By Trish Holder
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, which is the fairest thermostat of them all?”
This question came to me a few days ago as I was searching for reviews on the new Nest™ Learning Thermostat™ – a product I encountered at the AHR Expo in Chicago a few weeks ago. Looks is what kept coming up as a positive for this new thermostat, an innovation developed by Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, of Apple iPod and iPhone fame.
It is a pretty nifty look, I’ll admit. But it wasn’t the looks that impressed me so much when I sat down the with a company representative at AHR; it was the concept. You see, the Nest is marketed as a self-programming thermostat and to me (someone who has to ask the kids which buttons to push to record a TV show) that was exciting. Mind you, I have programmable thermostats and in terms of ease-of-use have found them to be about as intuitive as a Rubik’s cube. I hate them. So when the folks from Nest told me that the Nest learns your habits and programs itself for the efficiency given these habits, I was pretty intrigued.
It’s all about the algorithms – a fancy word that doesn’t get used too much in daily conversation. Suffice to say that these are mathematical calculations that sort of “automate” reasoning. In terms of the Nest, think of it as a brain that monitors how you adjust the temperature settings on the thermostat for a couple of weeks, senses your occupancy patterns and comfort preferences, and decides, “Oh – no one seems to be here between the hours of 7:30AM and 5:30PM, so I’m going to back off the heating or cooling during this period to save these hardworking folks some money.”
That is what the Nest is supposed to do, learn your occupancy and comfort patterns, and seek out energy saving opportunities without compromising comfort.
I loved the concept and felt my cool factor surge just goofing with it at the show. But I’m a realist and know that cool “is” only so far as cool “does” so I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper to see what some actual users were saying about the Nest.
It was interesting. Users seemed to love the look and found it to be just as easy to install as promised. In some cases, however, enthusiasm started to wane in terms of actual performance. It seems the Nest’s isn’t quite as ‘intuitive’ about the habits and comfort preferences of homeowners as some anticipated.
I am hoping these kinks, which I think are natural for any new product introduction, will be addressed and resolved, either through better user support and instruction, or by tweaking those pesky algorithms. I want one, but I’m not rushing to buy one. Speaking of which, they are a bit pricy for a thermostat at $250.00 a piece. Would that discourage me from buying one if does everything they say it does? Heck no! I’m just looking for a few more field reports before I leap.
In the meantime, I’m waiting for a couple of homeowners to step forward and tell me about their experiences with the Nest. We’d love to publish a thorough homeowner’s report. Any takers?
But back to the “Mirror, mirror” question….
About a year ago I wrote about another thermostat I encountered at last year’s AHR Expo, the Ecobee. The Ecobee doesn’t program itself, but it sure is easy to program. And, like the Nest, it has sophisticated remote capability, meaning you can access it completely via the internet if you are the nerdy, control freak that many of us are these days. Anyway, when I started researching reviews on the Nest, I instantly started seeing a lot of comparisons with the Ecobee.
The Nest is sleek and attractive in a minimalist sort of way. The Ecobee is cute and cheerful in a Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island sort of way. The question is, which one do you think has the most visual appeal? Cast your votes in the comments section below. And may the sexiest thermostat win!