I’m happy to say that I believe we’ve arrived with a real, mass market programmable thermostat. I’ve been patiently waiting for technology to get to a point that I could easily control my home heating and cooling electronically.
Heating or cooling a home can account for over 50% of the home’s total energy use – so an area ripe for cost savings.
The product I purchased and installed is the Nest programmable thermostat.
Programmable thermostats have been on the market for a while. If you’re in to tinkering, soldering and hacking stuff together, there are ways to remotely control them, but I wouldn’t consider most of those items as having mass market appeal.
What is the Nest?
The Nest is a programmable, learning thermostat available at a variety of retail stores, including nest.com, Apple, Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowes and others.
Be prepared for a little sticker shock, as the Nest is $250 versus several other programmable thermostats on the market for less than $100. Granted, most of the other programmable thermostats lack the cool features of the Nest, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison. And there are probably other comparable thermostats, but the Nest has gotten the most attention lately. Sure, it has a few negative reviews here and there, but generally speaking, it has gotten very positive feedback.
Why did I upgrade and is it worth the $250 that it costs?
The short answer is that I upgraded to have a smart, programmable thermostat that would reduce my energy bill while still providing a comfortable temperature. With a family and inconsistent schedules, I wanted something that was flexible and easy to adjust on the fly.
Nest has some cool features, such as being able to be remotely controlled through the web or through the mobile app (securely, of course). The flexible scheduling and analytics are cool features as well.
It takes a few weeks for the thermostat to learn your habits, so it’s tough to tell how much we’ll actually save, if anything. Online, they say you could save up to 20%. Considering our electricity bill during the hot summer months can reach $600, I believe that it will pay for itself over time.
Setup, in the grand scheme, was pretty straight forward.
The product has a very Apple-esque design, from packaging, to the interface, mobile app and website.
Not surprising based on the fact that Tony Fadell, Nest founder and CEO, led the team that created the first 18 generations of the iPod and the first three generations of the iPhone. And Matt Rogers, founder and VP of Engineering, was responsible for iPod software development at Apple, from concept to production.
I’m impressed with the Nest leadership team – quite the set of credentials.
Nothing special here. You turn off the electricity, pop the old one off, unwire the existing one and wire in the new one. The installation process is very similar to installing any standard thermostat. I’ve replaced thermostats before, so I was familiar with the process. Even if you’re new to it, it’s only a few wires, so pretty straightforward.
Old Thermostat: Inside View
At first, I was concerned because the Nest was so much smaller than our previous thermostat. But fear not, the Nest comes with a trim panel.
Nest Trim Plate (Included):
Once it’s installed, it only takes a few minutes to get it up and running.
First, you select the language and then connect it to WiFi, just like any other wireless device. Find your network, enter in the password and you’re connected.
Once connected, it checks for updates, then downloads and installs them.
Next it goes through a variety of configuration options, selecting the type of furnace you have, your location (by zipcode), type of home (single family, condo, etc).
Then, you’re up and running and you can adjust the temperature as needed.
You can set up an online account, download the mobile app and connect it to the thermostat so that you can remotely control it and track the usage.
We’ve had the Nest installed for a few months, while the device learned our habits. Over time it further refines the heating and cooling schedule to optimize comfort and reduce energy consumption.
So far, I’ve been really impressed with it. Installation and setup were easy. And it’s cool to sit on the couch and control the thermostat. And it appears to be saving energy based on our electricity usage.
I also think the Nest has appeal to small businesses. A friend of mine has her own business and has a very basic thermostat, similar to what we had. She said that when she came in to their store the other morning, it was still set at 70 degrees and had been cooling their store overnight, costing her extra money. Situations like this could be easily avoided with a programmable thermostat, especially one that recognizes inactivity and auto adjusts or one that could be remotely managed.