Monday, November 14, 2011

Thermostats by Nest

Update December 2012: Nest now has their 2nd generation Nest Learning Thermostat available on  Read on for more on the Nest thermostat.

Nest Thermostat
The Nest Thermostat
At homepowersaver, I like to keep an eye out for new technology that might help us save on our energy bills. It is easy to get swept in to the big breakthrough technologies, like the Bloom Box, the latest electric car, etc. But in more practical terms, I am more interested in products entering the market, or about to enter the market (i.e. I'm eagerly awaiting the Vu1 ESL lightbulbs soon to be available at and later in stores, and trying to figure out what happened to Clarian).

Along those lines, I read with interest a recent article about a Silicon Valley startup called Nest. Led by a former Apple executive that provided much of the brains behind the iPod design, it might be surprising that their next generation energy saver is a simple thermostat!

Mercurial Rise in Thermostat Tech?

Read any home energy blog or book and you'll quickly see that programmable thermostats can be big money savers. Why run your AC or heater at full throttle when no one is home? Or when everyone is under the warm covers at night?

The problem is that most households, even with best intentions, often revert to the "hold" setting to override their programs...if they ever even got around to programming the thermostat in the first place. Recent studies have shown this fact.

To a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, this fact presents an opportunity. Nest has taken on thermostats, applying design principles taken from Apple and artificial intelligence (AI) to remove the prospect of programming. After a few days of care and use, the thermostat will learn when you are home and when you are not; when you turn the temperature down and when you turn it up. And at the same time, it no longer looks like a thermostat - it is more of a work of art.

Nest decided that simply learning your habits over time was not enough. It can also tie in to your network using wifi, allowing for remote control - turn up the heat when you are on your commute home so the house is nice and toasty by the time you arrive; or simply track your usage over time.

Prospects for Nest

Personally, I do not plan to purchase the $249 Nest thermostat, which will be sold at Best Buy and other stores. And I'd suspect most of the readers of this site would be better served with a cheaper traditional programmable thermostat, which can be found for $70 or less. Why would I assume my readers may not be interested? If you are reading this site you probably have more than a passing interest in saving energy, and thus will be more likely to actually program your thermostat. However, I do see a market driven by the trendy among us, home automation aficionados, those not wanting to deal with 'one more device to program', and interior designers.

Nest has hinted that they will take on other energy products as they begin to grow. --

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