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nest thermostat

Nest Learning Thermostat

The Nest learning thermostat might not be the sexiest gift you give this holiday season but it probably would be one of the most frequently used. This smart thermostat learns homeowners’ schedules and programs itself in order to help lower the home’s monthly utility bills by as much as 20 percent.

The 20% savings number apparently comes from a study conducted in the summer of 2012, which looked the savings from 45 Nest-enabled households across the United States, and compared their savings to households which did not have a programmable thermostat -- or which had a programmable thermostat that wasn't programmed.

At first blush that hardly seems fair -- why compare the Nest to people that have a programmable thermostat, but don't program it? Why not compare to correctly programmed programable thermostats?

Their reasoning? A 2011 study found that most programmable thermostats are not used correctly. About half the people in the study left their thermostats on "hold", which cancelled out any benefits of programming the thermostat. Another 20% had the time set incorrectly, which impacts any potential savings.

So, perhaps Nest thinks it is reasonable to compare to manual thermostats because the Nest is a "learning" thermostat, rather than a "programmable" thermostat.

What is a "Learning" Thermostat?

Just how does it learn? For the first few days after installation, the owner adjusts the temperature up or down as needed. Within a week, the device will take over the adjustments for you, creating a schedule based on the preferences it has observed. You can make additional adjustments at any time; after a few repeated changes it will adapt to your new schedule. The manufacturer says that the product typically takes less than half an hour to install and about a week to learn occupants’ routines.

How do you Install It?

You can install the thermostat yourself (the manufacturer compares it to installing a simple light fixture) or find a Nest-certified professional who will not only install your new thermostat but provide a demo as well. Installation costs typically range from $99 to $300, for integration with more complex HVAC systems.

Does Nest Work with all Furnace and Air Conditioners?

The thermostat is reportedly compatible with 95 percent of low-voltage residential heating and cooling systems, making it a safe bet that this gift would work for any friend or family member. It supports two-stage cooling, three-stage heating, and emergency heat for most gas, electric, forced air, heat pump, radiant, hot water, solar and geothermal systems, as well as whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers. To learn if the Nest is compatible with your heating system, check out the online compatibility checker.

Control your Heating System Remotely

While your Nest doesn’t have to be connected to the Internet, you’ll be able to access more features if you configure it to use your Wi-Fi connection. More than 90 percent of connected Nest owners use the remote control feature, which allows them to turn their thermostat up or down while away from home. In addition to support on computer web browsers, Nest also offers apps for iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones, as well as Android tablets, including Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire.

The second-generation Nest is available from Amazon for $249, while the original version runs for $229—the manufacturer puts the typical payback for this device at about 12 to 18 months, although this depends greatly on the region in which it is installed.

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