Nest, how “smart” is this smart thermostat?

Nest thermostat

One of the most interesting options to save on the electric and gas bill is to use a smart thermostat. In this way, you can automatically manage the heating and hot water from home keeping the level of comfort you want without wasting energy.

We have been testing the Nest for a month and we will tell you our experience from assembly to daily use. We anticipate that you learn from our habits, adapt to the temperature changes we make daily, and even heat our home before we get to it. Now, is it worth it?

What is the Nest Thermostat?

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

Nest is a smart Google thermostat that brings together two very interesting features: design and efficiency. The Mountain View Company acquired the company in 2014 to provide support in the home automation field. Although they continue to function as independent companies, they are now part of Google.

This home automation gadget integrates with your boiler system and has a wireless connection system that allows you to control the temperature of your home from the smartphone, whether you are at home or not, or from your nice dial.

In addition to this, Nest employs a cloud learning system whereby – after a certain period of use – you can predict how long it takes to heat your home or how gradual temperature loss is according to the construction and outside temperature of your home.

With this knowledge, it promises to keep your house at the temperature you want minimizing the use of your boiler and this, in short, translates into economic savings by spending less energy.

Before embarking on a smart thermostat, you should consider some considerations. This type of intelligent thermostats work with individual heating systems and even some, such as Nest, controlling the hot water of your facility if the boiler allows.

Now, will it work with yours or your heater? The company promises compatibility with mixed boilers, heating and system only boilers, and hot water tanks, underfloor systems, and even air source and geothermal heat pumps. It is also compatible with condensing boilers with the OpenTherm standard.

Google Nest Home Physical Installation

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

Let’s see what we found in the Nest box once we bought it. Here we have the thermostat Nest itself, with a circular design, and a small junction box called Nest Heat Link and serves as an interface between the thermostat and the boiler itself.

Both must be connected to each other for the system to work and the connection can be done wirelessly or with a pair of cables. The basic installation options recommend the wireless, placing the heat link near the boiler and the thermostat in the area of the house that you want to use as a reference temperature, or replacing your previous thermostat.

At the time of installing it, we find that each house has a different configuration, something that depends largely on the boiler system. Nest makes available to the user a network of official installers so that you disagree once you acquire the thermostat. The company confirmed that this service would have a recommended cost of 90 dollars. We have preferred to install it by our means and show you the experience, but this is something we only recommend to those who are familiar with this type of installations.

In the kit that Nest has given us for testing, we had the tabletop stand of the thermostat that is on sale separately as additional purchase. We have found the best option to install Nest since, in this way, we have a portable thermostat that we can take to the room that we want to serve as reference for the temperature.

In our case, we have located the Heat Link in the place where we had the old thermostat, because that is where the cables that come from the boiler and we do not need to make more holes in the wall to hold it. In each house, this connection will be different, depending on the boiler. We have simply two cables, open / closed circuit.

There are others, in which the connections involve a greater number of cables, which also allow controlling the temperature of the hot water circuit of the faucets, for example.

Before starting to touch them, we recommend turning off the boiler and cutting the light from the house. We are going to work with cables running 220 volts and we do not want to have any problems. The thermostat operates at 5 volts and in the pack comes a power adapter and a USB cable for it. The Heat Link works at 220V, so we will have to bring a couple of cables from a power outlet.

On the cover of the Heat Link we have a “chop” in the form of a sticker that indicates the typical symbolism of control used by the manufacturers of boilers. Nest offers a quick installation guide on paper, and a complete PDF guide that you can consult on the Internet.

In our case, the installation took us less than 15 minutes, with the connection of the four cables in the Heat Link (two power and two boiler). That yes: each boiler has its own control system and it is advisable to consult its manual to make these connections correctly. The Heat Link has numerous ports to offer flexibility and to adapt to different configurations.

Once the cables are connected, we close the lid of the Heat Link, give the light at home and turn on the boiler. After this step and the connection of the thermostat to the desktop stand via microUSB, your screen will light up so that we can start the configuration of the software from the Nest itself.

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Thermostat configuration, a simple step-by-step

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

How is the Nest thermostat? This is a carefully designed device : round, neutral and very modern. Specifically, it has dimensions, once mounted, 8.4 centimeters in diameter and 3.2 centimeters in height; which give it a total weight of 244 grams.

It has a round finish with a brushed stainless steel ring and on the front a circular 24-bit color LCD screen, 5.3 centimeters in diameter and 480 x 480 PX resolution (229 PPP). Apart from the temperature sensor, it has others for humidity, motion detection (near and far) and ambient light.

When we connect the thermostat to the electric current, the display lights up, starts to charge the internal battery and shows us a wizard for the configuration step by step. How do you navigate these menus? This brushed steel ring serves as a roulette wheel and you can press the screen to accept the different options.

The steps start by choosing the Wi-Fi connection, connection with the Heat Link as well as choosing your location to make use of the weather information in your area and predict how long it will take to heat the station until reaching the desired temperature.

Once you have covered all the steps, we find a test run. If everything goes well, we finish the installation and we will see by default the desired temperature and the environment.

In our case, there was no problem and the heating worked properly. The display mode is configurable and it is interesting to note that the Nest thermostat detects the presence in the room. This is when you turn on the screen for a predetermined time.

We can choose between displaying the desired or ambient temperature, a digital or analog clock, and the weather forecast.

Nest thermostat, how smart is it?

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

A traditional thermostat allows you to change the desired temperature of the room and serves as a switch that turns off the heating when it reaches that temperature and turns it back on when it goes down to a certain extent. There are more advanced ones that allow to realize schedules of temperature according to the day.

Nest can work in any of those ways and also learn from our habits to create a personalized programming. The system itself will be able to recognize our comfort preferences at home. That is to say, if at certain hours of the day you prefer a few degrees or a few more – after initially modifying you – you will adapt by automatically creating and modifying the program to suit you if you consider it a habit.

Nest is able to analyze the changes of temperature that we usually make and automatically generates a schedule of heating according to our taste

Apart from this it is also able to understand how the heating and cooling cycles of the house after a few days of use. This way you can predict when to start heating it when you are arriving.

Do you want more temperature? You have a basic option always available, even if Wi-Fi connectivity is lost or between the Nest thermostat and the Heat Link.

In the center of the Heat Link, there is a button that serves as a manual switch on and off. Instead, the usual use will be to spin the Nest roulette wheel right and change the temperature, easy and intuitive, no doubt.

The thermostat has a user-set temperature and a lower temperature (ECO), the way it will go when it does not detect presence at home with its sensors.

And lastly we have, of course, a mobile application for iOS and Android. To use it you must register on the platform and enter a code that offers the thermostat to link your account with your Nest. It offers the possibility to adjust the temperature and works with the thermostat sensors to determine the user’s location. This way when you are not at home and no presence is detected in the room, the heating is turned off, causing us to save.

In fact, its use is completely automatic and that makes us forget to turn off and turn on the thermostat every time we go out and enter the house, something that in most cases you end up avoiding unless you go out for a long period of time.

The most interesting thing about Google’s Nest ecosystem is that, in addition to serving as a thermostat, there is an ecosystem of products compatible with the Nest platform: Philips Hue or Whirlpool appliances that can use this platform to control switching on or off devices.

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Nest Ecosystem, thermostat and security cameras

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

The Nest thermostat has arrived in accompanied by two security cameras, one for indoor and one outdoor. These cameras are capable of capturing FullHD and audio content.

The difference between the two is mainly the water resistance and the power of the integrated speaker, yes, loudspeaker. Since from the application Nest you can send real-time voice messages that will be played from the camera. It is a curious functionality at the same time useful for those who have mascot.

The outdoor camera model is water resistant and, as the company told us in the presentation, its loudspeaker is slightly more powerful than the indoor version, but that is also a little more snappy.

Cameras do not record content locally but instead use Nest servers. The company shows algorithms that allow you to recognize when there is activity either during the day or at night thanks to infrared LEDs.

Nest provides notifications every time these cameras detect any activity, there will be photos and small highlights that will be available for download.

To protect the privacy of the user and avoid constant alerts while you are at home, you can configure a mode in which, by taking advantage of the sensor system and / or the location of the mobile configured in the Nest app, the cameras can be turned on and off when Get out and get home.

Testing Nest for a month, is it worth it?

Nest thermostat
Image Source: Google Image

Our experience has been positive using the thermostat in the configuration discussed above. We have not lost any Wi-Fi signal, nor between the thermostat itself and the Heat Link.

After a few days controlling the temperature of the thermostat to our liking, Nest developed a temperature calendar automatically, as promised, and really fits our needs.

The savings in heating is possible and, in our case, a reality. By simply switching to ECO mode automatically when we leave the house together with intelligent temperature control. In this way, the desired comfort is maintained, a great optimization is achieved and the number of hours of operation is minimized.

We liked a section that we have not seen in other intelligent thermostats and that takes into account families. The thermostat detects that there are people at home crosswise, that is to say, not only through the mobile phones associated with your Nest account and its geolocation.

In the case of Nest, we have presence sensors, a differential point in front of the competition, and does not stop heating if there is someone at home, even if you are out of it with the mobile associated with the thermostat.

Nest offers very similar functionalities to the previous ones and where it really stands out is in the platform that surrounds it as well as in its sensor system, as we have said previously.

Answering the question of whether or not it deserves the penalty is complicated and we will try to cover all possible cases …

  • If in your house, you have a heating system with a traditional thermostat that you have to raise and lower manually or you simply do not have a thermostat and you have to turn on the heating option in the boiler, it is well worth it. You will save money and gain in comfort.
  • If you have a programmable thermostat the savings will be lower, but there will be savings in heating hours and you will gain the need to turn the thermostat off and on when you leave home which is where you will actually see the savings.
  • If you come from a system with intelligent thermostat the subject becomes more complicated. The functions are very close and unless you want to have a camera system and everything centralized, the change of thermostat will not offer you such notable differences in consumption or comfort.

A smart thermostat is a purchase that ends up paying alone and make you save money in the long run, that is to say, although the initial outlay may seem high, it is a matter of months to take profitability to this investment.

With a traditional thermostat that we have to be outstanding not to use so much heating and that ends up impacting on the bill. The difference in consumption in our case of private use – we used a programmable thermostat – has been noticed in boiler hours operating: our programming included a case of 5-6 hours a day and with Nest we have lowered to 3-4 hours at most in Cold days and in less than 1 hour these more spring days.

It is necessary to comment that to obtain this data we configured a schedule of heating equivalent to the one that we had in the old thermostat and the sensation of comfort has been similar in both cases.

Nest is a thermostat with a careful design and a functioning that, after a period of learning, is completely automatic. It is clear that in countries like the United Kingdom, Germany or Nordic countries will get more out of it as, after all, spend more months with the heating. Still, it’s a simple matter of time that comes to mind.

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