Product Review: The Nest Programmable Thermostat is Truly a Thing of Beauty but will it survive ?

Created by Tony Fadell, who designed the hardware for the Apple IPOD, the Nest energy saving thermostat ( yes I realize that it is technically not a programmable thermostat ) could completely change the residential thermostat market forever.
As you can see in this video, the NEST is absolutely gorgeous! With it’s unique energy saving artificial intelligence a home owner does not even have to program the thermostat to save energy.

Update March 27, 2013.After reading this post make sure to click here to check out the latest development in thermostats.

I believe that NEST has truly created an amazing thermostat!

Our team has installed, tested, and sold both the Ecobee and Honeywell Prestige thermostats which serve the same market that Nest is pursuing. The Ecobee programmable thermostat controls our Florida office and we have two Honeywell Prestige programmable thermostats controlling our Atlanta office. Both of these programmable thermostats have proven to be reliable and easy to use. The Ecobee has a great web interface and a beautiful color display on the thermostat. The Honeywell Prestige is a very cost effective way to communicate remotely via the web. The Honeywell also has the ability to be packaged into a whole home system through their robust RedLink wireless network.

I am very interested to get my hands on a Nest thermostat and see how they compare with proven technology.

Here is were I think the folks at Nest might have missed the boat. They are selling this product directly to the home owner and through Best Buy. That is right Best Buy.

Not that I have anything against Best Buy, I buy lots of electronics from Best Buy they are an amazing company. But buying a thermostat from Best Buy?

Any good HVAC contractor or HVAC equipment distributor will tell you that an energy saving thermostat is only as good as the equipment is maintained and the thermostat installation. Granted the folks at Nest have created a great “do it yourself” installation video, but who are homeowners going to call when they are not seeing the energy savings they are expecting because the HVAC unit is not functioning properly, or the filters have not been changed, or the unit does not start ? Best Buy?

If Nest wants to be successful they need a qualified network of HVAC professionals to provide support after the thermostat sale. I urge them to reach out to the traditional HVAC distribution network.

Have HVAC distributors put the Nest thermostats in their local inventories and let these distributors promote this amazing thermostat to their local contractor networks and have these local contractors promote, install and service the Nest thermostats to their customers: the homeowners.

Be sure to read this post on the Nest. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Bypassing the HVAC distributor and contractors to sell directly to the homeowners in this industry is not the way to be successful with a new product, no matter how great the product. Given the strong proven product offering by both Ecobee and Honeywell if Nest does not reach out to the HVAC distribution network they might not get the support necessary to build a sustainable business.

Click here to see a Nest thermostat installation in Atlanta by local HVAC contractor Moncrief Heating and Air.

HVAC contractors and distributors please click yes or no to the poll question: Will you promote a product that bypasses you and goes straight to the homeowner?


Eric Stromquist

Eric Stromquist

Eric has been in the controls industry since 1979. His passion for controls and the desire to provide an easy way for HVAC professionals to keep up with the rapid changes in controls technology inspired him to create Controltrends.

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Comments

  1. BoilerBoy says

    I’ve seen to many products in our industry sold buy Lowes, Home Depot, and now BEST BUY? As the MNF (Monday Night Football) would say COME ON MAN !!! We don’t sell TV’s cuz we can’t support them…Leave our trade alone…..

  2. Jim Haddres says

    Who cares where it’s sold. Gimme a break. Stop crying. HVAC folks just mark up costs. If we need one we’ll hire them, but this is designed to cut the middleman.

  3. Mike Jones says

    Based on the price points I have seen for the Nest ( cool stat) they might be cutting the middleman out but they are sure not passing the savings on to the homeowner.
    I agree with the other comments. The reason you have a hvac distribtion channel is because they add value in terms of support and because it is not just about a thermostat but it is about a whole HVAC system.
    Who is going to be crying when a blower motor or fan board is not covered under warranty because the HVAC unit manufacturer or hvac contractor says the problem was caused by the thermostat not being installed correctly or by a certified HVAC contractor?
    My guess is that if the hvac channel is bypassed the first thing that the contractor is going to do on a service call is replace the thermostat. If you think this bypass is benfiting the homeowner at the expense of “the middleman” I invite you to consider that Nest might be benifiting at the expense of the homeowner.

  4. Bob Jordan says

    I really like the way the Nest stat looks, but think it is a mistake to bypass and go direct to the homeowner. As simple as Nest seems to be making it, hvac contractors know that there are way to many things that can cause a system not to function properly.

    If a homeowner thinks that they can save energy just by installing an energy saving tstat they are going to be very disappointed in NEST if a qualified HVAC contractor is not involved to make sure that the system is functioning at optimal performance. Anybody’s energy saving thermostat is only as good as the system is maintained.

    Any good HVAC contractor will tell you that they depend on their local wholesaler ( middleman) to inventory parts and lend support.

    Is not Best Buy ( which I understand will be selling Nest) middleman? A middleman that as far as I know has no HVAC experience.

  5. casey says

    Service Experts is the sole installer for nest thermostats. they have a very good support network.

  6. Eric StromquistEric says

    Great info Casey, thanks. I hear good things about Service Experts. So doe that mean the homeowner buys the Nest from Best Buys and Service Experts installs the thermostat? Or does Service experts sell the thermostat
    with the installation? Again thanks for the input.
    Eric

  7. Stuart Lombard says

    Full disclosure, I am a founder and President of ecobee and we, of course, sell WiFi enabled thermostats. I have also never touched an actual Nest thermostat and so my comments are based on what we have read about their products and what we know about the HVAC industry.

    Eric carries our products and asked us to post a few comments on the Nest.

    First, we totally agree with the comments about the value the HVAC Service channel provides to the customer. Customers rely on the HVAC channel to make sure their equipment is installed correctly and runs efficiently. We have had opportunities to sell in other channels but we have turned them down. We believe and support the HVAC channel and it is the only channel you will find us in. Not only is Nest defining the selling price of the thermostat, they are also defining the install cost; $119 for the first one and $25 for additional thermostats. If you factor in an hour of drive time and an hour of customer time per install, it is hard to see how an installer will not lose money.

    There are a few other things about the Nest that will be interesting to see how they play out. The first is their learning algorithm. While traditional programmable thermostats have been hard to program for homeowners, new web based thermostats with large color screens, web portals and mobile apps are a breeze to set up. Will customers prefer to take a few minutes to set up their thermostats the way they want or take days to teach them what they want them to do? What if I have three thermostats or more in my home? Will the motion detector in the thermostat set my thermostat to away mode while I am watching a movie with my family because I have not walked by it? What if my mother-in-law comes over for a few days and I need to crank the heat? Will I need to teach my Nest all over again?

    The second thing is the use of power stealing to power the thermostat. There is a lot of literature on power stealing and we looked really hard at this technology. In short, it is very difficult to do reliably. Steal too much power and the heat or cool turns on when you don’t want it to, don’t steal enough and your thermostat goes dead. Newer equipment tends to be more sensitive to power stealing and so it may work with some units but not others. The Nest has two radios (WiFi and Zigbee) and a color screen all of which consume more power than a simple thermostat. From where we sit, and we stand to be corrected, the jury is still out on whether this can be done reliably.

    On these points, we welcome any comments you have. Building products with the channel and leveraging your experience helps us build better products. We welcome your input.

    Thanks for your support

    Stuart

  8. Eric StromquistEric says

    Stuart thank you for your insightful comments. Your commitment to quality with the Ecobee thermostat and your understanding and loyalty to the HVAC distribution channel as a way to make sure the end user gets the best energy saving thermostat solution are commendable and one of the reason Stromquist & Company supports and promotes Ecobee.

  9. Jim Hayman says

    Stuart Lombard at Ecobee raises some good questions, particulary about the occupancy sensor part of the Nest t-stat. I’m not sure I want a situation where my t-stat is deciding to lower the temp because no one is moving near it for a while. The Nest is “always learning.” It might actually be too smart.

  10. Mike Brubeck says

    My disclosure is that I am a Manufacturers Rep representing HVAC manufacturers to the Wholesale industry. There are some very good comments above and it appears there are two topics being discussed; one being the Nest and the other selling HVAC products outside of normal distribution/contractor channels.

    It’s my observation that big box and internet sales direct to the end user appear to be a part of the stronger growing segments of our industry. You can buy almost any repair part and/or equipment over the internet then YouTube or Google how to install it. Regarding big box, has anyone walked into a Home Depot, Ace and countless other retail stores lately? I am leaving out the names of manufacturers; you can fill in the blank based on your experiences. What started out as selling just furnace filters and metal ducting has grown to thermostats, humidifiers, universal Ignitors and more. Oh yah, then you walk by the guy/gal hawking equipment sales and installation.

    Your local wholesaler and reputable contractor are invaluable to the operations and energy consumption of your home or business.

  11. Eric StromquistEric says

    Very well said Mike ! The HVAC industry is certainly changing. Thanks for your comments and for visiting controltrends. Mike please feel free to leave info on your company.

  12. Steve says

    Ok, some good points, but frankly a lot of you are entrenched in a service model that is going downhill….
    ” nono no it has to be installed by apro,…etc.”.., this how you get out of business by not recognizing new trends, yep type youtube and you can pretty much know how to install anything
    The other day they ask me 900$ to change my GE electronic board of my oven, …i googled the part , paid 265$ overnighted, and installed it in 20min, my point here is you overcharge people and that is not good and thatis what motivate companies like Nest to change things are done and distributed why would we pay 500$ to get this installed, when it takes 20 min to install for 250?

    Yep you had knowledge power for longtime so you could charge big bucks , but people are not stupid , internet has changed lot of things and they cant do a lot without you now
    Tough to hear but true…. Watch out how security system, thermostat, lighting, snowblowing can be and are done by customers…
    Frankly if you dont change the market will take care of it for you.

  13. Phyllis LaVoy says

    One of the Godfathers of the IPOD has the same mentality he had with the IPOD marketing concept. Sell to the general population. Not everyone wants a thermostat, but everyone wants an IPOD. But when you create a product that relates the HVAC industry, then this is a targeted market. The HVAC feild is a centralized market. We are professionals in OUR field and better suited to sell the product and offer support in installing it and explaining the benefits of the thermostat. The general public does not understand HVAC. Also, wiring the thermostat is intimidating and not for everyone. Keep our workers working. Let us sell the stat and offer all of the support. Energy Efficiency in the HVAC field is our game.

  14. Bill says

    It is good that some folks can install items for themselves. I truly feel that with these type controls (HVAC)the general public should not be doing the installation. There are too many questions that need to be answered to properly pick how the installation should be done. There are also many variables that need to be considered just to SAFELY install controls. Most controls have a statement in their lit. that says “must be installed by qualified service personnel” and there is a reason for this. Please…. these controls are NOT IPODS.

    By not paying attention to this tried and true “service model” the only new business to be generated by these control sales will be for the lawyers.

  15. dwayne says

    architect-
    from my point of view the nest is more aesthetically pleasing and offers some added features to most traditional thermostats. unfortunately the average consumer doesn’t know that the ecobee exists. that’s not their fault, its the fact that nobody wants to pay for something that has no wow factor. the nest offers that with its design. is it sill a thermostat-yes. i think the nest will succeed because of its unique look only. owners will most likely play with it for a few weeks then realize that its not something you interact with on a daily basis, and forget about it. without knowing the production run for these nests, i dont know how many were sold. i do see them on ebay for $1000+, so that tells me there are more gadget than actual tools. time will tell, fear not HVAC installers, the people will call you when they are not working.

  16. Julian says

    The NEST installs very easily, the HVAC industry would be better served if it decided to proactively approach consumers and talk about energy audits and selling their expertise and not the traditional role of waiting for a problem then providing solutions.

  17. Eric StromquistEric says

    Great input Julian, I think more and more HVAC pros like Moncrief Heating and Air totally agree and are successful because they are proactive. Thank you for the pic.

  18. Jon says

    I understand the concern to folks that earn their living with HVAC…but you have to realize that technology is changing over night and you either have to adapt or you will go the same route as Montgomery Wards, And soon Sears. Both of them clung to the same business model for at least a hundred years. People have the internet now and a desire to save a buck. The devices like the Nest thermostat are designed so a homeowner can install it themselves. If they want installation they can contract out for it right on the Nest site.
    As another person pointed out, many of us are not willing to fork out $450 plus installation for a typical furnace circuit board that costs less than half that amount.
    There is not much you can do to stop progress except adapt to it. The Nest thermostat sold out and is now going for $450 a pop on eBay. People want it!

  19. DIY says

    one of the main purposes of redesigning such products is to enable end users to install and use them right away, instead of adding or maintaining a layer of contractors who sometimes rip off homeowners. Truly not rocket science to understand the basic concept – as most of folks are getting tech savvy, I don’t see why homeowners can’t DIY these things – save time, save money and save hassle, while have some fun.

  20. Michael says

    Well I just looked at the Nest thermomstat and it looks cool. I’m not a HAVC contractor but I can install the stat. I will say this from what I see about this thermomstat all it’s doing is turning the temp up when the homeowner get’s up or down when they leave or go to bed. What will happen when you get up in the night to go to the bathroom and pass the stat? does it turn the heat up? I have the Honeywell vision Pro 8000 and I installed it myself works great. Our Honeywell cost less than the Nest think I’ll stick with our Honeywell. One more thing thermomstats tend to work better when you set it and leave it alone, our’s is set at 70 and it runs when needed.

  21. Bob Jordan says

    I wanted to share this post I found regarding a possible Nest issue

    “Undocumented Nest incompatibility with single-stage wiring
    December 17, 2011 • ∞ •
    We’ve had two Nest thermostats for a few weeks now, and we mostly like them. But I’ve run into an issue with our wiring that Nest has all but confirmed, and I’ll need to either stop using the Nests or run new thermostat wiring.

    Nest claims to be compatible with single-stage systems with two (heat only) or four (heat and air conditioning) wires:

    R or Rh: 24V AC supply for heat signal
    W: Call for heat
    Rc: 24V AC supply for air conditioning signal
    Y: Call for cooling
    When a thermostat calls for heating or air conditioning, it bridges the respective R supply wire to the call wire and the equipment turns on. Simple. (Thanks, Transwiki thermostat wiring page.)

    This setup doesn’t provide any method for the thermostat to take power for itself from the system when the heat or air conditioning isn’t on: the only way is to draw some current off of the bridged circuits when they’re running, but they might not run often enough to keep a digital thermostat powered. That’s why most digital thermostats need replaceable batteries.

    Another standard thermostat wire is often employed to solve this problem:

    C: 24V AC return that does nothing. A digital thermostat can use the R-C circuit to charge itself as needed without triggering heat or air conditioning.
    The Nest uses a built-in, permanent, rechargeable battery that automatically draws current from the system to charge itself. It claims to be compatible with systems that have this wiring arrangement even if they lack the C wire.

    The problem arises when the Nest needs to charge itself and neither the heat nor air conditioning has turned on in a while, like on a mild day. Without a C circuit to take power from, it can only charge itself from running the system.

    So it pulses the R-W heat circuit in short bursts to get power.

    Maybe some systems are slow to respond to the call for heat, so this doesn’t result in anything noticeable. But my boiler reacts instantly, and it sounds like it’s really not enjoying this technique:

    I’m not an expert, but I have to imagine that this is not good for my boiler’s longevity. And the noise it makes is annoying at best.

    I emailed Nest support and they essentially confirmed that this is how it behaves, so it doesn’t appear to be a bug in mine. They recommended installing a C wire to solve the problem, which will require an electrician and, therefore, more money. I’m going to look into how much that will cost and decide what to do then.

    But Nest shouldn’t claim compatibility with systems without a C wire. Their solution of pulsing the heat circuit clearly doesn’t work on all systems without significant negative side effects.”

    This is a concern for me.

  22. Robert C says

    Im a consumer and I just recently purchased a Nest Thermostat for my home and it is one investment I don’t regret. The installation piece of it is very simple, Nest thought of everything. I installed my thermostat in less than 20 minutes, removing the old one and wiring the Nest.

    If I had known that products such as Ecobee and Honeywell were Wifi enabled and I could control my thermostat from my iPhone/iPad device from anywhere I would have purchased that a long time ago. But when great products like Ecobee are maintained by gate keepers such as HVAC distributors consumers like myself would never get the opportunity to learn about them or even buy one hassle free. The Nest makes owning and installing a thermostat a HASSLE free transaction.

    As long as home owners keep regular maintance on the units, the “Maytag Man” may not be needed anymore. Keep in mind that The Nest is only one component of the entire system. I would love to own a thermostat one day that can run a full diagnostic check on my system and give me a report of any malfunctions are things that need attention. I hope the Nest can do that one day..

  23. Trish says

    I have seen both thermostats at Greenbuild and was impressed with both. I thought Ecobee was the coolest thing ever (and even wrote a blurb about it on Greenspiration Home. THEN, I saw the NEST and thought the idea of installing a thermostat and just letting it program itself based on your habits surpassed the ease of programming that Ecobee achieved.

    I did some additional surfing on the web, however, because I really like my content to be based on actual homeowner experience. From what I could glean, NEST installs like a dream. No problem. But there seem to be some performance issues that still have to be worked out. I saw several intelligently written blogs and comments that alluded to some ongoing issues with odd temperatures, etc.

    I’d love to have a real homeowner contribute an article about either one of these products. Or try upfitting my own home. I have what I think is an Emerson though it has a WaterFurnace label. Thermostat is a total piece of crap. A real nightmare to try and program. 3 years and I still haven’t figured it out.

  24. Eric StromquistEric says

    Hey Trish, Great comments !! As a master stocking distributor of HVAC controls for over sixty years we can’t even get hold of a Nest thermostat. I do handle Ecobee and would the Honeywell Prestige thermostat both of them rock !! I could probably get you one of each if you wanted to install them and write a personal evaluation of how the stats work for controltrends.
    Let me know if you are interested, and thanks again for your comments.

  25. whoa_now says

    As a consumer I understand completely where Nest is coming from. We want something easy to install, easy to use, attractive, fast and hopefully not expensive. The Nest hits 4 out of 5. I’m currently looking as I’m replacing my HVAC. I was looking at the Enphase Environ because I thought it would work well with the panels..but it’s expensive and from what I can gather doesn’t do anything really well. I did not know about the Ecobee and that looks like a great system..but the price alone is more than the NEST, not including mark up and installation, I have a distinct feeling the company doing the HVAC set up would charge an extra 500+. I’m a bit of a DIY and I’m certain I could hook up the NEST no problem. So I’m left with the system I want (Ecobee) and paying north of $500 for installation, or a system that I would also love to have and paying $250 and doing a bit of DIY. I like doing DIY, so it really is an easy choice. I’m currently looking more into the Ecobee and trying to figure out how it can connect to my PV panels and what advantages it will have over the Nest to warrant the higher price. Any reviews on the environ from enphase?

  26. Eric StromquistEric says

    Whoa_now We don’t get much solar down here in Georgia so I am afraid I can’t be to useful. Looks like the Environ is produced to control PV panels. Perhaps others in the Controltrends community have tried the Environ and can review there experience with the Environ for you. I did come across a good review of the Environ at http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-20010525-54.html
    Regarding the Ecobee, I do know that Stuart Lombard, the founder of Ecobee, is a very hands on and knowledgeable controls guy. He shares on Controltrends frequently, and I would not be surprised if he did not post in response to your questions about Ecobee and their approach to solar. If not, I know he monitors the support emails at Ecobee, support@ecobee.com. He is a very accessible, passionate individual and one of the true “good guys” in the HVAC industry. As far as Nest goes, as near as I can tell they do not have an offering for Solar yet.

  27. Stuart Lombard says

    Thanks Eric for the kind words.

    whoa_now,

    I would add a few comments. Thermostats like ecobee and nest are really a different kind of thermostat than a traditional programmable thermostat because of their CPU/memory architecture and their wifi radios. Because of this, they require more power. While a traditional thermostat can operate on a few double A batteries, a wifi enabled thermostat cannot. Therefore, in order to operate reliably, you need to (in ecobee’s case – and I believe nest would also agree if you wanted maximum reliability) provide 24 VAC to the thermostat from your furnace or air-handler control board. This generally requires removing the cover of your furnace or air-handler control board and connecting some wires, which, while not difficult for an HVAC technician, is beyond what most homeowners are willing to do. Therefore, we recommend that you get your ecobee professionally installed – you will end up with a great result and you can enjoy the comfort of your couch while it is being installed :-).

    nest does have an option to install their thermostat without connecting 24 VAC which simplifies the installation but, in our (admittedly biased opinion), comes at the cost of reliability and safety of your equipment. For this reason, ecobee decided not to implement that option. You can read about some of the reliability issues of not connecting the C wire as reported by nest customers here:

    One on short cycling:

    http://www.marco.org/2011/12/17/nest-incompatibility-without-c-wire

    and on running out of battery power here:

    http://www.wiredprairie.us/blog/index.php/archives/1508

    to quote one of the comments:

    “I lost WiFi connectivity for 5+ hours, came home and my Nest said it is going to shut down due to drained battery. It shut the entire heating system for ~0.5 hr. Then the heat started to work but battery would take 4+ hours to charge enough to support WiFi.”.

    In terms of price, we believe that there is great value in having your thermostat professionally installed and working properly. There is a cost to send a professional to your home and to install it. Not everyone will appreciate this, but many will. If you want to install it yourself, that is OK – not everything is one size fits all.

    We believe that the ecobee Smart Thermostat provides great value to our customers – our average customer is saving 26% on their heating and cooling costs versus leaving their thermostat in hold at 72 F. Over 70% of our customers use the web portal or mobile apps weekly and over 80% run a program and are therefore getting energy savings, about 4x the industry average.

    ecobee is coming out with a new thermostat in April, the ecobee Smart SI which is a streamlined version of the ecobee Smart Thermostat and will be about half the cost while featuring all of the great mobile and web portal applications.

    I hope that helps. We would be happy to answer any questions you have, you can contact me directly or our tech support team at support@ecobee.com.

    Thanks

    Stuart

  28. Jason says

    I ran across this blog while searching for some information on the Nest, as I just installed one last weekend and a colleague had asked me how many had been installed…. I’ve read the article and comments here and just wanted to throw my .02 into the hat.

    I have a Honeywell programmable thermostat that came with our new build home (circa ’06)… being a computer science guy I went ahead and programmed it on a full schedule, but I had the itch to upgrade to the Nest as I suspected the “auto away” feature, self-learning features, etc, would make it adapt better to our somewhat hectic schedule. Nest’s new “airwave” feature, that shuts the compressor off ahead of reaching an AC setpoint is what finally pushed me over the edge and I ordered the Nest.

    Installing the Nest is a breeze. A friend of mine who called a plumber because of a dribble under his kitchen sink (which was fixed in 30 seconds with a wrench on a loose fitting) was able to install his Nest in about 30 minutes. I installed the Nest in about 15 minutes and my wife, who was helping could have easily done it herself.

    I have not had any issues with low battery on the Nest. I do have an intermittent problem where the Nest loses contact with the internet and apparently this is a known issue with the model of router that I have at home.

    Time will tell if the Nest is “worth it” as far as energy usage but I have to say that it looks gorgeous and it’s so idiot proof that anyone can turn the ring to set their temperature, or even do it from their smart phone.

    I can appreciate the insights and comments of HVAC professionals as well as those who sell a competing product, such as Stuart above, but it seems to me that there’s a bit of an effort by him to highlight and play up some early Nest issues and try to cast them in a disparaging light. Nest has ample warnings about types of HVAC systems their system works and doesn’t work with as well as notes about trickle charge of the on-board lithium battery, etc…. they warranty the unit for 5 yrs and a few customers that have really had trouble have apparently gotten refunds (even months later) if the Nest didn’t work properly with their equipment.

    Overall the Nest has gotten rave reviews on bestbuy.com and other sites, so it seems to me that, for most customers, it has been a resounding success…

    Time will tell how much I like it, but my initial thoughts are quite positive. They are also no longer selling it at Best Buy, from what I can see, and have started selling it at Lowes, which should increase their footprint quite a bit.

  29. Eric StromquistEric says

    Jason, Thanks so much for the updates on Nest. In that we are unable to sell them I have not been keeping track. We did take on a new wireless thermostat line called EnTouch. Have you heard of them and if so what do you think?

  30. Bob says

    The lack of the “C wire” being used is just horrendous. 90% of the digital thermostats running traditional systems do NOT have the C wire connected, most of them DO have an extra wire in the wall that could easily be used as a C wire. Why all these “battery bandits” are installing systems that require homeowners to regularly change their thermostat batteries (even on non-programmables !!) is beyond me. IMHO it should be CODE that new system installs DO NOT rely on battery power to make the system operate. If the batteries were to go dead when the homeowner was on winter vacation they would get to come home to frozen pipes. ALL of our thermostat replacements use common wired thermostats that don’t require batteries to operate. We will even hook up an aux switch that allows a 4 wire cable to do the job of 5 if needed. Perhaps Nest should offer the relays on their website and let the homeowners REALLY have fun trying to hook them up….

    Our thermostat manufacturer uses their own aux relay, but here’s a generic to let you know what I’m talking about: http://www.smarthome.com/304AAW/Add-A-Wire-Accessory-for-Programmable-Digital-Thermostats/p.aspx

    I also understand opening up the electrical compartment of a furnace and hooking up wires is something that the typical homeowner has no business doing. Sure, Nest assumes people having “textbook” systems like they teach about in trade school. With homes 30+ yrs old, all bets are off, no telling what you might find…

  31. Steven K. says

    I’ve only recently found out about this Nest thermostat. In fact, talk about distribution in that just recently, they are now selling the friggan things at Apple stores! What brought me to this page is that I was curious about how the Nest compares to the Ecobee, which is what I have in my home. This past fall, I had an HVAC system that was nearly 30 years old! In fact, the local contractor could not believe there was still one that old that was still operating as well as mine has. I guess when they say nothing runs like a Trane, they weren’t kidding! However, it was having difficulty keeping up with the heat that past summer and it really was time to get a new system, if not just for the shear energy efficiency of these newer system. Well, ended up getting a York Affinity system that is like three times as efficient installed. Being a tech-head (a software engineer), I was clued in on the Ecobee thermostat, so I just HAD to have one! Although I had the actual thermostat hardware installed by the local contractor, I think it was only like the second one that they actually installed. It was actually funny that once the tech got the thermostat powered on and working, he basically said “This is where I leave it up to you as you know more about this kind of stuff than I do”, thus I pretty much had to setup the actual Wi-Fi connection and get the thing to communicate with the rest of my home system. I did walk the HVAC tech through it so he could setup others in the future. I only know this because I have a degree in computer science and have done my fair share of getting systems rigged up and working (20-odd years of experience, not to mention all the software that I’ve developed and deployed over the years). Given my own devices, I probably could’ve installed the thermostat hardware itself, but was nice to get an actual HVAC tech to do it. I cannot imagine the typical John Q. Public homeowner being up to setup one of these things and doing all that initial configuration. To Ecobee’s credit, they do include a pretty nice owners manual that probably could walk somebody through the initial configuration. I don’t know how easy this new Smart Si they just came out with is is to setup and configure, though. Once I got my Ecobee setup, that thing has been REALLY nice and I absolutly love it. Granted, it was not cheap, especially compared to the typical programmable thermostats that are out there, but I love the advanced features of the Ecobee, especially the included iOS app (if you guys could update that thing to take full advantage of the iPad as well!).

    The Nest does look really cool, plus I love the design of it. I do have questions about the “smart learning” feature of it. For example, after a full winter of heating, then now the summer is upon us with the cooling, does the thing ‘remember’ the winter heating patterns, along with the summer cooling patterns? Also, I am also leary of the feature of it where it detects if anybody is home. My thermostat is upstairs, right next to the bathroom, but what if I am down in the basement workshop all day (with its own bathroom), thus never go by it for quite a while? Will it shut down my HVAC system then? I guess being a software engineer, I like having the much finer control of my system through the Ecobee, where I could go and tweak that thing within a degree Fahrenheit of its life (pretty much have for the heating, now have to tweak it for cooling now that it is starting to get hot around here and will need to turn the A/C on)!

    And Stuart is quite correct! The Ecobee and the Nest are, in essence, little computers themselves! There is probably more processing power in that Ecobee than what was in my desktop computer of just a few short years ago! With that, computer processors and those big bright screens do need power, although they are much more efficient than before, but still…. I am glad that I don’t have to worry about a battery going out in my Ecobee, knowing that it was properly and professionally installed. No worry about dealing with a dead thermostat on a very cold winter or very hot summer day. Still, that Nest is pretty damn cool and would love to see one in action myself. Had I not known about and already had an Ecobee, I probably would’ve ended up getting a Nest. But, I am glad I did find out about Ecobee since I really do like mine. After getting it installed, along with the new HVAC system as a whole, I’ve noticed a HUGE saving on my energy bills! To the point that there is actually a CREDIT on bill (as I was using the monthly ‘budget billing’ feature the power company offers, where they average out your usage and bills it in equal monthly payments – just makes it easier to budget my finances).

  32. richy says

    Ecobee is making the same mistake that RIM did with Apple, playing to out-dated incumbents like the enterprise or in this case HVAC channels.

  33. Ryan says

    The Nest looks great, its easy to install, it can be operated via a smart phone, etc. Those are all great features which I like, however…. A few weeks ago on black Friday at 7 olock at night i received a no heat call as I am a professional HVAC technician. The home owner was an intelligent DIY kind of guy. He had a 30+ year old monster of a furnace with a belt driven blower motor (which he had replaced the motor himself a few months ago) along with a Nest thermostat. First problem, the blower wheel was barley moving due to an incorrect installment of a loose belt. Secondly, and the main reason why I was called out was because the Nest thermostat was not providing the simple task of closing terminals “R” and “W” while calling for heat. Now I’d be lying if i said I never saw a simple conventional thermostat fail at the very same function because I have. The issue and problem that I am addressing is that selling HVAC parts directly to consumers causes head aches for everyone. In my situation at this point I have re installed his blower motor and diagnosed an issue with his Nest thermostat. Its my job to fix this problem and provide the homeowner with heat. Whether the Nest was malfunctioning, or a setting with in its system was configured incorrectly, this DIY homeowner was calling a HVAC technician to save him on a cold holiday evening. After spending unnecessary time trying to configure the Nest’s settings so it could perform the simple task of closing “R” and “W” I finally called the quits and sold the homeowner a new thermostat so he could have heat for the night. He complained about the high cost of my $185 installed thermostat since he just spent $250 on his Nest that left him in the cold. I’m hear to say that its unfortunate that some HVAC technicians realize they have their customers in a tight position and feel free to charge an outrageous price. However, that demand of an HVAC service will always be needed and we as knowledgable technicians deserve to be paid an honest wage for that service. Yes there is Youtube and Google that shows you how to install different parts that are being sold to the public at whole sale value, but believe me when I tell you the HVAC business isn’t as easy as just buying and replacing parts. The people above who say HVAC technicians must adapt to new age times and realize there is a decreasing need for them are sadly mistaken. Thats not to say no adaptation in our field needs to take place because it does, but very few furnace malfunctions exist in the 4 to 5 wired thermostat. No self diagnosing thermostat or circuit board will ever replace the mind of a professionally trained HVAC technician!

  34. Tom says

    I am a homeowner who installed the Nest by myself. I had the home built to our specs 19 years ago so I have a 19 year old furnace system with a new Airconditioner system installed about 4 years ago. My heating system is gas. The original thermostate in the home was a Honeywell unit. Two years ago I replaced the downstairs Honeywell unit with a new Honeywell unit from Lowes. I installed that unit myself. It ran the HVAC system fine but the unit was hard to see with it’s electroluminecent display and hard to program with its pushbutton menue on menue driven layers. What I wanted was an updated device that I could run from my iPad or iPhone. Since I installed the Honewell I bought from Lowes myself with no problem, I bought the Nest from Lowes and installed that unit with no problem. Before I installed either of those units I did lots of research on the web relating to how an HVAC home system works. I read articles like this one, and many other formums were visited. I think if someone does not feel comfortable about installing a thermostate they should contact a professional. I felt very comfortable do it myself. I have had several HVAC failures in the heating and cooling system that I troublshot myself and got working, so it was not a problem for me to install either thermostate. So far after a couple of months use the Nest is doing what I expected. I’m sure the other products mentioned in this thread would work well – and I would have no trouble installing them either IMHO.

  35. murray says

    The Nest is primarily a piece of ‘wall art’ that also controls heating and cooling, as long as your needs are very basic. Single stage heating and/or cooling work fine with it, and a homeowner can install it easily. I find the price a little outrageous for what it really is. I got one based on all the buzz that surrounded it, but returned it after the reality of it settled in. Thanks to Home Depot and their 90 day return policy, otherwise I would be regretting yet another expensive ‘life lesson’.
    Ecobee, Prestige, and VisionPro IAQ are vastly superior products in their primary function, which is to manage the equipment supporting my indoor environment.
    The problem as I see it is that the higher quality components are not as visible, or accessible through channels that people are comfortable with.
    If I could simply purchase a higher quality component, install it myself, and have the option to return it if I felt it didn’t live up to the hype I would probably have one now. FINDING a trustworthy contractor who truly knows the product, has experience with the product, and willing to sell it (and probably install it) for a reasonable competitive price is just too much hassle and risk for me the consumer.

  36. Arun says

    Sounds like controltrends owners are threatened by nest. The whole article is one sided and somehow echobee always comes into conversation. One should look elsewhere for neutral advice.

  37. Jason says

    Nest has the right distribution model. I just had the pleasure of having HVAC professionals install a zoned system from Honeywell in my home, paid for by our builder. They weren’t interested in me paying them to connect my TrueSteam to the system, or me paying them to put in a third zone instead of the two zone system the builder was installing.

    Most homeowners don’t need an HVAC installer to swap thermostats, they just need appropriate product support from the manufacturer. Much like home theatre systems, some people can do it themselves, others want an installer.

  38. J. Wyatt says

    I am a new car and like technology. I have bought 4 nest for home use and they work great. Support department was great and yes they spoke very good English. Nest should work both sides of the street. I need 15 Nest to set up our two dealerships but my HVAC contractor cannot get a price break and if I am going to but bulk I want a break. Two distributions would not be bad and Nest will sell more with the HVAC trade pushing them.

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