Nest Thermostat Review, Update #2

I’ve discussed my Nest thermostat experience a few times and am slowly becoming less convinced that it is ready for the market if you’re at all technically savvy and you’re easily frustrated by things not working the way you’d expect (like, you know how to setup e-mail on your phone).

Update #6Update #5Update #4Update #3Update #2Update #1Install

Here’s a image of the schedule for the second floor, where my computer/den is located.



On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my wife and I had the day off and were home most of the day. We spent a lot of time upstairs as her computer and crafting area is on the second floor, as is my den. So, the heat was turned up most of the day.

The “learning” mode of the thermostat decided that as we were home two days in a row, that the whole week likely was going to look like that apparently. As you can see, the same schedule was replicated through all week days. image

On a normal morning, I often go to my den and do a bit of tinkering before leaving for work. However, I rarely turn up the thermostat and instead just leave it at the preset temperature. I’m not in my den long enough to justify the amount of energy it would take to heat the second floor.

So, it’s frustrating that the thermostat would turn up the heat automatically at 9:30am, long after I’ve left for work and then run it all day long. Thankfully, after 3 hours, it apparently realizes there’s no one home, and will automatically adjust the temperature.

Since I didn’t turn the heat UP, I don’t expect to need to turn it DOWN before I leave (I leave earlier than 9:30am). (Turn it down from what?)

I could turn off the learning features. But, then one of the key features of the thermostat is turned off:


GregN left a comment yesterday where he mentioned that Nest support recommended to try turning of the learning feature (activating “learning pause”).

Now, I need to go fix the schedule to reflect my reality. Again.

Nest, are you listening? This is a perfect example of my user experience not matching with the expectations Nest has set.

Update (December 30, 2011)

I tweeted this post (and directed it at nest and they did respond):


Update (December 31, 2011)

My wife had the day off on Friday (Dec 30) and adjusted the downstairs thermostat after lunch. Apparently, the thermostat believes that’s going to be a new routine for Friday’s (at about 1:30pm, temperature is set to 68F).

Just the day before I’d fixed the schedule for every day. It’s not taking into account manual schedule changes and giving them proper weighting.


The learning algorithm needs some help.


  1. I suspect this is part of the “learning” that the thermostat does. In the beginning, it’s going to make some assumptions. Since there isn’t much data accumulated yet, these assumptions are going to be wrong fairly often. The promise of this thermostat is that it will get better over time.

    1. I’m sure it’s the “learning.”

      Unfortunately, right now, it’s wasting energy more than it’s saving as it’s running when we’re not there. :( I’m sure I’m not alone in not wanting to micro-manage the thermostats. I’m surprised by the major decisions it makes even with so little data to go on.

  2. Aaron, I understand the frustration with this learning (no pun intended) curve. I wanted it to “just work” like my iPhone and iPad do. But I’m not sharing it because:
    1. The schedule I’ve set won’t be changed since going to “learning pause”.
    2. If I deviate from that schedule, all I have to do to raise or lower the temp is take my phone out of my pocket. From the 3rd floor or 500 miles away.
    3 if I do deviate, Nest will forget that and resume my official schedule.
    4. I’m wondering if having 3 learning at the same time is contributing to the problem?
    5. Did I mention remote control? :-) My wife had foot and knee surgery 3 days after install. For her to be able to adjust the temp from her sickbed was great!
    6. Please understand that I’m not defending Nest or arguing with you. In fact, it’s nice to see someone who cares about the product enough to write such detailed reviews. I’m just agreeing/differing on certain points.
    “misery lives company”? “so happy together”?
    2 sides of the same coin…

  3. I totally understand where you’re coming from GregN.

    Part of the problem I’m having is really about the price of the experience. I had one Wifi enabled thermostat for about a year (or so). While the UX of the device was sub-par, it got the job done. The reason I bought it originally was exactly what you mentioned — the ability to set the temperature from anywhere. Now that I’ve disconnected it, I get warning e-mails from the manufacturer saying “YIKES! What happened to your thermostat? Something is wrong!” :)

    The issue is that the thermostat when I bought it was about $100. I like the looks and UX of the Nest thermostat overall. It’s a slick little device. However, at $250 a pop, I expect more. It has one job to do really. And right now, I don’t think it’s delivering.

    I know I’m an early adopter and that we jumped in with both feet into the deep end, buying a product that’s not proven, and worse, buying 3 of them! :)

    The reason I bought them and replaced the older Wifi device was the sub-standard UX of the old device. It was just too hard to program and adjust. I rarely felt confident in the adjustments or control. (There also wasn’t a web interface for adjusting the programming schedule).

    I definitely appreciate you leaving comments about your experience with the Nest even if they don’t match with my current impressions. I want to hear other stories and honest and rational reasons why others like/hate/etc. the Nest thermostat. I’ve got enough geeky friends that I’m sure they’ll follow this conversation and my experiences — and in part base their decisions on whether to buy based on my and your (and others) comments and reviews.

    What I hope in the end is that the Nest thermostat inspires other manufacturers to look at their product portfolio and realize they may need to think a bit outside of the traditional thermostat design box and make something measurably better. While the thermostat is $250 today, it likely won’t always be. I could also imagine a Nest with a less sophisticated color display, etc. that is managed primarily through an auxiliary device of some sort (like a phone). Heck, maybe even a lit e-ink display. I don’t need color. :)

    (Also, I wish Nest would respond!)

    Thanks again for commenting!

  4. Regarding the learning, I’m not really sure what the Nest could be doing differently to improve the situation. If it waited for more data before learning a schedule, it would take weeks before it would be in automatic mode and most users would be complaining about how long it took to learn.

    I think what it is doing now seems like a good compromise – it makes some early assumptions, but it provides an easy way to view those assumptions in a web page and make corrections if they are wrong. Given the thermostat is still learning, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to have to check the state of the learned schedule via the web to make sure there isn’t some unwanted schedule changes.

    Nest should probably make this clearer in the user manual about how learning works – when does the Nest change the schedule based on learning? Is it as soon as you make a manual change or does it happen X hours later or at midnight? Know this would be helpful to know when to check the schedule for unwanted learned schedule changes.

    Maybe an automated email from Nest saying when the thermostat has automatically made a schedule change based on learning would prevent the problem you describe. You’d know right away that the Nest learned incorrectly and could tweak it via the web interface.

    Not having any feedback that the schedule changed due to learning does seem like a potential pitfall.

    I’ve only had my Nest for 3 days so can’t comment much on my own experience yet.

    1. I like your idea of informing me somehow that it’s made some adjustments to the schedule. It could be either via the thermostat itself (“Hey! I’ve just adjusted your schedule! Check online for more details.”) or via an e-mail as you suggested. My thermostat apparently is still learning after having it installed for 12 days. :) If it were as cold as it should be here in Wisconsin during December, having the furnace run unexpectedly for hours is very expensive. So, I’d like the thermostat to make smarter choices and as you suggested, tell me.

      If Nest hadn’t described the learning phase in such magical terms, my expectations would probably be more reasonable. “Nest even notices when you get home late on Tuesdays after bowling” or something like that one of their videos suggests.

      Thanks for the cool suggestion. I hope they’re listening!

  5. I find you assessment of the Nest very interesting and I wish I’d had found this earlier. I received my email from Nest on Monday that I could now order and of course I did. Up until now about the only thing I’ve seen relating to “real world experience” has been giddy praise. While that’s great I do like to see someone taking to task a product that as you say could be had for much less elsewhere.

    What really interested me was the Learning of the Nest. I have a programmable thermostat now and it just doesn’t fit my lifestyle. I’m a firefighter and work a rotating 24hr on/48hr off schedule. Unfortunately there’s nothing out there that can accommodate such a schedule. I got on Nest’s website and used chat to talk to a representative about how it could handle this. She stated that while it is unusual it will adapt after time. It just wouldn’t learn it in the week or so that would be “normal.” After reading your experience I’m not so sure.

    1. @Joel — I’d hold off. While they claim it can adapt you unusual schedules, at this point, I’m highly skeptical. It can’t even keep simple schedules correctly. At best, you could probably turn off the learning mode and rely (if it worked in your thermostat location) on auto-away to help save you some money (in theory).

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