By now you’ve probably heard about the Nest Thermostat. I already had a programmable thermostat so I was hesitant to spend money again on what I viewed as just a “slightly smarter” smart thermostat. But now that I’ve installed it (5 minute job, no exaggeration) and have a few months of utility bills to contrast against last year’s levels, I’m ecstatic. Not only is it saving me money, but I love the control, metrics and utility of the thing. Let me start at the beginning with the install and what I’m doing with it:
Key Benefits and Uses
- Setup was Cake – I would put this device in the “Apple” genre. It’s very sleek and elegant, and “it just works”. I was able to pop my old thermostat off the wall and just slide a couple colored wires into the matching colored slots on the Nest, and boom – done. It takes about a minute to load in your wifi settings so you can communicate with the unit via the web. Computer login and setting up an account was only 2 minutes or so as well.
- How I Save a Bundle! I am actually seeing substantial savings over last year’s usage since I’ve installed it. Not just on a dollar basis (since energy costs fluctuate), but actual energy usage, since my utility bills show me actual prior year usage comparisons. My savings are coming primarily from better control and scheduling of temperatures as you’ll see next.
- Control From Your Smartphone – While it might sound like a cheesy fringe benefit, I actually use this rather routinely, especially since I’m at work all day or on weekend trips and my wife is in and out throughout the day. I can’t really rely on my wife to care much about the temperature settings (saving money doesn’t excite her to the same degree) but with a simple swipe of my iPhone I can quickly set the thermostat to “away” mode, which just lets the temp drift until it reaches an out of comfort range, pre-set level (62 degrees in the winter, or like 78 degrees in the summer). Then, before I leave to come back home, or through a quick scheduling click, I have it modified to come back to temp several hours (or days) later. Just by keeping an eye on when nobody’s home or especially when we’re on vacation or weekend trips, I’m saving a few bucks a day minimum. This adds up to several hundred dollars per year in savings, easily paying for itself, not to mention, less wear and tear on the HVAC system.
- Reports I Like to View – If you’re the least bit competitive or a metrics nerd like me, you’ll want to see what your energy usage was each day and whether it was warranted. There’s a simple reporting feature which shows how many hours your HVAC unit ran each day and at what times and setpoints.
- Other Features – The auto-away feature is big for many people, but there are also climate/humidity sensors which can alter your settings, multiple other reporting features, the schedule is completely customizable with as many setpoints as you want and there’s an entire community of energy-saver geeks out there to share more tips and tricks on the Nest.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a fair review without some critique. One of the big selling points of the Nest is that it can auto-detect when you’re home and away based on a motion sensor. For instance, the temp can remain low in the winter but when you walk in the door, the heat automatically kicks on. This option is flawed in two ways. Primarily, most homes that I frequent (including ours) have the thermostat in the dining room. The whole point of placement of a thermostat used to be that it’s out of sight out of mind, while being reflective of first floor temps. So, since most people rarely enter their dining room, this option is under-utilized. Another flaw in this logic is that your home can’t instantly heat or cool itself, so even with motion detected, it could be an hour or more before the home is at a reasonable temperature. For that reason, I don’t bother using the function and instead rely on a scheduling approach. I’d like to think someone thought of this already and it’s just not feasible, but the innovator in me says that they should sell an “add-on” which would be a small sensor that integrates with the Nest unit that you could discreetly place in your kitchen or near your front door. That would probably be quite cheap and resolve this whole obsolescence issue for units that reside in dining rooms.
So, aside from my iPhone, which is my #1 gadget, the Nest Thermostat is by far the coolest gadget I’ve purchased in years and it’s paying dividends each and every month!
I recommend buying through Amazon.com (link to the Nest and tons of reviews), as they normally have the best pricing and free shipping.