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Hands on with an installed Nest Learning Thermostat

Hands on with an installed Nest Learning Thermostat

After jumping on the pre-order for the Nest Learning Thermostat for no other reason than I had heating and cooling on the brain as I weighed furnace replacement options in my newly purchased house, I waited patiently for the release date. There was no way that Tony Fadell, designer of the original iPhone for Apple, was going to follow up that spectacle of gadgetry with a dud — right? When the Nest team followed up with complimentary install service for orders within the first 48 hours of launch, I felt rewarded for my impulsiveness and blind faith in Fadell’s vision and team.

With the installation of my Nest two weeks in the rear view mirror, I thought it was a great time to give a real hands on take on the Nest and it’s features.

Pros:

  • Design and User Interface — Do we really need pretty thermostats? Until you have one, you probably wouldn’t even think of it. But when a device wows everyone that has come through the house over the past two weeks, you know the sleek design is upping your digital geek cred every time you show it off.
     
  • Wi-Fi connection — Outside of entertainment and computing devices, I haven’t really leveraged Wi-Fi/Internet enabled smart devices in the home. My experience with Nest has me ready for nearly sentient appliances throughout my home. Being able to control the device remotely via the web or mobile app is excellent. I wish my security system or lighting had similar functionality. The inflow of data into the Nest from the Internet is just as interesting. Being able to pull in exterior temperatures and weather data for your location gives you (and the intelligent programming of the Nest itself) a real lens into your behaviors as a energy consumer.
     
  • Ease of installation — I will own up to having the unit installed by the Nest concierge service because it was offered to me. But I can readily admit that, after having watched the professional installation, I could have easily followed Nest’s instructions (http://support.nest.com/) with little trouble myself.

Cons:

  • Motion sensor (if unit is in an out of the way place) — The motion sensor is a great feature and that it is the input that fuels the auto-away settings to lower energy output in your home is brilliant in theory. But if the placement of your current thermostat is say, in the dining room that people rarely frequent, is the unit pulling in accurate enough home/away data to run it’s intelligent programs? My Nest is in such a place and while the Nest only a day ago told me it had sufficient data to run the auto-away feature, I am concerned that it’s input data isn’t going to be accurate enough. To be fair to Nest, I raised this point with them and their responses were confident that there was very little actual motion needed to gather the data to inform the system. We’ll file this in “wait and see”.
     
  • Cost — At the end of the day, the cost to purchase a Nest is very likely not in anyone’s annual budget. While Nest maintains that it will pay for itself in energy savings over time, that still remains to be seen. It was easy enough for me to jump all in on the Nest purchase with only one zone in my house’s heating/cooling system. For homes with multiple zones, that’s $250 per zone if you want to go “all in” with a Nest controlling each.

It will be interesting to look back at this purchase once a full year of seasons are behind us and see how much of a difference this intelligent appliance has made on our energy consumption habits and ultimately our bottom line.

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