In the race to connect everything to the Internet, there are some devices that just make sense. Connected heating (and hot water) control is one such case - we can likely all think of a time when we would like to have switched our heating on or off from outside the home. With the backing of Alphabet, Nest is unquestionably one of the giants in this field - but how does reality match up to the promised convenience? We tried out the latest Nest Learning Thermostat to find out.
- Our Nest was provided and installed by Nest directly
- A 3rd generation Nest is priced at £199 if self installed, or £249 installed by a Nest engineer (recommended)
- You can learn more about Nest at https://nest.com/uk/thermostat/install-and-explore/
Installation by the Nest contracted engineer was very quick – he was obviously used to the procedure and looked like he could have completed the installation with his eyes shut. The install process involves installing the 'Nest Heat Link' (the brains of the system) alongside the boiler, which then connects wirelessly to the Nest thermostat itself. After completing the installation, the run through that he gave us for using the system was informative and straight forward.
Surprisingly, he did not emphasise the learning behaviour of the Nest so that it creates a tailored schedule for the heating. He instead encouraged us to set our own heating schedule, which he showed us how to do quite simply. We understood that the learning behaviour of the Nest would then tweak this schedule based on observed behaviours. As a family, we have quite a regular daily routine, so it was easy to create our own schedule straight away after installation.
In use, we have found the Nest controller itself self-explanatory, and further information was easy to find on the Nest website, which was where we really discovered the Nest’s ability to create the schedules for you, via the online video.
The best thing about the Nest system is the fact that it can be controlled using the Android (or iOS) application (as well as using the touch sensitive screen and body of the unit of course). Our old system used a standard radio thermostat, which controlled the boiler via a programmable timer panel in the garage. In order to change the timer settings, or to boost the central heating or hot water, we had to climb over bicycles and junk boxes in the cold garage to reach the control panel. We can now control everything without even leaving the comfort of the sofa via the Nest App.
The remote control via our mobiles is particularly useful to boost the water system before we arrive home - being hockey players a hot shower is always needed after a match or training, and the remote function ensures that there is no wait for the water to heat up when we get back, should it have been outside the scheduled heating times. This is the scenario that I suspect most people will think of when they consider Nest and the reality actually is every bit as good as you would imagine.
It is evident that the Nest is noticing us as we go about our business – the funky fish-eye screen wakes up with our motion as we pass (we have the thermostat on a Nest stand, positioned on our telephone table in the hallway). We have our home screen set to the analogue clock, so this in itself is useful as we leave the house. With a busy household with three kids, there is usually someone passing the sensor every five minutes. However, there is a slight problem if someone is at home alone, maybe holed up in a room working for hours without a break. It is at this point when you notice the heating has gone off Nest thinks you are out.
Our installation engineer did suggest using add-on geo-fencing apps so that the location of family members' mobile phones would interact with the Nest and let it know that you were home so keep the heat on. We have not tried this yet, but the idea seems sensible (as long as you always remember to take your mobile out with you on leaving the house!)
Some small areas for improvement
The main drawback we have come across with Nest is that it does not allow the schedule to set the temperature below 9°C. As the ambient temperature of the house creeps below this temperature during the night, this obviously causes our boiler to fire up, which in turn wakes us up and disturbs our sleep. Our house is quite well insulated, so during our cold winter spells here in the UK it is unlikely to get cold enough over one night to actually freeze any pipes if the heating is off for just 7 hours or so. We certainly didn’t have any pipes freeze with our old thermostat system during the night whist it was off. With the Nest, we have had to switch the system off manually at night and then on again in the morning to avoid night-time boiler activation for nights when sleep was paramount. Otherwise, we will just have to get used to the noise in the night.
The thermostat has lost internet connectivity a few times for no apparent reason – this has to be rectified manually at the thermostat. There is no notification via the mobile app or email for this issue, so if you are not in to notice the message, you would not know that the system is not working properly.
The history function on the Nest app is both interesting and useful. It shows when the auto-away function has kicked in, therefore saving us heating a house whilst no one is present to feel the benefit.
The Nest screen shows a leaf symbol when it thinks that your temperature setting is energy efficient. Nest users are emailed a monthly report on your energy usage, and you are told how many leaves you have earned for that month. Apparently last month we earned a leaf for every day of the month – well done us!
A £199 (or likely £249, installed) outlay is not inconsiderable particularly if, like most people, you have a 'perfectly good thermostat' now. With that said, the additional convenience, intelligence and functionality offered by Nest takes heating the home from a 'must have' to a genuinely enjoyable experience. With Nest gradually releasing more products such as the smoke alarm and cameras which can share data with the thermostat, together with the 'Works with Nest' programme to integrate with smart home hardware from third parties, perhaps the Internet of Things isn't just a gimmick after all.
Head on over to the Nest website to learn more / purchase.
Nest is currently available to NPower customers for £129 / £199 installed.
The older 'V2' Nest is currently £119 at Screwfix.
Edited by PaulOBrien