Nest Thermostat Review, Update #5

Update #6, Update #5, Update #4, Update #3, Update #2, Update #1, Install

I got my replacement Nest thermostat today via FedEx.

I was surprised to open the box and find a complete sealed package. Honestly, I expected they’d ship just the display and the base (as the support engineer hadn’t set any expectations, I apparently just made up my own!). But, I suppose at this point in the company, they just aren’t setup to ship just the two pieces. It has the unfortunate side effect of producing extra waste (as I can’t imagine that extra wall plates are going to come in handy anywhere). The little screw driver could be given away but the rest likely will end up in a landfill. I’ll ship them all of the unused parts back as I don’t want them – hopefully they don’t just trash them.

There’ve been some really awesome commenters in the past few days and I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few key comments.

From Curt:

I finally called Nest and spoke to a pleasant fellow. First off, it turns out the Nest does NOT anticipate a temperature set point. It will not turn on the furnace ahead of time. If you train it to go from the night setting of 60 to the daytime setting of 68 by turning it to 68 when you get up, it will always be 60 when you get up.

Wow, that’s a super disappointment. Honestly, I really thought it could do that.

Another from Curt:

It does not keep as steady a temperature as the primitive Honeywell round thermostat it replaced.

From Mark:

I’ve had my Nest for about 10 days. I would recommend waiting before buying one.


I’ve been considering replacing my Honeywell programmable t’stat with a Nest…but now I’m not so sure

David shares my disappointment regarding Nest Labs:

I would love to hear what NEST has to say about the variances…I would think they are monitoring these blogs…..If they are not…shame on them.

They seem to be way too quiet. They don’t seem to “get” social media.

And Matt provided a link to a very complete tear-down of the device:

Here is a good site that did a tear-down,lots of comments and people look like they really know what there talking about!

GregN is still enthused about his Nest thermostat:

You guys are right in all the above posts. But to be honest, I’m happy with setting a schedule that warms the house before I get up in the morning, and saves energy overnight. Yes, I had that functionality at a lower price point before the Nest. But I didn’t have remote adjustments or the great looking hockey puck on my wall before.

Thanks again for all the comments! Keep them coming!image

I won’t replace the poorly functioning Nest thermostat for a few days with the new unit (as it’s a nuisance to adjust all of the schedules, move the units around, etc.).

Today, the system had again auto activated the “away” mode apparently, and then did not activate the normal evening schedule. So, our house was cold when we returned from work, even though it should have been warming for about a half hour. I just don’t understand this feature. I don’t understand why “away” isn’t triggered at night.

I could turn off learning, auto-away … leaving me with remote scheduling.

Update: January 11, 2012 => Something triggered the “auto-away” feature two days in a row now. I don’t understand why it happens. The part that’s annoying is that the schedule doesn’t run when this happens apparently, so we came home to a cold house (and tonight I thought to check before leaving from work to see if it had happened again).

Nest Thermostat Review, Update #4

Update #6, Update #5, Update #4, Update #3, Update #2, Update #1, Install

A bit more about my Nest thermostat experiences.

On the weekend, I spoke with a support engineer from Nest regarding the issue I was having with one of the Nest units failing to properly read the room temperature. I swapped one of the thermostats with a thermostat from a different floor in our house and then monitored the results over the weekend. I noticed the same problem in the new location: the thermostat would regularly read a temperature that was 3 to 4 degrees warmer than the actual room temperature. As it doesn’t consistently exhibit the problem, it makes heating a room to a comfortable temperature somewhat challenging (and now that it’s 19F outside, I’d like it if it was a bit more on the mark).

I spoke again with the same support engineer from Nest today (Mark). He called back as promised at the telephone number I left with him. He agreed that it was the thermostat that had a problem and decided to ship me a new one immediately (overnight). As today was an “observed” holiday for most shipping companies in the USA, the new thermostat won’t ship till tomorrow.

Interesting tidbit is that the base of the device apparently has a serial number that is tied to the display and that they both must be returned at the same time when shipping a defective unit back to Nest.


When I arrived home this evening, my wife and I did our normal patterns. Go here, drop stuff off, etc. One of the places my wife walks nearly every evening takes her right by the Nest thermostat in a hallway on our first floor.

As we were sitting down for dinner about 30 minutes later I noted that the temperature seemed a bit cooler than normal in the kitchen so I walked over to the thermostat. “Auto away” had been activated. Arrgh. What’s odd (and annoying) is that the temperature should have been going to 69F starting at 5pm. At some point, it had decided that we were “away” and had never arrived home (I checked all of the schedules and everything seemed normal). I thought that there was some way to review the timings and choices it makes for that setting, but the “Energy” option on the thermostat reported “No data” for any of the recent days (I would have expected at least one day as I had moved the thermostat two days earlier).

UPDATE: Jan, 4, 2012: Ok the above happened AGAIN. I don’t know why I’d want AUTO AWAY to also DEACTIVATE the schedule? Seriously? Turn off learning. Turn off Auto-away. What’s left Nest?

So, I don’t know what to make of this new “feature.” Clearly, we were in the house and the auto away should have been deactivated by our presence (I thought?). We did not activate “away” mode manually either.


I definitely can’t give high marks to this product and wouldn’t recommend it right now. I know others are apparently having decent success, but until the kinks are worked out or they do a lot more explaining, I’d recommend anyone thinking about buying one to wait (maybe for v2 or a significant software upgrade).

If anyone from Nest is listening, please speak up!

(And anyone else with comments, questions, etc., feel free to leave them! I enjoy your comments and feedback and I know others are finding your comments very useful!)

I’ve created a new home for discussions about digital thermostats. Here’s a bit more information and here’s the site ( (And thanks for your help in getting it started!)

Nest Thermostat Review, Update #3

Sorry, if you’re tiring of reading these as I write about the experience of buying a Nest thermostat. Just move along if you’re not interested. :-)

Here’s the support e-mail I just sent Nest (via their online contact form) (Dec. 31, 2011, 9:15am):

We have three Nest thermostats in our house on a zoned system.


One of the thermostats has begun to often register a temperature (i.e, the current room temperature) that is more than several degrees (3-4) WARMER than the actual room temperature.


I have a digital non-contact thermometer that reads the surface temperature of whatever it is pointed at (not this model, but very similar in function: Right now, for example, the wall temperature around the thermostat is about 66F. The temperature of the device reads 71F. Last night, it said 73F when the wall next to the thermostat was 64F. I have a second portable thermometer that confirms the air temperature very near the nest thermostat is around 66F.

We have a standard forced air heating system (no radiant).


The surface temperature of the nest reads 72F right now.

This wasn’t happening that we noticed when we first installed the unit and only started happening in the last week. I have not seen this problem with the other Nest thermostats in our home.


I’ll post updates here about their response to the issue. (The web site suggests it will be an hour or two before someone responds).

Has anyone else confirmed the Nest reported versus actual room temperature is accurate on their installed thermostats?

Update December 31, 2011

About six hours from my original request for support, I received a phone call from a Nest support engineer. (Note to Nest: you said the wait would be 1 to 2 hours …, manage expectations!)

We talked through the problem and he had me swap the thermostat from one floor to another. It’s relatively easy to do – but I did need to adjust the programming for both thermostats then. He promised to call me back Monday afternoon to see if things have improved (or changed at least). Of course, the issue should show up now in the basement (which is the thermostat I swapped the problem thermostat with).

Update #6Update #5Update #4Update #3Update #2Update #1Install

Nest Thermostat Review, Update #2

I’ve discussed my Nest thermostat experience a few times and am slowly becoming less convinced that it is ready for the market if you’re at all technically savvy and you’re easily frustrated by things not working the way you’d expect (like, you know how to setup e-mail on your phone).

Update #6Update #5Update #4Update #3Update #2Update #1Install

Here’s a image of the schedule for the second floor, where my computer/den is located.



On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my wife and I had the day off and were home most of the day. We spent a lot of time upstairs as her computer and crafting area is on the second floor, as is my den. So, the heat was turned up most of the day.

The “learning” mode of the thermostat decided that as we were home two days in a row, that the whole week likely was going to look like that apparently. As you can see, the same schedule was replicated through all week days. image

On a normal morning, I often go to my den and do a bit of tinkering before leaving for work. However, I rarely turn up the thermostat and instead just leave it at the preset temperature. I’m not in my den long enough to justify the amount of energy it would take to heat the second floor.

So, it’s frustrating that the thermostat would turn up the heat automatically at 9:30am, long after I’ve left for work and then run it all day long. Thankfully, after 3 hours, it apparently realizes there’s no one home, and will automatically adjust the temperature.

Since I didn’t turn the heat UP, I don’t expect to need to turn it DOWN before I leave (I leave earlier than 9:30am). (Turn it down from what?)

I could turn off the learning features. But, then one of the key features of the thermostat is turned off:


GregN left a comment yesterday where he mentioned that Nest support recommended to try turning of the learning feature (activating “learning pause”).

Now, I need to go fix the schedule to reflect my reality. Again.

Nest, are you listening? This is a perfect example of my user experience not matching with the expectations Nest has set.

Update (December 30, 2011)

I tweeted this post (and directed it at nest and they did respond):


Update (December 31, 2011)

My wife had the day off on Friday (Dec 30) and adjusted the downstairs thermostat after lunch. Apparently, the thermostat believes that’s going to be a new routine for Friday’s (at about 1:30pm, temperature is set to 68F).

Just the day before I’d fixed the schedule for every day. It’s not taking into account manual schedule changes and giving them proper weighting.


The learning algorithm needs some help.

Nest Thermostat Review, Update #1

After a few weeks of using the Nest thermostat, I’ve got a few more comments that I’d like to share. (Here’s my post about the installation).

The learning feature honestly hasn’t been very useful in the first few weeks. It’s apparently easily confused by days that you’re home unexpectedly (for example, a holiday or vacation). If these days are early in the learning process, it makes some very poor choices as to when to activate the HVAC system. I’d recommend not installing it during periods of very inconsistent schedules for this reason.


It doesn’t have a “I’m on vacation today” mode which would be extremely useful and ideally would help while it’s learning (and other days).

In a recent update, Nest made it significantly easier to manage the schedule of a day from the web site – by being able to copy the settings from one day to another:


I found the variations in the early learning to be not helpful as we didn’t arrive home at the same time every day, so I mirrored all of the week days for now to better reflect our typical schedules. (And to be clear, the thermostats each reported that they’d “learned” enough to start doing the work automatically before I started making manual adjustments).

I had the expectation that the thermostat would begin to predict when we wanted a specific temperature and start adjusting for it. For example, if we arrive home at 6pm, we want the house to be nearly completely warmed to our preferred temperature (69F) at that time. Not start warming at 6pm. In colder winter months of southern Wisconsin, it takes about 45 minutes to increase the house’s temperature by 9 degrees from the away temperature we’ve set of 60F.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Nest performs that function. It has the right data – and a simple behavior switch is all it would take. I’d love to see it added. The thermostat already has an estimate of how long it takes to reach a certain temperature, so it could activate the HVAC system more intelligently than traditional programmable thermostats.

So for now, I’ve manually adjusted the schedule to better reflect our requirements. We don’t need too many temperature adjustments during an average day. In fact, most programmable thermostats can meet our needs when it comes to the basic requirement of a scheduled temperature adjustment.

We’ve not used the ‘auto-away’ feature yet successfully. By that I mean the thermostat can detect that you’re not at home and automatically set the temperature to the “away” temperature. One day, it reported auto away when we were still home. I’m not sure why as we’ve got 3 Nest thermostats, one on each floor, and I’m convinced we’d walked in front of one of them very frequently during the day.

I’ve seen this problem more than once with the thermostats:


It’s never been the same thermostat, and I’m 100% confident that each of the Nest thermostats is always within a strong WiFi signal.


When I noticed the problem this morning (right as I was about to write this blog post), I took a snapshot of the screen and went down to our basement to see if the thermostat was reporting an error. It was not. I went through the settings to see when it had last connected to the “Nest Cloud” and it claimed it had just done that. When I returned to the computer, the web site had updated and did not report any errors. I don’t know what to make of that issue and will continue to watch for patterns to the problem.

The mobile applications are functional. I’ve forgotten we have them though and fail to take advantage of them consistently. Yesterday, we missed an opportunity to remotely adjust the temperature of the home before we arrived after being away for several days in Chicago. It would have been nice to return to a warm home. :-)

I’ve written Nest support once making a few suggestions about their web application – some things that were bugging me. Unfortunately, no human responded (just an automated response). I am disappointed by that. It’s very low effort to paste in a “thanks for your feedback” type of a response and hit send. Nest as a company likely could live and be successful on their technology and devices. But, to thrive, they need awesome customers. Right now, they have not gotten customer service figured out. I also pinged their Twitter account asking for an RSS feed on their blog (seriously! they don’t have one) and they responded they were working on it. I know how hard it is to setup a blog these … WHAT?! They should be scouring the Internet, looking for positive and negative feedback and reacting to it.

I want to be excited about this type of technology. It has promise. Since heating and cooling costs so much these days, I want to be more efficient about how we spend money on heating and cooling and how we use non-renewable resources. The Nest thermostat is most certainly a new way of thinking about the user experience of a normally mundane and ignored device in the home. Having owned a (Radio Thermostat) Filtrete Touch-Screen programmable thermostat with WiFi (on Amazon for around $100), I can attest to the horrible user experience of some of the alternatives.

However at $249 USD each, I remain neutral to negative about this product. While the geek factor is high, and the usability and user experience of the product is very well done, it’s a very expensive thermostat for the home. The Radio Thermostat I mentioned above, while it’s difficult to setup, has most of the same features and is $150 less. The Radio Thermostat is not particularly attractive, but it would be a conversation starter in most homes. The Nest definitely would be.

For less than $50US, it’s easy to obtain a decent programmable thermostat. I’ve bought them many times over the years for various locations, including some apartments we were living in.

Final words of advice/feedback for potential Nest owners now:

If you have a decent programmable thermostat already consider whether it’s worth an additional $250 to:

  • Frequently remotely adjust the temperature of the house
  • Have more than the 5 to 7 daily adjustments you’re allowed by typical programmable thermostats
  • Have a thermostat which could theoretically save you money by detecting you’re not at home (if you have a location for the thermostat which makes it possible to detect you being home/away).
  • Have a glitzy color thermostat that doesn’t show the time on it when you walk by (still missing that feature)
  • Encourage you with a small green leaf to turn up/down the temperature to save you money (yes, it’s weak)
  • Have a topic to talk about with your friends (“Hey! I got a new color thermostat”)

If you already have a decent programmable thermostat and were conscious of when you needed to adjust it (hold) based on unexpected scheduled changes, save your money and wait for something cheaper unless you really need the features above.

I remain very skeptical whether we’ll recoup the costs of the units in energy savings.

If you feel otherwise about the thermostat (or agree), speak up! I’d like to see what the other early adopters think about it. I’ve read some stupidly excited tweets/posts about the product that are often: “OMG! It’s a programmable color thermostat! OMG! Love it!!” Yeah. My phone doesn’t have wires and also has a color screen. Smile