Smart thermostats are about more than just being able to turn up the heat from your smartphone. Smart thermostats today can regulate temperatures more easily and evenly, and they can also lower your furnace when you’re sleeping or out of the house, potentially saving you bundles on energy bills.
For some, installing one of these smart devices might seem complicated and intimidating; after all, there’s wiring to worry about, right? The truth is, manufacturers like Nest have made installing a smart thermostat so easy that anyone can do it — even if you have zero experience with any kind of wiring. Here’s everything you need to know.
Decide on your level of smarts: Choose your Nest
Before you install anything, you’ll have a choice to make, at least with a Google Nest thermostat: The specific model.
Nest has a few different models, like the original Nest Learning Thermostat and the newer 2020 Nest Thermostat. Both install in much the same way. If you want to go into detail on which one is best, check out our comparison: Google Nest Thermostat versus Google Nest Learning Thermostat.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is the flagship model. As the name suggests, it learns your home and your comings and goings and can automatically respond to adjust temperatures. Then, over time, it takes this pattern recognition and adapts your energy usage. It’s super smart (with app and voice control), but it comes at a price — the Nest Learning Thermostat runs about $249.
The new Nest Thermostat was launched late in 2020. (Want to know how it works in detail? Read our Google Nest Thermostat (2020) review: A little less, yet still the best.) This is what you could call a budget model. Coming in at a wallet-friendly $129, it makes this smart technology far more accessible. But with its pared-down price tag comes fewer smarts — you’ll need to program this thermostat yourself, but beyond that, you still get an adaptable smart thermostat that knows where you’re home and when you’re not, with a companion app and voice control for a great price.
Check your furnace compatibility
Before you click the buy button, make sure you check that the device will be compatible with your furnace. Nest’s website lets you check before you buy. It’s disappointing to think you’re about to add cool new tech to your home only to have to ship it back for a refund. Avoid frustration and check in advance by going to Nest’s website.
How can you tell? Just pop the cover off your current thermostat and see which wires you have now. Input your findings into the website checker and wait for your results.
Look for a C-wire
In some cases, you will need what’s called a C-wire to properly power your thermostat. A C-wire is just one of the wires that runs from the furnace to the thermostat. When you peek behind the cover, you’ll be able to see what you’ve got. If you have an older furnace system without a C-wire, it will likely work with a Nest Learning Thermostat, but not so much with the new 2020 Nest Thermostat.
While Nest Thermostats are easy to install yourself, you can also have an HVAC technician help you out. With compatibility assured, you’re ready to install your Nest Thermostat.
Not sure if Nest is the one for you? Dig in to our list of the best smart thermostats for 2021 to find more choices.
There are essentially three phases to this process: Installation, setup, and programming or learning.
Step 1: Download the Nest app
The best part is that the Nest app will guide you through the process step by step and offer helpful videos and photos.
Step 2: Turn off the power
While most furnace systems are low voltage, you still need to turn off the breaker to the system for safety.
Step 3: Remove your current thermostat cover
Take a photo of the existing wiring. You’ll need this for reference later.
Step 4: Disconnect and label existing wires
Nest supplies you with tiny labels so you can keep track of which wires are which — use them.
Step 5: Remove the old thermostat
Remove the old base and wall plate, and attach the new Nest wall plate and base. Make sure everything is nice and level.
Step 6: Connect Nest
Connect the wires to your Nest thermostat’s base by following the wiring diagram from the Nest app.
Step 7: Attach the Nest faceplate
This is the fun part — clip the new faceplate on, and wait for the magic to happen.
Step 8: Restore power
After turning the power back on, your Nest should power up on its own. In some cases, it may need to charge up a bit first.
Step 9: Set up your Nest thermostat with the app
With the faceplate now operational, the app will help you with the rest, which will involve making some choices regarding settings and preferences.
Step 10: Program Nest, or let it learn
The final step will be to program your thermostat in the app, or, if you opted for the Nest Learning Thermostat, it will start its learning phase, which may take a couple of weeks.
Setting up a Nest thermostat is very easy. While it does take some time — allowing about an hour from start to finish, including programming time, is a good idea — you can easily have this done in an evening or on the weekend. It will also take some time before you may start to notice those energy savings on your heating bill, but that’s okay because installing a device like a Nest thermostat is a long-term play.
Nest thermostats are also excellent for those with cabins or cottages, second homes, or office spaces to manage — you can do a lot from your smartphone using the Nest app and not use energy unnecessarily.
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