Introduction

This just might be the most oddball thing I’ve ever written about on this site, yet it’s concept and execution have provided an equal level of pleasure to anything I’ve previously reviewed.  I hear you thinking “Steve, you’ve been out in the sun too long”  and I’ll give you that, but bear with me for the first few paragraphs and let’s see if you become as fascinated as I am with the Nest Learning Thermostat.

 

This just might be the most oddball thing I’ve ever written about on this site, yet it’s concept and execution have provided an equal level of pleasure to anything I’ve previously reviewed.  I hear you thinking  “Steve, you’ve been out in the sun too long”  and I’ll give you that, but bear with me for the first few paragraphs and let’s see if you become as fascinated as I am with the Nest Learning Thermostat.

 

First, this will only work with the central HVAC (heat, ventilation, air conditioning) systems in the newest high-end homes in Thailand, but it would also make the perfect gift for your parent’s home in many western countries.  More, the concept of home remote control of major systems and appliances while not new, has never been executed so well and is something we’ll see more and more of in the near future.

Tony Fadell who invented the Ipod (I’ll bet you thought Steve Jobs did that? No, he merely recognized a fantastic design and backed it’s manufacture) while an employee of Apple had an agreement with Steve Jobs to not compete with Apple products on his exit with Apple.  What to do with his major design talent?  He decided the basic home thermostat was long neglected and could not only benefit from improved aesthetics and function, but in the process could result in significant energy savings.  So out came the drawing board and he set to work.

The result was an entirely new concept in thermostats which combine a futuristic look, modern wifi connectivity and function, and new energy saving control techniques not found in existing thermostats.  He made it easy for the DIYer to install on their own, painless connectivity, and the result is the “must have” product for any new custom home.  Nothing else compares.

I tried to order one last year, but the limited run of first units were quickly sold.  Now, with a feel for demand Nest ramped up production and allowed customers to sign up to be notified when they were back in stock.  I was one of those who signed up and was pleased to be offered a unit from their first production run.  I placed my order and 2 days later UPS delivered it to my front door.

 

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest thermostat  looks very “ipodish” in design and is made of metal vs. plastic.  A large bright color LCD (320x320 pixels, 24 bit color, 1.75 inch diameter) adorns the center and under normal use displays very simple screens showing temperature and system, or during setup allows you to setup your wifi (802.11 b/g/n@2.4ghz), set your preferences, or match the thermostat to your system.  It is 3.2 inches in diameter and 1.44 inches deep.  About the size of your standard hockey puck.

 

The Nest thermostat  looks very “ipodish” in design and is made of metal vs. plastic.  A large bright color LCD (320x320 pixels, 24 bit color, 1.75 inch diameter) adorns the center and under normal use displays very simple screens showing temperature and system, or during setup allows you to setup your wifi (802.11 b/g/n@2.4ghz), set your preferences, or match the thermostat to your system.  It is 3.2 inches in diameter and 1.44 inches deep.  About the size of your standard hockey puck.

 

The main concept of the Nest is that instead of the worn concept of “programming” based on time of day and temperatures, it instead learns your usage pattern over the first few weeks and then slowly takes control of your system anticipating your lifestyle.  It learns when you wake up and want to be more warm, when you go to bed and want to cool off the house to save energy, and when you go to work and come home.  By constantly monitoring your usage patterns the Next anticipates your needs.  Brilliant!

Operation is simple.  The bottom of the Nest has what looks like a grill, but it’s really senses motion, temperature, light, and humidity.  Combined with your local weather it accesses off the internet and your usage pattern, it becomes very accurate when predicting your desired temperatures.  You can increase or decrease the temperature by simply turning the elegant dial either way, and/or access it’s other functions by pressing the unit.

 

Operation is simple.  The bottom of the Nest has what looks like a grill, but it’s really senses motion, temperature, light, and humidity.  Combined with your local weather it accesses off the internet and your usage pattern, it becomes very accurate when predicting your desired temperatures.  You can increase or decrease the temperature by simply turning the elegant dial either way, and/or access it’s other functions by pressing the unit.

 

The Nest connects through your wifi to gather real time weather data and to allow remote operation through your Android or Iphone smartphones or your computer from anywhere in the world.  Once you set up a Nest account which is remarkably simple and easy to do, you can remotely setup and operate the device.  I’d guess 95%+ of the Nests functions are accessible remotely.

A feature not found on any other thermostat is Airwave.  This takes advantage of your existing equipment by shutting down your AC early and keeping the fan running for a few minutes which they say can save your 30% on your cooling bill.

 

A feature not found on any other thermostat is Airwave.  This takes advantage of your existing equipment by shutting down your AC early and keeping the fan running for a few minutes which they say can save your 30% on your cooling bill.

 

The green “leaf” appears automatically when the Nest senses you’re using the most efficient temperature for the local conditions.

 

The green “leaf” appears automatically when the Nest senses you’re using the most efficient temperature for the local conditions.

 

There is an “auto away” feature where the Nest senses if you’re home or not and adjusts the thermostat to your preset away temperatures.  If you leave for work and forget to turn off/down your HVAC system, no worries.  Nest has your back.  It knows when you’re gone and will take care of this for you.

 

There is an “auto away” feature where the Nest senses if you’re home or not and adjusts the thermostat to your preset away temperatures.  If you leave for work and forget to turn off/down your HVAC system, no worries.  Nest has your back.  It knows when you’re gone and will take care of this for you.

 

Nest also provides an “energy history” accessible on the device itself, or through the online account.  It shows you exactly when your system was on, set to another temperature, turned on/off, and all functions which affect your energy usage.

 

Nest also provides an “energy history” accessible on the device itself, or through the online account.  It shows you exactly when your system was on, set to another temperature, turned on/off, and all functions which affect your energy usage.

 

Another handy feature shows you something I’ve never seen before.  You set your desired temperature and the display shows you how long it will take to achieve this temperature.  This isn’t an arbitrary number either, Nest learns your system and reads the weather data via wifi and accurately calculates the time to temperature.

 

Another handy feature shows you something I’ve never seen before.  You set your desired temperature and the display shows you how long it will take to achieve this temperature.  This isn’t an arbitrary number either, Nest learns your system and reads the weather data via wifi and accurately calculates the time to temperature.

 

The sensors have a 150 degree view and senses activity in your home, humidity, temperature, lights on/off, and of course keeps an eye on your local weather information and forecasts via wifi.  There is also a built in lithium battery which normally charges off the existing wiring.

The Nest works with the vast majority of HVAC systems.  If you have any questions about compatibility you can go to their support site  or call them at 1.855.469.6378.

 

Installation

I received an attractive box with everything I needed for installation including a quality screwdriver, wall anchors, screws, and several paintable wall plates in the event removal of your existing thermostat leaves a large hole or an unpainted surface the new smaller Next thermostat can’t cover.

 

I received an attractive box with everything I needed for installation including a quality screwdriver, wall anchors, screws, and several paintable wall plates in the event removal of your existing thermostat leaves a large hole or an unpainted surface the new smaller Next thermostat can’t cover.

 

The instructions were clear and I started getting that “this is a two minute project” feeling which so often misleads me, leaving me wandering lost in some crawl space or overhead.  I had several questions related to my specific HVAC system so I picked up the phone expecting the usual annoying phone prompt system and long wait. I was pleasantly surprised to be connected to a technician within 2-3 minutes.  And these are knowledgeable well trained technicians with a load of patience.  I had to call them on three different occasions and each time my experience was positive.

 

The instructions were clear and I started getting that “this is a two minute project” feeling which so often misleads me, leaving me wandering lost in some crawl space or overhead.  I had several questions related to my specific HVAC system so I picked up the phone expecting the usual annoying phone prompt system and long wait. I was pleasantly surprised to be connected to a technician within 2-3 minutes.  And these are knowledgeable well trained technicians with a load of patience.  I had to call them on three different occasions and each time my experience was positive.

 

The Nest support site provides step by step directions, videos, and more than enough information to make this easy for your average DIYer.  And if you still don’t feel comfortable they can arrange for installation for a nominal fee.  Yep, you guessed it, I elected to install it myself.

The first thing you want to do is go to your breaker panel and turn off the power to your heat pump, furnace, and any other HVAC related systems.

Removing the old thermostat I used the provided stickers to label each wire I removed from the old unit.  Once the wires were labeled I removed the old backing plate and took stock of the condition of paint and how big the existing hole in the wall was.  My paint being new showed no outline where the old unit was placed and the hole was small enough to be easily covered by the new Nest unit.  I did have to drill two small holes, screw in the anchors, and using the built in level as a guide snugged down the backing plate in the proper position with the labeled wires protruding from the center.

 

Removing the old thermostat I used the provided stickers to label each wire I removed from the old unit.  Once the wires were labeled I removed the old backing plate and took stock of the condition of paint and how big the existing hole in the wall was.  My paint being new showed no outline where the old unit was placed and the hole was small enough to be easily covered by the new Nest unit.  I did have to drill two small holes, screw in the anchors, and using the built in level as a guide snugged down the backing plate in the proper position with the labeled wires protruding from the center.

 

The wire mounting blocks don’t require a screwdriver.  You press them in with your finger, insert the wire, and let go.  You can tug on it and feel it’s held very securely.  It took less than two minutes to install the wires, but this was one of the times I called their tech support because I wasn’t sure about one of the six wires I connected.  Support asked me some questions and then told me where the wire went.

With the wires connected I snapped on the actual thermostat head, turned back on the breakers, and by the time I returned from the breaker box the Next was asking me to enter my setup information.

 

Setup and Operation

The first thing it asks you is for your wifi account information.  The unit will operate without wifi, but it won’t be able to read the local weather data and you won’t be able to remotely control the unit.  Nest will sense your local network and ask you to confirm, and then if your network is password protected you’ll need to enter the password.  This is a one time deal.  If your network is too far away or has some other issue it will tell you, and when it first connects to your network Nest will install the latest firmware updates.  From then on it updates automatically in the background.

 

The first thing it asks you is for your wifi account information.  The unit will operate without wifi, but it won’t be able to read the local weather data and you won’t be able to remotely control the unit.  Nest will sense your local network and ask you to confirm, and then if your network is password protected you’ll need to enter the password.  This is a one time deal.  If your network is too far away or has some other issue it will tell you, and when it first connects to your network Nest will install the latest firmware updates.  From then on it updates automatically in the background.

 

Next it tells you the type of HVAC equipment it detects from the wires and voltages on the wires which you connected.  It asks you to confirm before moving on.

 

Next it tells you the type of HVAC equipment it detects from the wires and voltages on the wires which you connected.  It asks you to confirm before moving on.

 

Now it asks for your zip code.  It uses this information like you would a weather site to collect your local weather data.

After you enter the zip code Nest asks if this is a home or business.  Businesses have different heating/cooling patterns and Nest recognizes these differences.

 

After you enter the zip code Nest asks if this is a home or business.  Businesses have different heating/cooling patterns and Nest recognizes these differences.

 

It also asks if there is more than one thermostat in your home.  Many new homes have multiple and zoned systems and require multiple thermostats.  Nest is designed to work in concert with more than one thermostat which is especially important during remote settings and control.

Next you’ll be asked if your system is electric, gas/oil, or if you don’t know you can enter that as well..

 

Next you’ll be asked if your system is electric, gas/oil, or if you don’t know you can enter that as well..

 

Lastly you’ll be asked if you have forced air or not forced air.

 

Lastly you’ll be asked if you have forced air or not forced air.

 

And that’s it! You’re now in the operating screen and can turn the dial for heat or AC.

You can further setup your system by entering the advanced menu functions, set your desired away temperature limits, a pre-programmed schedule or even a temperature “range” if you want to forego the learning feature, and finally there are special energy saving features you can set.

 

You can further setup your system by entering the advanced menu functions, set your desired away temperature limits, a pre-programmed schedule or even a temperature “range” if you want to forego the learning feature, and finally there are special energy saving features you can set.

 

Actual operation is a breeze.  My wife and son were immediately able to set the temperature for heat or AC without any instruction, like an ipod the Nest is amazingly intuitive.  For the first two weeks we let it “learn” our pattern which is picked up after the first few days.  I must admit it’s accurate.

 

Actual operation is a breeze.  My wife and son were immediately able to set the temperature for heat or AC without any instruction, like an ipod the Nest is amazingly intuitive.  For the first two weeks we let it “learn” our pattern which is picked up after the first few days.  I must admit it’s accurate.

 

Still, the Nest does something no other thermostat that I’m aware of does.  It allows you to set a temperature “range” and it will turn on the heat or AC as required keeping your home within a 3 degree or larger range.  This is what I prefer even though the Nest warned me in big letters that this was the least efficient mode.

 

Still, the Nest does something no other thermostat that I’m aware of does.  It allows you to set a temperature “range” and it will turn on the heat or AC as required keeping your home within a 3 degree or larger range.  This is what I prefer even though the Nest warned me in big letters that this was the least efficient mode.

Still, the Nest does something no other thermostat that I’m aware of does.  It allows you to set a temperature “range” and it will turn on the heat or AC as required keeping your home within a 3 degree or larger range.  This is what I prefer even though the Nest warned me in big letters that this was the least efficient mode.

 

This time of year in the mid-west you could easily change between heat and AC five or more times per 24 hour period.  It’s very nice to just set a desired temperature and forget about it.

The “away” mode works with the range.  If I leave the house Nest will sense my absence and automatically go into away mode temperature limits which does save a lot of energy.  I tried Airwave but haven’t used it long enough to tell you if you really save the claimed 30% in cooling costs.

 

The “away” mode works with the range.  If I leave the house Nest will sense my absence and automatically go into away mode temperature limits which does save a lot of energy.  I tried Airwave but haven’t used it long enough to tell you if you really save the claimed 30% in cooling costs.

 

Everyone loves the Nest.  It senses when you move your hand to the dial and turns on it’s display.  Anyone can operate it, turn it on/off, adjust temperatures, ranges, modes without a manual.  The manual is nice, thick stock with great color and easy to read, but I’ve never had to read it.  I just glanced at it to report in this review.

 

Remote Operation

Perhaps the Nests most attractive feature is the remote capability.  Imagine, you’re on your way home after work on a hot summer day and you don’t want to walk into a hot stuff house, so you pick up your Iphone and with the press of one button tell your HVAC system to cool down to your normal temperature.  Or maybe you’re lying in bed on a unseasonably cold morning and you know getting out of bed to turn on the heat will take a while, so you reach over to your Android and flip on the heat without getting out from under the covers.  The scenarios are endless.

 

Perhaps the Nests most attractive feature is the remote capability.  Imagine, you’re on your way home after work on a hot summer day and you don’t want to walk into a hot stuff house, so you pick up your Iphone and with the press of one button tell your HVAC system to cool down to your normal temperature.  Or maybe you’re lying in bed on a unseasonably cold morning and you know getting out of bed to turn on the heat will take a while, so you reach over to your Android and flip on the heat without getting out from under the covers.  The scenarios are endless.

 

Even inside my home, I’m often at the computer working and it starts to get warm or cold and I go to my Nest page and adjust my HVAC system to a more comfortable temperature.  My Nest page also shows me the weather outside, if it’s raining or what temperature it is.  Once I left for the Windy City on an all day trip and forgot to turn off the heat.  No sweat, a minute later it’s done.

 

Perhaps the Nests most attractive feature is the remote capability.  Imagine, you’re on your way home after work on a hot summer day and you don’t want to walk into a hot stuff house, so you pick up your Iphone and with the press of one button tell your HVAC system to cool down to your normal temperature.  Or maybe you’re lying in bed on a unseasonably cold morning and you know getting out of bed to turn on the heat will take a while, so you reach over to your Android and flip on the heat without getting out from under the covers.  The scenarios are endless.

Perhaps the Nests most attractive feature is the remote capability.  Imagine, you’re on your way home after work on a hot summer day and you don’t want to walk into a hot stuff house, so you pick up your Iphone and with the press of one button tell your HVAC system to cool down to your normal temperature.  Or maybe you’re lying in bed on a unseasonably cold morning and you know getting out of bed to turn on the heat will take a while, so you reach over to your Android and flip on the heat without getting out from under the covers.  The scenarios are endless.

 

And of course I can monitor and change any setting via my computer or smart phone, program a schedule, turn on/off the away or learning modes, or maybe just check remotely what temperatures my family are enjoying.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy the remote convenience and even safety of the Nest thermostat.

 

Summary

I almost choked when I saw the $249 USD list retail price.  I’ll even admit to deleting the first email they sent me allowing me to take advantage of my position in the order queue.  $249 is expensive!  Or is it?

 

I almost choked when I saw the $249 USD list retail price.  I’ll even admit to deleting the first email they sent me allowing me to take advantage of my position in the order queue.  $249 is expensive!  Or is it?

 

Compared to the top programmable thermostat the Nest is very reasonable, even less expensive than some.  And have you tried programming those tiny monochromatic los rez screens?  You need glasses, a flashlight, and it takes 10 button pushes to do any function.  What a nightmare.

The more I went to their site and read, the more I understood the Nest functions and potential for energy savings, the more I recognized the value.  This is the best most informative intuitive website I’ve ever experienced.  Their customer service is on the same level.

 

The more I went to their site and read, the more I understood the Nest functions and potential for energy savings, the more I recognized the value.  This is the best most informative intuitive website I’ve ever experienced.  Their customer service is on the same level.

 

And then there’s the 5 year warranty, the best of any thermostat I know of.  And let’s not forget the free mobile and computer aps and the server that runs them.  And how about the free function firmware updates silently updating in the back ground, what other thermostat does that?  Or the ability to print out my personal home use records of temperatures, when my HVAC was adjusted, turned on/off, and other such information.

And then I looked at it over on the wall, a functional piece of art.  And I think about a custom back plate accessory to match my planned décor, what other thermostat becomes a functional part of design?  Most are bland beige boxes you wish you could hide.  The Nest is an instant conversation piece with guests and receives nothing but positive reviews.  It reeks with quality and once a guest sees it they want one.  They sheepishly ask “can I touch it?”  After they feel the quality of the dial and see the high quality color LCD display they can’t wait to hurry home and place their order.

 

And then I looked at it over on the wall, a functional piece of art.  And I think about a custom back plate accessory to match my planned décor, what other thermostat becomes a functional part of design?  Most are bland beige boxes you wish you could hide.  The Nest is an instant conversation piece with guests and receives nothing but positive reviews.  It reeks with quality and once a guest sees it they want one.  They sheepishly ask “can I touch it?”  After they feel the quality of the dial and see the high quality color LCD display they can’t wait to hurry home and place their order.

 

I know, it’s only a thermostat.  Why get so excited?  Well, because it’s that great and the wifi and remote features are so well implemented that it really improves your home and home quality of life.

And then I start thinking, maybe dreaming, about what Tony Fadell will invent next.  Will I be able to control my lighting as easily, my garage door, front and rear door locks, turn on the over, feed the parrots?  All of these home automation features already exist, but they’re not part of one system unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on a custom system.  But even so, I doubt they’re as easy to use and as well implemented as Tony Fadell made the Nest thermostat.

All of a sudden $249 seems quite the bargain.  Every day I use it, every time I change temperature through my computer or smartphone, the more reasonable the price seems.  I’ve had no issues, no hiccups, no oddball things to fix.  It just works and it works as easily and simply as my Ipod.  Who would have thought..

The Nest thermostat excites me because it’s a first practical glimpse of the future.  I think back to when I was a kid and watching the Jetsons and I remember my mother telling me “in your lifetime..”  Well, she was right.  The future is here and it’s starting with the Nest Thermostat.