The modern thermostat traces its origin back to the 1830s, when they didn’t even have electricity to power the device. Of course, a lot has happened since then and along the way the device has undergone several key improvements. Now the “modern” thermostat is once again being redefined. It’s no longer just electrical, digital, or programmable. With the Nest Learning Thermostat, the name itself gives you a clue: it has the ability to learn.
We now have the new 3rd-generation model for the Nest Learning Thermostat, and it’s a bit different than its predecessor. It’s not radically different, however, as it still features the class rounded design with its stainless steel dial. But now you have a larger screen and a less obtrusive profile, as the disc-like device now measures 3.3 inches in diameter and just 1.2 inches deep.
The larger 24-bit color LCD screen also comes with a better 480 by 480 resolution at 229 ppi. These offer a sharp display on the screen, while the bigger size offers much better visibility even from far off. And when viewed from the side, it doesn’t protrude as much.
The screen can display several options.
- You can get it to show the target temperature in large numbers, with a smaller number along the ring showing the current ambient temperature.
- Or you can use the display as a clock, as it shows you the time in digital (with day, month, and date) or analog (with day and date) form.
- Or it can tell that it’s “OFF”.
You can see all these with the new Farsight feature that uses the far-field sensor. So you don’t have to be right on top of the Nest to see the data displayed on the screen. In previous Nest versions, you can only see the info when you were in the range of the near-field sensor.
So what else does the new Nest Thermostat have to offer? Here are some of the most important ones to take note of:
- Easy installation. Most people take no more than half an hour to complete the installation, with some even to able to finish in just 10 minutes. There’s really nothing to it and it also already comes with the tools and materials you need. There’s a screwdriver, a built-in level, a rectangular baseplate to cover any ugly paint work or holes from previous installations, and a steel plate so you can mount your thermostat to your electrical box.
- HVAC compatibility. It works with about 95% of 24V heating and cooling systems. These include electric, gas, heat pump, oil, radiant, hot water, and oil. It’s even compatible with geothermal and solar HVAC systems.
- Connectivity requirements. It needs Wi-Fi Internet access, a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) with either Android 4 or iOS 8 at least, and your free Nest account.
- Power. It’s powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which is included in your purchase. It recharges when it is connected through your existing HVAC wires, although for a few systems you may need a C wire.
- App. You get an app through which you can then have remote control over your thermostat. You can install the app in as many smartphones and tablets you want, as long as you use the same credentials for the Nest App account.
With this feature, you can now set your thermostat to the settings you want. Since you have Wi-Fi connectivity, you can you make adjustments from the office or even if you’re in Barbados. You can monitor what’s going on in your home and adjust the thermostat accordingly.
- Multiple sensors. These include sensors for temperature and humidity, near-field and far-field activity, and even ambient light.
- Nest Leaf. This is a symbol displayed on the screen when Nest thinks that you’ve chosen a temperature setting that saves energy. This is a personalized standard for your home and schedule. Basically, it teaches you to pick a slightly lower or higher temperature than what you’re used to, just so you can boost your energy savings. Even just setting the temperature a single degree higher or lower can cut down your cooling and heating bill by 5%.
- Energy History. You can also save more money when you know more about how you use energy for your HVAC system. Every month, you’ll get an email regarding your energy usage.
- Furnace Heads-Up. This is a bonus feature when you have a forced-air furnace system connected to the Nest. The thermostat uses this feature to keep tabs on the number of times the forced-air furnace automatically shuts off to prevent overheating. If there’s a potential problem or issue, you get a heads-up in your thermostat screen, in your Nest app, and even in your monthly email on energy usage.
- Early On. Do you normally set the temperature early so that you can get to your desired temperature at a certain time? For example, if you’re usually home by 7 PM during the summer and you want your home cool by the time you arrive, then you may manually set your thermostat to start cooling at 6:15 PM. But the Nest has its own “time to temperature” calculations, so it may start cooling by as early as 6 PM if it is unusually warm. And when it is very cool, it may start cooling by 6:30 instead.
The Nest adapts to the weather forecast so that it can calculate the “time to temperature” accurately. That means you should always come home to your desired temperature setting.
- Auto Way. Nest realizes that there’s really no point to heating or cooling your home when there’s no one home in the first place. And the thermostat uses its near-field and far-field activity sensors to detect when people are home and moving around. After about a week, it will come up with an occupancy pattern. It knows the time when people are away or when you’re all typically home.
The Nest comes with very sensitive movement sensors, but you need to put it where you and the other residents usually hang out. If you put it in a place where you don’t visit a lot, then it won’t realize when you’re home or away. So you should put it in the living room, kitchen, or dining room. It can sense movement across the room and it also has a wide 150-degree view.
So if it doesn’t detect any movement for a long while, it will think no one’s home. Then it will switch to a more energy-efficient temperature for the home. It will even disregard prior scheduled temperature settings if you’re gone for more than 2 days. It will think you went on vacation. It will only go back to its regular schedule when it detects people are home again.
This is a customized feature, and it depends a lot on your personal habits. So if you tend to leave home for work at about 8 AM, then it can go into Auto Away mode by 8:30 AM. The time it waits to go into Auto Away mode depends greatly on your schedule, so that it may take a couple of hours for the Nest to think you’re away from home.
And fortunately, the Auto Away feature never activates at night! It also doesn’t count pets as human occupants, because the sensors look across the room above the heads of most pets. You can also put Nest on Away mode manually when you’re going on vacation, or you can also turn it off.
- Works with Amazon Echo’s Alexa. Now you can control your Nest through vocal commands, by having Alexa take command of the apparatus.
- 2-year warranty. But that’s for parts only, and not for labor.
How Does It Learn?
Like other programmable thermostats, you can adjust the settings and set a schedule for the Nest. But the learning capacity sets the Nest Learning Thermostat apart from its competitors. It will note the temperatures you prefer and also take into account the day and time you make your adjustments. It only needs to similar changes for the Nest to see a pattern, and afterwards it will then adjust itself.
- If you set the same temperature at roughly the same time (it doesn’t have to be exactly the same time) on two weekdays like Monday and Tuesday, then it will make this adjustment for you at the same time for the rest of the weekday schedule.
- Changes for both Saturday and Sunday in succession will get you the same changes for every weekend.
- If you set a temperature for any day such as a Tuesday at a certain time like 5 PM, for 2 weeks in a row, then on the 3rd week the Nest will automatically set that temperature every Tuesday at 5 PM.
- If you make an adjustment for a weekend and a weekday (such as on Sunday and on Monday), then that change may be done for all the days of the week.
No matter how the Nest tries to anticipate your wishers, you will always be the last word on the subject. Regardless of what Nest does, when you change the temperature then the thermostat will maintain that change until the next scheduled temperature adjustment.
But imagine the convenience of this feature. Now you’re no longer required to set complicated schedules on a weekly basis. The Nest will do that for you. And if you change your heating and cooling preferences, then it will change along with you as well. You’re the master, and it will follow your lead.
Pros and Cons
Looking at this long list of features can help you realize just why the Nest Thermostat is so popular and highly regarded. Just about every feature it offers is a definite plus. It’s easy to use and install, it offers a very effective way to manage your home temperature, and it’s even very attractive.
While the price may be a bit higher than some of its competitors, there’s no real doubt that you get a lot more than you pay for. And you even get a lot of savings. Third-party observers have noted that this tiny device with the large price tag can actually cut down your heating bills by an average of 10 to 12 percent. Your cooling bills can also be reduced by 15 percent. Basically, you recover the initial expense by your savings in just 2 years or even less.
But although it does come with many superlative features, it can still be improved. Perhaps the most common complaint is that there’s no option to display the current ambient temperature in large numbers. Currently it can only do that with the target temperature.
Also, so far you still can’t get some remote sensors added to the Nest, so that you can monitor the temperature for each room. This is available in at least one of the Nest’s competitors, but so far this new Nest Thermostat doesn’t have it yet.
There’s also no way for you to adjust the Auto Away manually. If your schedule suddenly changes (you’re put on a midnight shift at work, for example) then you will have to reset Auto Away so that will begin recognizing a new occupancy pattern for your home.
The Nest Learning Thermostat fully justifies its name, as it really does learn. What’s the next step—self-awareness? You may feel discomfited by the notion that a device can note your habits and adapt to your preferences, but soon enough you’ll probably whistle a different tune.
Now you finally have a gadget you no longer have a program, as it can program itself to give you what you want. It’s like having someone dedicated to your well-being and comfort. You don’t need to ask them to set the temperature at a level you want. They can anticipate what you want and do it without having to be told.
The Nest is still the most popular and most probably the best modern thermostat available today and you can’t go wrong with it. All you need to do is to sit back and relax. Just enjoy the toasty heat in the winter and the cool air in the summer.