Nest Thermostat, Software Update 2.0

Nest recently released a new update to the software of the thermostat device (as well as their corresponding web and mobile applications).

Some of the details may be found on their blog.

A few of the new features include an historical view of the heating/cooling usage:

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On Friday, April 6th for example, you can see when the heat turned on and what the set points were for the day for my First Floor thermostat. The data isn’t as interesting during our Midwest Spring as the furnace doesn’t run nearly as much.

Here’s from another day:

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I doubt I’ll use this feature much. It only has 10 days of information available apparently right now, so I just can’t see this being very useful. I’m skeptical that this will affect my choices as it comes to how we use our HVAC system. I could see potentially how aggregate data of many users (in a similar geographical area) could become more compelling and potentially a source of data that Nest might be able to sell.

The settings for a thermostat have been tweaked visually. The same basic data is available as before:

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The learning tab has been cleaned up as well:

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For some reason, our thermostat that we’ve had for four months is apparently still in training (Time to Temp). That seems like an issue that maybe I’ll look into. Although I don’t really care much about the “time to temp” feature normally as I don’t manually adjust the affected thermostat much.

The “Away” tab changed:

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Not a big improvement for usability. Probably more touch friendly (and it’s logically correct as it heats when less than 58 degrees for example), but it feels wrong. Thermostats aren’t normally left to right oriented (temp goes up and down), so this breaks a typical UX model.

On the Equipment tab, they’ve tweaked the UI as well:

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I clicked on the Safety Temp word (? it’s not a button, nor a link, so I don’t know what to call it) and the above UI displayed. The same temperature range UX is displayed, but here I like it even less. I suppose we don’t have a maximum temperature in the house during cooling season, but this is clunky. (And given that it’s safety related, I wish it were more clear). I can hear some of you say, “but it’s clear to me.” I do understand it, but I’m confident there is a better way of displaying and adjusting these temperatures that would be more obvious.

(And Nest Labs, go ahead and spell out “TEMP” please? Thanks!)

The technical info tab is the same basically.

There’s now a lock feature (which I have no need for, and am not going to experiment with right now):

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One of the big new TM’ed features is called Airwave™. Apparently, when it’s hot and the humidity is low (not typical for Wisconsin, as our summers are usually hot and humid), the thermostat apparently will try to do more cooling by turning off the air conditioning system early and using the fan more. (I always thought our air conditioner already did that as the compressor turns off before the fans). If it helps lower our electricity bill, awesome. I’ll report back if I can tell that it is working and helping (without historical data though, it will be difficult for us, especially as we added solar panels to our house last fall).

The scheduling tab looks basically unchanged. The support tab has more content, so you don’t have to go to their web site to read the information. That’s a nice improvement.


OK, this was very strange. As I was writing this post (and in the middle of using the application), I saw the following:

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Now, the thermostats are all disconnected in some odd way:

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A few minutes later, things improved (but not perfect):

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Twenty minutes later, the BASEMENT thermostat is still disconnected. I reset the thermostat and it’s back now.

5 Comments

  1. Austin Scaccia April 14, 2012 at 1:23 am

    I actually just bought this for work. While I wait to get an HVAC guy to up the power on the HVAC system, I installed this at my house (as a test!). It constantly loses WiFi connection. It does not seem normally?

    Secondly, It keeps saying my house is 70 degrees, when it is actually 65 degrees. How do I offset?

    1. I offset the thermostat temperature readings by exchanging it for a new one.

      A number of people have problems with the wifi apparently. Some suggest trying a different channel (like 11).

  2. Austin Scaccia April 14, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Yes, I switched to channel 2 and are getting less dropouts.

    I will let it sit for a couple days and see if it figures out the temp.

  3. Hi Aaron,

    I would like to thank you for the in-depth reviews as well as everyone else’s insight and feedback on their experiences with Nest. I have been following the development, and like others, I was enthralled from the get-go and wanted to get one. At the time I couldn’t justify the expense, but then I read an article the other day that Nest was to be sold in Apple stores (which reminded me about the device), and started reading up on it again. I came across your blog, and other reviews, that were actual user reviews, and not the marketing ra-ra we see everywhere else. I learned a lot over the last day or two, and decided I needed a concrete list of items to be satisfied to make a purchase worth it. I compiled them, and sent a letter off to support, hoping that it will get passed along to the right department:
    ==========================
    Dear Nest Support,

    I hope this email gets forwarded to the people who need to know. While I am only speaking for myself, I do believe my points outlined below reflect the needs and desires of many potential customers.

    First, I would like to thank Aaron for writing extensively on his experiences, and collecting feedback from others, on his blog at http://www.wiredprairie.us/blog/index.php/nest-thermostat-reviews. Please do take the time to read through his posts as well.

    I would require the following points to be available on the Nest Thermostat prior to making a purchase, in order of importance:
    – Settings should never be lost. Settings need to be stored in such a manner, that they will remain even after a power failure and the battery draining. The unit absolutely must be 100% dependable, especially in cold-weather climates, so that it does not loose connection with the servers due to a fault of its own. I must be able to rely on controlling the unit when away from the home at all times, especially in cold-weather climates.
    – Power-saving algorithms need to be smarter. All factors need to be taken into account when calculating energy usage:
    — Time to heat or cool and associated energy cost.
    — Finding the sweet spot between running too often to keep the temp consistent, and too little, resulting in huge temperature swings, both of which use more energy.
    — Determining if running the fan alone will reduce the perceived temperature enough to cool the house by one or two degrees, factoring in outside temperature, and humidity. I know there is an AirWave mode implemented, but I believe this could be taken a step farther.
    – Year-over-year data history. If I cannot actually verify improvements in energy-savings over long periods, then there is no justification for spending 5 times what other programmable thermostats cost.
    – Smarter manual programability. One should be able to specify a soft-target (can be overwritten by learning) or hard-target (will not be erased from schedule) when manually programming the schedule. There needs to be more flexibility in the programming to allow for more individual needs.
    – Target Temp-Time settings. Allowing for manual programming of a target temperature at a given time. The unit will then calculate when it needs to start heating or cooling to reach that temperature at the requested time.
    – Power-stealing needs to be eliminated. Some units are very sensitive to fluctuations regarding the voltage of the signal wires. Redesigning the hardware unit to accept a power adapter would be good. Alternatively, a redesign to eliminate power fluctuations stemming from the thermostat would be jn order.
    – Redesigned hardware unit. For the Nest to be effective, it needs to be located in that portion of the house that receives the most traffic. For that to work, the display needs to be able to be mounted remotely from the base unit. The base unit should be connected to the existing wiring, while the display with sensors needs to be located somewhere much more accessible. The display would communicate back to the base unit and relay information. Short of this, multiple nests should be installable, with only one actually being hardwired, and the additional units relaying information back to the main unit. In this manner multiple rooms could be monitored at once with only one HVAC unit available.
    – Calculate actual savings. I should be able to enter my KWh or gas usage and costs for a given time, say over a month, and be able to calculate actual savings.

    I’m sorry to say that as of now, I cannot see how a purchase of the Nest is feasible. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to see the Nest succeed, because it has such great potential. But as of now, all the Nest has is a nice body, but no smarts. I’d rather have a unit that doesn’t look nice, but actually helps me save money easier — there are just too many flaws to justify the expense.

    I sincerely hope this gets passed along to management and R&D so that these issues can be taking into consideration. I will keep watching the development of Nest, and hopefully find myself seeing a purchase as justifiable due to improvements in user experience and design, but most of all in efficiency.
    ==========================

    I do hope they improve their product, as they have a tremendous opportunity to make a real difference.

    Thanks again!
    ~Mike

    1. Thanks for the great comment. I’ll be interested to hear how they respond. According to their web site, they do not accept product enhancement suggestions.

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