Two weeks ago I purchased the most domestic gadget on the planet, the Nest Learning Thermostat. When the Nest was announced less than a year ago, I couldn't help but take notice. The thermostat is the brain child of one of the creators of the iPod, Tony Fedell. I was in the market for a programmable thermostat before the heat of summer gets the best of my electric bill, when I saw that Nest was available at Lows. I decided to stop by to check it out. I figured if it didn't work, I could always return it without having to worry about shipping and handling (my hold up in the past). Since most A/C systems are unique, I didn't want to run the risk of incompatibility.
A breath of fresh air. Installation was actually enjoyable, with well documented instructions and online tools that help you the whole way through. I expected hours of sweating over the correct wire configuration. In the end it took no longer than 20 minutes.
The steps are pretty simple. Turn off the circuit breaker to the A/C and furnace. Take off the old thermostat, making sure to properly label the wires with the provided wire tags. Nest comes with a handful of cover-up plates if removing the old unit left a hole in your wall, or you just don't feel like painting. It also came with a screw driver and all the necessary heads for removing and installing the new unit. Nest has a base unit that the wires clip into. This is screwed directly into the cover-up plate or the wall. The thermostat itself connects to the base using a proprietary plug and satisfying click.
These guys thought this process out and made it a cake walk.
After installing Nest, the screen lights up and a walk through helps you with the initial configuration. It determines the type of HVAC system you have, where you live and connects to your WiFi. Just the installation, the process is a breeze.
Rather than setting up my schedule on the thermostat itself, I chose to connect it to my Nest account first. This provided me with a fantastic interface for programming my weekly schedule. Linking to your account is as simple as logging into the web interface while on the same network as the Nest unit. Nest will display a dialog asking you to confirm the account link and you're good to go.
The reason it's taken me two weeks to write this has less to do with laziness (but still a little) and more to do with the break-in period. Nest recommends a week to break in the device, making all its advanced features fully active. I've traveled a bit recently, so this time took a little longer than anticipated.
These features include auto-away, which gives the device the ability to "sense" when you're not home and adjust the settings. Time-to-temp which allows Nest to estimate how long it takes to reach a certain temperature and adjust the schedule accordingly, so you walk into a comfortable house. And auto-schedule, taking into account the adjustments you make to predict what you will set your temperature at in the future. It uses the rule of two; if you adjust Nest two weekdays in a row, or two Tuesdays in a row, it will assume you would like to continue that trend.
All of these things, once active, are the reason you buy a Nest. The learning features work very well in my experience and with over-the-air software updates,tweaks that need to be made can. In April, an update was released that added the ability for Nest to take into account the residual temperature of the A/C after the compressor turns off, spreading the cool air without wasting energy running the compressor longer than necessary. It just makes sense.
I really enjoy having such control over an aspect of my home that I never thought twice about before. The iOS app is fantastic. On Sunday when I landed in Houston it was 96°. Rather than wait until I got home to turn off Away mode, I changed the settings on the iPhone app from the tarmac. By the time I walked in the door my apartment was the perfect temperature.
On Tuesday I went out to dinner after work. The schedule I setup turned the A/C on at 5pm, but when Nest sensed I wasn't home by 5:30 it turned it off, putting it into Auto-Away mode. This uses the ambient light, motion and sound sensors to determine if you're home. It automatically switches off when you walk in the door. This has to be one of my favorite features and will be a huge savings on the weekends, when no schedule is set.
Speaking of energy, Nest makes it easy to see how it is helping you lower costs. From the iOS app, web site and Nests own screen, you can look at how long your furnace was running and which of Nests features turned it off.
So far I'm thinking Nest was a good pick up. It might be a little pricey, but it'll surely pay for itself in a couple of years. Especially if you live in an extraordinarily hot or cold climate. And honestly, there's not a whole lot more rewarding that adjusting your homes temperature from an iPhone, 1,000 miles away.