Late last year, the tech world was buzzing. While that’s not uncommon, this time it wasn’t about a phone, a television or a new gaming system. People were excited by the announcement of a new thermostat called the Nest. Within a short period of time, pre-orders of the diminutive puck shaped thermostat were completely sold out. As someone in the process of starting a remodeling project, I quickly found myself on the waiting list, being able to place my order in early January. Earlier this month, I had two Nest learning thermostats installed in my home. Read on for my full Nest review.
Inside the box
Everything about the out of box experience reminds you that the Nest is everything but your ordinary thermostat. Such care was taken in every aspect of the packaging. Not everyone cares about packaging, but for me, it shows attention to detail at every step of the way. Inside you’ll find the Nest thermostat, which is more diminutive then I had expected based upon the press photos, looking like a small, hockey puck.
Since I had a professional working on my home, they were responsible for installation. I did question both my electrician and HVAC system installer for their feedback on the Nest. Both thought the installation was no different from a typical thermostat. If you are comfortable with DIY projects, the video shown below should provide you with an idea of the difficulty level.
Once it’s powered on, I was summoned by the electrician to to handle the set-up.
The first step is to create a free account at Nest.com. They ask basic questions including your address, along with a login username and password for your account. This won’t take more then a minute or two. I waited 6 months to install my Nest and probably should have created my account earlier. If you order a Nest, I’d recommend you set up your account right away.
There are four steps to setting up your Nest. Rotating the dial will select an answer and you simply press to select.
- Connect to WiFi: It immediately found a number of networks, one being mine. After select my network, I entered my WPA password and it connected without a problem. In a matter of seconds, it let me know of a new software update for my Nest. The Nest is fun and quirky, letting me know it was restarting and would be right back. Connecting to WiFi allows for software updates, local weather updates and more importantly remote control access from your mobile device.
- Set-up questions: Nest will confirm the wiring. Thankfully, my electrician was sitting idly by and was able to confirm the correct wiring. Next were common questions about the type of heating system (Gas, Oil), if I had forced air heating and a few others which were easy enough to answer. If you get stuck, there is a more info option to help guide you through or you can skip a question. Nest performs best when you answer all the questions, which shouldn’t be too difficult.
- Adjusting Nest: After the questions, the Nest immediately displayed the current temperature. Using the dial, I could either decrease or increase the temperature. It being summer, cooling is represented by a blue screen. As you get closer to the current actual temperature, the blue get darker. Black indicates the thermostat has reached the desired temperature.
- Menu Options: This allows you to make changes to the mode (heating, cooling), along with any scheduling setup (if you opt for one). You can also set away settings. For example, if you are going on vacation, you can set Nest to Away mode, so Nest will only turn on the heat or cooling should it hit that target low or high depending upon the season. Energy will provide you with a log of temperature history.
Old Style Thermostats vs Nest
This isn’t even a fair fight. It’s like comparing a pre-iPhone smartphone to the iPhone. In fact, it’s more like comparing a Motorola Rokr iTunes phone to the iPhone. There is no comparison. Programming the prehistoric thermostat was an exercise in frustration. Day, AM, Hour, Temperature. Day, PM, Hour, Temperature. Rinse and repeat what felt like a thousand times. When I first moved in, everything was set to 72 for the most part. In the middle of the night, the upstairs thermostat had a program to drop it to 70. I literally had icicles forming on my earlobe.
While you can program a schedule for the Nest, the lure of this product is it’s capability to learn our tendencies (or should I say my tendencies). I’m the head of the household when it comes to conserving energy, by either turning out lights or managing the thermostat. With the Nest, I’ve been actively setting the thermostat during the day and at night. After a week, Nest had a good idea of where I liked my settings. Using the website, it was apparent there was a pattern of mine which was graphically represented and being executed daily. If I wanted to make changes, it was easy enough to add or delete a setting.
Editor’s note: Holes were from previous thermostat used during construction phase.
Over the first week, I’ve been real active in changing the thermostat. Partially because of the learning aspect and to some extent because I enjoy using the thermostat. When you turn the dial, the color will slowly fade to black as you are approaching the current temperature. Conversely, it will display a bright blue (cooling) or bright red (heating) if you are a fair amount of degrees away from your preferred setting. Nest will display a ‘Leaf’ to show you are conserving energy. I felt incentivized to change the thermostat to a level where the leaf was displayed, thinking it would translate to cost savings. Looking at the ‘Energy’ tab within the Nest website, you can see how effective you’ve been at conserving energy. The leaf will be display on days you saved and there is also an icon that indicates the local weather caused usage to be below the weekly average. All great things for someone looking to save money on utility bills.
Controlling the Nest from your iPhone or iPad
One of the main reasons you put the Nest on your WiFi network is to allow for control of the thermostat from your iPhone (or other smartphone) or iPad. This can be done rather easily from home or away. Leave for the day and forget to adjust the thermostat? No problem.
Launch the Nest app, tap on your thermostat, then use either up or down. You can also turn up the heat or start cooling your home as you are on your way home. All from your iPhone, all with great ease. If you need more control, just rotate into landscape for access to Energy, Schedule, Settings.
The Nest will have appeal to gadget enthusiasts and those simply looking for the absolute easiest and best way to control their heating and cooling systems. Despite the wide array of advanced features, this product scores high points for it’s ease of use. A familiar dial makes it a breeze to adjust and the remote capabilities using the free iOS app resulted in increased adjustments of my thermostat. The result of which helps the Nest learn your habits and present a schedule that is tailored to your home heating and cooling needs. More importantly, taking control of your thermostat should save you money on monthly utility bills, easily offsetting the additional cost of the Nest which retails for $249.95. There is simply no better way to control your heating and cooling systems. I didn’t see this coming in my lifetime, but I’m in love with a thermostat.