Holiday Gift Idea III: The Nest Thermostat

nest-thermostat-300Some months ago I was doing some work around the house at the request of my wife. I can’t remember what exactly, but it involved some woodworking. The process was not going as well as I might have hoped and I was getting tired.

Somehow I managed to mash my hand, which aside from being painful brought the effort to a premature end for the day. My wife decided that we need to make a trip to our local Lowe’s anyway, and that I should take a break come along for the ride.

While at the store we stumbled upon a display for the Nest Learning Thermostat. A few days before I had mentioned to Stella that it was being rolled out nationally. I also told her a bit of the story about the company, its founder and their legal entanglement with Honeywell.

Upon seeing the device offered in the store, and with feelings of guilt stemming from my damaged digits, she bought the Nest as a thank you for undertaking her honey-do list.

The story of Nest is very appealing to her sensibilities. A small start-up shaking up a stodgy business, complete David v Goliath legal cases. Who isn’t drawn to an underdog? Especially when the product bears all the hallmarks of design by Apple .

We already had a more basic Hunter programmable thermostat in place. I had installed that a few years ago so I was familiar with the related wiring.

The Nest was a snap to install. I was impressed by the physical design of the device. It uses spring-loaded connectors like smaller versions of something you might find on loudspeakers, making the process especially simple. Nest even provides the screwdriver required for the installation.

I won’t bore you with a lengthy review of the Nest thermostat. You can find those at various places online, including; GigaOm, CNet and MIT’s Technology Review.

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What I will say is that we love it! It learns your habits and then builds a schedule around what it knows. It knows when you’re home. It knows when you’re away.

As far as I can tell it doesn’t track whether you’ve been bad or good. That task remains firmly in the hands of another.

It takes the guess-work and hassle out of programming the traditional thermostat. It’s adaptive to your activities. It’s simple enough that even my wife likes it. It’s technological, but it’s pretty, too…which doesn’t hurt a bit.

What Stella especially likes is the Nest Mobile app for Android. This lets us make adjustments remotely. Most often that means merely making a tweak without getting out of bed. That said, we do occasionally make adjustments while at work or travelling.

The remote control capability requires that the Nest be connected to our home Wifi. It communicates with Nest infrastructure to allow remote access. It had no trouble with our WPA-PSK2 encrypted WLAN. It is, as far as I can tell, a well-behaved member of our local Wifi clan.

The following screen shots were taken on my Galaxy Nexus.

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Initially, Nest Mobile didn’t run on my Nexus 7 tablet. A subsequent release runs on well the tablet. The app makes good use of the screen real estate to show energy usage and schedules.

Our Nest is a v1 device, whereas a v2 version of the hardware was released in October. At that point the earlier model was put on sale for $199, down from the usual $249.

Home automation is a labyrinth that would make even Lewis Carroll shudder. Twice I’ve started down that path only be frightened back by some unforeseen sort of jabberwocky. The Nest Learning Thermostat is step in that direction, but with none of the frightful side effects. Highly recommended!

  • Greg

    Does the Nest automatically switch between heat and A/C? 

    • mjgraves

      It does, although we have not used it in that mode.

  • Sean

    Honestly, I would rather have this than a smart refrigerator or oven. How far back does it collect the data, a week, a month, three months? Can you export the data to chat it out and match it up with the utility company reports?

    • mjgraves

      Huh? I don’t get that at all. Here in Texas the central air conditioner usually is the single largest load in a household. It’s the first place that you can save energy.

      The Nest has a neat trick where it stops the compressor but keeps the fan running until the heat exchanger is near ambient temperature. Thus the compressor runs a shorter time to achieve the same goal. They say that this alone can save 15% of power consumed.

      As to all that other, data export, etc. You should ask Nest. HVAC is only a portion of your bill so I fail to see how you could use it alone to reconcile your power usage.