Last year I purchased and installed a 3M Filtrete Touchscreen WiFi-Enabled Programmable Thermostat and have generally been very happy with it. It's not automatic, but it's programmable and it has a remote control iPhone app and a very nice programmable web API. Since I work at home, sometimes I am in my home office and other times I'm in a local coffee shop, and in these instances I just use the phone to turn off heat as I leave.
More recently I've been hearing about the Nest Learning Thermostat. There are two generations, Nest Gen 1 and Nest Gen 2 which is 20% thinner than the first Nest and includes support for 95% of North American heating and cooling systems.
I saved up and bought one. It's great.
When you spend $200 or more on a Thermostat you're expecting to be impressed. The entire experience from unboxing through installation and usage is absolutely top notch. There's an online Nest Compatibility Tool you can use to check if you've got the right wires for Nest to work with your heating and cooling system. If that doesn't cut it, you are invited to take picture (!) of your setup and send it to them. Classy.
Unboxing it is like unboxing an iPhone or high end receiver. It's like unboxing HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, in fact, which is pretty awesome.
The box includes every piece of hardware you could need. Even the tiny screwdriver they included is brilliant. It's got 4 magnetic tips and it's become my favorite screwdriver for small computer stuff and I've taken to keeping it on my desk. It may seem a small thing, but think about that for a second. Someone decided to make and ship an awesome screwdriver. I love that.
There's a rectangular back plate included that can be used to cover holes from your previous installation.
I went back and forth about using the back plate and came to the conclusion that a thermostat this fancy deserved a few hours of extra effort. I could have slapped the back plate on the wall and been done in minutes but instead I took a little bit of putty/spackle, filled the holes left from the previous thermostat and painted with a small modeler's paintbrush.
I am EXTREMELY happy and a more than little proud of the results.
You snap the Nest onto the round backing and it immediately turns on. You rotate the Nest's outer ring to make selections and you press in to make a selection. My Nest needed to update itself and apparently Nests will auto-update without you having to do anything but wait a bit.
I've had the Nest for a few weeks now and while I can't tell if it's saved me a pile of money yet, I can note a number of significant things that have made a difference to me and the family.
The Nest app is as well-designed as the Next, or more so. The Nest is simple and hides complexity but if you go digging and WANT to see what the underbelly looks like, it hides little. You can get details on the wiring - now hidden physically but visible virtually.
You can see the schedule that the Nest automatically gleaned based on yours and your family's behaviors. For the first week you are asked to adjust the Nest as much as you like in order to teach it about your preferences. It uses this data, combined with local weather and noticing if you leave to build a schedule. It also overrides that schedule liberally using auto-away.
The Nest is kind of the Prius of home thermostats, and I say that as a happy Prius owner. It make saving (or trying to save) energy a game. It'll show a leaf when you are choosing temperatures that can save energy. In the fourth screenshot you can see an icon on Thursday that indicated that I adjusted it manually and caused an energy savings. On Tues the weather was warmer than expected and caused the Nest to save energy.
You can zoom in on any of these graphs and get LOTS of details. You can see here that I left for lunch at Noon on Friday.
The best thing about the Nest. It's simple and its simplicity hides enormous complexity. It's a luxury item, to be sure, but it's a joy to use. I'm impressed and I suspect that when a Nest is $100 at Home Depot that they'll own the market.
I'll update the post in a few months when I have several heating bills.
PLUG: My friend Luvvie and I talk about the Nest in Episode 2 of our new bi-weekly Podcast, "Ratchet and The Geek." Check it out!
Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.