For those of you who read Controltrends, you know I think the new Nest thermostat is one of the coolest devices to hit the HVAC market. In an early post I question the Nest distribution model, which created quite a bit of controversy and lots of comments.
Most of the arguments revolved around the questions: do HVAC contractors gouged consumers when installing programable thermostats and are homeowners qualified to install thermostats in their homes without paying a HVAC contractor. The answer to both questions is yes and no.
In any business, some companies take advantage of customers and some do not. Just like in any other business, companies that gouge customers do not survive for long. Word of mouth, the internet, and a surplus of quality HVAC contractors make sure that HVAC companies that do not create value do not survive.
Installing a programable thermostat or any thermostat can be very easy or in some cases very difficult. It just depends on your system and the power requirements of the thermostats.
To understand the power issue I refer to a comment posted by Stuart Lombard. Stuart is the founder of Ecobee Thermostat. Ecobee is a super cool, quality thermostat. It has several years on the Nest so the bugs that come with launching a new product have been worked out.
Stuart, is one of the truly “good guys’ in the HVAC industry. He is a nuts and bolts guy that really understands HVAC equipment. Like Tony Fadell, Stuart is passionate about saving energy and creating easy to use thermostats. Stuart is accessible and generous with his time. He has responded to numerous questions on Controltrends. The following is a response from Stuart regarding issues that can arise from improperly powering a thermostat:
“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:
and on running out of battery power here:
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 email@example.com.”
Be sure to read this post on the Nest Thermostat: The Good,The Bad, and The Ugly