I have to admit, this was an impulse buy for me after I seen it mentioned on Facebook. It was pretty hard to resist a cross between an iPhone and a “smart” thermostat and rarely have I got so excited about a household appliance type thing! It’s kinda pricey at about €220 from Store.nest.com/ie/ and it had only just gone on sale in Ireland when I bought it so it was kinda unproven here but the promise of smarter heating and possibly reduced heating bills helped me justify the expense to the wife. The reports online were all pretty positive too and the caliber of the companies behind it put me at ease further.
Apparently, the guys behind it used to work in Apple on the iPhone and you can definitely see similarities in design and interface. Google bought the company behind the Nest earlier this year for billions and has plans to add cool new features such as voice control and integration with other home automation products and even Mercedes cars! Everything about the process of buying and installing the Nest “Learning” Thermostat was fairly smooth and professional from their website and checkout etc to device control, except maybe the delivery time as mine seemed to get lost for over a week somewhere between The Netherlands and here. I was also slightly disappointed to see that there was an extra box (Heatlink) and level of install complexity over and above what I had seen online for the US version which meant I had to get an installer out to put it in for me. Luckily, I just caught a free install period though. People handy at DIY should be able to manage the install themselves though. For the Irish market, the extra Heatlink box basically connects to whatever wires your old controls were connected to and the Nest can then be wired directly to the Heatlink or moved anywhere else in the house within 30m. The Nest communicates with the Heatlink wirelessly but needs to be plugged in if it’s not wired directly to it.
The Nest website, web control dashboard and mobile apps are all very user friendly and simple and everything worked flawlessly straight out of the box including connection to home Wifi and your Nest online account so it can be controlled remotely. The unit asks all kind of questions on start up from the year of construction of your house, to fuel type, to floor size, to room location in an effort to teach itself as much as possible about your setup and run as efficiently as possible which makes it pretty reassuring. It also updated itself on first run. I like devices that update themselves and add new features & fixes all the time! There’s a nice feel to the unit too. It’s has a heavy, quality feel to it and using it (by pressing the face in and turning the frame clockwise or anti-clockwise to go through menus, temperatures etc) is very smooth and satisfying.
How it works?
The basic idea of the Nest is to “learn” your patterns of activity in the house so it can provide heat only when you really need it. What you are supposed to do is tweak the temperature by turning the dial left or right whenever you need it and over a week or two it will learn the times you do this and start doing it automatically for you. I personally didn’t like the sound of having to remember to adjust the heat every time we walked into or out of the kitchen so I just picked a base temperature of 16 degrees (mimimum “Cosy” house temperature recommended by ESB) and setup a schedule (see above) that basically tells it to make the house 18 degrees from 7am and go back to 16 from 8am. We get up at about 7:30am so the house is warm when we’re up. I set a temperature of 12 degrees for around 10pm for the night while we’re asleep so the heat doesn’t come on. If we ever have to adjust the time manually then the Nest will apparently add this to the schedule info and do it’s thing automatically!
Night time and Empty House
The first night we had it I wasn’t quite sure what would happen if it went below 16 degrees. I didn’t particularly want the heat maintained at 16 overnight while we were asleep. I guess the way around this is to just set a much lower temperature for sleeping hours, ie around 12 degrees or something but it’s not clear whether the “Auto Away” feature kicks in overnight or not. The Nest can be set to sense when you are away for long periods like at work or on holiday and it wont turn on at all except to maintain whatever temperature you set as the “Away Temperature”. I have that set to 4 degrees just to prevent freezing but I’m not sure how it differentiates between away times and sleep times. Perhaps the on board sensors can tell when it’s dark or bright?
Overall I’m very impressed with the Nest. It has quality written all over it but you’ll have to wait a few months if not a full year to try see if it saves on heating bills or not. At the very least though it’s very cool to be able to dial up the heating on your phone from bed before you get up or before you come home and it’s great to have a heating control and thermostat all in one that focuses on the actual house temperature rather than a simple on/off schedule. I’m also looking forward to seeing what future software updates will bring.
UPDATE: I’ve been using the Nest for a few months now and it’s not generating any data for the monthly reports I get via email. Without the report data, I’m not sure whether it’s saving me money or not. Also, every couple of weeks it seems to slow down and become unresponsive and I have to reset it. I’ve downloaded the latest firmware update but no improvement. I’ve tried emailing and ringing their support for the last month or 2 and I’ve got nowhere. Communication is very poor from them.