When I lived in Japan I had a co-worker look up from his phone one day to an alert that his unoccupied house in Arizona was too hot. He called a family member and confirmed that there was an HVAC problem. It was at that moment I understood the importance of a smart Thermostat.
As soon as I moved back to the US in around 2015 I had a home built and I immediately installed a 2nd Generation Nest. Recently I bought a new home and installed a 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat ($249 but now reduced to $199) downstairs and a Nest Thermostat (4th Generation) ($129) upstairs. A few weeks into the new home we opted to install a new upstairs A/C unit which came with a 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat which I had them go ahead and install.
You might think a 4th generation product would be “better” than a 3rd generation product however I don’t really find this to be the case. The 4th gen only works with the Google Home app whereas the 3rd gen works with the Nest app, the Google Home app, and a web browser. Also the 3rd gen integrates with Alexa. To voice command the 4th gen you need a Google Nest Hub. Speaking of Alexa integration, when I added the 2nd Nest Learning Thermostat Alexa could not find it. I had to disable the Google Nest skill in Alexa and re-enable it before the Alexa voice commands would work on both thermostats. There is something very cool about just saying “Alexa, Set Hallway temperature to 74” in the middle of the night without having to get up.
So to me the 3rd gen Nest Learning thermostat has way more flexibility. Also the HVAC installers told me that they did NOT like the 4th gen at all. Let me preach on it…….
As soon as I installed the 4th gen it worked for a day and then dropped off the wifi network. There is NO EASY WAY to just connect it back to the wifi. You have to remove the account from the thermostat and app and reinstall it as new. In the roughly 3 weeks I had it installed it fell off the network twice.
The 4th Gen doesn’t come with a Trim kit but it can be purchased for $14.99. I got mine at Amazon.
In the interest of silence I like to control my Nest from a browser which has the best interface in my opinion. Again, this only works with the 3rd generation or below.
In my blog I don’t repeat specs and things you can easily look up yourself on the manufacturers website. I like to relate real world experiences and/or gotchas that come from actually using and exploiting a product. In other words you’ll get my opinion on quality and not a regurgitation of specifications.
My favorite feature though is one that even non-smart thermostats will do. Scheduling. The only issue with scheduling on non-smart thermostats is that it is more difficult to perform. Lots of button pushing. On Nest it is as simple as drop and drag, up and down, and cut and paste. I can’t emphasize enough how having a scheduled cooling regime of cooling or heating can save energy which equals saving money. And I’ll say it again……….your dumb thermostat most likely does scheduling as well. Most people just never do it.
Nest Scheduling (click to enlarge pic)
One thing I DON’T like is “presence detection”. Google would like to use your smart phone to know if you are home or not so they can raise the temp for efficiency. While that sounds great and all………..I don’t really want Google knowing if I’m home or not. It feels creepy when smart devices are a little too smart. You can opt not to use presence detection. I opted out.
Okay, here’s something I do like……….So I mentioned I had a 4th gen on my upstairs system in my “new” home. From the time we moved in we knew the upstairs AC wasn’t keeping up. Sure enough on one particularly hot day my thermostat emails me with a graph, tells there is an issue maybe and recommends things to check, like the filter and is there a door or window open? That’s all fine and well but at the bottom of the email is a link to Nest’s “Handy” service or network. It told me that for $49 they would schedule a site visit with a tech. The date they suggested was only 2 days in the future. I went ahead and dropped the $50 for a service call. That $50 ONLY covers an inspection. Any other work of course gets billed.
At any rate, I got a tech who by my estimation was really honest (hard to BS me because I was a Field Service rep) and as he ran around opening panels it became obvious to me I needed to replace the whole system. Anyway, Nest informed me of a problem and then offered a SOLUTION that was low cost. How sweet is that?
Within the website and app is a link to contact and schedule a Handy site visit for inspection, maintenance, repair, whatever. I think it is a GREAT addition. Take it from a guy who has had a heating and cooling emergency or two. You usually end up calling 2 or 3 places and lucky if you can get help in a day or two. The Handy installer I choose to use (ARS out of Wilmington NC) has guaranteed 24 hour service with hotel money and cash money if they don’t deliver. It’s in the contract you sign. Actually because I have 2 systems the terms are a little different. If downstairs fails…….you just move it upstairs.
Nest can also inform you of any energy rebates in your area. A local electric company offers $75 to sign up for an energy efficiency program and then gives you $25 annually after that. Sadly it isn’t my electric company but maybe someday it will be.
One final issue I’ll mention that won’t affect most users……..My old home had a pretty extensive home automation system powered by a program called HomeAssistant. Nest could integrate with it and when Google bought Nest the integration went away for new users but the old Legacy API’s still worked. Then I think they re-established a way for automation users to integrate their product into their hub. I believe that currently Google Nest DOES work with Home Assistant but I haven’t started setting up my Home Automation here in the house yet. HomeAssistant does show steps for setting up the integration currently but we will see. It seems Google would prefer you to use their hub but if history is any indicator then maybe one day the Nest API’s may go poof.
Don’t just buy a smart thermostat……..learn to exploit what they can do for you.