Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nest Thermostat: No, Thank You.

Nest Thermostat Review: 2 out of 10

I bought a Nest thermostat, partly to learn about it from a professional standpoint, and partly because I was excited to try it out. People are raving about them.

Bottom line: after several days of trying it out and setting it up, I got so angry at it that I took it off the wall, put back the ancient one that it was replacing, boxed it up, and I'm returning it. I *never* return *anything*, so this is notable.

Nest Sucks at Being a Thermostat

The thing that's wrong with Nest is that it isn't very good at its basic function: being a thermostat. There are two things that it should do:
  1. Determine the temperature in the room, and the desired temperature, and try to make the room be the desired temperature.
  2. Turn the furnace on and off.
On the first point, yes, it kind of does that, but it doesn't show you the current temperature in the room -- only the desired temperature.  It knows the current temperature in the room, right? And every other thermostat on the market shows you both temperatures, right? So why is it that there is literally no way to see the current temperature in the room?  The only answer I can think of is: "design".  We didn't want to mess up the beautiful display by showing you two numbers, because that would look bad.  Right.  Good decision.

On the second point, turning the furnace on/off, the brand-new 3rd Generation Nest with a fresh software update ... fails miserably. The furnace runs for a while, then I think when the room temperature is just about the desired temperature, it starts to cycle the furnace on/off every 3- 4seconds, for quite a number of minutes. As a programmer, I'm pretty sure this is because the temperature sensor is not quite accurate enough, so when it's on the line between 68 and 69, let's say, it flips back and forth (maybe the temperature is 68.5643 and it rounds off to 68 then to 69 then back to 68 as the temperature fluctuates 0.001 degrees.

This is so basic to the functionality of a thermostat that they probably have internal brown-bag lunches on this topic at Honeywell, when you join the thermostat engineering group. Hysteresis, they call it. Except they don't seem to  have thermostat engineers at Nest, just "user experience designers."


Nest is Not That Helpful

Okay, it sucks at being a thermostat, but isn't it awesome as an Internet of Things poster child? Sort of. The app is nice, and it does show remote status pretty well, and remote control (except for that part about "what temperature is the room, anyway?). But it's focused on saving energy, which is great, but it is not very focused on making me warm on a cold day, which is the other reason for having a thermostat.


Nest has a feature they call Auto-Away, which uses the built-in motion sensor to decide whether or not you're home (a pretty good idea) and turns the furnace down when you're not around. This would be great, except for WHEN YOU ARE HOME, and just NOT IN FRONT OF THE THERMOSTAT.

Motion detector delays are pretty standard, right? Like your motion detector light fixture on your front porch. There's a switch on there to decide how long a delay you want.

Nest's Auto-Away feature has exactly one control: ON or OFF.  That's it.  You can't set the delay for how often you walk by the thermostat. It seems to have a really short one, like 10 minutes, after which it decides you aren't home and TURNS DOWN THE HEAT.  That is so completely not helpful, on a cold day.

When you find yourself getting out of your chair many times during a day and walking into the room with the thermostat in it and waving your arms, to try to make the heat go back on, you start to realize that the product is badly designed and implemented.

Remote Control

Which brings me to the last feature, the ability to control the furnace from someplace else. This is totally great, and works well.  AND YOU NEED IT, becuase you have to turn Auto-Away off, because it sucks and that's your only choice (ON or OFF). But if Auto-Away is off, then you have to turn it off remotely if you are Away, and forgot to turn the heat down.

Fail.  Epic fail, all in all, because it has all the ingredients of being awesome, but absolutely sucks at doing its basic job.

Shame on Google, for buying them and placing such high success value on a product which just really isn't awesome at all.