This thermostat might be smarter than your dog

Nov. 7, 2011
A new residential thermostat learns from your behaviors, preferences and surroundings.

Tired of programming and reprogramming your home thermostat? Then you are like 89% of programmable thermostat owners who never program their thermostat, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Perhaps what you need is a Nest Learning Thermostat which learns from your behaviors, preferences and surroundings to create a custom heating and cooling schedule.

The Nest device, which comes from a company of the same name, has good credentials. Nest cofounders Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers were formerly Apple SVP of the iPod division and former iPod and iPhone lead engineer respectively. They say they wanted to reinvent the thermostat using advanced technologies, high-quality manufacturing processes, and the thoughtful design elements the iPhone generation has come to expect.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, the annual energy bill for a typical single-family home is approximately $2,200, with heating and cooling (HVAC) accounting for approximately half the bill. The programmable thermostat, developed in the 1970s, is so ineffective at reducing energy bills that Energy Star revoked its certification of all thermostats in 2009 when it became apparent that people weren’t actually using the programmability of programmable thermostats.

Nest developers say they address the programming problem through a combination of sensors, algorithms, machine learning, and cloud computing. The thermostat learns behaviors and preferences and adjusts the temperature up or down accordingly. It also provides people with tips and information to help them make energy-saving choices.

The Nest thermostat programs itself based on the temperatures you set. It learns your personal schedule in a week and starts automatically turning down heating or cooling when you’re away to save energy. Nest will keep refining its schedule over time. The thermostat also tracks the temperatures you typically set and guides you to more energy-efficient ones, displaying the green Nest Leaf as a reward when you set the temperature to a more energy-efficient setting.

An Auto-Away feature uses sensors to detect when you’re not home, lowering the temperature and saving energy. You can also check an energy history to see your savings. The Nest also connects with your home Wi-Fi to enable a laptop, smartphone or tablet to change the temperature, adjust the schedule and check energy usage.

The Nest Learning Thermostat is expected to carry a suggested retail price of $249(U.S.).

Nest Labs,

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