Tech Tools review: Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest is designed to learn as it goes, adapting to your lifestyle

Nest Learning Thermostat
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Price: €249
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The Nest Learning Thermostat has been around for a couple of years now but the third version of the device is the first I've installed. Not because I had anything against the now Google-owned company, but I was happy with the system I had.

The Nest is designed to learn as it goes, adapting to your lifestyle and the latest version of the device, announced late last year, has added a few extras to the thermostat, including the most Irish of concerns: control of the hot water. Never again will you have the shock of realising you could possibly have left the immersion on when you’re an hour away from home and having visions of disaster.

The basic design looks similar to the first version, but there are some differences. Although it’s of comparable size, the updated thermostat has a larger screen area. That makes seeing the temperature from across the room a bit easier; the further you are away from it, the larger the figures are on-screen, and it turns off the display when it doesn’t detect any movement.

Installing it can be done relatively easily. The Nest has two parts: the thermostat, that sits in your room of choice, and the heatlink, situated near the boiler and allows the two to communicate. It does this over wifi and you can control the thermostat through the Nest app.


But the beauty of the Nest is that you don’t have to tell it what to do. You set your ideal temperature – say 20 degrees in your living room – and it will automatically turn your heating on when it detects the temperature dropping below that level. So far, so ordinary, nothing that a regular thermostat won’t do, right? But say you want to set a lower temperature at night, because everyone is in bed. Tell the Nest a couple of times that 12 degrees is your preferred temperature at night. At 7am, you want it to be 20 degrees? The Nest will learn that after a couple of days.

If you are forgetful (guilty) and or occasionally lazy (also guilty), the Nest is ideal.

Sensors detect movement in the house, so Nest will know when your house is empty and set the thermostat to “away” mode, saving you energy and making sure your heating isn’t on unnecessarily. Here, that means keeping the temperature above freezing on the off-chance we have another cold snap like the one a few years ago.

Everything can be overridden though. You can manually set the system to “away” or use geofencing that detects when certain mobile phones aren’t in the house. You can turn the heating on yourself if you feel things are too cold, and turn the entire system off if you don’t want Nest doing its own thing.

Nest can also link in with other products. If you have a Nest cam, for example, setting one device to away mode will activate the mode on linked devices. So when you leave the house, your heating will set to a lower temperature and the security camera can turn on. You can also use non-Nest devices, and connect through the IFTTT platform.

While the Nest was learning, things were a bit, well, warm. But it only took a couple of adjustments to get the perfect temperature and after that, Nest took care of it.

It’s not a perfect system though. If you have zoned heating and you want Nest to control both zones, you’ll need a second Nest thermostat. At €250, that’s a bit of an extra expense

And because you set the optimal temperature for a certain time, that could mean your heating switches on at 6am instead of right before you get out of bed so it reaches the desired temperature at the right time.

The good

The Nest is smart. It will earn from your schedule so after a while you shouldn’t have to touch your thermostat. You can override everything through the app or on the thermostat itself though, so you can keep control if you want.

The not so good

If you have zoned heating you’ll need more than one Nest for the system to work effectively: one for each zone. Also if you need to access the system from outside the house, you’ll need an internet connection.

The rest

The Nest has to stay plugged in to a power source, but there’s a battery in the thermostat unit, so if someone accidentally unplugs it, it will still work.

The verdict

HHHH Learns quickly and still gives you complete control if you need it.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist