Today Nest announced it’s newest version of their programmable thermostat.
I had the incredible luck of buying a Nest “1.0” on the day it was released (10/25/11), *by accident*. My previous thermostat had died the day before and after adding it to our e-recycle box (thermostats have mercury and other materials that need to be correctly handled i.e. not chucked on the top of a landfill where it will slowly seep into the surroundings) I googled for thermostats and the Nest showed up – I read about the features and after some frustrated attempts at their website (“Why does the checkout page keep crashing!?”) I placed an order. Only later did I realize it had been unveiled just hours earlier and all the web was a-twitter about the new product of Tony Fadell, a former Apple designer I admire for taking on a job to more directly work on things that are good for our ecosystem.
Nest Thermostats are a form of smart control that are make it easy and automatic to keep your house comfortable using less. Nest improves efficiency by taking into account furnace types and heat inertia to better time when gas has to get burned; and reduces waste by allowing you to control it remotely and sense when everyone is away.
The little data I have suggests the Nest has reduced the heating natural gas used in my household by about 20% – once I correct for water heating, the only other use of natural gas use at our place, and a series of efficiency upgrades we did shortly after.
Analyzing it from a perspective of “Dollar to % savings”, it has been about 10x as efficient as changing our insulation (a $6000 job that improved our heating efficiency drastically) or the prospect of upgrading our furnace (depending on installation costs, it could be $5000 to replace a 80% efficient furnace with a %97 efficient furnace, without considering a heat pump system for simplicity of the comparison).
- Nest: $250, for ~20% improvement,
- Upgrading furnace: $5000 for ~17% improvement,
- Replacing insulation in attic & crawlspace: $6000 for ~ potential $20%.
The previous thermostat was not optimally programmed to week by week changes, it was a hassle to program anyways, did not modify its own programming based on your real day-to-day behaviors, did not sense when we were out of the house, and did not allow us to control it anywhere via our phones (think of the convenience to turn the heat on from your car as you approach home at the end of a day outside), did not provide nice monthly reports to give you a sense of what’s going on, etc. etc.
I am also glad I got rid of the Honeywell device due to their corporate practices selling weapons worldwide and their ridiculous suing of Nest for patent infringement in -get this- “round thermostat” design and asking you setup questions. Nest is trying to get the USPTO to see the ridiculousness of those patents.
Further improvements that affect heating efficiency we do or have done include:
- Replacing some windows for double-paned models (very low savings-per-dollar compared to simply installing cellular curtains)
- Closing off crawlspace ventilation in the coldest months, reducing air leaks
- Using electric space heaters in spaces where insta-heat is better than heating a whole house (e.g. when changing babies at 4AM)
I don’t want this post so sound like an ad, but the Nest did save a lot of burnt natural gas for everyone, and saved money for us. Plus, it looks stunningly gorgeous on our wall, and I especially like how the screen fades on and off as I walk by.