Our journey into the realm of ‘home automation’ is motivated simply by the hope of saving energy through home efficiency. It is claimed that 60% of home energy usage is controlled by the humble home thermostat so replacing our (ageing) mechanical thermostats was an early priority.
As a result we recently upgraded our multi-zone heating system with the Nest smart-thermostat system. With water control and two discreet zones we required two Nest systems and professional installation.
On an aside we also decided to add two Nest Protects to the network while the installer was on location. The Protects automate our smoke and carbon monoxide sensors and include a range of additional safety features. I will cover the Nest Protects in a future post.
Nest Thermostat Professional Installation
The Nest system requires professional installation and Nest provided a directory of suitably qualified individuals on their website. We employed a local installer who spent around four hours installing and setting up both the thermostats and water control. On completion the installer linked the devices to my master Nest account and took me through the various features on offer. There was plenty to think about.
The First 24 Hours with Nest Thermostat
Firstly, the Nest thermostats looks really impressive on the wall. The devices sense your approach and I have set the downstairs thermostat to display the local weather forecast. (See the header image). Digging into the settings, if I was going to automate our heating it was going to be with every feature possible.
The Nest system claims to be smart so we have allowed the thermostat to learn how we use the heating and build a weekly schedule for both time and temperature. The system offers some really nice features where Nest will learn how quickly your heating system takes to reach a desired temperature as well as sensing if the thermostat is situated in direct sunlight.
‘Eco Temperature’ is the base temperature for when no one at home (or if you opt to manually set the thermostat to eco). In the first 24 hours we have left the Eco Temperature to 10 degrees centigrade but over the winter we may adjust this so our home won’t fall below a comfortable temperature.
Nest also offers a ‘safety temperature’ so if the turn the heating off Nest will ensure your heating pipes don’t end up freezing but turning on the heat in extreme weather conditions. It should also be acknowledged that if you are away for prolonged periods of time the water system will also periodically heat your water to reduce the risk of legionella.
There is nothing worse than when new digital toys don’t function as planned from day 1. Nest’s Home/Away Assist was a frustrating aspect of the initial setup. Having properly setup my master account (and my wife as a family member) we noticed that Nest wasn’t sensing when we were both away from the house, thus leaving the heating on all day. I tried everything to identify the source of the issue. I contacted Nest support who asked for images and eventually suggested I remove everything (including the Nest Protects (not easy)) and re-add them to the account.
Fortunately I decided on one last ditched attempt to fix the issue myself. I reset both the thermostats and deleted the Nest app from my phone and reinstalled the app.
I am not sure which of these steps fixed the problem but it Home/Away assist suddenly worked. Now within a few minutes of us both leaving home the Nest system defaults to ‘Away’ and into eco mode and re-activates when either of us return. At the minute we are using just two phones for home/away assist but we plan to add the Nest internal motion sensors over time.
Nest Thermostat : The Data
I love data and it is great to be able to see our heating system usage each day from directly within the app or via the Nest website. The Nest app indicates if your usage is over the average for the week or if you have benefited from Home/Away Assist. It should be noted that each thermostat has its own usage history report and the little leaf is an indicator of every saving. Our initial usage is very ‘leaf-positive’ but I suspect this will change as we head into winter.
We are very new to the system but it is a little frustrating that we can’t have an overall usage report that combines both thermostats as well as the water heating feature. On that point, Nest doesn’t appear to report the energy usage for the water heater option. It should be noted that after a month the system will send a usage report so perhaps of my queries and frustrations will be resolved when the first report lands.
Nest Thermostat and IFTTT
Nest supports the popular IFTTT system and it is possible to set up a range of actions and notifications should things change at home. For example, if you are nervous about the Home/Away Assist you can set an IFTTT notification to let you know when the state changes. There are a wide array of IFTTT applets available and I am sure we will explore more over time.
There is no question the Nest system has been a substantial outlay both in terms of equipment and installation. Only time will tell if the system will save energy/money in the long term. My initial impressions are positive and we have already seem home/away assist helping out and the thermostat is considerably more visually appealing on the wall.
One aspect I am hoping to see in the future has to be HomeKit support. There are repeated requests on the various forums and social media outlets and the company replies to watch the Nest blog for developments. Watching a blog isn’t confirmation but it is at least hope. I will add a six month and twelve month update when the time comes with comparisons on costs from last year.