Nest Thermostat Review, Update #7

Update #6, Update #5, Update #4, Update #3, Update #2, Update #1, Install

I received a replacement thermostat earlier this week as promised by Nest Labs. I had time this afternoon to do a swap and reinstall. Nest had asked me to swap the thermostats between two floors experimentally to determine whether a temperature reading issue was related to the location or the thermostat. It was the thermostat.

As part of the swap, I had to reprogram the two thermostats.

I’d swapped the defective thermostat with one from the basement. Apparently, the base has the S/N on it of the thermostat and they’re intended to be “paired” so I decided to return the thermostat to the basement and install the new thermostat on the first floor (replacing the original defective unit).

I removed the old unit and replaced the wires. Depending on the type of wires you’re using, you may find that it’s far more difficult to do than you would expect. I ‘d forgotten how much I hated trying to stick the very stiff HVAC wires into the thermostat’s base!

I replaced everything and activated the unit. You can look at the installation experience post for more information about the general setup.

Past the wifi connection, rebooting, waiting, waiting, waiting, then “ERROR.” “No Rc or Rh” connection.

20111218-IMG_0138

Crud. So, I popped the thermostat off the base and looked at the wires. They all appeared to be fine. So, I reseated the Rc connection and replaced the thermostat. Success! I find that a tiny tug on the wire after you believe it has been seated does the trick. The rest of the install went without issue.

The thermostat switched to the normal temperature display after a few more alerts. The only thing was – the temperature read 76F. Whaaaa? Given the reboot cycles, etc., I really hadn’t handled it much, not enough to cause the temperature to be that high. I waited about 5 minutes for it to start dropping and when it did not, I called Nest to speak with the person who’d handled the replacement, Mark. He was out apparently, so I ended up speaking with someone who went by “DK” for about 30 minutes about a few topics.

We decided the best course of action was to wait and see.

Thankfully, the new thermostat is now reading a temperature that I would expect, so for some reason, this new thermostat took quite a while to acclimate to the room temperature (much longer than the original three thermostats – around 45 minutes).

16 Comments

  1. Thanks for providing a place to discuss the Nest, Aaron.

    When I spoke to the support guy, I alluded to the likely chaos involved in supporting a new product just beginning to ship to actual consumers. He said that the “issue rate” or whatever metric they were keeping was actually pretty good. They’d fallen behind in answering support requests (from the website) only because they were so busy sending out notes to potential customers on their waiting list for new units. Could that be true? Should that be true? It gave me an odd feeling, hearing this.

    A unique aspect of the Nest is the time associated with its alleged learning scheme. It’s a bit like buying paint that is not the right color when applied, but is supposed to become the right color after a few weeks. Furthermore, the “right” color is not firmly specified. This is peculiar situation from a support point of view. Also from a product review point of view – I think David Pogue really blew it on this one.

    An interesting question to ask is if – theoretically – moving the dial around as the user wishes provides an adequate amount of training data. This question could be answered unequivocally by a thoughtful simulation, although the results would have to be presented in some statistical manner. Another way to explore the question is to pretend the thermostat was a helpful human servant. How would that interaction have to go? Wouldn’t the servant feel it necessary to often ask “Do you want that temperature setting every day, sir, or just right now?” Or, “How long will you be staying in this room, sir?”

    My guess is that the answer to the above question is “no”, there is no way that the Nest can properly judge the intent of the user without more information than twisting the dial provides. It needs to ask questions. The web programming tool is pretty good, though, so I don’t really care about schedule learning. It’s the other stuff that it could learn, but doesn’t even try, like anticipating a set point change.

    1. @curt– they said they were falling behind on support because they were too busy sending out emails about waiting list status? What?! I can’t believe someone said that out loud.

  2. I really wish you would throw your nests in the garbage because your whining is making me ill. Constructive criticism is constructive. You just described in detail how you carped to some poor customer service rep about a problem that didn’t exist.

    [From Aaron – While I don’t certainly don’t believe that my post could make you ill and I strongly dislike your treatment of someone you haven’t even met (me), I decided to edit the post to reflect reasonable feedback. Please go somewhere else if you don’t like the content here. I’m not forcing you to stay or read anything.]

    1. Sam — I really sorry that my blog post didn’t meet your needs, whatever they were. I’m actually confident that my criticism was constructive as it offered suggestions that actually can work. You however, offered nothing constructive. Ironic.

  3. I’ve been following your blog and it’s been both interesting and enlightening. I can tell from your first post about installing the unit that you truly were excited and hoped this thing(s) would work for you. In other words you didn’t have “an axe to grind.” Whether or not your experience is isolated to your situation along with a few others or is indicative of the Nest thermostat as a whole I’d have to agree with Sam (without his hubris) and call it a day. It seems you’ve given them a fair shot at working and alas they’re just not doing so.

    [Aaron] Agreed. I’ve taken down some of the ranting based on your comments. Thanks.

  4. Hey Aaron, did you see Nest posted a firmware update on Jan 11, version 1.0.6. Please check it out and let us know what you think!

    I have ordered a Nest and just not received it yet so I am anxious to see if this newest firmware resolves any of the issues you have noted in your blog here.

    1. I did notice this morning that there was a new version on my thermostats. I’ll post updates if something changes for the better or worse.

  5. Sorry to hear about all the issues guys. As another datapoint, my Nest hasn’t had any issues sine I installed in Christmas eve.

    This morning though, instead of coming on at 7:00 am as scheduled, it came on 20 minutes -early- so that by 7:00 am the house was at the -target temperature-.

    Wonder if that was part of the initial design, or a result of the firmware update. In either case it was unexpected, yet very cool behavior.

    1. @rick– did you confirm your schedule hadn’t changed? Someone earlier had confirmed with nest that it wouldn’t warm to a set point before the time (it was set to had passed). While I’d really like to have that feature, they’d need to adjust the schedule setting experience to make it an option as many have schedules based on guesswork of how long it will take to reach a set point.

  6. I’m the guy who reported that, according to a support guy, the Nest does not anticipate set point changes. That was when display version 1.04 was current. The fellow said something like “I can’t tell you anything about new releases”. He offered this tidbit gratuitously – I had not asked – seemingly with a wink.
    So, it certainly is a good question: Does 1.06 implement anticipation of set points? I got up late this morning, so I don’t know. I have schedule learning turned off – who knows, that might turn any anticipation feature off as well.

    1. Sorry about not making the connection!

      I can say that none of the thermostats in our house have done that in the last day (and they are all updated). Yesterday, the house thought we were away during the day and shut down all normal schedules, so our house was very cold during dinner. The day time set points match the away temps.

      I know that this morning neither of the normal schedules activated until their normal set points time as I was awake already when the furnace turned on.

  7. I’ll check again tomorrow morning. It could have been a one time coincidence since the heater does come on periodically all night. When I manually turn up the temperature it displays the number of minutes it will take to reach that point, so all the components of time-till-target scheduling are there.

  8. You took my post down and the one with the guy agreeing with me. Can’t take the heat? You’re quick to gripe, but can’t take criticism yourself. I might create my own blog talking about how stupid your blog is.

    [From Aaron-Sam, last I checked, this is my blog. After some thought, I agreed that I had ranted a bit too much (but not because of your ironic comment, so I changed the content), making neither of your comments relevant any longer. Why this is such a big deal for you, I have NO idea.]

  9. My mistake, not starting earlier to reach temperature by selected time. It just starts at the time I selected.

  10. Funny, I just wrote to customer support this weekend asking why, after the thermostat learns time-to-temperature, it does not regulate the heat so that the temperature reaches the programmed value at the programmed time (haven’t heard back). The inexpensive thermostats that we replaced did this very well and it seems that outside of remote control of the thermostat, the Nest actually does less. Another annoyance is that the Nest for some reason decided to delete two days worth of manually set temperature programming making for a cold house (and an annoyed wife) on the weekend. It appears the software is not quite ready for prime-time. Hopefully they will get a better release out before too long.

  11. So two days after I sent my question to Nest I received a canned response suggesting I reset learning on the Nest thermostat. Since it’s obvious my question was not read, I’ve sent a follow-up email to Nest (I’m not hopeful though of receiving any new information):

    Dear Nest-Bot,

    Thank you for the automated reply to my question. I appreciate you responding within the promised one to two day estimate (note that there appears to be a typo on your site that says one to two hours).

    There does seem to be a problem with your automated reply. Apparently you are programmed to only look at keywords and not to analyze the question itself and because of this your reply did not answer my question (though I’m sure if you keep using this response that some one at some point will find your answer useful).

    I’m not sure if you are programmed to handle a response to your automated reply, but I figured I would at least try and see what happens. Oh, and at the risk of overloading your quasi-intelligent parsing abilities, would you mind telling me why the Nest deletes multiple days of manually programmed set-points in a seemingly random fashion?

    Thank you. I look forward to receiving a reply in one to two days (though I acknowledge that the possibility of receiving a relevant answer is remote).

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