The Nest Thermostat: A Legit Money-Saver or Just a Pretty Gadget?

I’m a sucker for “pretty/shiny” things. The Nest Thermostat is both, and I’ve wanted one for a while. I know they’ve been out for a few years, but the first generation wouldn’t work in my home because I have a heat pump instead of a traditional furnace. Lo and behold, v2.0 supports heat pumps and since its introduction last year I’ve been really tempted to get one.

Part of the reason I’ve held off is because of an experience I had with a listing whose owner lived out-of-state. The thermostat was ugly and dingy, and I volunteered to change it to prep the house for sale. How was I to know what a dramatic affair that would be?! There are so many wires, and because every system is different it’s hard to tell where which wire goes where in the new thermostat!

From the outset, the Nest is different. The installation manual comes with little sticker-tabs to label your wiring before you remove it from the old thermostat, and that makes installing the Nest just one step short of plug-and-play. Nest takes advantage of the color display by having a confirmation screen to show you everything is hooked up correctly. This was much simpler than my last experience.

The user interface is based on its circular architecture. The metal bezel around the outside spins, and the face acts like a giant button when you press it. In other words, it works like an older iPod with a click wheel. You can mess with it (like I did), or you can leave it and let it do its thing (probably better for most people). As you turn it up and turn it down throughout the day, it learns your patterns and adjusts your climate control to make your home more efficient.

After a few days, it alerts you that its “learning period” is over and that it’s ready to take over. From then on, it uses your patterns to adjust for when you’re at work or in bed and for when you’re at home. It even has an app for your smartphone or tablet that allows you to adjust it from literally anywhere where you have an internet connection. If I’m cold laying in bed, I can grab my phone and crank up the heat. It’s the same if I’m out with a client and want to turn down the AC so the house is cool by the time I get home. Am I “geeking out?” Maybe — this thing is really cool.

Alright, so for a few down-sides: first off, if you work at home like me, or if you never have a set pattern for your day like me (and every other real estate agent I know), you may not get as much use out of the “learning” capabilities the Nest has to offer. I love it, but its use would likely be maximized by a traditional family with a regular schedule. Second, I live in an upstairs condo in Dublin Ranch and my place is VERY well insulated. There are multiple days in a row where the heat never comes on, so I’m excited to see how it affects my power bills in the summer when it’s using the air conditioner.

Last downside, here. I’m the kind of person who will get cold in the house from time to time. To accommodate, I will turn the heat up and back down again when I’m warmer. That’s a pattern the Nest broke me of quite quickly, because if you do that while it’s “learning” it will repeat that pattern in the days that follow. Randomly, I would wonder “why is the heater running?” and I would have to turn it back down again. Now I’ve learned to put on more clothes when I’m feeling cold, which is probably for the best.

The Nest Thermostat is a great product, and I’m really glad I got one. Its features have gone along way to make me more mindful of the energy I’m using, and it’s quite gratifying to see that little green leaf light up on the screen when I’m doing well. While I haven’t had it long enough to see how it affects my power bill, I’m excited to see the results (especially this summer when my power usage goes up!).

To see a cool “how it works” video on their website, click here.