Google’s purchase of NEST for $3.2 billion last year made massive headlines across both Tech and mainstream media last year. So much was the shock at the huge purchase price for a firm that was hardly known that suddenly everyone is looking at IoT devices and in particular smart devices for the home.
When I first saw the NEST in photos, it was love at first sight. I knew from that moment on that I definitely wanted one. I looked around at its competition before purchase, but in reality for any true techie out there NEST was the only choice. Hive was a decent alternative, but its belief that users want full control and don’t trust computers to manage the home feels a little dated, like the warriors of days gone by trying to hold on to their empire by offering a compromise.
For those who haven’t heard of NEST, The Nest Learning Thermostat is a programmable thermostat that learns what temperatures you like, turns itself down when you’re away and can be controlled from anywhere over Wi-Fi. Lets take a walk through the main topics.
Aesthetics and Controls
When the unit first arrived I was shocked at how small it was. I don’t know why but I had expected it to be the size of a clock and hoped it would play centre piece on my living room wall. As you can see from the photo, far from being large it fits very nicely in the palm of my hands.
In fact after a while you realise it tries to be very subtle about everything it does, 99% it will sit quietly in the background without any display. Nice touches include when you first get home, it tells you that it went to auto away mode and helped you save x amount of heating hours. Additionally it senses when you get close to it and will light up its display ready for you to use.
You will no doubt have noticed that it doesn’t have any keyboard, which isn’t a big deal apart from first use where you have to enter your WiFi details. All input is done by spinning the outer silver wheel and clicking enter to each character. However anything after initial install can be controlled via your mobile app or browser.
Installation and Costs
At time of purchase, the NEST unit was £250 which I had placed an order for well before Christmas. Unfortunately due to various backlogs with the third party company where I had placed the order it didn’t arrive until late Jan. Which is extremely annoying as I felt I had missed out on using NEST for a vast part of winter. Lesson learnt here is to always buy directly from NEST.
My installation (free through third party) was done professionally by a qualified electrician, but there are plenty of people who choose to do this themselves and there are enough guides online to help you should you be brave enough. Although the process is relatively straight forward, you are messing with electricity and gas, not a good combination unless you know what you are doing.
In Europe, NEST Thermostat is bundled with a Heat Link. This does two functions as far as I can tell, firstly it transforms the voltage from 240v to 12v to safety connect with the thermostat. Second it has a wireless connection which allows your thermostat to be placed anywhere in the house without a wire connection. My old thermostat talked directly to the boiler, but now has been rewired to go through the Heat Link instead.
Scheduling and Learning
It is called the NEST Learning Thermostat because its main selling point is that it will learn the schedules of its household and optimise heating to match. The first week of usage it will be in learning mode, it will detect when people are around and remember what temperature was set at each part of the day. It will then use this schedule to the subsequent weeks, making tiny adjustments each time users over ride its scheduled temperature. I assume it has some algorithm which smooths out the extremes where I want the room really hot to dry my clothes
This worked so well that in all honesty I never bothered to check what its programmed schedule was once. I was never cold and majority of the times I was away from home it would turn down the heating for me. In fact, I only started looking at its programmed schedule (as a result of what it learnt over a month) when I was writing this blog. It was fascinating to see the habits we developed as a family, notably the temperature is set slightly higher in early evening when my wife gets home and then drops slightly when I get home (I used to turn down the heating when I came home – cheapskate)! It was also clever enough to break from its schedule if it detects no one is home and goes to auto away mode.
NEST is great with telling you how much energy it has saved for you, makes you feel really proud to have brought it. It does this daily when you get home but also you get sent a monthly energy usage report which tracks how much energy you use compared to all the other NEST users in your area. This is a great as it really helps to drive home the idea that you waste too much energy if you are in the top 10% of energy spend.
I used to leave my heating on all day during the winter, so with NEST I believe I am saving 6 hours of heating each day during winter. Not sure how long it will be before I recoup the original £250, but realistically it would take more than one winter.
Even if it doesn’t save me money I still love it! It looks amazing, gives me something to show my guests and saving me money is a real bonus. I look forward to Google / NEST bringing out a whole host of IoT home devices in the near future which I hope will all talk to each other and provide me with a truly smart home.