Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

Nest Renew could be the first step to a smarter electrical grid

After a year-long early access period, Google’s Nest Renew program is now available on compatible Nest thermostats across the continental U.S. Nest and smart thermostats broadly have applied their intelligence to maintaining utmost home comfort while keeping bills low. Renew aims to apply those smarts to tapping into available renewable energy when supply is highest, and purchasing green energy credits when it isn’t.

Time of use billing isn’t new, even when it comes to smart home energy management systems. Just like Nest, major manufacturers like Ecobee make a case for saving power (and in turn saving money and the environment) by preferring to fire up the thermostat during off-peak hours. Nest has historically shown when it’s saving power with a little leaf icon on the screen.  Thermostats that can adjust to shifts in electricity rates show a new kind of relationship the connected home can have with utilities.

Ecobee thermostat mounted on a wall.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

When your home is able to communicate with your electrical provider, not only do you get the end benefit of lower rates, but the grid is also able to adjust generation to meet demand with more agility. That makes renewable sources like wind and solar more viable since their availability fluctuates. It also means power sources that rely on fossil fuels can minimize waste. In either instance, many government agencies and utility providers already give away subsidized smart thermostats just to lower electrical demand.

The advent of home solar has already helped advance this smart grid vision. Since solar panel owners become generators in their own right, any attempt to sell power back necessitates communication standards. “My home has this much power to give, how much does my neighbor need?” is a big shift in dynamic from utilities simply piping power to all of the homes that need it. As a result, many solar-powered homes create an excess of power that is then sent back into the grid and distributed where it’s needed.

These more complex interactions between homes and utilities will need a communications backbone if we want to have resilient and distributed power generation. Many utilities aren’t especially keen on ushering in this kind of future, however. After all, they would in the end be splitting their energy revenue with a community of independent generators.

How Does Nest Renew from Google Work?

Smaller companies may be able to land isolated partnerships with utility providers, but only a behemoth like Google has the scale to push the entire American grid to be smarter. Not only does it command one of the most popular smart thermostat brands out there, it can also push partners to improve grid communications through a shared Google Home platform. That opens the door to plenty of other product categories, too. Sure, your air conditioner uses a lot of power, but so does your fridge. Is it talking to the grid yet? Few companies have the ability to standardize such a broad base of devices the way Google can.

 In the grand scheme of Google, or even next to today’s announcement of a new Nest doorbell, Nest Renew might feel like small potatoes, but a big company doing small things can still affect significant change. The electrical grid is a slow thing to evolve. We need the heavyweights of the tech world to take on this challenge in order to get anywhere. With any luck, Google’s activity in this sphere will spur competitors like Apple and Samsung to action in neighboring product categories. Successful implementation of Nest Renew in the U.S. also bodes well for similar systems to advance in other regions.

For now, we’re eager to see what the pick-up is like for Nest Renew. A monthly premium subscription to offset the carbon used in your home’s heating is a tall order. Even if that’s too much to ask, the free utility of opting for renewable energy sources is a step in the right direction. If you’re hunting around for a new smart thermostat, now is a great time to see what’s available. We’ve got a roundup of the best smart thermostats out there. Regardless of whether they’re helping your home use more renewable energy, smart thermostats will save you money on your electrical bill.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Sage
Simon has been publishing in tech since before the first iPhone was released. When he's not busy lighting a candle for the…
Best appliance package deals: LG, Samsung, KitchenAid, and more
Samsung Kitchen Appliance Package in a kitchen with blue cabinets.

Appliances are some of the most expensive purchases we can make. While spending thousands of dollars on washers, dryers, refrigerators and ovens isn't nearly as much fun as buying TVs and powerful computers, it's still exciting to use your newly furnished kitchen. We've pulled the best package options below, from washer and dryer packages to full kitchen sets. We've spotlight LG, Samsung, Whirlpool, Bosch and KitchenAid.
Best LG appliance package deals

LG has some pretty incredible appliances. We've focused on the best offers in LG's washer and dryer deals.

Read more
Best robot vacuum deals: save on Roomba, Shark, and others
The ionvac SmartClean 2000 robot vacuum vacuums the floor of a nursery while a baby lies asleep in its crib.

It can be quite daunting to finish a full day of work and then have to face cleaning up a whole house. Luckily, robot vacuums can help quite a lot, and while they won't be able to organize your closets and cupboards or put things away, they can help keep the floors clean. There are many types of robot vacuums you can pick, from budget-oriented ones that do the basics to fancier double units that can both vacuum and mop. There are a lot of great deals on them, so you can find something solid without breaking the bank.

Best Shark Robot Vacuum Deals

Read more
This Ecovacs robot vacuum and mop combo is over $400 off
Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni AIO robot vacuum and mop with dock sponsored

Are you looking for robot vacuum deals? If your answer is yes, why not get a device that also functions as a smart mop? Check out the Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni robot vacuum and mop, which is currently on sale with a 30% discount from Amazon that lowers its price from $1,500 to $1,045. It's still not cheap, but the $455 in savings is a huge bonus for such a helpful gadget. You're going to have to hurry if you want it though, because we're not sure if the bargain will still be available when you check again tomorrow.

Why you should buy the Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni
The Ecovacs Deebot X2 Omni robot vacuum and mop is highlighted in our list of the best robot vacuums for several reasons, including its impressive suction power of 8,000Pa that will allow it to pick up all kinds of dirt and debris, and retractable mopping pads that are automatically raised when it detects carpets so that they won't get wet. Once it returns to its docking station, the device self-empties into a bin that can hold up to 90 days of waste, and it cleans its mopping pads with hot water to ensure cleanliness and prevent odors. It will also refill its built-in water tank with enough clean water to cover up to 4,300 square feet.

Read more