Why Nest could be your next best investment

Confession: I gave in and ordered the Google Nest a few days ago. It's too early yet to say how soon (or whether) Nest will pay for itself, but I do have some setup tips for you.

Google Nest
Credit: Swapnil Bhartiya

I never intended to buy a Nest thermostat. But as I was moving towards networked devices within my home, I had begun to really dislike my old-fashioned thermostat. That was one of the few devices I wished I could control from my phone.

This is our second winter in the U.S., and unlike Europe, here we have a less efficient centralized indoor air system that heats or cools the entire house instead of just the room you are in.

I also have to admit that I didn't enjoy the cold trek from my bed to the living room to change the temperature. On top of this, our current thermostat was way too limited and I could not schedule it the way I wanted. And worse: if we left home for vacation and forget to turn the system off, there was nothing we could do.

The straw that broke the camel's back was our latest power bill. Due to mismanagement of the thermostat, it was way too high.

That was enough to convince my wife and me to purchase this $250 device. The million dollar question (or $250-dollar question) is whether it will make any difference. I have only spent a few days with it so I can't comment on its long term benefits or whether I'll recoup the $250 investment.

Convenience above all

One of the biggest advantages of Nest is that it puts the climate control of your 'nest' in your hands, literally. Once configured, you can manage the Nest from your smartphone or web browser.

If you are away on vacation you can turn it on, turn it off or keep an eye on the temperature at your home. Even better, you won't have to return to a cold home. When you're driving back home from being out, you can set your desired temperature for when you enter the house. You will also never have to leave the coziness of your bed to change the temperature. Just pick up your phone and adjust accordingly.

And if you are part of the Airbnb program, renting a room, have guests, or don’t want kids to keep changing the temperature, you can lock the Nest. There is an option to create a PIN in the Nest app that will be needed if someone with physical access to the thermostat wants to change the temperature.

Building your own Nest

Before you consider buying Nest, you'll want to make sure that your HVAC is compatible with it. Google has made it extremely easy to check the system compatibility. Open the box of your current thermostat and see if you have matching wires. All you need to do is to tick the boxes for your wires, and Google will tell whether your HVAC is compatible or not. You may also need to know what kind of HVAC system you have -- dual fuel or single fuel. Once you have all the information, you can go ahead and order it. I suggest ordering it on Amazon as you will save the shipping charges.

Compatibility is quite important. The Nest box has a seal which reminds you once again to check the compatibility before opening the box. When you open the box you will find the device, plates to mount it on the wall, screws and a screwdriver (although you may want to use your own screwdriver for comfort.)

Installation is easy

Once you have identified the wires, label them using the stickers that came with the device. Turn off the AC unit before proceeding. I would suggest taking a picture of the current wiring so you know which wire went where.

nest 5 Swapnil Bhartiya

Label all wires before removing the older unit.

Then simply replace the hardware with the new one, connect the wires, and turn the power on.

To control the thermostat with your phone you'll first have to connect it to your network. The dial is used as the controller. (iPod Classic owners will feel at home with the round dial. Remember, Nest was founded by former Apple executives.)

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Nest updating system software.

Once the Nest is connected to the Internet, it will date the system software. You will have to create an account for the device on the Nest site. Then the device will generate a code that you will need to enter in your phone to pair it with that email account.

That's all.

Now you can control your device from the dial or from the phone. There are many options in the Nest App, so you must configure it carefully to optimize the thermostat for your system. One item you should pay extra attention to is the type of HVAC system you have. The incorrect configuration may damage it or incur heavy bills.

If you have any doubts about wiring, the Nest site has very good documentation, just Google it. In case you totally fail to understand and need some help, there are professional Nest installers who can do it for a fee.

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Nest mobile apps puts the entire HVAC in your palm.

So far, I am extremely happy with Nest, I can clearly see that the heater is running less frequently than it was with the older thermostat (which should translate to cost savings). It also tells me how long it will take to reach the desired temperature. Since the system learns on its own, you get a better usage pattern, which will further help in saving costs.

I am still exploring Nest and I fully expect its features will be enhanced over time. Just a few days ago, Google integrated it with Google Now. I can tell my Nexus 6 ‘OK Google: Set temperature to 72 degrees’ and Nest will do it for me.

If you have been thinking about getting a Nest thermostat, I say go for it. It’s never too late!

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