Pros / Nest's thermostat tracks your temperature preferences and schedule then programs itself accordingly.
Cons / The company’s two-year warranty is shorter than the industry average.
Verdict / The Nest Learning Thermostat is an incredibly efficient, easy-to-use programmable thermostat. Its automatic scheduling feature is the most advanced we've seen, and it’s a valuable addition to any home.
The Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation successfully blurs the lines between home security, automation and climate control. Over time, it learns your habits and adjusts to your lifestyle to conserve energy and lower your utility bills. It's attractive, comes with excellent customer support and works with most residential HVAC equipment, earning it our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for best programmable thermostat.
- Ease of Installation
The Nest thermostat can handle most of your home's heating and cooling needs. It works with many heating units, including forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, dual-fuel systems and radiant heaters, and it can accommodate three-stage heating and two-stage cooling. One-stage heating systems are either completely on or completely off, and those with more stages allow the Nest to use energy more effectively – if a lower-energy stage doesn't heat your home quickly enough, a higher-power one kicks in to bring the temperature up faster. This smart thermostat can also control whole-home humidifiers, dehumidifiers and fans.
The thermostat has a 1-degree temperature swing, which means it only activates the heating or cooling system if your home is more than 1-degree warmer or cooler than your target temperature. This wide swing makes the Nest thermostat more energy efficient, though less precise, than those with narrower swings. There is also a keypad lock that keeps people from changing the temperature without permission so you don’t have unwanted spikes in your energy bill.
Although you can set a seven-day schedule, this smart thermostat can program itself without any help. Unlike typical thermostats, the Nest tracks every time you adjust the temperature or schedule and learns your preferences after a week of observation. If your weekly schedule is predictable, it matches to your routine seamlessly. If your schedule is variable, the Nest reprograms itself once a pattern emerges.
The thermostat has built-in sensors that monitor humidity, temperature, light and movement, and it uses the data it gathers from them to inform its automatic schedule. It also checks local weather conditions to see how they affect your home. In addition, the Nest notifies you when you need to change your air filter or if the AC or heater malfunctions. Although we didn't rate thermostats based on whether they have remote sensors, this is one area where Nest lags compared to ecobee's products.
The thermostat’s Airwave feature shuts off your AC compressor early but leaves the fan running, using leftover cold air to cool your home for a short while. This cuts your cooling costs by up to 30 percent, and the Nest Learning Thermostat enters this mode automatically when the conditions are right.
Another way it keeps your energy costs low is by using its motion and light sensors to activate the Auto-Away mode, which changes the temperature when your home is empty. You can also set your Auto-Away preferences to detect your smartphone's location – a process called geofencing. This activates your system when you're within a few miles of your house so it's a comfortable inside when you arrive. The Nest also lets you know how long it takes to reach a specific temperature.
Your Monthly Nest Home Reports show you how much energy your home uses and gives tips on how to save more. There's also a green leaf icon that lights up on the thermostat when it’s in energy-saving mode.
Design & Setup
Since its introduction, the Nest Learning Thermostat has evolved into to a control center for smart homes, while many other smart thermostats are just cogs in a larger system. It wirelessly connects to other devices via Wi-Fi or its built-in ZigBee radio to create a smart home ecosystem.
The Learning Thermostat works best with other Nest products such as the Nest Protect smoke detector and Nest security cameras. However, you can also connect it to hundreds of third-party smart home products through its Works With Nest platform. Some notable partners include Google Home, Amazon Alexa, August Smart Lock and IFTTT.
Nest's minimalist design makes it one of the most convenient wireless thermostats we tested. You can select menu items, change preferences and adjust the temperature by turning the device’s outer ring or pressing it to the wall. It responds quickly and moves between items with precision. When you touch the screen to open an item, it rewards you with a satisfying click.
Though smart thermostats often have a mobile app, Nest's stands out because it is user-friendly and you can change settings quickly. However, the app's interface is different from the thermostat’s physical display, so it isn't seamless to switch between the two.
The thermostat is easy to install, and it only took us approximately 17 minutes to get it up and running during our tests. This was the fastest installation of the products we reviewed – the next fastest time was 20 minutes for the ecobee4. The mobile app walks you through the process with diagrams and video tutorials.
As a bonus, the Nest Learning Thermostat comes with a screwdriver that has Phillips and flathead ends. During testing, we used the screwdriver whenever another thermostat required one. No other thermostat comes with the tools you need for installation, which is one of the reasons it overtook the ecobee4 in installation simplicity.
The Nest's built-in battery slowly pulls energy from your HVAC wiring, so you don't need a C wire in your system. The disadvantage to this is the unit sometimes needs to charge for 30 minutes after installation, though in our case, it didn’t have to. The built-in battery also means you don't need to replace batteries like you do with the Emerson Sensi and LUX/GEO, two other digital thermostats we tested that don't need C wires.
The System Match feature on Nest's website makes it easy to know if the thermostat works with your existing wiring. There is also a built-in level to help you install your Nest evenly on the wall, a feature only the best thermostats have. Nest recommends professional installation if you have a whole-home humidifier, dehumidifier or dual-fuel system. Our test home had none of those, so installing it ourselves was not a problem.
Warranty & Support
While we were able to set up the Nest without contacting customer service, it's nice to have help if you need it. You can contact Nest through social media, live chat, email and phone. The company’s online community brings users and employees together to ask questions, make feature requests and get assistance. Nest's two-year warranty is shorter than the industry average of three years – it isn't bad, but generous warranties are better.
The Nest Learning Thermostat's ability to program itself and extensive smart home compatibility make it the best thermostat you can currently buy. It quickly learns your preferred temperature and constantly tweaks its settings to create a comfortable, efficient living environment. Nest's mobile app completes the unit's user-friendly design and lets you control it from anywhere.