Teaching the Nest Learning Thermostat (and Your Family) to Save

Nest cooling 72 w leafIf you’ve seen any energy efficiency blog, then you know that programmable thermostats always top the lists as a simple way to save energy. Now, programmable thermostats are good in theory; however, for a busy family it seems next to impossible to keep the thermostat consistently programmed. Between nap times, errands, and other things that seem to pop up without fail, remembering to program a thermostat doesn’t usually make the list.

That’s where the Nest Learning Thermostat enters the picture. The device programs itself based on your energy habits. So it does all the work for you – it’s like a free nanny for your HVAC system! No more having to attempt to manually program your thermostat and then program random changes to account for your alternating energy habits.

Now, you may be thinking, “Why should I care?” My response? Not only is wasting energy bad for the environment, but it’s bad for your wallet too. According to the Nest website, thermostats control half of your home’s energy usage, which accounts for more than appliances, lighting, TVs, computers, and stereos combined. To translate that into dollars and cents, this means you could be wasting around $173 a year by not having your thermostat adjusted properly.  Just think about how many babysitting hours that could be used for (or go into savings)!

Once you have the Nest Learning Thermostat in your hands, the next question is “How do I use it to save energy?” If you are the type of person who has installed a programmable thermostat, set it properly to energy efficient settings, AND kept them there, then using the Nest Thermostat will be second nature to you. But for those of who purchased a programmable thermostat and never programmed it properly, then the Nest Thermostat is especially for you. It was designed to make saving energy easy for even the busiest of people.

For maximum energy savings, here are 5 tips on how help the Nest Thermostat learn your habits, which will help your family save energy.

  1. Set your “Away” temperature efficiently. Ok, there is some thinking you have to do the first week of “school” for Nest. But it’s just one week! Before you leave the house, set either Nest’s Auto-Away or manual Away mode to an energy efficient temperature. Both modes will turn off your system until your home reaches the minimum or maximum temperature you chose during setup. For energy efficiency in the summer, raise the temperature to at least 80 degrees (or higher if there are no people or pets in the house) and for winter lower it to at least 58 degrees.
  2. Don’t crank your system down to cool your home faster. It doesn’t work! This is very important to explain to all family members especially teenagers. In theory, it sounds good, but in reality it just causes your system to run longer and the air coming out doesn’t blow any cooler when setting it lower.
  3. Let the Nest Leaf be your guide. A little leaf pops up on the screen when you turn the Nest Thermostat to an energy saving temperature. The more often you see the Leaf the more you know you are saving.
  4. If there are multiple Nest Thermostats in your home, set them separately. For example, if you have a thermostat upstairs and one downstairs, and if no one is up there during the day, then program that Nest Thermostat differently than you would for the device downtstairs.   Also, if you have multiple devices in your home, you can keep sane by controlling them from your smartphone via the Nest Mobile app (they thought of everything).
  5. When leaving on vacation, set the Nest Thermostat to Away manually. This thermostat is always thinking, so it can sense activity around the home, which means that, if a pet or house sitter comes by while you are gone and you set the device on Auto-Away, it would actually start warming or cooling the house automatically. When the Nest Thermostat is set to Away manually, it will stay that one temperature until you tell it otherwise.

Here are 3 additional helpful hints to read before you start.

  1. It takes a week for Nest to learn your energy habits and to create a template for the future. So before you do anything with your Nest Thermostat, decide the energy goals for your home. Do you want to maximize comfort, maximize energy efficiency, or find a balance of both?
  2. Nest records each time you or anyone else, for that matter, makes a temperature change. So if you have family members who battle over the thermostat constantly changing it up or down, make sure to explain to them how it works. We recommend using the thermostat lock function so you can fix exactly how high or low you can adjust the thermostat, which may keep the peace between family members.
  3. Be aware of what you are setting the thermostat on during the first week. Since it’s always learning everything you do, you don’t want to give it any bad habits.

Have you used a Nest Learning Thermostat in your home? Share with us in the comments any ideas you might have on teaching your family how to save with this ingenious device!