I saw this pop up in the news yesterday, and I new I had to have one. I was happy to find that my old (non-programmable) thermostat could be replaced by this new “iPod” of thermostats.
Nest is the brainchild of Tony Fadell, who is credited as the original developer of the iPod for Apple. Tony took a year’s sabbatical to live in Paris with his wife and kids, and near the end of the year, after thinking about what he wanted to do next, he announced his new project to his wife: a thermostat. She was baffled. But she soon became a believer.
The Nest Learning Thermostat
Turns out, the thermostat that most people have in their house is essentially the same thermostat that people have been using for 30 years or more. Some have touchscreens or other innovations, but they are still stand-alone boxes that pretty much do one thing. Even programmable thermostats aren’t an improvement, because studies have shown that most people don’t ever learn the complicated steps to program the thermostat, or they are unhappy with its performance, so they simply place it in permanent “hold” setting—which means they are essentially using it as an analog, non-programmable thermostat.
Realizing that most of a household’s wasted energy is controlled by the thermostat, Tony Fadell thought that he could cut down on energy waste (and its concurrent pollution) by developing a thermostat that trains itself. The Nest is the outgrowth of that project. It is a thermostat that learns from you each time you turn the thermostat up or down. It recalls the time of day and the temperature setting, and it eventually learns your routine and begins to adjust itself automatically. It contains a motion sensor, so if it senses no motion for several hours, it assumes you are away from home and changes its settings to “away” mode, which means it adjusts itself to a more energy-efficient temperature—higher in the summer, lower in the winter. It also senses when you are approaching at night and lights up for you.
But what if you don’t want your thermostat to adjust itself? What if you have a dog or cat that might prevent your thermostat from going into “away” mode? Well, the beauty of Nest is that it comes with an online account that allows you to set very specific temperature minimums and maximums, as well as setting specific times for any adjustments (these minimums and maximums will also make sure Nest keeps your pets comfortable while you’re away). It also allows you to set your account to permanent “away” mode if you go on vacation. And it does this by interacting with your computer wirelessly. As long as you have wireless internet access, the Nest can be controlled from your computer, or even via your iPhone. If you are coming home early in the middle of winter, you can pull up the app and tell it to start heating the house up before you arrive. If your family has a cabin in upstate Wisconsin and you are heading up for the weekend, you can tell Nest to make the cabin warm before you get there. So, not only is the thing energy efficient, it is also incredibly user friendly. It also trains you…when you make an adjustment that is going to save you energy, a little green leaf pops up as a sort of reward—like getting a gold star! I can’t wait to get mine installed and try it out. It really does seem like this is something—one of the first real things—from “the house of the future.”
If you want to learn more, you can see their very nicely designed website at Nest.com.