Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Nest Thermostat: We're in Love!

EcoYogini shares her latest eco-tech love: the Nest Thermostat

We are fast approaching week 4 of living in our (first) new home and things are finally settling into somewhat of a routine.

The biggest adjustment (beyond commuting) has been the heating system. Although I *have* paid for heat during university years, since working (going on 8 years) I have lived in apartments where we either a) didn't have to pay for heat but had control or b) didn't pay for heat AND had no control (latter was the last 5 years). Our last apartment was constantly above 25 degrees (celsius) even during winters typically dipping in the -20s C.

Our new home is, unfortunately, heated by oil. Nova Scotia doesn't have a lot of "eco" heating options that we could afford and the challenge of fitting everything we wanted in our home plus a heat pump proved to be next to impossible. Honestly, I think the oil is disgusting (and expensive! 600$ to fill the tank!) but at least our tank is made to accept bio-fuel so should the opportunity arise we will be able to take it.

(the packaging it came in, and installation kit!)

In order to adjust to living like normal people, save money and oil, Andrew and I made the decision to purchase three (!!) Nest Thermostats. We have five heating zones in our house, so we prioritized three areas we would use the most: Kitchen/Hallway, Living/Music Room, Master Bedroom. The cool thing is that each Nest is networked and they communicate and learn our patterns from each other. They were ridiculously easy to install and so easy to use. Fourth week in and I am so glad we did.

(Here you can see the actual room temperature: 19.5 C, and that it is set at 15.5C)

The Nest in a nutshell:
It's a smart thermostat that learns from you simply using it like a regular thermostat. Unlike other "smart" thermostats, the Nest doesn't need programming. Each adjustment is recorded and the Nest is able to learn your patterns, eventually acting independently without you! For example, if on Mondays you typically get home from work at 4pm and turn up the heat but on Wednesdays you get home at 6pm, the Nest will start pre-heating your room for Mondays at 4pm and Wednesdays at 6pm.

The Nest also has an "Away" mode (which you set pre-emptively) where after a certain period of no activity (it has motion sensors which record movement) it will automatically go down to your "away" temperature.

(see this handy video!)

Why we love our Nests:

  • Regular thermostats are wildly inaccurate in providing exact temperature readings or heating (they can vary up to 7 degrees!). With the Nest we not only set the exact room temperature, but it displays the current temperature AND estimates how long it will take to heat. This allows us to make smarter decisions around heating certain rooms, helps us recognize when certain rooms are harder to heat and think about potential solutions. 
  • For example, the Nest turns orange when it is in "Heating" mode: if it's constantly trying to bring the room up from 18 to 19 degrees, perhaps we can just live at 18. OR perhaps we need to consider leaving window blinds down in the evenings to conserve heat.
  • I love that at night it pre-heats our bedroom from our regular daily 15 degrees to a toasty 20 for our exact bedtime (10pm!) and then at 11pm it automatically goes down to 17 degrees overnight. 
  • We can pre-heat our home or put it in "away" mode from our iphone no matter where we are. 
  • We can see our heating schedule it has determined for the week (and adjust if we need to, it continues learning). We can also see the times during the day that were spent heating the house. We've learned this is almost directly related to how cold it is outside that day (which points to the fact that our windows are crappy and we should look into saving our pennies for new ones some day).
  • A little leaf pops up and lets us know when we are being energy conscious. Yay rewards!
  • When the sun shines directly on the Nest, it adjusts and reads the correct (not sunlight warmed) temperature.
  • It looks ridiculously cool and is super easy to use. You just turn the dial and it does the rest.
(our Kitchen Nest- the leaf is showing us we are being energy efficient tonight!)

We're fairly sure the Nest will help us save on oil (we already surprise people when we tell them how much (less) we've used from our tank so far), and it definitely makes us much more energy and heating conscious than a regular thermostat. The only downside is that they are fairly expensive (250$ a pop) but we're hopeful that energy savings will eventually recoup this cost.

I'm sure we'll continue to find out neat little perks of using the Nest (especially the monthly energy use reports!) but for now we are happy with our investments.


Betsy (Eco-novice) said...

Wow, pricey! But you are right that they will probably pay for themselves. We paid more than that for insulation and other energy upgrades to save energy. Our thermostat is programmable and we are still trying to figure out our sweet spots. I heard about Nest on NPR -- I think they were purchased by google, no? (in their quest to take over the world)

Eco Yogini said...

@Betsy: yeah! fortunately we had some housewarming gift money that we allocated to the Nests.
Yeah, google did purchase them. I'm unsure how that will impact us- but we will see.

Mindful Echo said...

Really interesting post! I'd love to have something like that to help us regulate heat in an energy efficient way.

Julia (Color Me Green) said...

that is so cool! when i had a thermostat i could control, i manually factored in some of those things. ie, i had it programmed by day because i knew that on different days we came home at different times, etc, and i noticed how long it took to warm up and factored that into the programming times. but this is cool that it does that for you.
it is pricey, but if you own, it should pay for itself over time as you say.

Green Bean said...

Do tell! I've been wondering about Nests. As you say with the price and as many energy efficient items, the savings should pay for the Nest. That's great that it turned out to be some awesome!


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