Nest Learning Thermostat

Last year I replaced my old-looking but perfectly functional programmable thermostat with a better looking, WiFi-equipped model. The remote aspect of it was good. We could set “away” temps, and restore normal temps on our way back home. And the programmable part was always good – cool at night, not working so hard when we’re at work, etc.

But even though the thing was from a “major name”, it was a true PITA. While it worked most of the time, any time we wanted to tweak things, ugh. It was miserable. Then Nest came out with their Learning Thermostat.

I  recently put one in and it’s well beyond what I was hoping the other might be. Superbly easy installation and activation, beautiful to look at, and as user-friendly as anything can be. It’s still in learning mode which basically means it is figuring out our daily schedules. But so far they’ve thought of everything, and this has given me complete confidence in its long term purpose.

Nest also provides apps that allow you to control your thermostat from your iOS or Android phone or tablet. You can also track energy usage history, etc. At $249 it’s a lot more than other thermostats, and so maybe not suited for everyone’s budget. But I’ll say it’s more than suitable for any home. It’s a beautifully designed and exceptionally functional thermostat that continues to do its job very well.

-- Wayne Ruffner


Nest Learning Thermostat

Available from Amazon

Manufactured by Nest


  1. Sad that Honeywell is trying to bury them in patent lawsuits.

    1. It’s border-line ridiculous that you can patent setup wizards, or rotating dials with a stable face.  Sure they may be novel for a thermostat, but come on?  How much research was actually done to arrive at this? Does any company really need exclusivity to have done that work, or wouldn’t they do it any way to sell more stuff?  So yeah, patents are bunk.

  2. The “design” is an old fashioned Honeywell dial thermostat with an LCD image of a dial replacing the mechanical one. The learning is not so big a deal since most people don’t keep that regular a schedule and people like me have no regularity at all. My teaching schedule next semester will be totally different than this.

    And, frankly, if Honeywell owns the patents, they have as much right to sue Nest as Apple has to sue Samsung. The patent system is broken but that doesn’t mean it is smart to unilaterally disarm.  The fact that the Nest engineers came out of Apple illustrates that Apple has no more regard for prior art than Samsung does when making phones.

    If it works for you, great, I just don’t see what the big hoo ha is about. It just isn’t that big a deal for me to adjust the thermostat when I leave and when I get home. I poke a button with a finger. Saving that action isn’t worth $250 to me.

    1. Most people don’t keep that regular a schedule

      I rather doubt this, especially when there are children going to school or at least one of the tenants works a 9 to 5 job.

      1.  Keep track of your household over the course of a year. See how it goes.

        I still don’t see what’s the big deal about poking a button twice a day.

        1. Even with the 28 days of paid vacation most of us enjoy, I have no problem in finding regular patterns in our household and that of our neighbours.

          Personally, I don’t need to push any buttons myself. I think  Nest wouldn’t work with common heating in German houses anyway, as  each room has their own thermostat anyway, often combined with a central one plus outside thermometer as well.

          We’ve set up one plan for each weekday which works and push buttons only when we break the pattern.

    2. I don’t think this article is about Apple vs Samsung or Nest vs. Honeywell. I do not see many similarities between the Honeywell and the Nest – only that both are round and have an lcd.

      Anyway, both are not available where I live and I would be happy to get either (preferrably the Nest due to its advanced features – I like to use my iPhone for remote control and I like userfriendlyness)

  3. Depending on the home design and heating/cooling components it maybe be best to not fiddle with the thermostat at all…

    I installed one of the Honeywell 5+2 units in a previous house and it worked fine, but honestly I didn’t like the amount of variance the system allowed.  The previous bimetal coil unit seemed to keep a much more even temperature even if I had to do all the leg work.

  4. haters gonna.
    i want one of these so badly. i’ve read numerous accounts of people who say it’s paid for itself very quickly in savings. i love the tech behind it, and it’s a beautiful thing to just LOOK at. and this is coming from someone who HAS one of those old round honeywell thermostats.

  5. I have one of these, but I haven’t installed it yet.  We had to have our AC system replaced right after I bought it (doh!), and the city has to come out and inspect things first, and I don’t want to throw anything off from what was installed by the AC company.  But once the city gives the green light next week, it’s going in.  I’m not so much interested in the learning aspect of it, we’ll see how that works.  I’m more interested in the ability to control it from my phone.

  6. I wouldn’t say they thought of everything. I bought one in May, and one of the features I liked about our old thermostat was that I can turn the fan on without setting it to a temperature (a hot/cold setting). If you set the unit to OFF, there’s no way to turn on just the fan to blow. I went back and forth with tech support about this. We’re still in “ceiling-fan” mode but once we decide to actually kick on the A/C, I’m looking forward to being able to set it remotely and for it’s learning feature to start, well, learning. So far it’s just been in off mode since I bought it.

    1. I’ve had my nest for about 3 weeks now and I’m also missing the option to turn just the fan on.  Tried emailing them about it but the response was more like form letter stuff.

      Tho to be fair, I’m not sure I explained myself well.

      Crossing fingers for a software update!

      Man, the things I’d like this to do.  Like turn the house fan on when the bathroom fan turns on.  Mirrors clear a heck of a lot faster when the house fan is on as well…. (Yes would require extra hardware, but I’m willing to pay!)

      Or use that fancy “Time till…” calculation to turn the Hot/Cold on preemptively.  Right now, if you stick with just the learning method and you turn the A/C on when you get home it’ll only learn for that time, not have the house cooled/heated for when you get home.

      1. Here is how I turn on the fan only.  This is via an iphone but can be done via the web too.  I turn my iPhone sideways.  Press the tempature icon on the right so that you have the 3 words on the bottom (ENERGY, SCHEDULE, SETTINGS).  Press SETTINGS. Press the word to the right of AT A GLANCE (mine says Living Room).   On the bottom far right is a fan that I can toggle between Auto & On.

  7. OK, I’ll have to chime in here. I used to have one of the ‘programmable’ thermostats.. don’t remember the brand and I don’t think it makes a difference, most of them are the same, 5-1-1, 1-1-1-1-1-1-1, 5-2 etc. not  a big deal just set you schedule and let the thermostat do it for you. In my case that’s exactly what I used to do… But with the Nest it became a game to cut down the AC usage, in the end I stopped using the auto schedule, because we’re in and out on different times every day, but I do utilize the auto away and remote capability all the time. That’s where you save the money. My normal summer bill runs between $300-400 and this year I had a $152 June bill…  I pretty much had a ROI in one month :) Anyhow your mileage might wary, but I swear by it and the geek in me loves it :)

  8. It’s nice looking but I almost never run the heat, and almost never run the air conditioning. It’s never that cold where I live and while it can get very hot I try to run the ceiling fans or tough it out. Maybe a little air conditioning would be worth the money but I haven’t investigated too closely. I just try not to use it.

  9. Given that my phone is almost never more than 30 feet from my person, and I don’t keep completely regular hours: what about a bluetooth-equipped thermostat that detects whether I’m home (or, rather, whether my phone is) and switches on and off appropriately?

    1.  since your phone knows where you are it could turn it on BEFORE you get home. Gawd, I love the future.

  10. We just don’t tweak our thermostat that much.  Hot summer:  73.  Cold winter:  73.  Nice weather:  off.  Out of town in summer:  78.  Out of town in winter:  60.  Our house is very uneven in temperature, so 73 on the thermostat is about 78 in the office or bedroom and as much as 90 up in the upstairs bathroom that has no vent, but we have fans to compensate for that.

    1. Why would I want to have the same temperature everywhere? 

      Our setup is like this during the winter. (No heating and no A/C during the summer)

      ~20 C in the living room. 
      Kitchen ~17-18 deg, mostly by air transmission and of course by product of cooking

      bedroom  18 deg at most, hopefully, as the bathrooms, which can get as low as 16.

      Laundry room 16 deg.

      My bureau will have also about 20, because all the hardware – including a Mac Pro – generates a lot of waste heat.

  11. We have one.   We live in Washington DC.  It was 106 degrees over the weekend, but we were away on vacation at a lake in Pennsylvania.   Our central air conditioner is a little underpowered for our house, and it would take a full day to cool the place down upon our return.  Saturday afternoon, in Pennsylvania, my wife pulled out her Android phone and connected with our Nest in our living room three states away and turned on the air conditioning.  It ran all night, and the house was cool when we walked in the door Sunday afternoon.  So instead of running the AC for the entire vacation while we were away, or sweating for a day upon our return while the house slowly cooled down, we were comfortable.  I LOVE the Nest.

  12. I talked to my HVAC guy about the internet-connected Honeywell he has in his house, it was going to cost upwards of $350 for the unit and the internet module. I, as stated by others, don’t really care much about the ‘learning’ feature but have used the remote access to turn up and down the temp every day. Love my Nest!

  13. I had a Nest for several months, but switched back to my old one after the Nest network went down for multiple hours and I was unable to access the thermostat during that time. 

    Do you really want the reliability of your heat to depend on the internet and a server somewhere run by a third party?

    1. Their network was down and you could no longer control the Nest?  Do you mean physically at the controls or remotely?

      They specifically say a WiFi connection isn’t necessary.

      1. The device will periodically download new versions of software. While this happens, the user interface is disabled though the thermostat keeps running. If the network connection goes down for any reason during this time, you must wait until it comes back up. 

        If there is a bug in the new software, you might get unwelcome surprises. There is no pre- or post- warning about software upgrades. The only way to know about them is to go to their web site and dig around.

        While I’m at it: when I bought the unit, I figured that if I got up in the morning and turned up the temp at 7AM, the device would learn from me and eventually start raising the heat at 6 or 6:30, depending on the outside temperature, so that the temp was up to spec at 7. Well it does not work that way. If you want to have the heat go up BEFORE you get out of bed, then you need to get up early for a week or however long it takes for the training to take effect. The outside temperature (which the device gets across the net) has no effect on the operation of the thermostat–it’s only used for a fairly lame efficiency report of some kind.

        Another thing: I figured there would be some heavy-duty data analysis if I went to the web site and looked at my past energy usage. Another disappointment.

        (I got rid of the unit in the early spring, so they may have changed things since then. And by the way, I made a profit by selling it on eBay. :-)

  14. I have a $100 Radio Thermostat, wifi android controlled, not pretty like the nest, but functional, guess I could put a pretty ventilated shell over it and save that $150.

  15. I have one of these. I’ll probably make back my investment in about ten years, but that’s not the thermostat’s fault, it’s a function of where I live and my heating and cooling options. It’s pricey, but it works fine. Here are the Nest-specific advantages I’ve found.

    1. Much prettier than the crusty old thermostat.
    2. Lets you know the relative humidity to the TENTH OF A PERCENT!
    3. Much more accurate a temperature sensor than your average spring-and-mercury deal.
    4. When you’re traveling, you can maliciously inflict 97° heat in the middle of summer on the other people living in your house, who aren’t aware that it can be controlled by your phone. (“WTF is going on with this goddamn thermostat you bought? It keeps turning the heater on! It’s July!”)

  16. I’ve had a Nest for about 3 months.  We recently went away on vacation (to a place where there was no cell service) and I forgot to turn the Thermostat to “Away” mode before we left or use my iPad app to switch it before we lost cellular signal.  The Auto-Away feature of the Nest saved me a pile of money over the course of the week we were away because it reduced the AC once it realized we were gone, and I was able to restore the cooling once we had cellular data again on the way home.  Like others, by the time I got home the AC had cooled the house properly.

  17. While I quite like the idea of knowing the home temperature while I am gone,  it’s extremely rare I would use it to control the heater I barely use.

    And AC, no one needs it around here unless they have a poorly designed Mansion.

    So is there a cheaper internet connected temperature/humidity gizmo that is commercially available and maybe less intelligent than me ?

  18. The Nest is all flash with very little functionality behind it.It doesn’t hit set temps at a given time (for instance, raise the temp so it hits 70 degrees right when I get up at 7am).It doesn’t use its web connectivity to adjust its heating/cooling control to current local weather conditions.There is no fan control other than on and auto.It measures humidity but offers no option to display it – you can only find that online.It provides no history of anything other than furnace/AC on/off settings and the temperature set points – no history of temperature or humidity, and certainly no ability to export any data for your own use.Even the design doesn’t match expectations – the bright colorful display that looks great in all the marketing pictures is only on if you’re right in front of it and moving, otherwise it’s a shiny black disk with a chrome ring around it, and from the side it looks like a flat silver wart growing out of your wall.On the plus side, when in the middle of the night I walk past my Nest its display does turn on so it does work well as a motion-sensing hallway nightlight.

  19. I don’t really see the attraction. It’s pretty I guess, but I’d rather tell my thermostat what my plans are than have it (probably poorly) try to figure them out.

    I have a fancy wireless Honeywell thermostat system (with outside temperature sensor and remote) in the box that I need to install. There’s an internet link available for another $200 but we probably won’t ever get it.

    The remote is the killer part of this one for us. It’s a wireless carry-around thermostat, so you put it in whatever room you deem most important and it controls the HVAC to keep that room comfortable. In our case, in this house with really uneven temperature, it’s whatever room the baby’s in.

Comments are closed.