Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Review: The Nest Learning Thermostat (2nd Generation)

Nest Learning Thermostat: A Smart, Energy Saving Revelation

Photo Credit: Nest
I'm constantly berating my wife for leaving the heat on. The fact is, our current heating systems are costly, inefficient, and prone to human error.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, space heating now accounts for 41.5% of household energy costs. Cutting that usage, even by a little, can save you a significant amount of money.

Enter the Nest Learning Thermostat, a well reviewed and smart little gadget that doesn't just let you program your temperature settings, it learns how you use your home and heats it accordingly.

Want to learn a little more about it?

Nest Learning Thermostat Review

Nest Thermostat
 Price: Click for Detail
Nest learns much like you do: by forming habits. To start, you just turn the dial up and down to adjust the temperature. 

Want it a little bit warmer? Just set it to whatever temperature you prefer. Is it a little too warm during the heat of the day? Just adjust it down.

That's it. All you have to do is turn it up and down. It programs itself!

As you do this, the Nest learns your habits and preferences.

After a few days, this smart little thermostat will start making these adjustments on its own.

Installation and Setup Review

Out of the box, the Nest Thermostat isn't complicated. You'll find the wall mounted unit itself, as well as screws and a screwdriver, and a trim plate kit. You'll also find an installation manual.

Installation is a snap. It usually takes less than 30 minutes, and involves some very basic rewiring.

 If you feel that installation is beyond your capabilities, you can hire a Nest professional to help, or any electrician should be able to get the job done.

 Once it's installed, setup takes only about a minute.

 Some people prefer to learn visually, so I've linked to a video of the process, to the right.

Auto Away

The Auto Away feature is one of the best features of the Nest Learning Thermostat. Most reviews cite this as their favourite feature. 

Rather than relying on clunky scheduling, the Nest automatically detects if you're at home or not. 
It uses a system of sensors and algorithms, as well as your heating habits, to determine if you're around. If you're not, it will lower the heat to a minimum preset by you during setup.

You can use a manual away feature too, if you prefer that.

Another neat feature of the 2nd generation Nest Learning Thermostat: when Auto Away activates, it will tell you how much energy was saved.

Using The App

The Nest Learning Thermostat has good reviews in the tech department too. With an app that you can add to your smart phone, you have control over the temperature even when you're away.

On your way home and want to turn up the heat? Use the app to raise the temperature with a gesture. 

You can also put the Nest into and out of Away mode, and the app will let you know how much energy you're saving.

Energy Reports and History

For a frugal geek like me, the energy reports and energy history are some of Nest Thermostat's best features. They will email you a report each month, detailing power usage and letting you know where it's all going.

The Energy History is part of your smartphone app, and it lets you know when and where the temperature was changed. In addition, it will inform you how much energy was saved, and it will even make suggestions for ways to save even more.

Just how useful are these reports? You can cut 20% off your energy bill merely by following Nest's suggestions. I highly recommend paying attention to this feature.

Seasonal Variations

What happens, though, when the weather starts turning hot?

Nest never stops learning, and it will adjust to your temperature preferences on an ongoing basis.

If you have an air conditioner, you'll love the Airwave feature of the Nest.

Airwave works to figure out the most efficient usage of your AC. It starts by shutting off the compressor a little before you reach the target temperature, and then simply running the fan. By doing so, it gets the most out of your unit with the least possible energy expended.


The 2nd generation Nest Learning Thermostat reviews extremely well in terms of energy efficiency and ease of use and installation.

More than that, however, are the opportunities to automate your home heating and cooling system. After a few weeks you'll experience the pleasure of a consistently comfortable temperature, and you'll see those bills start to fall.

Pros: You can install it without much expertise. It looks great, and it's intuitive to use. It learns your heat preferences without fiddly programming, and turns down automatically when you're out of the house or asleep. You can access it wirelessly, and the app gives you access to energy saving reports. 

Cons: The lack of 'hands on' scheduling might not appeal to some people. The Auto Away system works on most homes, but isn't flawless and might need some tweaking.

Priced at around $249, the 2nd gen Nest Thermostat is a good choice for a busy home.

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