Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Nest Makes For A Cooler Thermostat

Sometimes the best technology is simple and mostly unseen. Nest qualifies. It's a thermostat designed to learn your lifestyle and adjust accordingly, and there is no question that Nest beats the rest in design.

The is the brainchild of Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, two Apple alumni who put their heads together to reinvent the thermostat. Specifically, Fadell worked on 18 generations of the iPod and three generations of the iPhone. Rogers was responsible for iPod software development.

The first impression counted in degrees.

The most striking thing about Nest is right out of the box. If you ever wondered how deep Apple instilled simplicity in its design teams, Nest tells the story. Most thermostats are unarguably ugly. This is sharp.

The interface is impossibly simple. Nest is a domed disc with a mirror finish that reflects your wall. The temperature screen glows orange when it's heating and blue when it's cooling. The screen goes dark when nobody is near it.

It's the kind of design that makes you wonder why no one else ever did it. But the same can be said for how it's programmed. When you first install it, you can set the temperatures you want in your home.

For example, it asks what temperature you want your home to be when you are there or away. The same prompts ask for other times too, like when you're sleeping. After that, Nest programs itself in about a week, adapting to the minor changes you want to make. If you forget to make those adjustments, no worries. Nest can set itself when it knows that no one has been home for a few hours.

If you want to set the temperature a half-hour before you return home or if you expect to stay on at work later than planned or if the weather requires a small adjustment, Nest is controllable from a laptop, tablet, or smart phone (Apple's App Store or Google Play) because it comes with built-in WiFi.

Not every aspect about the tech is perfect. During the learning cycle, expect some surprises. People consistently share stories about Nest making decisions on its own (although this is supposed to be fixed in later releases). Power outages and WiFi failures can also cause some goofiness.

Before you even purchase it, you need to make sure your system is capable. Not every system will work. It's dependent on the wiring of your existing system. Likewise, if the new Nest doesn't cover the hole of your old thermostat, you'll either have to do some paint and patch work or use the cover-up plates. However, as my friend pointed out, mounting plates wrecks the original design idea.

Energy savings from a technically savvy company.

The benefit of putting up with any slight wonkiness seems to be worth it. While I live in an apartment which precludes using Nest, my friend saved about 5 percent on energy costs in the first year. Nest frequently uses the EPA estimate that a properly programmed thermostat can save up to 20 percent. (Any savings will likely be dependent on the how energy conscious you are in the first place.)

One of the finer points about Nest is that it is backed by a living, breathing, and thriving company. Because the thermostat is connected to WiFi, software upgrades are handled automatically. Many of the ideas that were part of the upgrade in April were requests from existing customers.

They included more hands-on control from web-connected and mobile devices and a function for low humidity regions that allow for the fan to operate after the air conditioner has already cooled the home. Nest says that this can reduce AC run time by as much as 30 percent. You know how it works. The less run time, the less expensive your power bill.

The Nest Picks Up A Cool 7.9 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

There are two ways to think about the price point (about $250), which has given some people pause. You can think of it as expensive if you are the master of your own programming. Or, you can think about having a thermostat company working for you, sending along innovations forever. Seriously.

While I do not own a home, my parents do in Seattle. Air conditioning isn't something they think about; heat is different. I was impressed enough by Nest that it just might make their holiday list. DIY installation is estimated to take about 30 minutes and you can order the Nest Learning Thermostat on Amazon. Buy.com carries it at a higher price. If you need help, visit the Nest support page for professional installers in your area. Just remember to check for compatibility first.
blog comments powered by Disqus