A smarter thermostat: Nest

For most folks, the lowly thermostat is a a bit of anachronism.  You set it to “heat” or (if you’re lucky) “cool”, then set the temperature.  If you have a programmable thermostat, you might be programming the temperature by time of day (cooler when sleeping or away, warmer when home).

IMG_0510However, there are some options for getting a smarter thermostat, including ones that are remotely accessible off your home network.   Many of these networked thermostats are expensive up to $500 each and difficult or clunky to program.  However, there is one that is relatively easy to install, easy to configure/program and has superb support.  It’s also very easy to use.  It’s by a company founded by the original designer of Apple’s iPod and it’s called Nest.

I purchased one, then installed it.   What follows logs my installation and configuration.  At some time in the future, I’ll provide an update as to how well it actually works.  The website does a good job describing how the device works, so I’ll not say any more in this post.

So, there are three basic steps to installing the device and don’t skip one, else you will add a lot of frustration:

  1. Is Nest compatible? — The first step is to check the compatibility of Nest with your home heating/cooling system. Do this before purchasing the device.
  2. Replace the old thermostat with Nest
  3. Configure the device and your Nest account — The device will need to be configured, an account set up at nest.com, then if you want, download apps for your smartphone or tablet.

Is Nest compatible?

To check compatibility, you’ll need to take part of the thermostat off the wall.  For newer ones, the device is divided into a mounting plate, where the wires are connected and the thermostat controller that snaps onto the mounting plate.   If you have this type of thermostat, you’ll need to pop the controller off the mounting plate (after shutting the power off),which should expose the wiring:

IMG_0499             IMG_0500

Take a photo of the wiring and if  the wiring is clear in the photo, pop the thermostat controller back on and turn the power on.  If there are wire nuts connecting the wiring, then you have 110v connections and Nest isn’t compatible.

Now, go to nest.com/installation for instructions on how to check compatibility.  Note that you’ll likely need to call Nest for help determining compatibility.  The number is: 855-469-6378.  One of the things to check is how complicated the installation is.  For example, Nest recommends professional installation if you have a separate dehumidifier.  That should help you determine whether to slog on or get help.

Replace the old thermostat with Nest

You’ve now determined that you are able use the Nest and you’ve determined that you don’t need a professional installation.  Great, then the next step is to open the box and take out the installation instructions.  Read them, then read them again.  I say that as a guy … trust me, it’s a short read. 🙂  Here are the parts needed:

IMG_0501

Also, be sure you have enough time allocated to both install the new device and to complete the testing.  It took me roughly an hour to do the installation and configuration.  However, it took several hours to insure it was working properly.

The next step is to shut off the power at the source.

Remove the old thermostat.  When you unwire it, be sure to log where each wire went.  Also, there are labels in the instructions: Use them!

Next be sure you know where each wire needs to go.  I created a table with both my old American Standard and Nest connections:

Color wire Amer Std Nest Function
Red RC RC Power
Orange O OB Reversing Valve
Yellow Y Y1 Cooling
Green G G Fan
Blue B C Common
Black not connected not connected

Before connecting them, I called the Nest number noted above and confirmed my new settings.  The support person needed to look up my heat pump model to confirm the correct settings.

Next, I installed the round mounting plate with the optional rectangular decorative plate to hide the original screw holes.  I attached the wires:

IMG_0505

Note the build-in level under the wires.  A very nice and installer friendly feature.

All that’s left is to pop on the controller:

IMG_0507

Configure the device and your Nest account 

Turn on the power.  The device will then walk you through the configuration steps.  Be sure that you have your WIFI credentials handy as you’ll need them.   After connecting to your network, it will most likely update the software:

IMG_0508

This will take some time and the device will reboot several times.

Following that, it will continue walking you through the configuration.  From this point on, all configuration items will be modifiable online, so don’t fret if you don’t get it totally right.

Next, signup for an account at www.nest.com/account.  There is no cost nor do they need a credit card.  It’s best to be on the network that the device resides on for this step as that will help you associate the device with your account.   Once the account is set up, you can access via a browser or via smartphone or tablet app.

Finally, you’ll need to test all the functions.  I noticed when I tried it, the heat pump turned on but the fan didn’t .  It turns out that the GREEN wire wasn’t fully connected.  Testing it will take time, so be patient.

A few other notes:

  • If you live in an area that’s typically hot and humid (think Florida), you probably want to turn off the air wave feature that uses the fan to circulate air even when the compressor’s off.  This will tend to push more humidity into the air.
  • Be sure you have a reliable power connection, which is typically the RED wire for positive and BLUE wire for the common ground.  This will permit your device to properly recharge it’s battery.  This is a good question to ask Nest folks.
  • There are currently two versions of Nest on the market, V1 and V2.  V2 is going for $250, while V1 is going for $200.  There are a couple differences between them.  One is that V2 has a lower profile.   The other is that it supports additional HVAC solutions, like 2 stage cooling.

Let me know what your experiences are if you’re using Nest or some other smart thermostat.

3 Comments

    Trackbacks

    1. The Nest thermostat — User Experience | The Family HelpDesk
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