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.  


NEST THERMOSTAT:

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
NEST SMOKE DETECTOR:

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 ;) 
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12 comments

  1. Oh my gosh, I'm not sure I'd go with Nest but WiFi thermostats are so dreamy. What made you decide to go with Nest instead of Honeywell or other brands?

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    1. That's a great question! We already had the smoke detectors (about 10 months prior) and we liked that Nest thermostat works with them. We like that it will turn off the furnace if we get a CO alarm. Also the smoke detectors work with the thermostat to improve the scheduling and auto away feature. That they all work together is a major perk, and I don't believe other companies offer that networked option (not when we purchased, anyway).

      Nest has auto away to save energy when we forget to turn it down before we leave, which other ones did not/do not have.

      Nest is in second generation. Lyric is still first generation. It came out in August, I believe, and we had research done and were ready to order in September (furnace installed in October). We read numerous reviews that Lyric was still buggy (although we have not been trouble free with Nest).

      Basically, we had already chosen the product by the time Honeywell came out with their Nest competitor. Initial reviews and features were not enough for us to change our minds. In another generation the Lyric might be great - maybe even better. There are already reports of this being the first of many networked devices that Honeywell is developing for the home.

      As a side note, I have been offered free WiFi thermostats from various companies but I still chose to purchase Nest. And I wouldn't, at this point, swap it for another one. Let me know if you have any other Q's - I'm happy to answer! It's a big purchase, so it's good to read as many reviews as possible.

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  2. Really interesting to hear your experience with the Nest smoke detectors. Luckily we received the Thermostat as a gift for Christmas (because $$$ = ouch) and are now saving up for the smoke detectors since we also like how the system is integrated and could be accessed remotely.

    When we first installed ours it was over the holiday break and we had a totally random schedule too so it was having a hard time learning it. Once we got back to our regular 9-5 it settled in. You can also manually set up a schedule (on the app click on the thermostat and swipe right).

    After installing our Nest thermostat we had the same problem with waking up to a freezing house or the furnace not turning on even though we cranked the temperature up. What we found was the battery in it wasn't being charged and the Nest needed a dedicated c wire to power it so we had to install a new one: http://rowhousereno.com/posts/installing-new-thermostat-wire/#.VPCWRnzF-E8

    Apparently this is a really common problem (we spent SO much time on the nest forums) old (battery) thermostats didn't really "need" that dedicated c wire.

    Next on our list after the smoke detectors is the dropcam... mostly just to watch what our cat does while we are away :) Can't REALLY justify that expense yet though...

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    1. We decided to let it figure out our schedule because we didn't know what to even set up manually. Figured we'd see what it came up with, lol. We haven't had the exact same problem as you - it's more that I turned down the heat a few times (likely when we had the fire going or something), so now it thinks I like the house cold at night. I really should just go in, as you suggested, and manually make a schedule. It's sort of leveled out now but I know I'm staying up past my bedtime when the house gets cold (Nest thinks I should be asleep, and we like it colder at night).

      It is good to know about the problems you had, though, so we know what to do. Sounds like that was a headache to figure out! I will double check ours anyway. Thanks so much for the link to your post - it's super helpful!

      Haha, I SO want that dropcam too - so I can see what Szuka does when I'm not around. I also cannot justify that expense...

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  3. We have a Nest at our cabin and I have come to love it. Nest and I had a very rocky start, I have blocked from my memory all the Saturdays I spent struggling with it.

    We had two problems with it. The first was a bad connector plate. Nest sent a new one.

    The second was it couldn't "talk" to our furnace. Hours spent with customer service yielded nothing. I turned to the forums and all the advice pointed to the common wire. We thought we had a common wire but it turns out, it wasn't connected to the furnace. Once our HVAC guy figured that out, he ran a new wire and we were in business.

    Now that it is up and running, we really like it. We did have problems with it turning down the heat for no reason. Turns out, we were accidently programming it somehow. Once we figured that out, it has worked well. We like being able to turn up the heat remotely so the cabin is nice and warm when we arrive. I also like being able to check the temps during the week when we aren't there.

    I am considering purchasing two for our main house. We have a dual zone heat/AC system and need two units to work each floor.

    I am liking the idea of the detectors.

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    1. Haha, I think I've blocked some of my memories too! Maybe they've built that into the units somehow. Like that memory erasing stick from Men in Black.

      Sounds like your problems were really irritating! And different than other users - sounds like there are quite a few known problems and it's a gamble to see which one you get, lol. But the heat turning down is common to us. Such a pesky problem! Happy you sorted it out. Ours seems sorted too.

      I'm disappointed that customer service wasn't any help. They were great with us, but sometimes it really does matter who you end up getting on the other end. I feel your frustrations!

      I'm glad you shared your experience because it gives a fuller picture of the Nest experience.

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    2. After we had the common wire installed, the Nest needed to update its self and there was all sorts of issues with that. I got a GREAT customer service rep on the phone that time. She knew what she was talking about. She helped me get the nest up to date and had me run all sorts of checks to make sure everything was working as it should. I emailed Nest and gave her kuddos for her assistance.

      We love the remote capabilities. With temps what they were this summer, I found comfort in being able to check the heat from home.

      The Internet is full of horro stories yet a couple of people I know in real life set theirs up in minutes with zero issues.

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  4. We have a nest fire alarm in our hallway (house warming/christmas present from our aunt and uncle) and we love it. Especially the feature that makes it light up when someone walks through the hallway. No more triping on your way to the bathroom at night.

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    1. What a sweet and thoughtful house warming gift - practical, but still a pretty luxury item. The light up feature IS awesome! I also like that the light signals that the battery is good or needs changing - no more annoying beeping if the battery croaks.

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  5. "...like a gargoyle..." Hehe. I appreciate this review! I think fondly of a time in the future where maybe, possibly, hopefully husband and I will buy and get to use the Nest line.

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    1. Awww, I hear ya! There are so many cool ideas and products I have to file away for "later".

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  6. Nice balanced review. Nice to read reviews from people who actually have first hand experience of using the products in their every day lives. I also appreciate more technical reviews but as a consumer you need to know how the product will intigrate with your life.

    I'm currently saving for a Nest thermostat, and I'm going to buy my Dad a Nest Protect for his birthday, as he has lodgers in his house and is away half the week so I figured he would appreciate a notification if ever he had cause for alarm whilst he's not at home. Depending on how he gets along with that, I may jump aboard too.

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