Thermostat + iPod = The $249 Nest Energy-Saving Appliance?

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What happens when a former Apple executive and other top geeks focus their energy on a… thermostat? The Nest Learning Thermostat. I just finished a neat Wired magazine article about this new gadget, which hopes to make saving energy both trendy and hassle-free.

First, it looks like something Apple would make. When the heat is on, it’s red. When the A/C is one, it turns blue. You use it like any other thermostat, turning it up and down whenever, and it’ll even show you how long until you get there. What’s wrong with existing programmable thermostats? For one, they are often so hard to use that half of them aren’t programmed at all. A study actually showed that programmable thermostats used more energy than non-programmable thermostats, which led to the EnergyStar label being pulled for all of them.

How is it better? If you’re being efficient, you get rewarded with a little green leaf icon, nudging you towards more savings. It learns your habits, and uses that to minimize your energy use. If you forget to turn it down on a weekend getaway, it will fix that for you. Or, you can jump online and set it yourself, since it connects via WiFi and stores your energy consumption patterns online. It even has motion detectors built in so it knows if people are around, and it lights up when you approach it. All with just the trickle of power that a normal thermostat gets.

It also costs $249, much more than competing beige thermostats. It’s supposed to pay for itself in two years, so that’s a savings of $10 a month. If it reduces your usage by 20%, that means your current bill should average at least $50 a month.

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  1. That looks really awesome! I may look into getting that the next time I move, if it really is that much more energy efficient than traditional thermostats.

  2. infamousdx says

    I recently saw this on some tech blogs. So what do you think of it? I have a dual zone system in my house so I’d need 2. Also, are there any alternatives with the same features – namely network connectivity? Thanks!

  3. (If it pays for itself in 2 years (24 months), isnt it $249/24=$10/mo?)

  4. @infamousdx Ecobee is another option. I don’t own one, but was looking at one until Nest hit the press. Still undecided. Nest is a bit cheaper though.

  5. This might work for simple HVAC configurations but I’m not sure how will work with the modern ones with multiple stages and a lot of other deep settings that control the furnace.
    I have to admit that very few thermostats could be controled over the network.
    I have a $300 Bryant Evolution thermostat that does a lot of things but lacks the network control. I’m curious how this new one would work…

  6. Just hype.

  7. sorry, but I think this device is pretty lame. There are already programmable thermostats for people that have set routines – 9-5 jobs, weekends free, etc. so that does most of the same thing for a lot less money. People (me) still turn up the heat when they are cold and down when they are hot.

    I think a lot more potential exists – way- way more with different design of the building and the heating/cooling system. I don’t see much incremental gains.

  8. Looks lame to me. If you aren’s savy enough to program a traditional thermostat why would this be any easier, because it connects to an iPod? This would have to control much more than the thermostat (lights, locks, appliances, etc like some security companies) to be game changing.

  9. @Thad – 🙁 Math fail on my part!

    @Ken – Thanks, hadn’t heard of Ecobee.

    @Mark – Exactly, the fact that you still change the thermostat is exactly what this Nest thing is supposed to learn from, beyond the simple programmable thermostats. I’m personally a bit skeptical about the motion detector if the location isn’t where people are anyway. Interesting idea though.

    @Frankie – Because you don’t program this one at all, let alone connect to WiFi, just use it like a regular thermostat.

  10. “A study actually showed that programmable thermostats used more energy than non-programmable thermostats, which led to the EnergyStar label being pulled for all of them.”

    There are other studies that show that people saved energy on average with programmable thermostats. The EPA did suspend the EnergyStar program for programmable thermostats. They say: “While EPA recognizes the potential for programmable thermostats to save significant amounts of energy, there continue to be questions concerning the net energy savings and environmental benefits achieved under the previous ENERGY STAR programmable thermostat specification.”

    Programmable thermostats can be complex and some people may be mislead to think that they magically save energy or something. Or people may get the wrong idea that if the box on the programmable thermostat claims it saves 10% then they should be able to raise their heat 5% and come out ahead. I also think the industry may have over hyped them to some degree and didn’t clearly communicate how they work.

    It all comes down to how you use it. A programmable thermostat can certainly help you save energy. But theres nothing magic about it. If you crank the heat up to 75F in the winter then it doesn’t matter if its using a manual thermostat or a programmable one.

  11. I have two of the ecobee T-stats. One of the features I really like is when we go away for the weekend or week we turn off the A/C or turn the heat way down; then I can turn it back to normal a short time before we get back home. You con do this either by programming in a vacation on the T-stat directly or from your smart phone. I can definitely see a difference in the utility bill when I do this and we are gone for a week and we have a pretty efficient house.

  12. Vince Thorne says

    Not sure if it is cool but it sure does sound hip!

  13. Looks cool, but there is a model from another manufacturer with similar capabilities (remote operation via the internet, etc.) available at Home Depot for $100. Search for “internet thermostat” (Filtrete Model # 3M-50) at the Home Depot website.

  14. X10 thermostats that you can monitor, turn on/off from your computer have been around for a while. You can make up your system to be triggered by motion detector and learn from your tweaks but this device solves main problem – you don’t have to be a geek to use it. I wish it would be cheaper (by say eliminating screen and some controls from unit and using ipad/iphone instead)

  15. Alexandria says

    I’ve never understood why programmable thermostats save money. I thought they just made thing more comfortable (wake up and/or come home to a comfortable house – which means it probably is running the heat for more than otherwise).

    I’ll admit programmables are good if you constantly forget to turn off the heat. That’s about it.

    I’ll stick with my regular old thermostat. When we are more efficient, our bill is lower. That is enough incentive for me! (& is plenty incentive to not forget to turn it off when we leave the house).

  16. @Alexandria:

    Programmable thermostats can save considerable money for people who aren’t perfect at turning the heat/AC down when they’re not at home or are sleeping or the like. It’s really nice to be able to set it up to always use less energy when no one’s home or awake to appreciate it.

    The fact that it can get the place comfortable just in time for you to return home/get up is an added bonus. For me, it certainly saves energy, simply because I know I’m not religiously going to always turn the AC/heat down when I leave for work or church, or go to bed, etc. (and with other people in the house, I know I can’t trust the last person out to do it, necessarily, either).

    Even if I was really good about always turning it down, it’d be worth it for me to not have to worry about it.

  17. I read this thread when it was first posted. I went to the website and read about it and signed up for email updates on availability.

    Just got an email today from NEST giving me a link to order one from there store before they are available to the public.


  18. The Nest thermostat showed up. It was a cinch to install. Onceinstalled the process of setup was incredibly simple. It walks you through step by step with either turning the face to change options or pushing the face to select an option. After 5 minutes it was already to go, connected to my wireless net work and downloading an update.

    I created a Nest account on their website and connected the thermostat to the account. Afte that I downloaded an app to my iPad and android phone and linked those to devices to the nest account. This allowed those devices to control the thermostat remotely.

    That evening I laid in bed and built a 7 day schedule for the thermostat on the iPad. This was the easiest time I ever had making a schedule. It took a few minutes to do. After I was done and saved it, I got out a bed to go look at the thermostat. Sure enough the schedule I just built on the iPad was already loaded into the thermostat.

    There are a lot of other things you can do and much more information it tells you but to much to right here. All I can say for now is I absolutely love this thermostat.

  19. Nest will NOT “get the place comfortable just in time for you to return home.” For instance, if you program a target heating temperature of 68 degrees with a target time of 5.30 it simply starts to increase from the lower temperature at 5.30… That’s pretty pathetic, given the unit’s cost. My ugly old thermostat can meet a target temperature at a target time (when I walk in at 5.30 the temperature is where I want it, not just starting to climb there). I didn’t realise this until my Nest arrived; its heading straight back. I’m happy to pay a decent price for a well designed unit with great user interface but not when basic functionality is lacking. If you really want to save on heating/cooling costs, just learn how to use a programmable unit and be disciplined about setting it

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