Skip to main content

What is a Nest Thermostat, and why would you want it?

Welcome to the first mainstream connected home appliance everyone should want to own

Much in the same way that smartphones have come to enhance the way we communicate, the world of connected home tech is all about enhancing the way your living space communicates. There are a couple of really great examples of this technology (and heaps of truly terrible examples to match) but one of the best right now is the Nest Thermostat. Nest Labs was created to build products that change how we use regular household tech, with an immediate focus on efficiency, safety, and ease of use. The biggest reason to consider one for yourself, aside from how nice it looks on the wall, is all of the tech baked into this tiny casing that dramatically changes how you use your thermostat.

On the surface, Nest Thermostat is a connected thermostat with an Android app (opens in new tab) that lets you remotely control the temperature. Connected thermostats are nothing new, but Nest worked especially hard to make the user experience simple (and even enjoyable) for everyone. The dial-style thermostat is familiar, even though the color screen and animated UI are completely new experiences.

Through this new interface you have several options for keeping your house warm or cool, including a temperature range for both if you live in a place where the Spring and Fall have regular 50-degree jumps in temperature over a 12-hour period and you need both heating and air conditioning (looking at you, Maryland). The regular temperature settings include your basic dial and big numbers to set a desired temperature when you're home, but also a minimum or maximum temperature for when you're away. To make things easy, Nest includes a little green leaf that pops up on the display when you're entering a temperature range that will most likely save you money.

Nest software claims to learn from you as you use the tech, which basically means it remembers your input and will eventually start making changes for you. This is especially cool because the thermostat uses contextual clues to make these decisions that you may not even be aware of. If you occasionally crank the thermostat up a few degrees because it's colder outside — and the Thermostat uses your ZIP code to glean whether it's sunny or cloudy, hot or cold, raining or snowing — Nest will eventually make those adjustments. Of course, if you're already aware of these habits you can schedule a lot of these behaviors into the Nest without needing to wait for it to learn. If you're big into shiny new gadgets, Nest will learn some of your behaviors by sharing information. We'll be talking more about the "Works with Nest" list in another post. Long-term, having a Nest in your home is supposed to mean you are both saving money by reducing energy usage and effectively make your thermostat something that already knows what you want and acts on your behalf.

Where Nest Thermostat really gets useful is the ability to see how your heating and/or cooling systems are being used. The Nest app breaks down individual days of use to show what your hardware has been up to, which allows you to further tweak how much energy you are using. If, for example, you see that the heater is firing every 45 minutes while you sleep there's a good chance you'd be interested in adjusting your settings. This daily breakdown includes the Nest leaf to show you days where your house was particularly energy efficient, and lets you know if those energy saving days were because of user interference or the temperature outside. Nest also monitors your humidity, and uses that to determine whether or not you just need the fans on to circulate air around instead of turning on the AC. While there are several thermostats that have the smarts needed to do all of this, Nest spells it out clear as day for your viewing pleasure on their app, which in turn lets you make informed decisions about how your house is run.

No matter how clever it may be, especially now that you can control the temperature with your voice if you use Google Now, $250 is a big ask for a thermostat. It's not a huge investment when compared to your smartphone, but there's a good chance you didn't pay anywhere near that for your last thermostat, to say nothing of the costs associated with installation if you're not up to the job yourself. There are some added benefits if you've already started making other parts of your house a little smarter, since Nest has partnered with over a dozen different companies to make each other's products better, but that's a topic for another time. Ultimately with the Nest Thermostat the potential for savings over time, combined with a well designed casing and the promise of a computer controlling the temperature of your house so well that you never have to think about it again, is the real decision being made.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

53 Comments
  • I'll get it only if I can overclock it to 4 ghz and play crysis 3 in 4k Posted via the Android Central App
  • Had to log in just to neg you
  • dont forget to list Paid article. but i do love my nest. automatically adjusts thermostat based on your likings and it now based on your phone location
  • I've yet to see the Geofencing phone location work properly with Google Now, as presented. Since the mid-December launch of this service, I've seen ONE Nest card appear in Google Now... and it appeared (when it shouldn't have), while I was sitting in my office, not heading home (or even moving). While the Voice Command works well (but it no big deal to me), I'm very annoyed that the Geofencing capability appears to be vapor-ware, at this point, especially since I installed the Nest in place a of another WiFi Thermostat that was half the price with perfectly working Geofencing! --- Check the Nest forums, where you'll find many Nest customers telling the same story, as well as being further annoyed, because Nest continues pushing us all off to contact Google (their parent company)!
  • use tasker + nest plugin, works better than anything else
  • I've seen too many negative reviews from people who have it. My AC (I live in FL) has to work perfectly 24/7 365 with hopefully 0 issues. Thankfully my current fairly dumb but programmable thermostat has accomplished this but I'm afraid that introducing this amount of complexity leaves room for issues. I can't have a software freeze or bug in my AC so I am weary about actually picking one of these up. I have had random infrequent issues with other 'smart' devices like light bulbs and while I accept this for some items, I can't for my AC
  • Having had my Nest hooked up for a little over a year now (Nov '12) I have had *zero* problems with it. I have seen some people citing potential problems with certain types of heating units, because of the way the Nest recharges its internal battery if it gets too low, but that's the only negative I've ever heard. As for drk65's comment above that the GeoFencing isn't working, that's not been my experience at all.  Before the Google Now integration, the AC/Heater would click on as soon as I walked in the door and begin getting the temperature to a comfortable level (I use the Auto-Away feature).  Since the integration, most days I hear it click off from finishing getting the apt heated up as I'm opening the front door, so it seems pretty darn accurate in judging exactly when it needs to come on to hit the target temp by the time I get home.  The days I don't hear it click off as I walk in the door, I assume it's because it clicked off just before I got there. I have seen pretty substantial savings ~$30/month on my electric bill since getting the Nest, although I admittedly live in an apt with poor insulation on the windows and doors and an older AC unit.
  • Agreed, I even got one for my parents, but because some systems use proprietary communication between the thermostat and the heating system (carrier is one culprit).
  • I was also hesitant at first and waited for version 2 to be released. I've owned a nest since the release of version 2 and I have to say it's well worth it. I have never had any issue with the Nest itself. I have on occasion lost wifi connection for a few minutes, but that doesn't interfere with the device. Also, you have some real great benefits of using it in a humid climate, like its "cool to dry" feature which essentially cools the house to eliminate humidity, and "Airwave" which turns off the AC and runs the blower/fan for a few minutes while the coils are still cold. Your utility can also be on the list of companies providing rebates on these, some of which are for the full cost of the Nest. I've also noticed a drop in my utility bill, plus I've gotten competitive with my "leafs" and try to get an Eco/Leaf each day of the year now.
  • I am also in FL and just installed a NEST a week ago. as long as you have the cables labeled properly and connect them to the right spots on the NEST you shouldn't have any issues. granted it's not a 100% guaranteed however you are less likely to have issues with this over other "smart" devices. also your current thermostat also probably doesn't work your equipment effectively to save power (=$$). My house was built in 2002 and my wiring is:
    Y1 = Heat / Cool
    G = Fan
    O/B = Heat Pump
    Rc = Power
    W1 = Aux Heat
    C = 24v Common what I like about the Nest is the ability to have it run a "balanced" heat so when the temp drops in the house and, lets say 64, we want to raise it to 68, our old thermostat would kick on the aux heat and heat the house up. only problem with that is that requires a lot of power which causes the meter to spin = higher $$ bill. with Nest set to balanced it may take a few more mins to heat the house to the desired temp but it allows the system to get up to temp to heat the house vs using 100% heat. kind of like your vehicle does once warmed up it's using the engine heat to heat your cabin. the other thing is the Airwave feature but I won't be able to test that until the summer but essentially what that does is if your compressor runs for 45mins to cool your house from 80 to 76 instead of running the compressor the entire 45mins it learns when it can turn the compressor off and run the fan over the, already cold, coils to finish bringing the house temp down so it may only run the compressor for 30mins and the last 15 its using existing cold coils to cool the house down. just something to think about.
  • I wouldn't want one of these, it would be literally useless. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • At least as literally useless as this comment, right?
  • If you knew it was useless, then why did you post it? ;) But no, it'd be even less useful than your comment. Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • I like the idea of it but I think a normal thermostat works just fine. The main benefit for them would be knowing your routine and habits. It's more about collecting people's data so they can sell you stuff. The more they know the more efficient they will get at selling you stuff. Posted via Sony xperia z2
  • Are you blaming someone else for you pulling out your wallet and handing someone YOUR OWN money? That's pretty damn sophomoric...
  • Well, he never said he bought one... Anyway, how is that sophomoric? Did autocorrect get you? Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • sophomoric = childish Children blame others for shit they did. I never said the guy bought one, but he definitely inferring that advertising is bad because it makes people want to buy things.
  • I think he was more saying that they use nest as a tool to collect your information and then use that information to try to sell you stuff. I was under the impression that a sophomore was around 19? Isn't it the second year of uni? Wubba lubba dub dub!
  • Technically a 15 year old in high school is also considered a sophomore. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You overlook the energy savings and convenience.  Personally, I like having it cool at night, but Nest knows I want it warmer when I wake up at 6am, so it will automatically kick on the heat at about 5:30 to make it nice and comfy by the time I get out of bed.  Not to mention never having to remember to turn the temp up or down when I know I'm going to be gone from the house all day.
  • i have had one of these since the 2nd version came out, and it's saved me about 20% on my electric bill each month since purchase. It's easily paid for itself and I have never needed to restart it. The worst issue i've had is with the app sometimes being unable to connect to the nest, which in that case i have to get up off the couch to see what its at and change the setting manually if i think its not enough for my normal schedule.
  • Not to be recommended if you have a furnace that supports modulated heating. The Nest only does on/off. Posted via Android Central App
  • Not sure what you mean by "Modulated heating" but the Nest does support multi-stage furnaces and compressors as of Gen2. https://nest.com/support/article/How-does-Nest-manage-different-stages-o...
  • Agreed, if you have systems that use proprietary connections/protocols for advanced features (carrier, honeywell, etc), the nest won't take advantage of these features, and requires a rewire...
  • Connected to the internet = not safe As someone who tries to avoid being depressed by reading too much about all the wrongful gadgets & technologies created (that are then embraced by an uneducated & blind young people, normalizing it & thus guaranteeing the downfall of society), I have to ask how it actually works. Obviously it doesn't put out heat or cool air by itself, so how does it actually work? I assume you have to have an internet/wifi connectable air conditioner/heater (which I'd never heard of) but no one ever mentions this in articles for some reason...
  • WTH are you talking about? It talks to your system the same exact way your old thermostat did, using the wires in your wall.
  • Tinfoil hats can remedy the interwebs issues. I sell them for $10 each, or $25 for a 3-pack. Let me know if you're interested. Posted via the Android Central App
  • While I understand you making his (her?) comment a comedy, I too am concerned that a whole generation has given up too much with little consideration for unintended consequences. Free isn't really free when you become the product on the shelf. As for me? I'm really too old to be affected too drastically but still - a thermostat connected to the largest private spy network in the history of the world - no thanks. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not sure how what temperature my house is at can be used against me. If you don't buy a Nest then the terrorists win. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So don't set it up with your primary email account. make one up. No one says you need to do this. The thermostat works very well without an account as long as it has basic information about your home, which again if used with a false account you are not giving to anyone. Anyway, if you're paying over $100 a month in AC/Heat, this is without a doubt a product to consider for the savings in energy use.
  • I would rather see ads that are pertinent to my liking than look at another freaking BMW ad... I'm just saying. Being a stat to a Google only makes my whole Internet-experience better. What is Google going to do with the information that you like to be cool at night?
  • You better start making tinfoil parkas just in case these thermostats start trying to freeze us to death if we're late on our taxes.
  • I hope your post is a joke. the Nest thermostat replaces your existing one using the same exact connections (they show it in all of the installation videos) and it heats/cools your house in the exact same way an "dumb" thermostat would. it connects to the internet to give you 'remote' control capabilities which really come in handy when you are away and either forget to turn the thermostat off (which Nest will do automatically) or if its hot and you want to come home to cool house you can turn it down so the air runs while you are coming home from work. Lastly I would like to add that you are the uneducated when it comes to having a "connected" home, not everything is a conspiracy run by the gov to collect data and control people.
  • K thanks.
    Thermostats must be extremely common in America, but my country, the opposite. (even though it's a 1st world country, it's just the way things worked out, like how my country never built houses with that nice wood panelling 1/3 up the wall)
  • I'd like to have a Nest, but can't take the $250 price, especially since my basic $20 programmable has already cut my utility bill by more than 50%. There's no way a Nest will "pay for itself" in my house, since I'm already frugal with my programmable, so basically it's a really neat $250 toy for me. So, I am more interested in the new wifi U Thermostat coming out this year, supposedly at $50. Won't be nearly as full featured or pretty as a Nest, but it does what we all really want anyway, the ability to control the temp from anywhere on wifi. I hope it will be worthwhile for the price and not junk. Otherwise, I'll watch for the rare Nest sale.
  • I own a Nest, but only recently and because I know it will have a good line of additional products and updates in the future. For the function alone you are totally correct - there are quite a few alternatives for much less money. Hell, I bet people have been wiring these to Raspberry Pis already to get the same google now functionalities.
  • I do agree with your point and that also attracts me to Nest specifically. I have already seen it being integrated with other services/products and that alone adds a real secondary value for me also. Just wish the mighty Goog would subsidize them....just a little. :)
  • Chances are your utility provider already does...I just found a link to save $100 off the Nest. Go find yours. https://nest.com/energy-partners/#finder
  • i wish i didnt rent.. :(
  • Just make sure you have a 24 volt common wire to charge batteries and you should be fine. Some of the problem is from not having the 24 volt common wire instead the charging system for the batteries draw the voltage from important circiut boards which can damage them. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't have a common wire, and the nest has been working without issue for over a year. It really depends on the system, and its age as well...
  • Yes it can and will work with some systems that don't have a common wire but can also damage a control board if the charging system demands to much power. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Can it do seti@home work units :) Posted via Android Central App
  • >"Welcome to the first mainstream connected home appliance everyone should want to own" If it relies on a paid service or an internet-connected service that is not under my control, not interested. So not everyone :) Fortunately, there are lots of smart thermostat choices.
  • I'm interested (being an IT Administrator, all things techy are appealing) but really worried about fubaring the HVAC. Had a decently expensive repair recently don't wanna risk damaging anything. How can you tell if your system will work 100%? Or are they any danger signs it won't work? Posted via the Android Central App
  • Go to the nest website and plug in your system specs and it will tell you with a good level of certainty whether your system will work. BTW, some electricity suppliers will give you a nest free. That's how I got mine. In Illinois you can buy your electricity supply from a number of companies, the one I went with for a one year contract offered a free nest, lower rate, and 50 bucks in online vouchers for energy saving light bulbs and stuff like that.
  • For everyone concerned about price, you can check on the following link to see if your utility offers a rebate. https://nest.com/energy-partners/#finder
  • I've never lived anywhere cold enough to need heating so the idea of a thermostat is completely foreign to me Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm waiting for the next iteration of this after Google bought it. I think I just want a refreshed look of this one. Posted via Android Central App
  • I just put one in a week ago and love it. can already tell a difference compared to my old thermostat. the Nest does a better job of detecting the temp inside the house and i set the Heat to "balanced" so it may take a few more mins to warm the house up it doesn't kick the Aux heat on and run my bill up. plus I love the way it looks on the wall. to bad I couldn't get it to look like HAL
  • I was tempted one month ago but for the same price I got the insteon WiFi Camera, wireless Thermostat, 2 wireless outlets for lamps or appliances and the most important the insteon hub to connect everything and add more stuff (more than 200 options) and create rules based on scenes, check in, etc. etc. the nest is good and has a lot of functionality but is too expensive.
  • Lyric sucked me in with it's geofencing, and now I regret it. Never bet against Google!
  • I don't even have a thermostat...