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Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation Review

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PROS / The Nest adjusts to your lifestyle and schedule.

CONS / Nest's two-year warranty is shorter than the industry average.

 VERDICT / Nest Learning Thermostat is an incredibly efficient, easy-to-use programmable thermostat that is great for people concerned about conserving energy and saving money on utility bills.

When the Nest Learning Thermostat hit the market in late 2011, it became one of the first products to successfully blur the lines between home security, automation and climate control. Over time, the thermostat learns your habits and adjusts to your lifestyle so it can conserve energy and reduce utility bills. It automatically lowers the temperature before you go to bed and shuts off completely when you leave for the day.

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This digital thermostat learns your schedule and readjusts the temperatures on its own, but you can also adjust the temperature from your smartphone at any time if your schedule changes. It's attractive, has excellent customer support and works with most residential HVAC systems. The Nest Learning Thermostat earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for being the best programmable thermostat.

  1. This is the number of heating stages a thermostat supports.
    Higher is Better.
  2. 1 Nest Learning Thermostat
    3 Stages
  3. 4 Stages
  4. 3 Stages
  5. Category Average
    3.20 Stages

Temperature Control

This Wi-Fi thermostat can handle most of your home's heating and cooling needs. The Nest works with many heating units, including forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, dual-fuel systems and radiant heaters. This means it works with the equipment that is most suitable for your local climate, which tends to vary from place to place. The thermostat can accommodate three-stage heating and two-stage cooling using a variety of devices.

The thermostat’s multiple heating stages allow your home to use energy effectively. Instead of just turning your system on or off, which happens in one-stage heating, this system is more complex. If one stage doesn't heat your home to a comfortable level in the desired timeframe, the next stage kicks in and adjusts the room to a comfortable temperature.

It also conserves energy by learning your schedule and adjusting the temperature at different times of day. It turns down automatically at night and all the way off if it knows you are leaving for the day. This can lead to significant savings on utility bills and help the environment by conserving energy. Daily reports show you how much energy you are saving and tell you how to use less and save even more money.

The Nest includes an auto changeover function that switches between heating and cooling. Independent of heating and cooling systems, this smart thermostat can control whole-home humidifiers, dehumidifiers and fans. It has a keypad lock to ensure no one can change the temperature without permission. This prevents unwanted spikes in your energy bill when the kids turn up the AC.

This wireless thermostat has a temperature swing of 1 degree. This means the unit only activates heating or cooling if your home's temperature is more than 1 degree warmer or cooler than your target temperature. A larger temperature swing is better for energy efficiency but does not have the same precision as a smaller temperature swing like this one.

Energy Management

Although you have the option to set a seven-day schedule, this smart thermostat can actually program itself without any help. Unlike typical thermostats, the Nest tracks every time you adjust the temperature or schedule, and it 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 eventually reprograms itself once a pattern emerges.

Built-in sensors monitor humidity, temperature, light and movement. The device adjusts the temperature automatically when it detects changes through the sensors. It also uses its Wi-Fi connection to check local weather conditions so it can learn how those affect your home and adjust accordingly. The Nest notifies you when you need to change your air filter or if the AC or heater is malfunctioning; proper maintenance can extend the life of your HVAC system.

During the summer, when conditions are right, the Airwave feature activates automatically. Airwave shuts off your AC compressor a few minutes early but leaves the fan running, since your AC continues to run cold air for a short while after it turns off. This can cut your cooling costs by up to 30 percent. The thermostat provides detailed system reports to help you track how much energy you're saving, and there is a green leaf that lights up when you are in energy-saving mode. This feature is only found on the best thermostats.

The sensors activate the Auto-Away mode. Auto-Away changes the temperature when no one is home to reduce energy usage. Additionally, you can set your Auto-Away preferences to detect your smartphone's location, a process called geofencing. This activates your system when you are within a certain distance of your home so it is comfortable temperature by the time you arrive.

Design & Setup

In the years since its introduction, the Nest Learning Thermostat has grown from a dedicated thermostat to a control center for your home. Most other smart thermostats are merely cogs in a larger system. This thermostat wirelessly connects to other devices via Wi-Fi or built-in ZigBee radio. It can connect to devices, such as other Nest thermostats, the Nest Protect smoke detector and Nest's line of IP security cameras, to create a smart home ecosystem. This smart home platform, known as Works With Nest, is also compatible with third-party products. Some notable Works With Nest products are Philips Hue, Jawbone UP, August Smart Lock and IFTTT.

The Nest is one of the most convenient programmable thermostats in our review. This is a direct result of the unit's minimalist hardware and software designs. It has a metal outer ring for basic control, and it has a nice heft that attests to its durability.

By turning the ring or pressing it toward the wall, you can select menu items, change preferences and adjust the temperature. It responds quickly and moves from one menu item to the next with precision. You turn the ring to get to the menu item and then touch the screen to open a specific item. There is a satisfying click whenever you stop and touch the screen to change a setting or view information like the outside temperature and humidity. It works nicely with the app, and the app and thermostat register the same settings within a minute of each other.

You can control the thermostat via most internet-connected devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers. Though it's common for smart thermostats to have a mobile app, Nest's user-friendly app stands out in particular. The mobile app allows you to change your settings on the fly, so if you decide to come back early from vacation, you can access your mobile account to make sure the house is ready when you get there.

The installation process is very straightforward. We had it up and running in a matter of minutes. You can install the unit yourself with guided video tutorials. Even without the tutorials, it was easy to install. It took about two minutes to hook up the thermostat and then it took a few more minutes to connect to the Wi-Fi. Once it's up and running, the Nest lets you know how long it will take to get your home to a specific temperature, one of several unusual features. As an extra bonus, it comes with a screwdriver with both Phillips and flat head ends. During testing, we put the screwdriver to good use whenever we had a thermostat that required a tool.

The System Match feature on Nest's website makes it easy to know if this Wi-Fi thermostat works with your home's existing wiring. A built-in level helps you install your Nest evenly on the wall, a feature that only comes with the best programmable thermostats. Nest recommends professional installation if your home has a whole-home humidifier, dehumidifier or dual-fuel system. The home we installed the device in had none of those things, so installing it ourselves was not a problem.

Help & Support

You can contact the Nest team through email, phone and an online community. The community brings Nest users and employees together in a place where you can ask questions, make feature requests and get assistance. The company does not offer live chat support. We were able to set up the device without contacting customer service, but it is nice to know they are available if you need assistance.

You can watch videos, both on Nest's website and YouTube, which help you get the best use out of your thermostat. It has a two-year warranty, which is shorter than the industry average of three years. While two years isn't bad, a system of this quality should be backed with a more generous warranty that is worthy of one of the best thermostats on the market.

Summary

The Nest Learning Thermostat's ability to program itself makes it a valuable addition in any home and one of the best products in our Wi-Fi thermostat reviews. 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 allows you to control the thermostat from anywhere. The home automation features make this one of the best thermostats for your home.

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