At AnswerLab, the management team works hard to create and promote a culture of innovation. That love of innovation starts with employees, who share a passion for all things digital. Our passion for technology is encouraged by way of a handsome technology benefit. Every year, we are alloted a specified amount of money to purchase hardware and software. As a result of this tech benefit, I’ve been able to purchase an original iPad when it first came out, lots of fun and interesting software, and most recently, a new thermostat. Now, I know what you are thinking… who in their right mind would use their tech benefit to purchase a thermostat? Allow me to explain my decision and why this thermostat is turning the user experience of home temperature control upside down.
The Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat is no ordinary thermostat. It is billed as a learning thermostat. This means that it monitors your usage and attempts to learn from it, adjusting its schedule accordingly. The benefits of a thermostat that learns from your behavior are two-fold.
- It frees you up from having to learn how to program your thermostat. Anyone with a programmable thermostat can fully appreciate how horrible the interface is on a typical thermostat.
- It can help you save money. By learning from your behavior, Nest can become more efficient and auto-program your comfort zone accordingly.
That’s the theory, anyway. In reality, I’ve decided to turn off the learning function. Why? Because I am somewhat of a control freak. I actually like being in charge of the schedule. Fortunately, Nest is aware of my personality type and allows for one to simply switch off learning mode, turning the Nest from a learning thermostat into a programmable thermostat.
Wait, I just mentioned that Nest’s ability to learn was a primary benefit. By turning that functionality off, what’s left? Plenty!
Even for those like me who have turned off the learning behavior, Nest has many ways to help save energy. Here are just a few…
- Programmable Thermostat
- Nest Leaf indicator
- Energy History
Nest claims that ‘only 10% of programmable thermostats are programmed to save energy.’ Why? Because they are hard to program. Thermostat interface design has remained stagnant for years and the emphasis on the user experience is far from top priority. In my case, simply being able to easily program, monitor, and adjust the schedule helps save energy. Nest’s scheduler is extremely simple to update and unlike most typical thermostats’ antiquated interfaces.
Nest Leaf indicator
According to Nest, ‘changing the temperature just one degree can cut your energy use up to 5%.’ The leaf is a simple, yet effective interface element that helps guide you in the right direction. As you spin the dial on the Nest, a green leaf will appear once you’ve hit a temperature that’s energy efficient. As I dial down the temperature, I often find myself taking it down a notch or two further than I might have simply because I know that the green leaf will appear at some point. It’s a brilliant cue that really works.
Nest shows you exactly when your system was on, making it easy to look back and figure out your usage patterns. The Energy History shows you when heating or cooling was on in the last 10 days and if the weather, your adjustments or Away (Nest can detect when you are away from your home and set the temperature to a pre-selected setting) significantly affected your energy use.
Controlling Nest is simple and there are multiple ways to do it. Of course, I can walk right up to the Nest and control it directly. Or, I can login from my iPhone, iPad, or any computer with a net connection. That’s right. Nest connects to the WiFi network in our home and is reachable from afar.
There are multiple reasons to access our home thermostat from anywhere. Here are a few examples…
- Suppose we leave the house to go away for the weekend. If we forget to turn the thermostat down, we can just login and adjust the temperature.
- Likewise, we want to be sure the house is warmed up before we arrive. About ten minutes away from our house, we can just login to the nest iPhone app and set our preferred temperature.
- I’m in bed, reading on my iPad and starting to fall asleep. I want our room to be a bit warmer, but I don’t want to have to get out of my warm bed, put slippers on, head downstairs in the dark and press a few buttons on the thermostat. So, I just open the iPad app, login to the Nest app and turn up the heat.
Once you start to realize how easy it is to access your thermostat from a distance, it’s addictive and powerful. Honestly, it’s the main reason I bought a Nest.
At AnswerLab, we test mobile apps and websites all the time. Some are better than others. I’ve seen plenty of users struggle to discover and use apps, resulting in a frustrating experience. From my own perspective, the Nest iOS apps are well conceived, and easy to use. The initial screen simply shows an image of a home and a circle, which represents your Nest. Inside the circle, the current temperature. To change the temperature, I simply tap on the Nest and hit the up or down arrows. Minimal interface, intuitive, easy to tap.
If I want to dig deeper into the schedule or settings, all I need to do is turn the device to landscape orientation and a multitude of well layed out options are at my disposal. I’m honestly amazed at how well Nest has executed their mobile and desktop experience.
As a new homeowner, Nest is helping me keep our family’s energy costs in check. It’s also a beautiful appliance that sparks conversation. Nest has set the bar for the modern appliance by focusing on the user with minimal design, learning from the owner’s behavior, and implementing easy to use mobile apps and browser based interfaces.