Let’s start off with the most obvious: Do you even need a thermostat in San Diego? I mean… isn’t it always sunny and 72?
So let me start my review of the Nest Thermostat, 3rd Generation by acknowledging that most San Diegans go months without turning on their heating/cooling system. But, it is winter in an El Niño year in Southern California and we’ve actually used our HVAC a lot more than usual because of the unusual weather patterns. And, as I’ll share below, you can actually use your HVAC system for more than just heating and cooling.
And ultimately? For me it’s about saving money.
What is Nest Thermostat?
Here’s the official description
A thinner, sleeker design. A bigger, sharper display. The 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat is more beautiful than ever. With Farsight, it lights up when it sees you coming and shows you the time or temperature from across the room. And the Nest Thermostat is proven to save energy. That’s the most beautiful part.
- Auto-Schedule. No more programming. With auto-schedule, Nest learns from you and programs itself
- Auto-Away. Don’t heat or cool an empty home. Auto-away adjusts the temperature after you leave
- Remote control. With the Nest app, you can change the temperature, check energy history and get an alert if your home is too hot or cold
- Display Screen: 24-bit colour LCD, 480 x 480 resolution at 229 pixels per inch (PPI), 5.3 cm diameter
- Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n at 2.4 GHz, 5 GHz, 802.15.4 at 2.4 GHz, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)
- Nest Leaf: You’ll see the Leaf when you choose a temperature that saves energy. It guides you in the right direction
- The Nest Learning Thermostat works with 95% of 24V heating and cooling systems, including gas, electric, forced air, heat pump, radiant, oil, hot water, solar and geothermal
- Auto-Schedule – No more confusing programming. It learns the temperatures you like and programs itself, Auto-Away: The Nest Thermostat automatically turns itself down when you’re away to avoid heating or cooling an empty home
It’s a $250 thermostat that connects to the internet and other stuff from Nest.
I really like the Nest Thermostat. Really like it.
Nest Thermostat is the flagship of the Google acquired Nest Labs. ($2.4 billion in 2014) Started in 2010 they kind of lead the pack when it came to home automation for the common home owner. They effectively took what high-end HVAC systems have done for a very long time and brought those money-saving features into homes.
Like the Nest Cam it was easy to set-up and install, started working right out of the box. Since I already had a Nest account it was super easy to add it to my account. Literally, it took less than 30 minutes to get it out of the box, read all the instructions, disconnect the old thermostat, and install this one.
As soon as you have it installed and added to your account, Nest Thermostat appears on your device, meaning you can control your home heating and cooling system anywhere you’ve got access to the internet. (And, as we’ve learned, it continues to work just fine if your internet goes down.)
Features I Like
- The most obvious one is that you can control your system from anywhere. I don’t have to think… “Did I remember to turn the furnace on?” I can just look. Likewise, if you’re in bed and you wake up a bit earlier than you normally do… you can get the heat going before you even get out of bed.
- I like that it learns your behavior. After a few days the thermostat starts making educated guesses about when you’ll be home and when you won’t. (You can manually tell it you are away, as well, then it’ll not heat/cool your house while you’re gone.) We’re actually home quite a bit so early on it had a tendency to say we were away when we were actually home working.
- It looks and feels really cool. This is a bit intangible… but the thermostat went from something forgettable and merely functional, to something you actually notice. Plus, they’ve not skimped on the design so it actually feels cool to move the dial. (I’ve actually caught the kids playing with it!)
- It lights up when you walk by. This is kind of silly, but I like that when you walk by it lights up and shows you the time or temperature. (Whatever you set it to do)
- It tracks your usage. This is HUGE! A few weeks back we had a cold spell, so the heat was running quite a bit more than we normally do. Each day I was able to login and see exactly how many minutes our furnace ran, at what times of day, etc. This actually altered our behavior in a way where we heated the house up early in the morning but not throughout the day, which meant we actually kept the house comfortable while using less natural gas.
- It opens up features of your HVAC system you wouldn’t normally use. One of the things I noticed as I got access to data about our houses heating and cooling was that we tended to build up humidity, which made it a little uncomfortable in the afternoon. Since it’s consistently less humid outside than inside during daylight hours I’ve learned that we can run the system’s fan for 15-3o minutes during the day, very little electricity used, and drop the humidity level 10%-20%, which makes it more comfortable. Without access to data about the interior temperature & humidity compared to the weather outside… I never knew that.
- One system talks to another. Like all Nest products, the thermostat has an API connection you can use to share data with other resources the house. (Even non-Nest products) One thing I do is export all of my daily usage data to a Google Spreadsheet. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with that data just yet… but it’s interesting and I wanted to record it, so I did. But Nest also talks to other Nest system. We’ve just started testing Nest Protect, their line of smoke & carbon monoxide detectors. You can set it up so that if there is steam detected in the kitchen or say you’ve burned a bit of dinner, the HVAC system will automatically run the fan for 15 minutes. (I’ll share how to do that and a full review of Nest Protect in a later post.)
- Saving me money. At the end of the day, it’s not about looking cool, it’s not about connecting to the internet or talking to other things… it’s about giving us the information we need to minimize our energy usage. Each month, they send you a report about your usage and the longer you use it the better this will get.
Really, the worst part about Nest Thermostat is the $250 price tag. As I was researching buying it… as well as the reality that I’ll want/need to add one for the Tiny Office… I kept wondering about it’s shelf life. If this product is six years old and it’s on generation three, how long will it be until the one I’m buying right now is obsolete?
Other than that there just isn’t anything I don’t like about it.
The Money Line
We’re officially in deep with Nest products. Multiple Nest Cam’s, soon we’ll have three Nest Protect’s, and two Nest Thermostats. That translates to a lot of money.
Is it all worth it? I do believe the thermostat will pay for itself over the next 18-24 months. But the rest? Let’s be honest and admit that they are gadgets.