The Nest keeps our nest warm

Ever since I heard about the Nest Learning Thermostat (Amazon affiliate link)
a couple of years ago, I wanted one. But I knew I wouldn’t get one because it just seemed so expensive compared to all the other $250+ things that we truly needed. Happily, I recently came into possession of one and didn’t pay a dime.

The Nest is unique among thermostats, not because it’s programmable (there are plenty of those), but because it’s designed as a consumer electronics appliance. You could compare the state of thermostats before the Nest to the state of MP3 players before the iPod and smartphones before the iPhone[1]: Clunky, requiring an investment of time and effort to use, and not for the mainstream. Most people wouldn’t bother with programming their thermostats, but would just continue to manually adjust them as they felt the need.

The Nest is different because:

  • It is designed to be extremely simple to install. They take great pains to make each step dead simple with a great instruction booklet, videos online if you need something a little more detailed, and even include a screwdriver with the perfect size bits.[2]
  • It learns. The system includes an artificial intelligence that can learn from how you set the controls and eventually begin anticipating your needs while encouraging you with small prompts to save a little more. When you first install the Nest, you set it manually, just by turning the dial a bit to change the temperature. Over time, it begins to learn your patterns: what time in the morning to turn on the heat and how high; when you go to bed and how low you want it set; when the house is unoccupied and the heat can be turned low or the air conditioning turned up. The great thing is that as the seasons change, the Nest learns from you and adjusts accordingly. And if you feel particularly cold one day, your manual adjustment won’t throw off what it’s learned.
  • It’s connected. The Nest has wifi built in so you can connect to it remotely via an iPhone or iPad app or from your web browser. So if Melanie’s on the couch nursing a baby and needs to turn the heat up, she doesn’t have to yell for a child or get and disturb the child. She can do it herself remotely. Or if we go visit a relative for the day, I can turn down the heat before we leave and then, when we’re say 20 minutes away, I can access it remotely and turn the heat back up.

The Nest is fantastic. Like I said, I’ve wanted one since I’d first heard about it, but it was just too expensive for me to justify. So when I was able to get one through Amazon Vine[3] I jumped at the chance. The thermostat was so easy to set up, it took just 20 minutes. I had a few problems, mainly due to my house and the bizarre renovation decisions made by previous owners (the old thermostat had a big hole behind it so I had to fudge a bit on the Nest’s install) and I had a brief problem with a wire that I didn’t seat all the way in the Nest, which interrupted the setup process until I quickly reseated it, but other than that installation was a breeze. The videos online were a great help in explaining how to do this very easily.

Installing our new thermostat. Never been so excited by a thermostat.

In the three weeks since I installed the thermostat, our weather hasn’t been that extreme so Nest hasn’t had a chance to do a lot of auto adjusting of the temperature. However, there has been enough variation for the thermostat to begin to learn our patterns, and for it to teach us when we can lower the temperature for savings. (It shows a little leaf graphic when a particular temperature would be a good one and it gets brighter as we home in on the sweet spot.)

If I could do anything differently, I would have installed it higher on the wall because it’s very tempting for the kids to touch and play with. It’s just very cute and friendly and approachable. The old clunky thermostat never elicited any interest like that.

I just can’t think of anything I would improve about this thermostat. It’s well worth the price, even taking into account that I got this one for free. I can’t imagine what they’re going to do for their next product.


  1. The iPod/iPhone analogy is apt as the founder of the company formerly worked at Apple and was one of the guys who developed the iPod.  ↩

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  3. As an example of their attention to detail, they suggest you put a small label on each wire as you disconnect it from the old thermostat. The sticky labels are provided, not on a slip of paper in the package, but right in the instruction manual at the point you will read that you need them.  ↩

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  5. I might have mentioned before that Vine is an invitation-only program from Amazon that allows participants to receive free goods in return for promising to write a review. They’ve had everything from books to major kitchen appliances. I’ve gotten a lot of great stuff for free in the past few years, including a $1,000 home theater receiver, a $300 auto GPS, the Nest, software like VMWare Fusion and Dragon Dictate and quite a bit more. You’re reviews don’t have to be positive if you don’t end up liking the product and there’s no deadline on the reviews, although you have to review 80% of your items after receiving the maximum of five before you can request more. A new list of available Vine items comes out monthly.  ↩

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