The Nest Learning Thermostat

November 28, 2011

Introduced in October the tech community all but fell over themselves in appreciation of the new Nest Learning Thermostat which was designed in part by several former Apple employees and claims to be able to save you energy by learning your habits and routines.

The Palo Alto company has been provided funding from Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, and Al Gore’s investment fund, and with a hundred employees, created what they say is the first “learning thermostat” in the world.

Which is now available.

The Nest website is the epitome of Web 2.0, with beautiful graphics explaining why Nest matters and how it can save you on your energy bill. It provides the whole run down on the thermostat, from why they made it to how it can help you to the guts of the device.

But can it actually match up to its claims?

Over at Triple Pundit they’ve taken a good long look at the Nest, and I would recommend you go and read it as well.

According to energy efficiency specialist Ted Kidd, “Big savings are not achieved by temporary temperature reductions of the home. In fact, reducing air temperature in the home means high mass items like couches and beds get cold and stay cold. People bump thermostats to counteract the additional comfort challenge this introduces, so some setback strategies may really cost energy. And all of this approach to ‘conservation’ implies sacrifice, living with less comfort.”

In the end, article author RP Siegel gives the Nest a bit of a half-half rating:

I’m confident that the Nest Learning Thermostat will save energy, especially for users who take the time to inform themselves as to the best ways to utilize its capabilities. And I have little doubt that a robust user community will sprout up to propagate just this kind of information. And with the user feedback capability it provides, with its highly appealing interface, users will enjoy getting more involved in their home’s energy management, which is bound to be beneficial for most of the people, most of the time.

But asking the Nest thermostat is going to save the world is not really fair. However, ten, twenty years down the line, if someone were to look back and wonder how it was that they had found themselves living in a world where their home was so wonderfully automated that their energy bill was much less than those of our day, I would bet that they would see the Nest as one of the reasons why.

Not because the Nest is going to solve all our problems; as Siegel says, it simply can’t because “they are limited to the information that can pass through the standard interface.”

But this is the beginning, this is innovation, and innovation is how we get somewhere else. Give it a few years and I would bet any sort of money that I’ll be reporting on a Nest product that is ten times more efficient and powerful in its job.

So show your support by opening your wallet. Innovation needs our support, and Nest is the prime way to get started.


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Joshua S Hill

I'm a Christian, a nerd, a geek, a liberal left-winger, and believe that we're pretty quickly directing planet-Earth into hell in a handbasket! I work as Associate Editor for the Important Media Network and write for CleanTechnica and Planetsave. I also write for Fantasy Book Review (.co.uk), Amazing Stories, the Stabley Times and Medium. I love words with a passion, both creating them and reading them.
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