If you own a Nest thermostat, then you already know just how much energy it can save; but if you don’t own one yet, you may be very surprised just how much you can cut your heating or cooling bill by getting one.
It’s an unfortunate myth that the Nest thermostat is just a toy for smart home enthusiasts. According to The National Academies, 41% of all energy consumed is from “powering” homes and businesses, with heating making up the largest portion of that energy usage. According to the Department of Energy, Americans spend $11 billion each year on energy requirements to cool their homes with air conditioners.
This is especially true in Northern U.S., where the climate can get brutally cold in the Winter; and in Southern U.S., where temps get sweltering in the summer. Those cooling and heating costs add up fast.
The reality is that if there were a Nest thermostat in every home, it would have the biggest single impact on energy consumption in history. If you bought a Nest thermostat, it could save you more money than you might imagine, with ultra-efficient heating and cooling of your home.
How Can a Nest Save Me Money?
When most people heat or cool their homes, they set the thermostat to a certain temperature they’re comfortable with, and forget about it. Or, they turn on their air conditioner at the start of the hottest season of the year, and usually leave it running around the clock. This may be why heating and cooling are the two biggest energy consumers in the residential sector.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The charts you’ll find from Nest customers at the Nest blog are nothing short of amazing. By letting the Nest learn the homeowner’s behaviors – when they will be out of the home and adjusting the temperature accordingly – the energy (and cost) savings were unbelievable.
Can the Nest thermostat do this for you? In short: yes.
The price tag of a few hundred dollars may feel steep, but when you add up the cost savings of consuming so much less energy heating or cooling your home, the cost is really mere pennies in comparison.
The single most effective energy-saving feature added to the Nest thermostat is the “Auto-Away” feature.
It sounds simple enough; Auto-Away basically figures out when you’re out of the house, and when you are, it’ll lower the thermostat settings so that any time you leave the house you’re saving money.
When I first installed the thermostat, I assumed I could never use this feature because it must depend on the GPS of your cellphone being turned on all the time, and I usually keep my GPS turned off to save battery power on my phone.
However, the next time I checked my energy usage on my online Nest dashboard, I noticed that the Nest was accurately tracking when I was away, and adjusting my thermostat settings for me.
This was kind of a shocker. How did the Nest know I was away from home when I never enabled my phone to tell it so?
I visited the Nest website to research exactly what was going on, and this is what I found:
“The Nest Learning Thermostat uses Nest Sense™ (an exclusive combination of sensors and algorithms) to notice when you’re away and when you come home. With Auto-Away, the Nest Thermostat turns itself down automatically when you’re away to prevent heating or cooling an empty home. Upon your arrival, the Nest Thermostat will return to your regular schedule.”
After a bit more research, I learned that the Nest uses its built-in wide-angle motion sensor to identify the time of day when people appear to be at home. With an intelligent algorithm, the system eventually “learns” your patterns. If it turns down the thermostat and then senses that you’re still home, it’ll readjust the temperature, and then “correct” the algorithm to fix for that error.
Eventually, your Nest thermostat will know your typical at-home schedule even better than you do.
The Nest Scheduler
If allowing the Nest to auto-adjust the temperature when you’re away from home doesn’t offer enough energy savings, you can also configure your own energy-saving schedule on top of that, using the Nest Schedule tool.
If you already know what your typical weekly schedule is going to be, you can just program in the time of day that you need the Nest to lower your temperature. Work from 8am to 4pm every weekday without fail? No problem, just use the Schedule tool to turn the temperature down when you leave for work, and back up just a little bit before you return.
Using the Schedule tool, you can also do clever energy saving things like having the thermostat turn the temperature down at night when you really don’t need the house to be quite as warm.
Keep in mind that the Nest will also control your central air conditioning unit if you have one.
In the case of A/C, you would basically adjust your schedule to set the temperature a little higher when you aren’t at home, and then cool the house around the time when you’re due to arrive.
Don’t have central A/C? Don’t worry about it. Did you know you can also use the Nest to control a WeMo or Smartthings power outlet using the Auto-Away trigger in IFTTT?
Using IFTTT Smartly
In IFTTT, there are a lot of cool integrations you can do that’ll save you money. This is especially true if you have a Nest thermostat. For example, you can use the Nest’s Away trigger to turn off the air conditioner power outlet whenever you leave home.
Or you can use the Nest’s temperature sensor to turn the A/C power outlet on whenever your home’s temperature reaches a certain point.
The catch of course is that you’ll need an in-window A/C unit that automatically turns on when the wall outlet power turns on, without the need to press the “on” button.
If you don’t have one that’s capable of doing that and are considering buying a new A/C unit – then you may actually want to consider getting a Smart air conditioner like the Quirky air conditioner – it really isn’t that much more expensive than a regular one!
If you are uncertain about trusting the Nest algorithm to know exactly when you’re away from home, you could always make use of your smartphone’s GPS to ensure it knows exactly when you’re away. Set a trigger on IFTTT that takes activates any time your phone (you) leaves a predefined area around your home.
Combine the trigger with an action to turn down your Nest thermostat.
Using this setup, you’re guaranteed to always save energy (and money) any time you leave home.
Integrate With Other Smart Home Devices
This is really only the tip of the iceburg when it comes to ways you can cut down your energy costs even further through Nest automation.
- Use the Smartsense room motion sensor to turn off your room air conditioner whenever anyone hasn’t been in a room for a certain amount of time.
- Use Smartthings Presence Sensors to identify when everyone is outside of the home, to lower your air conditioning, or turn down your thermostat in the winter.
Use the trigger from a Smartsense Multi Sensor to recognize when someone has opened a window in the room, and have the Nest immediately turn off the air conditioning to avoid energy waste, or from overloading the your central air system.
Each of these smart home solutions simply adds yet another tool to your energy saving toolbox. The more clever integrations you add to your Nest, the further down your energy waste will go, and the higher your energy savings will climb.
Obviously, you can’t do any of these things if you’re still living in a home with an antiquated thermostat. Buying and installing a Nest is the first significant step in achieving your energy saving goals.
Are you now convinced to buy a Nest thermostat? Are there any other innovative smart home integrations you can think of that would lead to even more energy savings? Share your ideas in the comments section below!
Image Credits: piggy bank via Shutterstock, Christian Delbert via Shutterstock, Smartsense Motion Sensor courtesy of Smartthings, Smartthings Presence Sensor Courtesy of Smartthings, Smartsense Multi Sensor courtesy of Smartthings