Technology Tuesday: Nest Thermostat

It’s pretty easy to get excited about cool gadgets that can help bring music to your ears. We’ve highlighted dozens of such devices over the last several months. Some things, however, seem so mundane that despite good craftsmanship or design, it’s difficult to get excited about them. One such device is your household thermostat.

If you think that a thermostat can’t be completely revolutionary and totally re-imagine your expectations for what such a device should do, you’ve yet to check out Nest. After impatiently waiting a couple of months on the waiting list to purchase (imagine that! a waiting list for a thermostat!), I was finally able to buy one. Thanks to a mini-heat wave with temperatures pushing 90° last week followed by temperatures plunging into the 30°s, I’ve been able to use Nest for both heating and cooling over the last two weeks.

The Nest is a quantum leap above and beyond any thermostat you’ve likely ever used. Read on to learn more about this cool device.

In a nutshell, what makes the Nest so cool? It’s badass. Really. How many other thermostats have built in WiFi, are powered by an ARM processor with 512MB of RAM, controllable from your smartphone or web, learns what temperatures you want, senses when you are away from home, monitors the outside temperature and makes programming as simple and intuitive as Steve Jobs made the iPhone? Couple that with insanely easy installation, crystal clear documentation, thoughtful packaging & accessories and fantastic customer support and you can see why the wait has been so long for Nest.

Installation Practically all configurations of existing wiring are supported by Nest. I’ve had to replace thermostats in the past and it was always difficult to install. Often times, I needed to install jumper wires from one terminal to another, and struggle with getting the wires on the correct posts. Nest completely makes the hassle a thing of the past. The push button terminals are clearly labelled making inserting the wires a breeze. Nest graciously includes a cool multi-tip screwdriver to aid you in removing your previous wires. While Nest is designed to be installed by itself against a wall, two other mounting plates are included should you need to cover existing holes. A bubble level aids in ensuring a perfectly straight installation. Once the back plate in screwed into the wall (anchors provided) and the wires correctly slotted (three minutes max), simply pop the beautiful, brushed stainless and glass thermostat onto the back plate.

You will then be walked through setup which consists of identifying which WiFi network you want to join, your Zip Code and a couple of other questions. As you enter your responses, you’ll immediately be struck with how gracefully the dial slides and well it “feels.”

[Backplate with bubble level and easy to use push button terminals]

Now what? Sweet, the Nest is now installed! The only thing that is more of a piece of cake than installation is using it. A visually appealing display illuminates automatically when you approach the device. Sliding the dial to the left lowers the set point and vice-versa for increasing heat. The display is easy to read and colors indicate heating or cooling.

I can program it? Yes but you probably won’t! Although programming Nest is easy and you can if you want, one of the best features of Nest is its auto learning functions. Just start using Nest and setting appropriate temperatures for the different times of days. Relatively quickly, your domicile will seemingly be regulating itself without any need for tinkering with settings.

[Quick Video Overview of Nest Use]

Will it help me save energy? Most certainly. Another fantastic feature is “auto-away.” Assuming your thermostat is in an area with activity (not a closet for example), Nest knows when you’ve left the home and automatically reduces heating and cooling for empty homes. As soon as you return, Nest will return to its regular schedule. Of course, Nest is smart enough to know when you are merely sleeping and will keep its schedule that it learns for what time you will be up.

I can control away from home? My favorite thing about Nest is being able to monitor my house and control when I am away. Setting up remote use was amazingly simple. After creating a Nest account it automatically detected my thermostat since it was on the same network. Now, with any app for Android, iPhone or on the Web, I can check out the current temperature, the current set-point and change it if need be. Incredibly simple.

[Mobile Interface]

What other cool things can you tell me about the Nest?

  • A green leaf appears on the display when your current temperature setting is in an energy savings range. This is particularly useful with spiraling energy costs. Even adjusting your temperature one single degree, can save hundreds over the course of the year. Keeping an eye on your settings become fun and easy with the Nest.
  • View your schedule and statistics easily from your Nest account on the web or mobile device. Fine tune the settings that Nest has learned, view current statistics & energy use. Very cool!
  • Customer Support is fantastic If you have to phone support with a question, you’ll be greeted by knowledgeable, helpful, and courteous support staff that (get this): Speak and understand English fluently!

What does this Wizardry cost? Steep for a thermostat at $249. However, I imagine I will easily recoup that this year by better managing my temperatures. Additionally, the auto-away feature gives me piece of mind that I am not wasting energy when I’ve run out the door and forgotten to set the thermostat.

Bottom Line The Nest has done for thermostats what TiVo did for home recording: Making it easy, intuitive, fun and accessible from anywhere there is internet access. While the price is relatively high, given the energy costs for most homes over the course of the year, it is a sound investment and you should be able to recover the cost relatively quickly. And that is music to my ears!


edit: Should you decide to ditch your existing thermostat, be very careful with your disposal if it is a thermostat with mercury. Simply tossing in your trash is an egregious action as it is highly dangerous. Dispose of only through proper channels.

Hidden Track Technology Tuesday
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9 Responses

  1. Wow.

    Amazing. Just moved into a new house with three zones. I am going to get one and if it works well for me two, I’ll probably add the two other zones!

    Thanks for this cool review.

    [Do the individual zones “talk” to each other?]

  2. This looks fantastic.

    I wonder if can write a portion of the expense off in your taxes; as an energy savings investment for you home.

  3. @Dan: Good question, should have addressed that. Yes, the Nests talk to each other and share data about programming, away state, and everything else.

    @JW: Can’t hurt to try ; )

  4. Amazing.

    How long has this been on market? Never heard of it.
    Looks so cool. Wonder if my landlord will spring for it.

  5. i pre-ordered the Nest thermostat on the day it was announced last October. I’ll admit I ordered it b/c its so cool looking but I’ve been amazed by the savings on our electricity bill (Down about 40% since last year).

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