Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

February 26, 2015

Unsponsored Nest Thermostat and Smoke Detector Review

After we changed our furnace from electric forced air to propane (and, also, from one that didn't work to one that does), I promised a review of our new Nest Thermostat and the Nest Protect units.  We have a total of three hard wired Nest smoke detectors, one battery operated one (with plans to purchase more), plus one Nest thermostat.  I am embarrassed to admit that it took me longer than anticipated to get the hang of the Nest thermostat, but now I'm ready to share.  I think.  


First up, the thermostat.  Our furnace installer didn't really know much about Nest, nor did he recommend it, but we really wanted one so we bought and installed it ourselves (instead of having him sell it to us and install it).  That saved a little money, but it still cost around $250.

Here's our old one.  Our hallway can be so dark, so excuse the crummy photos.

Until we repair the drywall hole left behind by the old thermostat, we're using the Nest thermostat with the cover plate provided.  I like that they offer that because it means you can install in right away (I hate wait).  We'll remove it to patch and repair the drywall next spring, when heating season is (hopefully) over.  The installation was easy, as was the initial set up (you just twist and press the dial to make selections as they come up on the screen). 

I almost think the Nest thermostat stands out more than the plain old white one.  But it's the capabilities, not the looks, that sold us on it.  Arguably the best feature is that we're able to monitor and control the temperature through our smart phones while we're not home (or, if I'm being honest, from the couch ten feet away).  This feature not only helps us save money, but also increases our comfort.  Using the app we turn the heat down really low when we leave and turn it back up an hour before coming home, so we can arrive to a toasty home without wasting money heating the house all day.  Also, by being able to monitor the temperature while we're away, we can also monitor our home and hopefully detect any problems - such as a furnace failure.  We can also track our energy usage (which is a great feature for us, because we need to keep tabs on the levels in our propane tank).  It doesn't connect to our tank, but it does let us know how much we're heating throughout the week.

Here's what took my awhile to figure out.  There's an auto away feature that spent many weeks learning when we're home and when we're away so that if we forget to turn down the heat and leave, it can actually adjust the temperature for us.  It connects to our smoke detectors, which help it to more accurately figure out movement in the house.  The other day it said it officially learned when we're gone, but it reported activity in the house an hour before we got home. Creepy.  We lead very irregular lives with very irregular work/social schedules, and I think the poor thing just couldn't keep up.  This thermostat could likely learn the schedule of someone with a more regular, 9-5 gig much more quickly.  But I think it's got it down pat now.  I have found that because it has "learned our schedule," sometimes it automatically turns down the heat (because I've done it before) and I don't realize until I'm freezing cold.  Changing the temperature doesn't mess up the programming, but sometimes it feels like I've got two spouses constantly turning down the heat.  Unless my human spouse is doing it remotely from his phone (from work) and I'm just blaming poor Nest...  

We've also had some connectivity issues with it - and our smoke detectors - but this was more of an issue in the beginning.  Without internet connectivity we can't speak remotely to the units.  It could be our internet connection, but it might have also been a glitch because it seems to stay connected fairly consistently now (and our internet is just as crappy as always).  When the internet disconnects the thermostat still works, it just can't be accessed through the phone app.

The website does a great job of spelling out in detail what to expect, along with some super slick photos and insanely cute videos, but I wanted to share our experience to supplement this info.

Photo from Nest Website

On to the smoke detectors.  Three of our smoke detectors are hard wired and install was easy (twist a couple of wire nuts and plug in).  We liked these smoke detectors because, like the thermostat, they also have an app.  In fact, there is a lot to love about these: we can test all units at once by pressing the test button on only one, they speak and indicate where smoke/fire is instead of just chirping maniacally, plus they will shut off the furnace in the event of a CO alarm (they double as CO detectors).  They light up when something moves beneath them, doubling as a path light - whether it's a fire emergency or an evening bathroom break - but you can also be notified of the path light being activated, so you can keep tabs on your home when you're gone.  With the app, you can also access the history and be warned of an alarm when you're not at home.  It's a great supplement to our home alarm system.

That they look good is just a bonus (but really, they look so much nicer than the average smoke detector).

Unfortunately, two of our units have registered a false alarm and could not be silenced.  They had to be physically removed and disabled.  The first one that malfunctioned was, of course, on our 14 foot tall ceiling - when Hubby was out of town.  Can you see it up there in the photo above?  I'm getting sweaty palms just thinking about it.  I spent a whole day trying to push the button with the 12 foot long stick we use to measure our well (which made me look like Wile E. Coyote, I'm sure), with the thing yelling at me intermittently "THERE'S SMOKE IN THE LIVING ROOM BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP" but it would not turn off.  I am deathly afraid of heights but I finally heaved the ladder into the house and decided to go for it.  Except I got up four rungs and nearly wet myself.  My Dad, also afraid of heights, came over after work and just as I was saying "I don't think the ladder is clicked safely in place," scurried up and swiftly removed it.  He looked white as a sheet, but totally kept his cool.  My hero!  Nest sent us a replacement, but we went days without a smoke detector while we waited for it to be delivered.  Then we repeated the whole process when the basement one malfunctioned the same way.  Luckily, the ceiling down there isn't even 5 feet tall so I could manage on my own.  I actually had to hunch over like a gargoyle to work on that one. 

Photo from Nest
We were given the option to return all of the units, or receive all new replacement units. We like the functions and look so we took a gamble and opted for three new units.  Because the price had dropped on the smoke detectors by that time, we were offered a rebate on the price we paid versus the new price (they're $100 right now).  Since getting the replacements, we have not had any problems (I hope I have not jinxed myself here).  Hubby calls our experience "teething problems" - hopefully going forward the problems have been sorted.  As with the Nest thermostat, there are some fancy videos and pictures here.       

Although we've had some problems with our Nest products, ultimately we like them and would (somewhat hesitantly) recommend them.  They are ghastly expensive but ultimately we really appreciate how they all communicate with each other and offer remote monitoring, which is important for us.  Happily, customer service has been top-notch!  Our problems were taken seriously and dealt with professionally.  We were given more than reasonable options: complete refund or exchange.  I would recommend, though, that if you switch to Nest Protect, you keep your old smoke detectors for a bit because if you have problems, it's really unsafe to have to go any length of time without one.

I hope this was helpful and if you have any questions about them - or want to share your own experiences with Nest products - I'm all ears!

Just so you know, this review was totally unsponsored.  We paid for all of these Nest products out of pocket.  And were were subsequently very broke for awhile ;) 

February 25, 2015

Hello Again.

Hello again.  Thank you so much for all of your kind and thoughtful emails and comments (both here and on Instagram) about the passing of a family member.  To those who expressed concern for my family, I wanted you to know that they're doing well.  Sad, of course, but figuring out how to move forward.  I wasn't sure whether it would be appropriate/necessary to write about my family's loss in more detail on the blog.  I felt uncomfortable writing a deeply personal story that really isn't all mine to tell.  But it seemed heartless to jump from "a relative died" to "do you think subway tile is too predictable a choice for the bathroom reno?" 

I asked some of my family members what they thought and they said to keep on truckin'; to just return to my regular posts because what I had written was sufficient.  So that's what I will do.

Tomorrow's post is in queue.  I'll be switching up my posting schedule a bit moving forward.  I started slipping into random posting mode and I'm trying to right the ship.  I am now going to post every Tuesday and Thursday, with extra posts (like Etsy shop updates or random musings) slotted in, every now and then, on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays.  This will give me a combination of the structure and randomness I crave in equal parts.   
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February 10, 2015

A Break

You have no idea how many times I've typed and re-typed this. Nothing sounds right.

A member of my immediate family passed away this weekend.  This perfunctory blog post is insufficient, but I feel like I know many of you so I wouldn't have felt right about saying nothing. We have not yet published the obituary, which is partly why I'm not sharing any details. I'm also trying to be delicate and respectful, but I quite frankly have no idea what is or isn't appropriate.

It's a heartbreaking time for my family. I just wanted you to know that I'm going to be a bit absent from the blog this week.
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February 5, 2015

Sale, Sale, Sale!

My Mom and I have been toying with the idea of opening up a vintage pop-up shop in our city this spring - the perfect location presented itself to us, so it seems serendipitous.  For this reason, we've put off having a sale in the Etsy shop (and have been slow to add more listings).  It felt a little silly, though, to stockpile wares because the mission is ultimately to make sales.  

We finally decided that, in the spirit of Valentine's Day and looooove, we would put some items on sale, because the motto of our shop is: "everything we hope you love".  It's a stretch, I know.  (Some of these sale items won't be re-listed when they expire Feb 17th, just FYI).  Below you'll find photos and links to all of the items that have been reduced.  On top of discounting some items, we're offering a sale code for friends and readersUse: WINTER15 to get 15% off your entire purchase - including sale items!  The sale will run until February 14th.  Also, please feel free to contact me through Etsy for a customized shipping quote - I'm normally able to save folks a few more bucks!  Also, I accept turquoise Pyrex as currency ;)

Fondue Pot with Alcohol Burner and  12 Bonus Skewers ($5.00 off)
Set of 8 Culver Medallion Glasses, Mint Condition ($10 off)
Vintage Coret Handbag ($7.00)
Set of 10 Yellow Blown Glass Drinking Glasses ($5 off)
Solid Brass and Wood MCM Tray ($10 off)
Set of 4 Glass Fish Plates and Solid Wood Bowls ($10 off)
Canape Making Widget ($3 off)
1970s Signed Pottery Piece ($4 off)
Tundra Earthenware Set, Made in Canada ($10 off)
McCoy Plates ($10 off)
West German Vase ($3 off)
Pair of 1960s Belgian Planters ($3 off)
German-made Black and White Cake Stand ($5 off)
Vintage Japanese Lacquerware Serving Set, New in Box ($5 off)
Figgjo Norway Lotte Souffle Dishes ($15 off)
Figgjo Norway Lotte Platter ($13 off)

Some of my favorite items have recently gone out the door (and with each one, that internal debate: "Oooo, I liked that," "yeah, but you don't have room," "but maybe I should have kept it anyway?"), but there are still plenty of gems left.  If you're feeling very meh about our current offerings, we decided to stop the madness and focus on Etsy first, pop-up shop second.  With that in mind, we'll be listing brand new items mid-late February, including some very springy pieces.  Expect some cheery colours to lift the winter blahs.

Before I toddle off (we're doing some very exciting bath reno recon  - which is something that will be filling our calendars for months to come, I'm sure), I wanted to say "thanks".  I never expect a purchase from any of my readers!  I'm just so thankful you encouraged me to open a shop in the first place, and that you've all been so supportive and encouraging since.  So thank you!    
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