Nest Thermostat Review by a User
Nest Thermostat Review
Full disclosure upfront; if this is the first time you are reading my blog, I own an air conditioning & heating company in Mesa, AZ – Magic Touch Mechanical. My company sells and installs a lot of Nest thermostats and has for years, but we also install hundreds of Honeywell, Ecobee, Lennox, and Trane thermostats as well so there is no bias in my review.
This Nest thermostat review is based on my own personal use of the Nest thermostat, and I own four of them total on different properties in the Phoenix area. I also have two Nest thermostats in my office.
While the Nest is not as feature-rich as some of its rivals, and not as fancy as say the Lennox i-Comfort E-30 thermostat, it does stand out from the crowd because of some of its differences. The most apparent difference is its simple, yet somehow still high-tech appearance – it’s just a good-looking device!
The Nest Thermostat Looks Good!
As an HVAC Contractor for the last twenty years, and thirty plus now as a service technician and installer, I’ve installed and programmed a lot of different thermostats and controls. While programmable thermostats, and now Smart-thermostat options have increased greatly and their programming and functions have improved tenfold – most are still a square or rectangle “white box”. Nest thermostats are actually sleek and attractive enough that they add to the look of the room in my opinion.
In my home I have the stainless frame 3rd Generation Nest thermostats. The silver dial on the side of the device seems to reflect the wall color so well that it seems to take on the color of the wall. I have mine set to turn the display on as I approach, which its sensors do an excellent job of, and it automatically goes back to a dark black screen as I walk away. When across the room from it, this dark screen and ability to “blend in” add to the Nest’s minimalist appearance.
Some thermostats like the aforementioned Lennox E-30, are going the other way with more of a large, colorful, tablet look and feel. While it is also attractive, Lennox seems to be going less for blending in, and more for standing out.
Nest Offers an Easy User Experience and Interface
One thing you notice about the Nest right away, is there are no buttons, just a small glass circular screen mounted inside a stainless-steel ring. To change the temperature up or down, you simply grab the outer ring and turn it. Turn to the right (clockwise) to turn the temperature up, turn it to the left to turn the temperature down. While you are turning the dial, the temperature setting you are choosing is displayed in large digital numbers. When you are in heating mode the display is red, and in cooling the display is blue – couldn’t be simpler!
What’s hard to describe is the way the Nest “feels”, but I’ll do my best. It would probably help to know that one of the original designers of the Nest came from Apple and was also one of the original designers of the iPod Touch.
The Nest looks and feels stout. It is clear a lot of thought was put into the design, and the end results make it feel well-built and durable. An example of this would be the way the stainless-steel outer-ring feels and moves. Nothing feels delicate or “plastic-y” about this thermostat (probably because there is no plastic used on the exterior). Even though it is stout, the movement of the temperature dial is as smooth as a hot knife through warm butter. It just sort-of “glides” in either direction.
You even have the option of turning on a faint “clicking” sound as you turn the dial which will click for every degree you set the temperature up or down. Personally, I have the sound shut off, but it’s a matter of preference and easy to change in the settings.
The only other user input method aside from the temperature ring is a push on the glass face itself. Unlike, a touchscreen phone there is a faint mechanical feel to this action. When you press on the glass screen, it has an ever-so-slight feel of pushing a button. This input allows you to get into the settings of the thermostat.
Set-up, Programming, and Settings are Simple to use on the Nest Thermostat
Love or hate Apple products, there is no denying they excel in making their products very intuitive. Most of us could pick up an iPhone or Mac for the first time and just know how to use it. The Nest Thermostat has that same interface which really separates it from many thermostats on the market today.
When you push in on the glass screen of the Nest you are taken to a menu of options that are well laid out, separated, and easy to follow. The options are laid out as follows.
One push on the center glass brings up a display of the current conditions. These include the current outdoor temperature, day, time, current indoor temperature, and current indoor humidity.
As mentioned earlier, this display can be customized to your tastes and can be always on (think nightlight), or on as you approach. In always on mode you can also set it so it always displays the room temperature, or always displays the time.
- MODE: COOLING / HEATING / AUTOMATIC / OFF
Turning the dial to the MODE feature allows you to switch the thermostat to cooling, heating, off, or automatic. Automatic Changeover is a setting that allows you to never have to adjust the temperature during those “pre-season” times. EX. If you wanted to always maintain 75 degrees the thermostat may go into either cooling or heating depending on the conditions to always maintain your temperature setting inside.
- FAN: AUTO, ON, ALWAYS, TIMER
My home HVAC system is equipped with both a high-efficiency variable speed blower motor (indoor fan), as well as a PCO electronic air purifier and high MERV rated filtration system. I have an occupational related lung disease so indoor air quality is extremely important to me. In my case, I keep my indoor fan running 365/24/7 so my air is constantly being filtered and scrubbed.
- ENERGY USE
This is the perfect report for any energy-miser or show-off. The Energy function allows you to track your heating and cooling run-times by the day and the hour, and all sorts of other handy information. The report tells you what the outdoor conditions where at the time when your usage was up or down, and gives you tips to better control your energy use. When I first saw this, I thought; “well that’s not going to change my usage”, but surprisingly I was wrong. I found that as I paid attention to this and by changing certain settings, I was indeed saving energy month over month.
Undoubtedly the biggest difference between the Nest and other thermostats on the market is it was the first (and still one of the few) truly SMART “Learning” thermostats. We talk about that more below; however, you do not have to use that feature and can program in a pre-determined schedule as you see fit. Setting a schedule can be done at the thermostat itself or through the free Nest Thermostat App which is available for any operating system. Once you get used to it, I personally find Nest’s method of adding, deleting, or editing a schedule one of the easiest of most programmable thermostats.
All of the one-time, or less frequent setting changes can be done by scrolling through the settings option. This includes things like screen brightness, turning click sounds on and off, always on or on at approach display settings, etc. It is well laid out and easy to change or exit if you make a mistake.
Nest was the First and Still One of the Few Truly Smart “Self-Learning” Thermostats
Nest did for thermostats what Tesla did for electric vehicles. They built a better mousetrap and made it sexy!
Nest was the first self-learning thermostat that did not require any programming (although the option is there should you want it). When you first install the Nest, it makes a note of how you set it, what times you adjust the temperature up and down, what days you are home and what days you come and go throughout the day. It also uses a geo-fencing feature so it can sense when home occupants cell-phones are there or not. It learns all this information so it can automatically adjust itself to your schedule and optimize comfort and energy savings. It can also re-learn things as they change.
This feature was a game changer in the “programmable” thermostat market as the thing most end users did not like about programmable thermostats was the programming itself. Programming was confusing even for HVAC Service Technicians who were used to working with these devices, and the end results were, most people didn’t program their programmable thermostats and just used them like a regular non-programmable. With self-learning, people got the energy savings and comfort benefits of a programmable thermostat without all the hassle.
Miscellaneous Nest Thermostat features worth mentioning
- Built in Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi thermostats are becoming the norm just like Wi-Fi everything else is nowadays, and of course the Nest made them popular. The Nest app is one of the nicer, easier to navigate apps out there today, and it just works.
One of the things I personally like best about the Wi-Fi app is not the ability to make changes while traveling (although I do that too), I like not having to get off the couch when I’m home to walk over to my thermostat to make a change. Think about the app as a remote control you can use from your favorite armchair on your phone, tablet, or laptop – whichever is closest!
Anyone with teenagers at home while you are at work, or commercial building owners can appreciate the ability to lock your thermostat settings to avoid that huge bill at the end of the month from adjustments made by people who don’t pay your utility bill. Nest makes it easy to passcode protect some or all of the settings and adjustments.
Changing the passcode is easy too, should your passcode get discovered or you want to give someone temporary access.
- Filter Change Reminder
Having been an air conditioning service technician since I was young, I know nobody ever forgets to change their air filters! In fact, it’s a joke amongst service tech’s that there is always a brand new spotless air filter installed whenever we arrive at a “no-cool” or “no-heat” service call (wink)!
For those very rare people who do forget, the Nest can send you a reminder and display it on the screen and gives you a chance to hit “snooze” one time.
- Self-Diagnose / Troubleshooting
The Nest can detect when there is a problem and if something in the AC stops receiving the thermostats signal. It can even pinpoint where the problem is in some cases. It can even store your service providers contact information in it so you don’t have to fumble around looking for your favorite company’s phone number or E-mail address.
Important Information Before Buying a Nest Thermostat
Before you rush out and buy a new Nest Thermostat there are a few things you should know.
- Common Wire May be Needed
Although Nests website, and sometimes even their own tech support, say that a “common wire is usually not needed”, we have found that it is needed in some cases. A common wire is an additional conductor (wire) between the thermostat and the unit. Some homes come with enough conductors and even have “extra” conductors that are not being used. Other homes may not have this wire at all.
The common wire is used to constantly feed power to the thermostat since it has no replaceable batteries in it. In some cases, as Nest says, the common wire isn’t needed because the thermostat receives enough power through another conductor to remain functional. Our experience at Magic Touch Mechanical (we’ve installed hundreds of them), is about 2 in every 10 thermostats do need the common wire, due to wire length or the equipment it is hooked up to.
Unfortunately, there really is no way to detect if the common will be needed or not until we just install it and see. If there is a common wire available, we connect it just to be safe.
On average it costs about $200 to run the required thermostat wire if needed.
- Newer Communicating Systems May Use a Proprietary Thermostat
We recently had a woman give us a 1-star online review because her newer AC system required the proprietary thermostat the installing company had installed when they put in her new AC System.
She purchased a Nest thermostat from Lowe’s and then called Nest to find a recommended installer. Nest gave her our number and we scheduled the appointment. When the technician arrived, he informed her that her particular model AC could not use any other thermostat than the one she had – the way it communicated was specific to that model.
As fairness would dictate, he wrote up an invoice for the service call only (we did show up as promised ready to install her thermostat). Apparently it was somehow our fault that our crystal ball was broken that day and we were unable to peer into it to see what model her new AC system was (we did not install it, nor had she ever used us before). So naturally she got on Yelp and wrote a scathing review about us…not Nest, not Lowe’s, not her AC Manufacturer, and not her AC Installer!
So, make sure you find out if your system requires a proprietary communicating thermostat!
- Nest Didn’t Start Out Trouble-Free
Like all emerging technology, the first adopters were the Guinea-Pigs (myself included). While now on the 3rd Generation Nest, they seem to have worked out the kinks, the first and even some of the 2nd generation were sometimes glitchy.
I had to replace one of my first-generation thermostats a few weeks after I installed it, and even Nest themselves never got to the bottom of what the problem was. Nest does include a 5-year warranty when installed by a Nest Approved Contractor like Magic Touch Mechanical.
How Much Does a 3rd Generation Nest Cost Installed?
You can buy the Nest 3rd Generation directly from their website for $249 plus tax and shipping. Big box stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Best Buy also sell the Nest for about the same price. After tax, expect the Nest to run you about $275.00 not including installation.
I can’t speak for what other AC companies charge to install a customer supplied Nest, but Magic Touch charges $150 for installation and setup.
To avoid warranty issues and qualify for the 5-year warranty, we can supply the Nest thermostat as well. Supplied and installed we charge $395 including tax which saves our customers about $30 if they supply the thermostat themselves.
If you live in or near the Mesa, AZ area and are interested in having a Nest, or other Wi-Fi thermostat installed in your home or business, contact us today and find out for yourself why we are so highly rated and awarded for our customer service!