Are Nest Thermostats Actually Worth It? Absolutely. Here’s Why

Are Nest Thermostats Actually Worth It? Absolutely. Here’s Why

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A smart thermostat can give you remote control over your heating and air conditioning, making sure your home is as cool or toasty as you like when you get home from work or wherever else, and a great one can monitor environmental conditions and your own preferences over time, adjust your systems to keep you comfortable and save you money.

That’s why we spent the last several months testing seven smart thermostats to find the best one for your place.

Best overall smart thermostat

The Nest Learning Thermostat studies your habits and controls the temperature in your home automatically. These smarts, along with the simple interface, make it best in class.

Best budget smart thermostat

The inexpensive Nest Thermostat has the same simple interface and straightforward remote control options as it’s bigger sibling, but can’t learn your routines.

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After months of testing across various models, the Nest Learning Thermostat never failed to impress. It has the most intuitive controls for when you do need to interact with it, along with smart features that let you set it and forget it. The Nest Learning Thermostat has more intelligence than the average smart thermostat; as you make temperature adjustments day in and day out, it learns from them and uses that to establish trends.

In our testing, after a week of use in the early summer, the Nest Learning Thermostat had figured out that we liked it a little cooler overnight and warmer throughout the day, and through it’s geofencing capabilities it figured out that it could switch to Eco when we left the house and then have it prepared for the time when we typically arrived back. Pretty neat, right? And that’s the real catch with Nest Learning Thermostat. It works to establish these patterns, adjust accordingly and ultimately possibly reduce the cost of your HVAC and electricity bill.

Beyond the smarts, the Nest Thermostat has three modes — cooling, heating and eco, which are accessible automatically or manually. Eco sets a temperature that might be a little hotter or a little cooler than your preferred, but engaging it when you’re out or when you might not notice it can reduce the cost of running the entire system. It’s quite handy. And if you ever want to override the temperature, it’s just a twist away.

The physical design of the Nest Learning Thermostat — the best user interface of any of the smart thermostats we looked at — makes that easy. The bezel is like a larger click wheel. You can turn it toward the right to raise the temperature or toward the left to lower it. It glides and is just built incredibly well. You can physically push in the bezel or the face to select an item as well. It’s got a high-end feel, as you’d expect given the $249.99 price tag. It feels great to use, and it’s just super intuitive to get the results you want.

When you don’t want to get up to adjust the temperature or mode, you can open the Nest app on your Android or iOS device. The app has an intuitive interface that mirrors the physical Nest Learning Thermostat. You can easily adjust the temperature, see historical performance or create your own schedules.

The Nest Learning Thermostat can also integrate with multiple temperature sensors throughout your home to better tailor heating and cooling for the entire space. Even in a single zone setup (as in our testing), the multiple sensors spread across three levels helped the Nest see the temperature more accurately throughout the space, and thus make more appropriate settings.

Lastly, let’s hit on installation: The Nest Learning Thermostat works with a broad range of HVAC systems. We tested it in two locations, a one-bedroom apartment with one zone and a three-story home with one zone, both equipped with a central cooling and heating solution that doesn’t feature a “C,” or common, wire. The C wire is typically used to deliver power to run a thermostat directly from house current. If your home doesn’t have a C wire (some more modern systems don’t use them) the Nest Thermostat can run on its integrated battery or from an optional power adapter if your HVAC system is particularly power-hungry.

Before starting the installation, we ensured that our HVAC system was turned off at the breaker, removed the old thermostat, hooked up the Nest Thermostat with the proper wiring configurations and connected it via the Nest app (available for Android or iOS). The app checked our handiwork, and we were off to the races.

In our extended testing, the Nest Learning Thermostat has kept us comfortable, and it’s always looking to improve. Those smarts, paired with an intuitive design, make it the best smart thermostat out there.

Jacob Krol/CNN

For those on a tighter budget, the $129.99 Nest Thermostat gives you the well-designed interface and remote app controls of its big sibling but forgoes the integrated intelligence.

You can still switch manually between modes (cool, heat, cool and heat, Eco mode or off), quickly enable a preset, set a schedule and control the fan (depending on the configuration of your HVAC system, of course). The Nest Thermostat, however, will not learn your preferences over time like the Nest Learning Thermostat. It can’t log your usage and work to reduce the energy bill by making small adjustments throughout the day or week. You can address this to some extent on your own by setting a schedule using presets for things like sleep or Eco mode at desired times of day.

You do have plenty of remote control options, either from the Google Home app or through integrations with the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, so you can set up voice control if you like. This way you can say, “Hey Google, make it cooler” or “Alexa, set the living room thermostat to 71 degrees.”

If you prefer physical interaction, in place of the Learning Thermostat’s circular moveable bezel the $129 Nest Thermostat features a capacitive touch sensor on the top right side. Here you can slide your finger up or down to adjust temperature and tap it to trigger an action. And we’ll be honest, after a few days of use, we did get the hang of it, but it’s not as natural as the click wheel on the $249.99 Nest Learning Thermostat. It can ultimately take more interactions to get something done. When switching between cooling modes, you need to tap it once to pull a menu, scroll to the desired icon and tap again to select it. Throughout the day, though, you can swipe up or down to raise or lower the temperature.

The Nest Thermostat, oddly enough, doesn’t use the Nest app. This is part of a larger regrouping on Google’s part, but setup and control is done through the main Google Home app. It’s a pretty straightforward interface and you’ll be right at home if you’re already using this ecosystem for your smart home. Within the Home app, the interface for the Nest Thermostat mirrors the physical unit with the set temperature centered and the actual temperature (along with the humidity) directly below it.

Google offers the Nest Thermostat in four finishes — Snow, Charcoal, Sand and Fog. The circular unit features a rectangular display covered with a mirror finish, and while you may want to touch it, we wouldn’t recommend it. Installation is easy; like the Learning Thermostat, the Nest Thermostat can draw power from a C wire, two AA batteries or a power adapter.

Google has crafted a nice unit here that doesn’t shine as tech-savvy or feature a brilliant user interface. Still, the $129.99 Nest Thermostat succeeds as an affordable a

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