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Nest Smart Thermostat: Setup, Performance and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Nest Learning Thermostat

Summary

Our Score:

9

Nest: Setup

So Nest has undoubtedly come up with the most stylish smart thermostat on the market, but does that extend to the practicality? Without question, yes.

One of the highlights of using the Nest smart thermostat is the setup procedure. Nest offers a home install service starting from £60, but this is the first system we could imagine casual DIYers wanting to take on themselves.

The Heat Link replaces your traditional thermostat and connects to its wiring. Like all smart thermostats you will need a power source within that wiring if you don't want to run a cable to a power socket. After that you plug in the Nest thermostat wherever you want it to be and let the wizard walk you through the rest.

This aspect is streets ahead of Nest's rivals. The thermostat's graphical display takes you through each stage and you navigate menus by turning the thermostat clockwise or anti-clockwise. The whole unit is also a button and it is pushed inwards to confirm selections. Anyone who has used an Apple TV will tell you this dial method is laborious for entering your wireless password but, far more importantly, it is not difficult.

Meanwhile, Nest has cleverly duplicated the user interface in both the web browser and its smartphone apps so only one set of controls needs to be learnt.

As one of the first smart thermostat solutions on the market Nest has had more time to refine its setup process and user interface and it shows.

Nest: Performance

But does this classy design and intuitive user interface combine to create genuine energy savings? Versus nothing? Yes. But against rivals? This is less clear cut.

The first part of this claim is straightforward because the Nest learns when you are home and adjusts the heating automatically resulting in far more efficient use. You only use what you need and this is where the biggest savings come with all smart thermostats.

But comparing smart thermostats is more difficult as different times of the year require different amounts of energy and testing the Nest in late Spring/ early Summer meant it has an easier time than the Tado we tested in January.

That said, while direct comparisons are very difficult, what really impressed us is the Nest's smart learning. In about one week it had cleverly adjusted to our schedule, including our waking hours, which meant our boiler clicked on far less often but the house remained warm nonetheless.

But this approach to smart thermostats does have its limits. Unless you specifically turn down an individual radiator, the Nest and similarly functioning rivals like the Tado and Hive keep your whole home at your desired temperature when you are in then let your whole home cool down when you aren't.

Critics argue this on/off approach — while better than nothing at all — isn't as efficient as it could be and this is where the Honeywell Evohome makes hay. The Evohome can control the temperature in every room so, for example, your bedoom is only ever warm at night not whenever you are in the house. You only heat the rooms you need, but it is twice the price to buy up front.

Should I buy the Nest Smart Thermostat?

Despite these concerns the Nest is perhaps our easiest smart thermostat recommendation to date.

At £249 it is little more expensive than its main rivals: Tado and Evohome (before extensions), but it looks infinitely better and it is far easier to setup and use. You will make energy savings and look stylish at the same time.

Where you will have to make a choice, though, is in the type of smart thermostat you need. In a small flat these systems are fine, but a bigger house does not want heating wholly on then wholly turned off as you come and go. This is where Evohome still has the edge, though for significant extra cost. It also doesn't play nice with separate hot water systems, which may or may not be a problem depending on your needs.

What the Nest is, however, is the very best smart thermostat of its type. It's not for every household, but it's damn good at what it does.

Verdict

The Nest thermostat is by far the most attractive and intuitive smart heating system we have seen to date. The pictures look good, but even they don't do it justice in use. A more complex and expensive system like Honeywell's Evohome offers more granular control and potentially greater savings, particularly for larger properties, but right now Nest is going after the mass market and here it deserves to clean up.

Next, read our guide to Smart Thermostats in the UK or our Nest vs Hive comparison

Overall Score

9

lw

June 17, 2014, 12:47 pm

As pointed out before, Nest can't control your hot water when it is provided by a hot water tank, as it is in the majority of UK homes. Hive can. Other similar systems like Evohome can. Nest can't. It can be as 'smart' as anything, but if it can't control one of the major components of the system, then that has to be a major deficiency wouldn't you think? Style over substance.
But no, you keep on plugging the Nest for some reason as the best solution - a paid advertorial rather than a review perhaps?
Do you not take any notice of the comments people make on your reviews? If not, what is the point?

andyvan

June 17, 2014, 1:25 pm

It's a fair criticism of Nest and I will update this review to re-iterate this weakness.

However, I think you're overstating the the problem here. The last three places I've lived in have had combi boilers, and the last one I didn't delivered hot water 'on demand' rather than requiring it to be stored. I don't have hard evidence of the percentage of combi to non-combi households in the UK, but if you can find a verified number then that would be very useful.

Ultimately, there is no single perfect system, but provided you have a combi boiler Nest is clearly one of the best. Personally, I'd also argue there's far less need to control hot water in a 'smart' manner. Provided you have some other means of controlling the water, surely that and a Nest would be sufficient? That's up for debate.

We do read comments all the time, but we publish lots of articles and have lots of comments on the site, so we can't catch, respond and take on board every single one. Some will slip through.

As for your 'paid advertorial' nonsense, just because you don't agree with something that doesn't make it corrupt. Nest is a very successful product for a very good reason: it's a good product. I think there's enough third-party evidence by now to prove that point.

lw

June 17, 2014, 2:04 pm

Combi boilers providing hot water on-demand for the whole house are a more recent introduction, and more common in smaller homes and apartments. But most UK homes would still have a traditional hot water tank. I have never lived in a home with a combi boiler.

Of course, you can still leave your existing central heating controller in place to control the hot water, and that is what Nest recommend - just switch the CH part to off, and leave HW on.
But that defeats a large part of the smart behavior. If the purpose of Nest is to not switch the CH until you are coming home for example, then what point is there in it still switching the HW on? Why do you want the HW coming on and off every day if unoccupied?
Oh, you can still switch it off manually is Nest's advice. Well, I may as well do that with my CH then! Doh!

The point about ignoring comments is that YOU replied to exactly the same comment I made last time you looked at Nest, and said then you would update your review, but didn't and now have ignored this issue again. Leading to my suspicion that you seemed keen not to paint Nest in a negative light...

Alex L

June 17, 2014, 6:52 pm

Iw I can agree with your comments about the hot water. My last house had a combi, but my current one doesn't and I know I waste a lot of money heating up the cylinder every morning and evening. Having said that I think this looks like a great product and was considering buying one when it was first released (I think they used to be £180 then?) I probably will hold off for now though, Until they introduce HW controls at least.

andyvan

June 18, 2014, 9:34 am

Well apologies for forgetting, then. Glad we could sort it out this time. :)

dourscot

June 18, 2014, 2:27 pm

At £250 plus installation costs of at least another £60 this is just an expensive thermostat unless you're starting with a new property. It might save you money if you're an inefficient user but it will never recoup its costs for most

Granted it automates programmes but is that really worth the expense? No wonder the Nest stand in my local store is a pretty lonely place.

M Dunne (Sayers Butterworth)

June 18, 2014, 2:44 pm

"At £249 (installed) it is little more expensive than its main rivals: Tado and Evohome" How do you get that? Tado (installed) is £299 - so how does that work??

SBD119

July 25, 2014, 9:44 am

TADO is much better and in my situation, two professional out of the house, varying schedules - it has almost paid for itself already. The one thing these thermostats don't do - which TADO does exceptionally well is to turn off the heat when you leave the house.

Sajeel A Khokhar

December 21, 2015, 6:16 pm

very disappointed when i have paid well before time and could not get it install by the nest pro before Christmas. very poor customer service by the nest agent.

the way i was treated by the agent it was very unprofessional and did not represent Nest owned by Google. We use to learn about Google business during the MSc but when i have purchased their product i am very disappointed. they have the product but if you cannot install it with the boiler, you would not be able to get on time when you wanted.

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