Google Nest Could Be the First Exciting Thermostat

Who says my thermostat needs to be ugly

Key Takeaways

  • Google’s new $129 Nest thermostat uses sensors to tell if you are home.
  • The disc-shaped Nest is beautiful in a way I never thought a thermostat could be.
  • The Nest faces competition from a bevy of smart thermostats.
Nest thermostat placed on a blue wall with a temperature of 68 degrees

Thermostats are boring. You stick them on the wall, and they keep your house warm or cool. What could be interesting about that? Google’s new Nest model, however, may prove that there’s such a thing as an exciting thermostat. 

The engineers at Google have tackled one of the biggest and most expensive issues in heating your house. Why bother to blast the furnace or the AC if there’s no one home? After all, heating and cooling account for nearly half of the average home’s utility bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. To solve this problem, Google has added a sensor that can tell if people are inside the house or a specific room.

"This thermostat is for people who buy into Google’s design philosophy of less is more."

The $129 Nest is a disc-shaped device that uses Google's Home software and a radar system-on-a-chip to detect if people are inside and need things toastier or chillier. It also sports a slick looking design and a revamped interface. I’m surprisingly excited to give it a try when it becomes available for pre-order.

A Beautiful Thermostat?

After spending too much time staring at the Nest product images, I’m beginning to realize that looks do matter, even when you’re eyeing a thermostat. I never realized before how ugly the thermostat on my wall is. It’s the cheapest, nastiest piece of plastic from Home Depot and has one of those old-fashioned dials that you move with your thumb to adjust the heat up or down.

By contrast, the Nest looks like it landed in a stylish alien spaceship. Google’s usual superb minimalist design is very much in evidence, with soft curves and distinct typography on its display. This thermostat is for people who buy into Google’s design philosophy of less is more, but with a subtle twist that sets it apart from Apple; it looks like a Pixel phone was squashed like a bug on the wall. It’ll fit right into your life if you’re a Google person.

At 3.3-inches in diameter, the Nest features a plastic housing and comes in four different colors that Google whimsically calls Snow, Sand, Fog, and Charcoal.  A nifty mirrored lens complements the sleek look. Information shines through the mirrored display when needed and fades away to leave a polished surface when not in use.

Nest thermostat in four colors: Snow, Sand, Fog, and Charcoal

I’ve almost convinced myself that I need to buy the Nest just from the way it looks, but there’s more to it than sleek curves. One noticeable upgrade from the last generation model is the replacement of the turn-dial with a haptic strip on the right side of the Nest. The Nest uses the same radar-based Soli monitoring technology that Google baked into the Pixel 4. This tech allows the Nest Thermostat to know when you’re standing in front of it without using motion sensors.

The Nest’s smarts don’t stop there. The Google Home app allows you to create custom schedules for the Nest. I like the idea of being able to tell the thermostat when I’ll be home and when to switch on the heat. In return, the app claims to send you ideas on how to reduce your heating and cooling costs. Of course, some people might find both the sensor and the software a bit invasive, and if so, you probably shouldn’t be using a Google product at all. 

Smart Thermostats Abound

The Nest faces stiff competition. There are plenty of smart thermostats on the market that do tricks like responding to your voice. 

The Ecobee smart thermostat ($249), for example, uses Amazon’s Alexa for voice control and, like the Nest, has sensors to tell if someone is in a room. On the lower end, there’s the Honeywell Lyric T5 ($149) which tracks where your phone is to see when it’s appropriate to crank the heat up or down.

"Google has added a sensor that can tell if people are inside the house or a specific room."

Unlike many smart thermostats, the Mysa Smart Thermostat ($139) claims to work with electric baseboard heaters. The Mysa almost beats the Nest in the minimalism department as well with a vaguely retro-looking display, but the shape isn’t quite as satisfying.

Getting excited about a new thermostat can be tough, but the new Nest actually could be a game-changer. I’m ready to replace my old thumb dial thermostat with Google’s latest.

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