Keith Bartholomew

About Me

My Home Has a Nest

Yesterday, our air conditioning system started acting up. Specifically, the fan wouldn’t turn on unless we followed a lengthy and not-always-successful process of shutting off the circuit breakers and waiting and cycling and what-not. Had this been one of those few periods of Texas weather that are actually tolerable without climate control, I would have been more than happy to tinker with it for several days before seeking professional help. But we’re forecast to have our first 100-degree day of many this year, so I figured it was time to take action.

I got an extremely punctual visit from an HVAC specialist at OC Residential Services who was nice enough to walk around my house and inspect the compressor and blower, ultimately to find that our control panel wasn’t sending the right signals to the system to keep the temperature automatically where we set it. Translation: buy a new thermostat. As soon as he said this, the Nest Learning Thermostat instantly came to mind.

I had been reading about the Nest thermostat since the day that it launched, and was very attracted to the idea of a thermostat—which Nest points out often accounts for about 50% of your electricity bill—that actually uses technology developed since the end of the Cold War. After reading a couple of reviews, my decision was made. I wanted the Nest, and I was in the market for a thermostat. It’s now or never!

Upon returning home, the unboxing experience felt exactly like the joy of unboxing a new iPad or iPhone. I lifted off the box’s lid to find the display of the Nest thermostat perched atop a clean white plastic pedestal that screamed “pick me up and love me.” And love, I did. Layer after layer of packaging came off and I found the wall plate with screw-free wire connectors and built-in level (genius). And after that, I found the custom-made Nest screw driver with drill bits cleverly hidden in the handle (genius) and the optional, paintable matte wall plates that themselves act like a matte to a nicely framed painting.

The instruction booklet is straightforward, and written with a reassuring voice that would even give the amateur handyman (like myself) a high degree of confidence in the task ahead. The instructions are simple and direct, and the side notes and tips are surprisingly insightful. It’s almost like somebody actually tested this whole process before writing the manual!

Between the booklet, videos, and online tools, I was invigorated to rip the old piece of junk off the wall and get going! At the booklet’s recommendation, I ran the online wiring tool to match up the wires on my existing system with what Nest needed to operate. My existing thermostat even had a weird jumper cable between two pins, but the wiring tool wasn’t fazed, assuring me that the jumper would not be needed anymore. I applied their provided labels to be sure I didn’t lose track of the wires and proceeded to remove my old unit and wall plate. A few minutes later, I had the nest mounted in its place, attached the display, and flipped the circuit breaker back on.

The Nest thermostat follows the fantastic UI paradigm of “hidden complexity.” You’d expect the most advanced thermostat available to have lots of buttons, knobs, and touch screens, but Nest does three things. The controls turn clockwise, counter-clockwise, and pushes in like a button. That’s it. Even text entry (for joining my Wi-Fi network to allow remote control) was easy, offering a nostalgia-rich, rotary phone-style interface to choose the letters of the wireless password. The setup wizard walks you through a brief questionnaire to make sure it’s detecting your system correctly, and off it goes! It instantly begins watching your activity and temperature preferences to intelligently adjust the temperature for you.

The ideas is basically that the Nest thermostat will learn your schedule over time, so you don’t have to program one. the Wi-Fi access lets you check in or change the temperature from home, or let it know that you’re away on a business trip or vacation. It watches and listens for your activity throughout the day, and remembers each time that you adjust the temperature. Over time, this means that you’ll interact with the Nest thermostat less and less as it intelligently adjusts the temperature to your liking.

I’d say that’s the only drawback about this thing—it has a beautifully simple interface that I’d really like to play with at every possible opportunity, but I’m sure the reduced energy bill will change my mind. If you’re in the market for a thermostat, or interested in taking a leap into the future with just a dash of home automation, then I highly recommend the Nest thermostat. No product placement, no paid review…just a thrilled customer!

(The Nest thermostat is $249 and easy to order online or at Lowes)

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