Nest Learning Thermostat - Setup, Performance and Verdict



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.


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