Updated: November 28th 2016: We wrote a Nest Third generation review questioning ‘Is Nest worth it’ back in January 2016, and as the year comes to a close, i want to revisit this topic in order to bring it up to date. Back in January, Nest, the smart thermostat which is considered the poster-boy for smart home tech had a confirmed data leak – which at the time re-raised the ‘Is Nest Worth it?’ question once again. However as the year comes to a close, and the smart home slash autonomous home revolution continues to gather apace, we figured it was time to bring this dialogue up to date. Especially as we are getting so many people coming in to read this over the Christmas run-in. So here goes.
You will note that the flavour of this article is very much trying to distil whether the Nest thermostat is worth it to the average UK home. We will cover below;
- An overview of Nest and its key features
- Some of the set backs that the Google owned company has had, giving you a timeline of Nest over 2016 – giving you the awareness of where the product and company has come from and where it is heading towards in 2017
- Some key considerations when working out if Nest is worth it – including the impact of lower oil prices and thus energy costs and the impact on the pay off period, the Nest thermostats impact on the environment, how compelling the Nest features are compared to the wider market (there’s more and more ‘smart thermostat’ competition now – so you need to be armed with facts to make the right decision’) and what owners of the Nest say about it in peer-reviews. All of this is important in considering the value of the product to you individually.
Be warned, this is quite a thesis and is aimed to make you an expert in all things Nest Third-Gen, so grab a coffee and take a deep breath, and lets dive in!
What is the Nest Smart Thermostat?
The Nest smart thermostat is probably one of the most well recognised smart home gadgets on the market – and back in January of this year, it was quite probably the most well known. I’d venture that the Amazon Echo may have overtaken it now – but the good news is that you can combine the Nest with the Amazon Echo to build a phenomenal smart home base layer.
As a quick synopsis of Nest; their smart-thermostat is now into its third generation, and the use cases are increasingly proven, with people explicitly stating that they find value in (as we’ll show you below). The company, owned by Google also has a wider range of smart home appliances, as Google aim to position themselves at the heart of our home. We recently covered their exceptional Nest Protect smoke alarm here, and today we want to provide a full Nest thermostat third generation review, so lets dive in.
The basic premise of the Nest smart thermostat is its ability to bring automation to the temperature controlling of your home, using its ‘smart learning capability’. In essence it learns the temperatures that you like your home, taking into account the time of the day and week, and works to automatically keep your home at that temperature – removing the need for you to fiddle around with a clunky old thermostat dial. Secondly, it brings remote control (via companion smartphone and tablet apps), meaning you ca turn your heating on or off using the app – which is pretty useful if you’re sitting on the sofa and feeling lazy, and even more so if you’re out and about and want to ensure the heating is on for when you get home. Thirdly, is the combined learning with override features, which help you to save money, be more environmentally focussed whilst actually seeing an upside in the heating of your home. Eliminating those periods where the home is both under or over heated, which generally happens when you control your heating with a simple old on/off dial, helps make sure you’re not wasting money by being too hot nor or you sitting shivering in your own home. These are three important over-riding selling points, and we believe they combine to make the Nest learning thermostat a compelling product – and as we dive in and see them in action – we believe that they do mean that when we ask ‘is Nest worth it?’ we can answer ‘yes’.
Click below to see the Nest smart thermostat unboxing, more pictures and the wiring diagrams
What is the Nest Smart-Thermostat – a video to cover its main selling points
Nest is a smart thermostat, which is now into its third generation. The below video explains what Nest does, and the value it brings. In short, its value proposition is largely down to its ability to help you analyse your data usage, and then get better at managing it, with the product frequently helping folks to save upwards of 30% on their energy bills.
See the above video for a better explanation. The product however has been coming under increasing scrutiny recently, because of a number of issues. The latest is a data leak, where its unencrypted data was giving away owners postcodes and zip codes – data which is clearly better kept private.
Nest January 2016 data leak leads to more question over whether Nest is worth it with its ongoing issues
Back in January, Nest suffered ‘another’ set-back, this time relating to extensive data leakage according to Mashable. Nest, the Google owned thermostat, have confirmed that its system, famed for its ability to learn your behaviour and then optimise your energy expenditure around these patterns, has been leaking data. And its been happening for months. At a time when the general public are more and more concerned by their privacy and data in general, this was a major concern for Nest. The good news is that, whilst updating this article in late 2016, the horizon is looking increasingly good for Nest. There have been no further data leaks and the Nest learning thermostat increasingly sits at the heart of the smart home revolution.
However, it is important that you are aware of the timeline of Nest, and that whilst considering ‘is Nest worth it in 2016, that you know the backstory to this autonomous home tool. So back to January 2016: The news has broken around PrivacyCon, a conference which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Researchers from Princeton University published via the site Freedom to Tinker found that the method that Nest uses to ‘talk’ with the web, via the Internet of Things, was transmitting your data through unencrypted channels. This makes the thermostat, in theory at least, a hackers wet dream. However, this is all in theory, and as pointed out by Mashable, it isn’t something to immediately get too wound up by.
However the bigger question posed, on the back of this issue as well as the recent outage, which caused peoples home to go unheated during one of the coldest snaps of the year – which we covered here (including how to fix the issue), is – ‘is Nest worth it’? So we thought it was time to give this question a 2016 upgrade. Lets dive in.
Is Nest worth it?
We will now set aside some time to define the Nest proposition, and then point out some pros and cons to Google’s smart thermostat.
Falling energy prices, driven by an implosion of the value of oil, reduce the absolute cash saving, meaning you have a higher pay off period
The first consideration, is the current global oil and gas prices situation. The local press in the UK was recently filled with pictures of abandoned north sea oil rigs, caused by the price of oil falling from a peak of c. $130 a barrel in 2014, to just $30 a barrel now in January 2016. Whilst the price of energy at home never falls with falling prices as much as it rises with rising prices, there is an impact. Therefore, with a lower base cost, a circa 30% saving on a lower base is obviously a lower absolute number – and this is before we challenge the idea that Nest is actually able to save 30% in the context of these higher prices. That fall in energy prices is exponential and truly huge, so it does call into question the value right now of owning a Nest. Clearly this is a con to buying the product right now, as pointed out by Fortune magazine here.
In late November 2016, my view is that the falling value of a barrels of oil has definitely impacted energy prices, but it is small and actually the where Nest is worth it is that it is giving you the capability to control your own destiny. Energy prices will always fluctuate but it is always better to use less – and when you use less, whether you’re paying a lot per unit or slightly less per unit – you are overall paying less, and here at HomeTechStar.com, we like paying less for our energy. We feel we probably are not alone on that front too 🙂
The Nest is worth it if you’re environmentally conscious
The counterbalance to this is the whole ‘green argument’. Increasingly, more and more of us are environmentally inclined. The Nest thermostat offers much more than just AC controlling, and instead has learning algorithms which help understand how we use energy, the temperature we like to be at, and a whole host of other cool features – which together bring energy saving value. We may stand to personally make less from the saving, but the environment sees a clear upside. For a seizable portion of early adopters, who largely consist of city dwelling younger folks who’re often in the rental market, this counts for something.
Even if you are a conscientious objector to the idea of Global Warming, you can see that the driver of the Nest learning thermostat’s green credentials are its ability to drop the absolute number of energy units that you use – effectively by using them in a more measured and scientific way. Much less peaks of being too hot and too cold, and much more of being and the perfect temperature. Therefore, you can either take the green argument as a major driver when considering is Nest worth it, or you can take it as a back-pocket bonus.
Peer reviews show there remains value – its 4.3 out of 5, with 850+ reviews on Amazon
Sometimes with a product like Nest, which can seem all fancy and cool, the real answer to ‘is Nest worth it’, over a longer gestation period comes from the consumers who bought it. On Amazon, the product is winning rave reviews as you can see here
Amazon reviewers generally like to highlight the Nest’s elegant design as a selling point, as as subsequent generations have come out, we’re now on the third gen release, the design continues to ever so slightly get thinner, sleeker and more elegant.
This design has clearly been improving in our opinion. Sometimes you need to see the new before you realise the old is suddenly looking dated. This was the big step up seen between the second and third generation versions of Nest. Subtle design changes yes, but side by side, and they add. The Nest is intended to be prominently showed off in the home too, so this is an investment which is certainly worth it. On generation three, Nest boasts 25% more screen space and also much clearer clarity driven by the inclusion of a greater number of pixels. The design is increasingly simple yet stunning, and our sentiment aligns pretty well with that outlined by Cnet here.
The ease of integration is also commonly referenced. This is a fit which you can do yourself at home, and you do not need to be an expert engineer.
However, its not all plain sailing. However Nest have addressed a lot of the issues, and where there have been broken devices, there are also stories of them replacing devices which are upwards of 2.5 years old, which is impressive customer service by any standards. Older generations had clunky android apps and had slower learning cycles, but this has now been largely addressed.
Nest Third generation features make it worth it
The third-gen Nest Learning Thermostat brought with it enough subtle new features in order to render the device worth it, in the opinion of our editorial team here at HomeTechStar. In the past Nest smart-thermostats were wholly reliant on a set of near-field sensors, which could scan three feet in order to detect movement. On generation three, you can see your Nest from much further away using their new farsight feature, meaning you can read it from further away.
We’re also mightily fond of the devices Furnace Heads-Up mode. This monitors how often, when and why you overheat the market. You also get overheating alerts via the Nest app.
The next step for Nest, likely in the forth gen product will be to add more remote sensors. This will be a big step forward, and one that’s required to add more brains to the solution. After all, different rooms in house can be much cooler or warmer, and adding more power around this will make a huge difference to the device. This will further enable it to do a better job and save money on overheating warmer parts of the home.
All in all – is Nest worth it – we think it is on balance. If you want a smart thermostat, Nest remains the best bet in 2016. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Below is some additional reading on Nest, to help you come to the conclusion over its wort to you;
- We explore an interesting side-benefit to the Nest learning thermostat here – its surprising ability to help you sleep better
- Hive vs Nest – Hive active heating is increasingly a rival to Nest, and we put the two products side by side here and compared them
- Tado is also a competitor, so we compared the Nest 3rd generation against the Tado system here too
- Smart homes are all about inter-connectivity between gadgets – and here is why we think Nest plays ball nicely with the Amazon Echo
- Wondering where to start with smart home gadgets? this is our list of our 30 best smart home gadgets in 2016