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What you need to know about installing your Nest Thermostat

If you can do some basic wiring, you can hook up a Nest — but there still are some important instructions to follow

One of the first things you will read when checking out user reviews of Nest Thermostat — something that is also repeated to some degree in professional commentary on the product — is what a pleasure the hardware is to install. Nest worked hard to make its thermostat something that could be installed by as many people as possible, and when compared to the other thermostats I've had to install over the years (most notably the other connected thermostat I installed last year, which shall remain nameless to save from embarrassment) it seems like the company was successful. You'd be hard pressed to find many people saying anything bad about the way this device is installed, which is an impressive accomplishment when you consider this was the very first product Nest Labs had ever made as a company.

That having been said, before you bust out your tool belt and rip your existing hardware off the wall, there are a few things you should know about installing the Nest Thermostat.

Read Part 1: What is Nest, and why would you want one?

Nest screwdriver

Step 1: Follow Nest's instructions — don't be a hero

There are many configurations for heating and air conditioning in houses nowadays, and while Nest seems to have worked hard to support as many setups as possible there's just no way to make a universal Do-It-Yourself kit and have every configuration be simple and straightforward. Fortunately, Nest Labs worked hard to include both an incredible amount of support documentation on their website — and a helpful little screwdriver included in the box. (Seriously, even it is nicely designed.) Together you can quickly assess what your current setup is to determine how ready you are for Nest.

You'll also need to determine whether you want to install your Nest directly to the wall, or use the optional mounting plate. It really just depends on your setup and what's going to look best. Most of us probably didn't have a round thermostat before, and there may be cosmetic issues at play. (Thus the plate.)

Nest wire guide

Professional A/C services are much more used to seeing Nest these days.

The first stop for anyone considering Nest should be the interactive wire guide on the Nest website, which allows you to note which wires are connected to your existing thermostat. Filling this guide out will tell you whether or not Nest is supported through your existing wiring, but gaining access to these wires means removing the front panel of your current thermostat. If you still have questions, you can go so far as to send Nest a picture of your wiring. They'll check it out and let you know what they think.

You'll also find several important questions in the Nest documentation that may lead to a recommendation for professional installation. This includes setups that require multiple thermostats, multiple heat sources connected to your home, or one of several wiring setups that just plain need a professional involved. Should Nest determine that a professional is necessary for installation, there's a separate part of the website that will list companies near you that are certified to install this tech. Since Nest has been around for a little while now and has become quite popular, there are a lot of HVAC companies out there that have started offering Nest installation support. This thermostat is something any HVAC tech can install, but Nest-certified professionals can install the hardware and then walk you through the energy efficiency parts of the Nest experience and help you get the most out of the software.

Once your thermostat is installed, the software setup can be done from either your phone or through the Nest OS. You'll be asked to connect the thermostat to the Internet and your zip code will need to be provided for local weather data, but once you've reached this point the important parts that control your heating and air conditioning are already handled. What's important here is that you follow the Nest guide to make sure your home is safe after the install should you decide to install the hardware yourself, and if Nest says to have a professional install the thermostat you should absolutely do exactly that. Pricing for those installations will vary depending on who is available in your area, but the end result is you get to enjoy Nest without any issues and can get back to building your connected home.

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

26 Comments
  • Awesome timing....I currently have 1 working Nest and one I haven't quite figured out yet. This article has inspired me to give it another go so I can once again heat the entire house lol.
  • Give Nest a call if you have ANY wiring issues. I had one from my old apt and I just bought a new home, so I purchased a 2nd one. I followed the wiring colors and markings on the old t-stat completely but my heat wouldn't work. I called Nest up and found out that my old t-stat has a dual switch so while it said W1, it was actually O/B (heater pump), they have a HUGE database of t-stats and wiring if you have any problems. Really no need for a professional installation IMO with how good their support is, unless your afraid of wires.
  • Thanks for the tip!
  • Once you get the Nest figured out, its definitely a nice gadget to have around the house! I just picked up a mounting bracket from http://thesmartfinish.com and it really takes the Nest to a new level. Highly recommend the Nest and the Smart Finish Mount!
  • oof 27% humidity, thats super dry! get a humidifier!
  • You guys getting a payday from Nest? Seem to be posting a lot of articles about a non-android device...
  • We actually explained why we're doing this over here - http://www.androidcentral.com/nest-week-deeper-look-nest-thermostat
  • Sometimes if you pay attention you don't look so stupid Posted from my Droid Turbo, Kelly and Ozone
  • He's wrong in his statements, but that doesn't mean you are required to be rude to him about it.  These comment boards work best when there's some leve of civility.
  • Thanks for your level-headed statement. I don't mind that tdizzel thinks I'm stupid. Generally those who are quick to call others stupid are only reflecting their own short comings. But back on topic, I have noticed that some other tech blogs (i.e. Engadget) are also running more Nest articles this week than usual. After spending years in the tech marketing/PR biz, I'm pretty good at spotting marketing pushes. Nest was a sideshow until Goog purchased the company, now it's everywhere. The fact I'm seeing more Nest coverage on other sites, it stands to reason there may be sort of marketing drive happening. I don't seriously think AC is taking money, and I apologize to the good folks who run this site if I offended.
  • Welp, you're wrong. Don't know any other way to say it. :)
  • I also think Android Central is getting paid on this product. I hope it will not be a thing in the future. As some sites are doing it more and more.
  • Well, you're 100 percent wrong. Posted via Android Central App
  • Ever think that we're in the dead of winter and people are looking for ways to save money....and add lots of convenience at the same time? Nah...you didn't think that.
  • When I purchased my 2 Nests in November. I decided to have a professional to install them. They have been worry/trouble free since they have been installed. I previously spoke with Nest TS after removing my existing thermostat and taking pictures and they recommended I have an HVAC pro install it. Good Choice. I am on my way to a connected home: 1. Connected Alarm
    2. Connected Router
    3. Connected Door Locks Lights, and other items to follow.
  • check out micasaverde. this is what my whole house is setup with and they are very reliable, easy to install and the response time is amazing. when turning lights on and off from my device it's just as fast as flipping the switch manually. plus the whole house runs on a schedule (HW Heater included) so even when we aren't home we can give the impression that someone is there.
  • I am not going to buy or use Nest until they get their act together with their app design. iOS look and feel on Android just won't cut it in 2015, especially coming from a Google company. #materialforlife
  • I liked mine until I got a new Lennox heat pump. The nest isn't compatible. Although, the Lennox iComfort is pretty sweet. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Not to say that you're wrong, because I'm certainly not an HVAC tech, but Nest is compatible with "heat pumps" in general.  Again, I realize that doesn't automatically mean that it's compatible with *your* heat pump.  Just wanted to make sure you're aware.
  • I've been in the HVAC field for a number of years. I've installed a few of these on furnaces, commercial equipment, and heat pumps. The only way it isn't compatible that I can see would be if your Lennox uses DC voltage. That would really surprise me though. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Recent upper-end Lennox HVAC equipment are all multi-stage or variable (modulating) and communicate with each other and their thermostat using a two-wire serial bus. Fancy thermostats run algorithms to control HVAC assets so they all work together well for best comfort and least energy usage, and maybe some specific indoor comfort goal like lowering humidity without over cooling the home. As far as I know, NEST just turns HVAC things on or off. Each HVAC manufacturer uses a different scheme, protocol, and/or bus for their communicating equipment and a third-party thermostat (like NEST) will not likely be able to be compatible with all... or any of them. E
  • I've thought about getting one but I have two completely separate systems and thermostats, one for heat (uses a boiler and radiators) and one for AC (forced air). Since that is a fairly uncommon setup I am worried about getting it working correctly.. Also, my wife is a stay at home mom so she is usually there so having it know when I am on my way home or whatever isn't really useful to me. I don't particularly want to pay an HVAC (or plumber in the case of my furnace I guess) type guy to install something like this when the nest is already really expensive.
  • Good post, Russell! I'm glad you are part of this great team. And I may not have a Nest yet, but I still enjoyed the article and want a Nest now even more. :)
  • What hasn't been mentioned is the issue with back-plates failing, causing the thermostat to read the ambient temperature 10+ degrees too high. The Nest forums have a lot people describing this issue. Nest has been replacing the back plates free of charge for the most part. Having said that, when the back plate experiences this problem, it may also cause other issues, such as causing heat pumps to operate in cool mode, despite the stat showing it is heating. Obviously this can be a serious problem in the winter months. I personally experienced both issues with a Nest 2.0 which had been operating trouble free for over two years. Nest forum moderators are claiming the company has recently redesigned the back plate to remedy this issue.
  • So what does the Nest offer over other systems? My current system is somewhat intelligent in that it runs the AC and heating system at different rates based on the demand and interior temperature change rates. I am wonder what I am missing.
  • I installed Nest about six months ago, putting in the thermostat and a Protect smoke/CO detector. The OOBE/documentation/install experience is OUTSTANDING. VERY nicely thought out, and the documentation anticipates issues a DIY installer might run into. Connecting to a WiFi network was a little fiddly, but I think they've improved that experience with the latest software update. The other thing I like: that Nest provides me with a monthly report showing how many hours my furnace ran. VERY useful.