About a year ago, I saw a new product that I thought was a slam-dunk at first sight: The Nest Learning Thermostat.
At the time they were a little difficult to purchase because they had limited distribution channels and Honeywell was suing them to try to keep their product off of the market. So after researching the product diligently, I did what any red-blooded American would do: I went to eBay and bought two of them. At the time, I think I paid roughly $300 each for my 2 Nests.
The kicker is that I knew I wouldn’t even be installing them in my house. Shocker! OK, to be fair, it was because I knew I was moving to a new home in about a month, so I chose to wait. Shortly after we moved to the new house, I installed the first Nest on the main floor.
Before you buy the Nest, check their website for compatibility. From what I understand, it works with MOST home heating/cooling systems, but not all of them, so do a little research to insure yours is compatible. All you have to do is take the face off your current thermostat and check the wiring pins. They have a simple compatibility checker that makes it a breeze.
You might think installing a high-end piece of home automation hardware is a difficult thing. It’s not at all. The instructions are super-clear and it goes a little something like this: find the breaker box and turn off power to your heating/air system. Take off the face of your old thermostat. Pay attention to which wire goes where. White goes to W, Yellow goes to Y1, Green goes to G, and so on. You’ll be putting these wires back in the same letter designation on the Nest backplate. Release the wires from the old backplate and then remove the backplate from the wall. Pull the wires through the hole in the Nest backplate and screw it into the wall. If your old backplate leaves an unsightly area, Nest includes square and rectangular plates to cover that up if you need to and then you put their backplate on top of that, screwing it into the wall (you may need to use drywall anchors for this, which is super-easy). Hook the colored wires into the appropriate spots on the Nest backplate. Plug in the Nest itself. Turn your breaker back on.
In my case, that took about 10 minutes. You may be quicker than me.
After turning on the power, go back to the Nest and you’ll be welcomed with a blue full-color screen and set-up instructions. It’s pretty easy, just follow the directions. The system will identify the available Wi-Fi connections and you’ll select yours and then enter the password (the wheel-based interface is slick and quick).
You’ll want to go to the Nest Website and create a free Nest account. You’ll link your Nest to the account. From that point, you can use your computer to set up your thermostat schedule. And you can also download the free app for your portable device and control it through your iPhone if you so desire.
If you have multiple thermostats, you can have multiple Nests. They sync to the same account and can be controlled independently.
The Nest system automatically adjusts your heating/AC system usage based on your desired temperatures AND the weather data for your local area. It also has a motion sensor that detects when nobody is around and will turn the system off automatically, saving you major energy usage if you forget to do it manually. You can actually set the parameters so it does it after so many hours. And to what temperature it will let things rise (or fall) before kicking in air or heat
One of the things I love is that you can set up the system to go to certain temperatures at a certain time of day. For instance, if you work from 9-5 and generally awaken at 7 and go to bed at 11, you can make a specific program to accommodate. In the winter, you can set it to bring the temp up to 72º at 6:45. Then let it drop to 53º while you’re away at work starting at 8:30 when you leave. Then heat back up to 68º at 5:15 for your arrival home at 5:30. Maybe you like it a little cooler to sleep, so it drops to 66º around 10:15 for bedtime and 63º while you sleep. The next day it brings it up to 72º again before you wake so your bathroom isn’t freezing when you get out of the shower. You can do separate programs for every day of the week, too. So if you’re off every Wednesday, you can take that into consideration.
What if you’re leaving on a trip. You can use your iPhone to turn the system to Away mode. While you’re gone, your home will be maintained at the temperature you desire, cutting deep and saving energy. When your plane lands at the airport, you can turn it back on so it’s nice and warm when you arrive.
Each month, Nest sends you a report letting you know how often the thermostat used auto-away mode to save energy. You get a green leaf on each calendar day that your settings saved you a significant amount of power usage. It will even tell you if it’s because of your settings or because of the weather pattern. This kind of feedback is awesome and makes you want to adjust your settings to get even more efficient.
Oh, and for those of you who think the idea of programming this stuff even on the computer is not worth your time, the Nest will actually learn your pattern of behavior and set it up for you!!! You can’t beat that!
Their website estimates that the Nest Learning Thermostat can same an average of $173 per year, before applying any of Nest’s additional energy-saving features like Auto-Away. I’d say that’s pretty conservative. They also list average savings per device of 19.5%. The highest was 36.1%. That’s pretty impressive. If you take 1/2 your electrical bill (and gas bill if you have gas heat) and multiply it by .2, that’s about what you’re likely to save.
I know the Nest(s) have saved me significant money on utilities for this house. But because I have no before and after bills to compare. But considering your heating and air unit(s) utilize half of the energy you consume, it makes a big difference. Also, my utility bill for the new house (6 bedrooms, 3 units) is actually smaller than for the old house (4 bedrooms, 2 units), I would say that the Nests have easily paid for themselves already (in less than 1 year). Over the life of our time in this house (hopefully 10 years or so), it will save us thousands of dollars.
The last word I have is that this review covers the 1st generation Nest. The 2nd generation (released in October) is slimmer and compatible with even more heating and cooling systems (95% of the systems in the U.S.). The new Nest is $250 on Amazon.com (purchasing through my affiliate link helps support this blog) but you can still get the older one on sale while supplies last.