In October, 2011, Tony Fadell, the former Apple designer best known as one of the creative minds responsible for the iPod, burst onto the smart home scene with the Nest Thermostat.
A simple, sleek, round device made of aluminum and glass, the sales pitch for the Nest was a novel one for 2011:
1) A thermostat can be both beautiful and easy to use
2) It improves home power efficiency by leveraging available, relevant information, artificial intelligence, and the power of the internet
Since its initial release, the Nest Thermostat has evolved, improved, and ultimately become the single most popular thermostat in the world. Indeed, Google confirmed Nest’s success when it acquired Nest Labs, Inc. in 2014 for $3.2 billion in cash.
In 2018, the question for consumers is not whether the Nest Thermostat works as advertised (it does). Instead, potential purchasers must consider whether its $250 retail price tag is worth it over traditional disconnected thermostats that start at one-quarter of the price. Nest addressed some of those concerns when it released the Nest Thermostat E in 2017, which offers most of the features of the traditional Nest Thermostat at a thirty percent lower retail price.
The following is an overview of why you may want to consider a Nest Thermostat, and why millions of consumers have chosen to replace their aging, disconnected thermostats with a Nest.
How the Nest Thermostat Builds Value
One of the hallmark features of the Nest Thermostat is its connectivity. By connecting the it to your home wifi network and temperature sensors, the Nest Thermostat offers a number of valuable features for its end-users.
During initial setup, users will be asked to download the Nest Home app from their respective app marketplace and link it with their Nest Thermostat. Once completed, the app can control home temperatures, create and modify schedules, control vacation mode, and more. Gone are the days of wondering whether you turned up or down the temperature in your home to save money during an extended time away.
Intelligent Temperature Control
As users begin to use the Nest Thermostat, it will start automatically adjusting temperatures up and down, depending on information it is receiving from its own sensors and the internet. The Nest Thermostat then expects the homeowner to begin adjusting the temperature throughout the day, whether to increase comfort or energy efficiency. Over time, the thermostat begins to learn a user’s preference, and will make similar adjustments automatically throughout the day. Within a few weeks, the Nest Thermostat has a fairly accurate understanding of a household’s desired temperature range based on time and day (morning vs. evening, weekday vs. weekend). All this happens behind the scenes and without any user input other than a simple turn of the dial surrounding the thermostat.
For those who prefer more fine-grain control over temperature, the Nest Thermostat also supports scheduling, where owners may control temperatures down to the degree and by the minute. Once a weekly schedule is set, it can be copied to future weeks, or modified as needed as seasons and temperatures change. For any times or days that are not specifically accounted for in the schedule, the Nest Thermostat will fall back on it’s intelligent adjustments.
In addition to the fine-tuned control and programming possible on the thermostat itself and the companion mobile app, the Nest Thermostat will also utilize on-board sensors and even the location of a user’s phone to intelligently determine whether you are home or away, allowing the thermostat to on increase or decrease the temperature as necessary to conserve energy when you are not at home.
Nest also works with local power companies to offer discounts to Nest Thermostat users who agree to allow the utility to manually raise or lower temperatures during high-use periods known as “rush hours” in exchange for discounts on their bill, rebates on Nest products, or other rewards.
For example, in exchange for enrolling in Nest Rush Hour Rewards, Arizona power and water utility Salt River Project (“SRP”) offers $75 rebates on up to two Nest Thermostats, plus $25 in bill credits for each thermostat at the conclusion or each summer season. This means that users who are willing to be more energy conscious during the hot Arizona summers will earn $100 per Nest Thermostat in their first year, and $25 every year after that. This is in addition to the other energy-saving features of the Nest Thermostat that are likely to save users money as well.
Smart Home Integration
Nest makes it even easier to interact with its thermostats by providing integration with the two most popular smart home assistants: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
To control a Nest Thermostat with Amazon Alexa, simply launch the Alexa app on a mobile device and add the “Nest thermostat skill” by Nest Labs, Inc. Next, ask an Alexa device to discover the Nest Thermostat on the same wireless network by saying, “ Alexa, discover my devices.” Once it discovers the thermostat, Alexa is then able to control and provide information related to the thermostat.
For example, Alexa can report a current room’s temperature by asking, “Alexa, what’s the temperature in the house?”, or what the target temperature in the the home is by asking, “Alexa, what temperature is my [thermostat name] set to?” Alexa can also set the temperature of a Nest Thermostat by saying, “Alexa, set the [thermostat name] temperature to _____ degrees.”
To control a Nest Thermostat with Google Assistant, launch the Google Assistant app on a mobile device, access the setting panel, then tap Assistant > Home control. In the “Devices” tab, tap “Add devices”. Tap the type of device you want to connect, and then follow the steps. When the pairing is complete, tap Done. For pairing a Nest Thermostat to Google Assistant through a speaker, such as the Google Home, the user will need to use the Google Home app.
Once paired, a user may control the Nest Thermostat by saying, “Ok Google, set the heat to 70”. Google Assistant can also report the temperature by asking, “Hey Google, what’s the temperature inside?”
While the Nest Thermostat has many connected features allows for easy fine-tuning and control of home temperature while at home and on-the-go, it also provides intuitive metrics and cues to encourage energy-saving habits.
For example, if a user adjusts their temperature high or low enough (depending on the time of year and the outside temperature), they are rewarded with a leaf icon at the bottom of the screen, signifying that the selected temperature is saving them money. Over time, Nest is hopeful that users opt for these energy-efficient settings more often, which works to reduce overall power-grid usage and save users money.
Another example is through the Nest Thermostat Energy History report, which is available on the thermostat and through the app, detailing on a day-to-day, basis when users use more energy, and when they are most energy efficient. These reports are then combined to create a monthly Home Report, which shows the same information on a more macro scale, such as energy utilization on weekends vs. weekdays, etc.
Much like utilizing a budget helps to minimize unnecessary spending, having ready-access to daily and monthly reports on energy usage subconsciously encourages users to make better choices when it comes to their heating and cooling.
Why the Nest Thermostat is Worth the Money
Nest claims claims that its subtle, habit-changing features, when combined with its intelligent learning over time, leads to an average energy savings of $131-145 per year. This means that by simply using the Nest Thermostat as intended, it will pay for itself in less than two years. However, when factoring in relatively common discounts on the Nest Thermostats and rebates offered by many power companies, the return on investment delta may may occur even faster.
To illustrate, the average price of the Nest Thermostat on Amazon as of this writing is between $205 and $220, depending on color, seller, etc. Assuming you live in Tempe, Arizona, or another area where the electricity provider offers Rush Hour Rewards, you can expect to receive a $75 rebate and a $25 bill credit in the first year. Combined with the average energy savings of ~$140 per year, your total net cost after one year may be as low as -$35. You just made $35 by purchasing the Nest Thermostat!
The connected thermostat market is, admittedly, a crowded market in 2018. However, after seven years, the Nest Thermostat continues to be the clear market leader due to its simplicity, powerful controls, home integration and partnerships with local utilities, and artificial intelligence that makes energy saving habits a breeze (pun intended). Having used a Nest Thermostat for years, I wholeheartedly recommend this purchase. And, if your local utility provider offers discounts and rebates like the one highlighted above, it is a no-brainer.
About the Author: Brian Locker is an attorney by day and technology blogger by night. A self-described nerd, Brian uses his love for all things tech to write content that is (hopefully) both informative and entertaining. When he isn’t representing clients in real estate litigation or writing blogs on the latest home automation gadgets, Brian can be found spending time with his wife and two beautiful daughters in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA.