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I Really Want to Try the Nest Thermostat

Hvac Thermostat Nest 1

hvac thermostat nest 1I love the look and idea of this new thermostat called the Nest and want to install one as soon as I can. It’s gorgeous. It’s simple. And it’s smart.

I love the look and idea of this new thermostat called the Nest and want to install one as soon as I can. It’s gorgeous. It’s simple. And it’s smart.

By smart, I mean it’s programmable, but you don’t have to scroll through menu after menu setting the temperature for up to four periods a day after deciding whether to have different settings for Monday through Friday and then Saturday and then Sunday or maybe Monday through Friday but Saturday and Sunday are the same, first for the temperatures you want while heating your home and then the temperatures you want for cooling. (See what I mean about the current models of programmable thermostats?)

No, you simply change the settings to keep the house comfortable while you’re home, and the Nest watches and learns. It figures out when you’re not home and sets itself back so you don’t spend extra money heating and cooling the house while you’re away. Here’s their video explaining a bit about how it works.

Designed by a guy who used to work for Apple, this thermostat has the look and feel of an Apple product — simple and elegant. Of course, there’s an iPhone app to go with it so you can change the settings or check up on it while you’re away.

Since the beginning of the Energy Vanguard blog, I’ve had on my list to write an article about thermostat setbacks because some people don’t hvac thermostat nest 2believe they save energy and can even cause problems. I think the Nest folks oversell the benefits of setbacks on their website, but sometime soon I’ll be posting two articles on this topic: one by me about why they do work and another by Ted Kidd, who believes they don’t.

Aside from the issue of setbacks, though, I want to know how well this thermostat works. Yes, it’s beautiful. Yes, the simplicity and the idea behind it are great. But does it do what they say it does? I think the Nest folks need to send me one for free so I can put it through its paces and do a thorough review here for our readers. :~)



In case you’re wondering, neither Energy Vanguard nor I are working for Nest or receiving any kind of pay for touting their product.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. That’s a neat looking little
    That’s a neat looking little product. We have a real issue in my mom’s house with thermostat settings. She’s on in years and extremely arthritic. She needs the temperature very high at night, and then lower during the day. In the winter, it needs to come on earlier (late afternoon) than in summer. So a while back I installed a conventional programmable thermostat. It works fine, but you have to reprogram it when the seasons change, of course.  
    I could see where something like the Nest might work in her situation if only her heating system were zoned (it’s currently not), and there was a Nest serving each zone. There’d be no need for seasonal re-programming (sometimes we forget to do this when the weather changes, and that’s not good). 
    Something to think about, anyway. Thanks for the information!

  2. While I agree that it is very
    While I agree that it is very elegant looking and the programming is very cool, at $250, the payback period is going to be very long. Think I’ll wait until they come down in price before I start buying them.

  3. The one thing their website
    The one thing their website does not mention this cool gadget does is to have the ability to control ventilation and humidity like an IAQ thermostat does. It seems their only concern is energy savings…. and looking cool. I think I’ll wait for the next generation iTSTAT.

  4. John P.:
    John P.: Another advantage in your mother’s case is that, although it’s not the only thermostat that does this, you could change the settings remotely for you mother. 
    Dick M.: There are more reasons than energy savings to get one of these, but if that’s your biggest concern then, yeah, it’s probably not the wisest purchase. It’ll be interesting to see if they do come down in price. 
    Armando: Good point. Since this is their first version, it probably doesn’t have those bells and whistles. As they get established, I’m sure they’ll at least look at adding controls for ventilation and humidity.

  5. Hey Allison, you can use our
    Hey Allison, you can use our house to put a free one through it paces!

  6. A follow-up article could
    A follow-up article could help us by being informative. Apart from predictable patterns, I would be interested in knowing how it deals with irregular events such as vacations. 
    They need to learn it’s not all about temperature. But… temperature is one thing, humidity is another, and ventilation is yet a third thing. Honeywell makes an acceptable simple device to address humidity, I submit. Would that be a satisfactory solution? I have read about other single purpose devices to address ventilation on a timer method. 
    I can see the point that as soon as you make a device serve two purposes, you get compromises which detract from one or both purposes.

  7. Good perception of a problem
    Good perception of a problem and workaround to a solution. 

  8. I want to love everything
    I want to love everything about this, BUT – it seems to require a commitment to manually adjusting the settings during the “learning period.” A typical programmable thermostat has a longer set-up time, but once you tell it what time you get up and what time you leave for work, you’re done. Am I missing something?

  9. Savings to us means keeping a
    Savings to us means keeping a certain time of higher temps in the summer since we are on a time of use energy plan. More utility companies are going to TOU and this stat won’t help them save money. I personally have the White Rodgers 1F95-1291 humidistat, and it’s about $100 cheaper than the “iStat”.

  10. People tell me all the money
    People tell me all the money they save. I ask how much and they say “a lot”.  
    I can’t do anything with “we’ve saved a lot”. What is “a lot?” Do you put “a lot” on the amount line when you make deposits at the bank? “Vast Majority” is like “a lot”. No bank will accept that deposit slip. 
    In the 70’s we had a very different world. This prescription fit “the vast majority” then a lot better than it does now, and the diagnoses and cure was not broadly understood or available. Today there are diagnostics available to determine causality, and prescriptions that are likely to cause more harm than good are clearly malpractice. 
    The bigger problem with blanket legacy strategies is the behaviors they create cause not only distorted assumptions about how homes perform, they are an impediment to true efficiency improvements.  
    A homeowner who “thinks” they are saving boatloads of money by implementing an 8f setback strategy becomes an unhappy homeowner when I replace their grossly over sized equipment and install properly sized equipment because their legacy behavior causes my design to fail. Recovery no longer takes 15 minutes, it takes an hour.  
    The typical HVAC guy doesn’t want that no-pay complaint phone call. The energy bill, and therefore energy savings, are not their problem. The phone call is. Do you see how setback advice perpetuates this major problem? 
    Furthermore, delta arguments and studies seem to jump to conclusions about causality. I think they don’t prove casualty. I think they miss significant interacting factors.  
    Over sized legacy equipment short cycles, which is really inefficient. (If you drive a hummer 100 miles a day, will you use more gas if they are all city or if 80 of those miles are highway?) Setback with legacy equipment allows equipment to get to the highway and operate efficiently twice a day. Long hard runs, long shutoffs. Not very effective for delivering comfort. Is this considered as a possible cause of energy savings? 
    That is the exact opposite of how modulating equipment achieves efficiency, which load matches and attempts to never shut off (thus avoiding cycling losses). Running modulating equipment full out and shutting it off completely defeats the purpose.  
    I think the homes that benefit from this outdated strategy are homes we would consider broken. They are leaky homes with crappy equipment. Fix them. Instead of telling people how to treat their energy hog symptoms by gaming slight and unmeasured savings, at significant cost to comfort and a stuck legacy mindset that perpetuates thinking that conservation means discomfort, teach them they can fix the problem.  
    Prescription without diagnoses when tools for diagnoses are readily know is major malpractice. There is a cure. Fix crappy homes. Setback is a placebo.

  11. Kathleen M.
    Kathleen M.: I think their objective is to capture those folks who won’t use a programmable thermostat at all because they’re too complex. They’re also trying to iPhone the thermostat market by creating a product that looks good and is easy to use.  
    Bob: Actually, I think this thermostat may help people on time-of-use (TOU) rates by setting back the thermostat when they’re away during peak hours, especially late afternoon in cooling climates. Or am I missing your point? 
    Ted K.: I was hoping you’d see this one, especially since I mentioned you in it. You don’t have to run your article in the comments here, though. Once it starts getting cold, I’m going to run your guest post on setbacks along with my take on them. I absolutely agree with you that setbacks aren’t the cure; fixing crappy homes is the first thing to do. But setbacks are certainly more than a placebo.  
    My main reason for wanting a Nest thermostat is because it’s simple and elegant. I hope the smart setback features work as designed, but I think the aesthetics is what’s likely to be its biggest selling point.

  12. In our area TOU is highest
    In our area TOU is highest from 2-7pm. The nest stat would bring temps down around 5:30pm when people get home putting the A/C into catchup mode. TOU times vary from utility to utility and a conventional programmable would probably work better.

  13. Nest seems to be targeted at
    Nest seems to be targeted at folks with VCR flashing 12:00. Remember that? Criticizing the learning method misses the point. Whether or not Nest satisfies its intended demographic remains to be seen. 
    Nest should work fine with TOU as long as the AutoAway mode (motion activation) is off. Just change the setpoint at the appropriate times for a few days and Nest will follow that schedule. But I suspect most folks who opt for TOU billing have no problem using a conventional setback stat. 
    I noticed Nest has wifi connectivity. It will be interesting to see if it can be conventionally programmed via its web portal. This would solve the main issue most people have with programmable stats — the user interface. BTW, several less expensive web-accessible thermostats are already available. 
    John: Sounds like your Mom just needs a different thermostat. Most have separate schedule for cooling vs heating mode.

  14. I like any product that can
    I like any product that can make the energy saving mindset more accessible to those who are interested but who may not be part of our industry. I wonder if it’s intentional that the Nest looks vaguely reminiscent of HAL9000.

  15. The Nest thermostat has the
    The Nest thermostat has the ability to automatically switch from cooling to heating using the range schedule.

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