The Nest thermostat — User Experience

Back in February, I installed the Nest thermostat and provided some installation guidance based on my experience.  Since then, I’ve installed a couple more Nests and as promised wanted to share some of my experiences.

ht_Nest_iPhone_jp_121001_wgOverall, I’ve been very pleased with the device.  What I’ve been particularly happy with is the ease to install, use and the remote access capabilities.  It also looks cool … 🙂

Here are the things I’ve been impressed with:

  • As one might expect from an interface that was developed by the designer of the original iPod, the inteface is particularly easy to use.  You want to raise the temperature, you turn the outside ring clockwise and reverse to lower the temperature.  To get to the features of the device, push on it and it brings up a menu that you can manage.
  • The display is big and clear, with color used to give status.  The blue background means A/C is running and orange indicating that heat is currently running.  This beats going to a register to see if there is warm or cool air blowing out.
  • Access via web, tablet or smartphone is highly useful and gives one an easy method to monitor and change the systems remotely.  It also gives you access to multiple thermostats in the same home as well as multiple thermostats across multiple homes.
  • I really like “auto-away” that will set the system to the away settings when it detects that you aren’t around.
  • It’s been very dependable.  I’ve not had any issues with the device dropping off the network or lack of access.  It’s simply available remotely (as long as your WIFI network is stable).  This is particularly important if you’re going to be away from a property for a long time, like New England in the winter.
  • The “energy” tab in the remote access methods give some very useful data about how long and when the system ran.  It also displays when the temperature setting was changed.
Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 4.17.54 PM

“Click” to see the energy information.

Some things that I’m less enamored with:

  • For me, the jury is still out with the “auto-schedule” feature.  I think in a setting when one operates in a very deterministic manner (you get up a 5:00, go to work at 6, kids come home at 3:00, I come home a 5:00, etc), it will do a good job figuring out your patterns.  It’s kinda cool to have it figure out when you need heat or A/C and I certainly can see how this would save you money.   However, my schedule isn’t very deterministic and the resulting schedule had changes all over the map.    I’m still playing with it to see how it settles.
  • The “airwave” feature (where the fan continues to run after the A/C compressor shuts down) is probably not something you want to use in a highly humid environment such as in Florida.  It tends to inject humidity into the environment.  In northern or drier climes it should be fine and it can reduce cooling costs.
  • My biggest complaint is that is no method to deliver alerts if the temperature or humidity falls out-of-tolerance.  This would be very easy to provide and be a valuable feature.

Finally, there has been a recent (and as usual automatic) upgrade to the software, which has the following new features that I’ve not played with:

  • The “cool to dry” feature will use humidity to determine when to turn on the A/C as a method to reduce humidity levels.  This is a good concept for when you’re not around.
  • “Sunblock” detects when the thermostat is in the sun and adapts.  None of my thermostats are in the sun, so it’s not used by me.

The $250 price point is still a little steep, though other networked thermostats are more expensive.   Using the device should save you money, if you allow it to do so.  Use the automated features and look for the green leaf icon when you use it, which will indicate that you are in a greener mode.  I’ve not done any bill comparisons at this point since I don’t have enough data, but suspect just “auto-away” has made a positive impact.

To mitigate the cost, see if your energy provider provides a rebate.  Go to the Nest partner’s page for more information.   For example, National Grid provides rebates of $100 per device up to 2 devices.

For more information on Nest, go to nest.com.

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    1. Google acquires Nest: What does it mean? | The Family HelpDesk
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