Energy: Nest Thermostat

Controlling your heating system is one of the quickest and easiest ‘wins’ when it comes to saving energy (and money) in the home and, although I’ve mentioned thermostats here before, I make no apology for writing about them again. In the USA Nest has been a trailblazer both in terms of technology and design. Now the Nest Learning Thermostat is available in the UK and it’s a smart bit of kit in all senses of the word.

The thermostat programs itself, automatically turns down the heat when you’re away, and can be controlled from your mobile. One person who has already installed a Nest Thermostat is architectural photographer Andy Marshall – when you’ve finished reading this do look at his superb website.

Andy says that the thermostat has “brought fun into something that is mundane”. This is surely the essence of energy saving: it needs to be simple, convenient and painless.

When Nest originally introduced its thermostat in late 2011 it was ahead of the game. The product can turn the boiler on and off according to the temperature in your home. It learns your preferred temperatures and adjusts based on your personal schedule. And, with its built-in sensors, the thermostat knows when the house is empty and automatically turns down the temperature, helping to save energy.

According to Andy, installation in his 1870s house was fairly straightforward and took about an hour and a quarter. This was in April this year and he and his family spent the first week ‘training’ the thermostat to what temperatures they felt comfortable with and when they wanted the heating on. “It’s now established a schedule for us. Interestingly, it seems to work out what temperature you feel comfortable at and at what time. It then takes into account the weather conditions outside – with the forecast based on your postcode – and switches the heating on accordingly,” explains Andy.

Before the Nest Thermostat was installed, Andy says his heating was on for around four hours a day; afterward it was averaging two and a half hours a day. According to Lionel Paillet, Nest’s general manager for Europe, “Nest Learning Thermostat customers in the US experience savings of approximately 20 percent on average off their heating and cooling bill.”

The one problem Andy has experienced is that, because he often works from home and is in one room, the thermostat assumes he’s out so turns the heating off. This has been a minor niggle and it’s easy to override the system.

The thermostat is only the start, already a Nest Protect: Smoke + Carbon Monoxide alarm has been introduced. If the carbon monoxide alarm goes off, the Nest thermostat automatically turns off the boiler, a possible source of poisonous carbon monoxide leaks. Inevitably there will be more ‘smart’ home features. Nest was bought by Google in January and, as I write, the company has unveiled an industry group to encourage makers of smart home gadgets like locks and light bulbs to use Thread, a new standard for devices to communicate on a network.

Images: With thanks to David Purves of Nationwide Heating. Photography by Andy Marshall