Smarten Up Your Smart Home with a Google Nest Thermostat

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With wildly fluctuating weather conditions across the northeast United States and other parts of the world, perhaps it is the best time to enhance your smart home with an intelligent heating and cooling system. That’s one the reasons I decided to install a Google Nest Thermostat in my home, which is more affordable than the 3rd Gen Google Nest Learning Thermostat, but it doesn’t include features such as automatic adjustment to fit my daily routine. I was hesitant until this point because I live in an old house and only need to control the heating. Plus, wrecking my heating system in the middle of winter wasn’t something I was prepared to do. However, saving money on my energy bill is a strong motivator, and I was interested in having more control over my home. So, I surmounted my fears and made the upgrade.

Google Nest Thermostat
Google Nest Thermostat

Installing the Google Nest Thermostat

Although my home is equipped with numerous connected devices, including a video doorbell and voice-controlled light bulbs, the thought of breaking open walls to make even simple improvements makes me nervous. Although I checked online to ensure compatibility, I was still apprehensive about messing with my home’s wiring. This was especially the case with the Google Nest Thermostat, which required a separate Nest Power Connector to be installed as an alternative to putting in a common wire (aka C-Wire) to help power the device. Opening the zone controller box and staring at the rows of colored cables almost panicked me into calling an electrician or HVAC professional, but I managed to power through my apprehension.

While wiring in the Nest Power Connector is relatively straightforward if you carefully follow the directions in the manual, it’s a little tricky if you’re primarily using the Google Home app as a guide. There’s a handy video tutorial on YouTube, but the app doesn’t refer you to it. It lets you know when something is wrong with the wiring but doesn’t always refer you to troubleshooting measures when it involves the Power Connector, which left me feeling as though I were constantly making incorrect guesses in a puzzle game. The problem turned out to be something silly―I didn’t realize the locks in the included wire clips opened a full 90 degrees, because the YouTube video instructed me to jump straight to the wiring diagrams. So, the connections from my furnace to the Power Connector weren’t as secure as they were supposed to be. Turning back a few pages in the physical installation manual revealed this issue, so it pays not to rely solely on your phone to guide you through the installation process.

It took longer than I anticipated, but a total novice like me successfully managed to install the Google Nest Thermostat without destroying anything. Still, those with more complex wiring might want to consider calling an expert to help.

Smarter Scheduling

The Google Nest Thermostat has some obvious differences, compared to the Nest Learning Thermostat, chief among them being a capacitive touch area on the right side instead of a full ring to adjust the temperature settings manually. The Nest Thermostat’s screen is also a slightly larger screen, and it uses two AA batteries for backup power instead of having a built-in rechargeable battery. However, the important features are still present. Specifically, the Nest Thermostat can be used to control heating and air conditioning systems directly, using the Google Home app, or through both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa-enabled smart devices.

By default, the thermostat’s screen can be set to wake automatically when it senses your approach, but you can configure it to wake up only when you tap the touch area. Its 2.4" LCD shows the outside temperature, your current indoor temperature and humidity, and your target temperature settings. Sliding your finger up and down along the right edge of the thermostat quickly changes the temperature, or you can tap it again for more detailed settings and information, such as how much power it’s getting. The thermostat can be used to set up individual heating and cooling schedules, or you can configure a temperature range to control both. Although I had no problems with the screen or controls, I ended up relying primarily on the Google Home app to make changes.

The mobile app asks you to configure three temperature presets when installing the thermostat: your comfort temperature when you’re at home, a nighttime sleep temperature, and an eco-setting when no one is around. These presets are then inserted into a schedule, which can then be copied to each day and modified as needed. I was able to wake up to a warmed house that automatically cooled after I left for work, then warmed up again in time for my return home. The ability to create custom presets, for watching late-night movies on the weekends or keeping your pet comfortable while you’re out, provides some extra flexibility for different situations.

This kind of easy scheduling can be especially useful for those who have a hybrid work from home and office schedule or frequently travel. It certainly beats spending ten to twenty minutes pressing buttons on a traditional thermostat to set up a weekly schedule when the seasons change. The system can also be set up to detect my presence when I’m at home… or at least when my phone is. Using this feature enables different “home” and “away” routines so that there’s one less thing to remember when I leave for vacation.

Remote Controlling Your Smart Home

In my experience, nothing quite compares to being able to use my phone and change the temperature schedule when I’m going to arrive home later than expected. In the past, I simply dealt with being too hot or cold because I didn’t want to stop what I was doing to adjust the manual thermometer’s settings. Now I can issue voice commands to my Google Nest Hub smart display as needed, which shows approximately how long it will take to reach my target temperature in addition to giving me a large touchscreen with which to work. I can even use the Google Home app to create a voice-activated routine that will automatically dim the lights and set the temperature for movie night.

Google Nest Hub
Google Nest Hub

The app tracks my energy usage throughout the day and arranges it on a dashboard, providing me with the information I need to maximize efficiency. A Leaf icon appears on the thermostat and app when I’m using an energy-saving temperature, which I’m expecting to result in a lower energy bill.

I may have stumbled a little at the start, but the Google Nest Thermostat turned out to be an ideal entry-level smart device for my home. Households with widely varying family member schedules might benefit from the Nest Learning Thermostat, which automatically generates a schedule based on the HVAC specifics of your home along with its occupants and the changing seasons, but I was happy to figure out my own schedule. After enjoying the conveniences of a smart heating system, it’s hard to imagine how I got by without it.

Which model would you consider for your smart home―the Google Nest Thermostat or the more advanced Nest Learning Thermostat? Let us know in the Comments section, below, or ask us questions.

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