The learning feature honestly hasn’t been very useful in the first few weeks. It’s apparently easily confused by days that you’re home unexpectedly (for example, a holiday or vacation). If these days are early in the learning process, it makes some very poor choices as to when to activate the HVAC system. I’d recommend not installing it during periods of very inconsistent schedules for this reason.
It doesn’t have a “I’m on vacation today” mode which would be extremely useful and ideally would help while it’s learning (and other days).
In a recent update, Nest made it significantly easier to manage the schedule of a day from the web site – by being able to copy the settings from one day to another:
I found the variations in the early learning to be not helpful as we didn’t arrive home at the same time every day, so I mirrored all of the week days for now to better reflect our typical schedules. (And to be clear, the thermostats each reported that they’d “learned” enough to start doing the work automatically before I started making manual adjustments).
I had the expectation that the thermostat would begin to predict when we wanted a specific temperature and start adjusting for it. For example, if we arrive home at 6pm, we want the house to be nearly completely warmed to our preferred temperature (69F) at that time. Not start warming at 6pm. In colder winter months of southern Wisconsin, it takes about 45 minutes to increase the house’s temperature by 9 degrees from the away temperature we’ve set of 60F.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Nest performs that function. It has the right data – and a simple behavior switch is all it would take. I’d love to see it added. The thermostat already has an estimate of how long it takes to reach a certain temperature, so it could activate the HVAC system more intelligently than traditional programmable thermostats.
So for now, I’ve manually adjusted the schedule to better reflect our requirements. We don’t need too many temperature adjustments during an average day. In fact, most programmable thermostats can meet our needs when it comes to the basic requirement of a scheduled temperature adjustment.
We’ve not used the ‘auto-away’ feature yet successfully. By that I mean the thermostat can detect that you’re not at home and automatically set the temperature to the “away” temperature. One day, it reported auto away when we were still home. I’m not sure why as we’ve got 3 Nest thermostats, one on each floor, and I’m convinced we’d walked in front of one of them very frequently during the day.
I’ve seen this problem more than once with the thermostats:
It’s never been the same thermostat, and I’m 100% confident that each of the Nest thermostats is always within a strong WiFi signal.
When I noticed the problem this morning (right as I was about to write this blog post), I took a snapshot of the screen and went down to our basement to see if the thermostat was reporting an error. It was not. I went through the settings to see when it had last connected to the “Nest Cloud” and it claimed it had just done that. When I returned to the computer, the web site had updated and did not report any errors. I don’t know what to make of that issue and will continue to watch for patterns to the problem.
The mobile applications are functional. I’ve forgotten we have them though and fail to take advantage of them consistently. Yesterday, we missed an opportunity to remotely adjust the temperature of the home before we arrived after being away for several days in Chicago. It would have been nice to return to a warm home. :-)
I’ve written Nest support once making a few suggestions about their web application – some things that were bugging me. Unfortunately, no human responded (just an automated response). I am disappointed by that. It’s very low effort to paste in a “thanks for your feedback” type of a response and hit send. Nest as a company likely could live and be successful on their technology and devices. But, to thrive, they need awesome customers. Right now, they have not gotten customer service figured out. I also pinged their Twitter account asking for an RSS feed on their blog (seriously! they don’t have one) and they responded they were working on it. I know how hard it is to setup a blog these … WHAT?! They should be scouring the Internet, looking for positive and negative feedback and reacting to it.
I want to be excited about this type of technology. It has promise. Since heating and cooling costs so much these days, I want to be more efficient about how we spend money on heating and cooling and how we use non-renewable resources. The Nest thermostat is most certainly a new way of thinking about the user experience of a normally mundane and ignored device in the home. Having owned a (Radio Thermostat) Filtrete Touch-Screen programmable thermostat with WiFi (on Amazon for around $100), I can attest to the horrible user experience of some of the alternatives.
However at $249 USD each, I remain neutral to negative about this product. While the geek factor is high, and the usability and user experience of the product is very well done, it’s a very expensive thermostat for the home. The Radio Thermostat I mentioned above, while it’s difficult to setup, has most of the same features and is $150 less. The Radio Thermostat is not particularly attractive, but it would be a conversation starter in most homes. The Nest definitely would be.
For less than $50US, it’s easy to obtain a decent programmable thermostat. I’ve bought them many times over the years for various locations, including some apartments we were living in.
Final words of advice/feedback for potential Nest owners now:
If you have a decent programmable thermostat already consider whether it’s worth an additional $250 to:
- Frequently remotely adjust the temperature of the house
- Have more than the 5 to 7 daily adjustments you’re allowed by typical programmable thermostats
- Have a thermostat which could theoretically save you money by detecting you’re not at home (if you have a location for the thermostat which makes it possible to detect you being home/away).
- Have a glitzy color thermostat that doesn’t show the time on it when you walk by (still missing that feature)
- Encourage you with a small green leaf to turn up/down the temperature to save you money (yes, it’s weak)
- Have a topic to talk about with your friends (“Hey! I got a new color thermostat”)
If you already have a decent programmable thermostat and were conscious of when you needed to adjust it (hold) based on unexpected scheduled changes, save your money and wait for something cheaper unless you really need the features above.
I remain very skeptical whether we’ll recoup the costs of the units in energy savings.
If you feel otherwise about the thermostat (or agree), speak up! I’d like to see what the other early adopters think about it. I’ve read some stupidly excited tweets/posts about the product that are often: “OMG! It’s a programmable color thermostat! OMG! Love it!!” Yeah. My phone doesn’t have wires and also has a color screen.