Trying the Nest Thermostat

I’ve had the Nest Thermostat on my wish list for a while. It has looked like an interesting bit of technology, just hard to justify the $249 price. This past week the little plastic nub that changes from AC to heat broke on my not-exactly-high-tech thermostat, so I decided to splurge and try the Nest. I still can’t justify the price in terms of what I might save on energy, this is just trying something new.

I checked the price online, $249 at Amazon, the same at Best Buy. I like shopping local when I can so off to Best Buy where they had a nice demo of it set up so you could twist the dial to get a feel for how it worked. Looked good and ended up getting a $20 Best Buy gift card as part of some promotion, so a net of $229 for the thermostat.

The packaging for the product is first class, which I guess you expect given the price yet is still nice to see – you can see the Apple influence here. Everything you need is in the box.  I read the directions, took pictures of the wiring of the existing thermostat and then labeled them using the included wire labels. Removed two screws to take the old one off, then mounted the cover plate to hide the larger than Next hole in the wall and the Nest base that goes on that. The Nest has tiny bubble level so you can get it straight and there is a Nest branded screwdriver in the box with both standard and Phillips head, though I used my impact driver to push the two mounting screws directly into the drywall.

Next step is to push the wires into the holders on the Nest. The wires where just a tiny bit shorter than I would have liked making it hard to move them with my fingers, but a pair of needle nosed pliers and some careful arranging made everything fit. The way the connectors work you can easily and clearly see if the wire is connected solidly. I had to guess on a couple letters – I had an “R” wire,did that go to RC or RH? The old one had a jumper wire that the Nest manual said I didn’t need,so I put it aside, thinking I should have done this project on Sunday night instead of Saturday night so I could get next day help if needed.

Thirty minutes about to get to that point. The UI control just plugs in, turned the power on, and it detected my wifi network right away. The UI is a dial plus push to click, so to enter the password you twirl the dial – which feels solid, not twitchy – to each letter, click, go to next letter, and so on. My network uses mixed case plus numbers and I had no problem getting it entered. As soon as it connected it started downloading an update that took what seemed like a minute, then put up a message that it was restarting. It did, then restarted again.

It then prompted me for a few more answers about the type of cooling system, if I was a professional installer (I should have looked to see what options were under that), the local zip code, and an option for heat pumps where one choice was “don’t know” which I clicked. Maybe five minutes to get through the config and then it was ready. I set it to cool and hear the fan kick right on, good! Well, good except it was blowing hot air instead of cool. I hit the web and found an entry on their site suggesting that I change the heat pump configuration on the thermostat from “O” to “B”, which I did, and promptly got cool air. It was 8 pm and I decided to put off testing the heat until the next morning.

I then created an account on the Nest site and right away it detected an Nest device on the network. To link the account to the device I had to go click a prompt on the thermostat, plus click a confirmation link via email, and then I was in. I can set the thermostat via the browser, see the current temp, and even review the wiring diagram.

It’s nicely done through out. If you turn the dial so that the AC stops and then turn it back so that it should come on it shows a timer of how long until it restarts the compressor. You can set a schedule or let it learn – we’ll try the latter and see what happens. It stays dark unless it detects motion in front of it. At eye-level for me my 6 year old daughter doesn’t activate it when she walks by.

My wife was skeptical about $250 for a thermostat, but definitely changed her mind once she saw it and used it. Maybe it will save energy day to day, but the biggest place we see it helping us is when we’re gone for a few days. Here in Florida if we push the temp up to 80 in the summer it can take hours to cool down when we get home – not pleasant. We’ll get a lot of use out of it just adjusting the temp when we’re a few hours from being back home.

I think my only concern – minor at this point – is security. Part of it just the aggravation factor if the online account was compromised, or further back in their data stack, wouldn’t be fun to have someone changing the temperature randomly, but it would largely be a nuisance unless you weren’t at home and they either kept it running continuously or kept it from running to perhaps damage plants/pets during really cold weather. I can live with that minor risk. The other part is I’m not sure how the communication works from thermostat to web site. Either way I’ve put a device on my network that can get updates remotely and can see local traffic. I could turn the wifi piece off, but it’s a nice bit of functionality, so for now I’ll live with that risk too. As the world does more home automation, especially with remote management, we’re going to have to worry about this stuff more, ranging from maybe requiring vendors to meet some to be defined security standard to running them on a “home automation” network separate from our other devices.

So far I’m impressed with it, we’ll see how it goes. If you’re thinking of getting one I’d suggest pulling the cover on your current thermostat and identifying all the wire codes in use, figure out before you buy if you have any issues though I think most will work just fine

One thought on “Trying the Nest Thermostat

  1. Thanks for the review. I”ve really been wanting one as well but can”t justify the cost either. Like you, I”m also concerned with security, which has been another reason to wait on getting one. However, I do like the idea of saving both energy and time in terms of walking to the thermostat all the time to change the temp. Have the stats would be nice as well. I”m assuming you got a 2nd gen one?


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