Air? (7 Causes and Fixes)