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NEST Protect and NEST Learning Thermostat Review

Price: $99 & $250

NEST Protect and NEST Learning Thermostat Introduction:

Today we have two cool products from NEST - the NEST Learning Thermostat (third generation), and the NEST Protect (secnd generation). NEST was started in Palo Alto, California, in 2010 and released the first NEST Learning Thermostat in 2011.  Since then, the NEST Protect (smoke detector) and two cameras have been added to the product lineup. The NEST Learning Thermostat is an amazing little device. As home automation gains popularity, wireless devices are doing a lot of work around the house. You can't have too many gadgets, right? I saw a few ads for the NEST when it first came out, and the idea of a smart thermostat intrigued me. Coming in at just under $250, you have to really want one in order to drop that much dough on a thermostat. But this isn't just any old thermostat. The ones I grew up with used mercury switches, were not very accurate, and required frequent adjustments as the seasons changed. But fast forward a few decades and now we have wireless smart thermostats. This thermostat keeps track of your schedule from when you make adjustments. It knows when you are away from the sensor on the thermostat and your phone location (from the app). After it "learns" your schedule and temperature adjustment habits, it begins to make adjustments for you.

There is a nice app that works on your iPhone or Android phone. The thermostat can be monitored and controlled through the app. The NEST Learning Thermostat also keeps track of your energy usage history, so you can see how much you have been using and when you used it. The app will also message you if the temp drops too low or goes too high. 


Here is my NEST mounted on the wall in the hallway. The rectangular back plate comes with the NEST, but you don't have to use it. My old thermostat left some exposed mounting holes, so the plate covers them nicely. You can paint the plate if you like to match your wall color. The trim ring around the NEST also comes in other colors, such as copper, black, and white. The color on mine is stainless steel. The green leaf means that it is saving energy. It can connect to your home network on either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz wireless.


The installation was fairly easy and took me about a half hour. I did have one problem with a loud buzzing sound coming from the outside A/C unit a couple of weeks after the installation. (You can hear it in the video review below.)  I shut the A/C off and contacted NEST. The online chat is awesome: the NEST tech support session was fast and the people are very knowledgeable and willing to help. After a short while, we determined that I needed to hook up the 24 volt common wire (red arrow). Initially, I did not use this wire, and most systems don't need it. The NEST uses power from the system when it is running to charge the onboard battery. Some systems (like mine) don't provide quite enough power to keep the battery at the proper charge and require a little help from that 24V wire. Fortunately, the wire was already there and the other end was hooked up on the furnace control board, so all I had to do was hook it up at the thermostat base. Problem solved! The thermostat knows what wires are hooked up, and the on-screen display (pic on the left) shows you the wire hook ups so you can see what is going on without removing the thermostat from the base.  The next picture is of the base with the wiring. There is even a little, blue bubble-style level built into the base.



Now for the NEST Protect. This is another tool in the wireless home automation tool box. The NEST Protect is a smoke detector and CO (carbon monoxide) detector. It communicates with the NEST thermostat and if there is a smoke or CO event, the Protect can be set to tell the thermostat to shut down the furnace. And as with the thermostat, the Protect can be monitored from the phone app. The unit goes through a self check daily. It is available in two styles - battery and wired, and comes in a black or white finish. The NEST Protect will also communicate with other NEST Protects in the house if you have more than one unit. So, for example, if you have a Protect on each level of your home and there is smoke in the basement, the Protect on the second floor would let you know. The Protect connects to your home network only on 2.4 GHz WiFi.

There is a light ring in the center that uses different colors to communicate different conditions. Green means all is well. Yellow means there is a little smoke, like if you burn some toast. Red is, of course, for an emergency. And the unit also has a white path light that comes on when you walk under it. You can turn the path light off if you like. The Protect retails for about $99 and you might think that is a bit high for a smoke alarm, but the NEST Protect is much, much more than just a smoke alarm.



Here is a quick video review of the NEST Protect and NEST Learning Thermostat. I am happy with both products, so if you are ready for the next step in home automation, then check them out!

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