Is the Nest Learning Thermostat Really Worth It?


Have you ever left home for work during the hottest days of summer or the coldest days of winter, only to realize you forgot to adjust the thermostat?

Do you find yourself constantly monitoring the thermostat to make sure the kids haven’t hiked it up when it’s cold or cranked it down when it’s hot and humid?

Managing a home’s temperature is one of the key strategies for keeping energy bill costs down, but it’s not always the easiest. Especially with different temperature tolerances among family members and the occasional forgetfulness to lower output when you’re going to be away.

Simple problems like this are going to be issues of the past as the world of home automation technology finds its way into more big box stores and eventually filters into homes.

One of the most popular new devices promising to help manage your home’s temperature is the Nest learning thermostat.

It’s a pricey $250, but claims to save money by learning how to recognize your daily usage and adjusting for the optimal temperature 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But is it worth it?

The features sound positively sci-fi. The Nest has a lighted face that shows you in color whether it’s working or not, and what activity it’s up to. It glows orange when it’s heating and blue when it’s cooling. The face of Nest goes black when it’s not doing anything. You can even see what’s going on from your smartphone when you’re away. Nifty, huh?

Besides looking like a product Apple would have designed (and Google actually purchased for $3.5 billion), its “Nest Sense” brain is hard at work analyzing your daily usage over the first week as it learns your habits.

Not to mention that you receive a monthly email detailing your energy usage.

The promise of Nest is that once it determines your daily schedule, it will automatically manage your home’s temperature, optimizing it for when everyone is away at work or school, and readjusting it before everyone arrives back home.

How much you save will be determined by how much energy your current thermostat is wasting. If your family consistently forgets to turn the thermostat up or down when leaving the house, or if your thermostat can’t seem to figure out how to reach an optimal temperature and you have to constantly adjust it manually — you would probably see significant savings.

Based on approximate calculations, it’s assumed that if you alter your thermostat 1 degree Farenheit and maintain that throughout the year, your energy savings annually would be 4.5%.

Assuming an average home in the United State has an annual energy bill of $1500, that would equal a savings of $67.50 per year. With energy costs increasing every year, the savings could top $100 or more, especially if you live in a very cold or extremely hot climate. Imagine if your family isn’t managing the thermostat well at all… if Nest helps you conserve 2 degrees Farenheit year-round, your savings just doubled to $135 in the first year.

If you live in the Northeast and endure brutal winters and humid summers, your savings could be much higher. An annual energy bill of $3000 (with heating oil that is not unusual), you could save $135 per year if you allowed the Nest to keep the temperature 1 degree difference from what you could have managed on your own. If it helped you conserve 2 degrees, that’s $270. More than the cost of the Nest saved in the first year.

Of course, every home is different and every family has varying temperature preferences. Your savings could be more or less. But it’s pretty clear that Nest does have the potential to reduce your energy bill.

So is it worth it? If you live in a mild weather climate where you don’t see extreme highs or lows, it’s probably more of a luxury. But if you live in an extreme weather climate where it’s freezing in the winter or scorching in the summer, it looks like a solid investment.

Do you know anyone with a Nest? Have you used one? Do you feel it’s worth the money?

20 Responses

  • Posted by Mike on Mar 31, 2014

    How can we be certain, beyond ANY doubt that this device does not EVER communicate in ANY WAY with anyone or any device outside of our home?

  • Posted by BillCutterz on Apr 4, 2014

    We can’t be certain of that. Because Google purchased the product we should probably expect that it will eventually connect our homes with the “internet of things.” Whether this is positive or negative is up to each person to decide. The idea of being able to control your home’s thermostat remotely is a huge convenience. But at what price is certainly the question consumers will likely be asking. Thanks for the comment!

  • Posted by James Raske on Oct 14, 2014

    To Mike: Just don’t connect it to your wifi. You’ll lose the ability to remotely control but you would still have the learning capability.

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