Back in 2012, the original Nest Learning Thermostat took the nascent smart home market by storm and earned our Editors’ Choice award for its ease of use, elegant design, and learning capabilities. Since then Nest has been bought by Google and the thermostat is now on its third generation. This latest iteration ($249) offers all of the cool learning and auto-scheduling features that made the earlier models so popular, and brings a few nice improvements, including a slimmer design, a larger LCD, Bluetooth support, and geofencing technology. It still doesn’t offer remote room sensors, but it works with numerous third-party devices and supports voice commands via Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa voice service. That makes it our new Editors’ Choice for smart thermostats.
Measuring 1.2 inches thick and 3.3 inches in diameter, the third-generation Nest ($249.99 at Best Buy) is only slightly thinner and larger than the orginal model (1.3 by 3.2 inches), and still maintains the same sleek puck-shaped design. This time around the thermostat is available with a black, white, stainless steel, or copper finish, and sports a larger display (2.1 inches vs. 1.8) with a higher resolution (480 by 480 vs. 320 by 320). It still uses the outer ring to enter information; just press the edge of the ring to launch the onboard menu screens, turn the ring left or right to find an item, and press it again to select the item. Entering passwords and other settings is easy using the dial method, but I find the Ecobee3’s ($69.00 at Amazon) touch-screen approach to be even easier.
Inside the thermostat are ten temperature sensors (seven more than the original Nest), as well as humidity, ambient light, and activity sensors. New to this model is a Farsight feature that wakes up the display when you enter a room (earlier models required you to be right in front of the device).
The thermostat is also equipped with 802.11b/g/n (2.4GHz) and 802.11a/n (5GHz) Wi-Fi circuitry, a Bluetooth radio, and 512MB of memory. It works with most 24V heating and cooling systems. It supports three-stage heating, two-stage cooling, three-speed fans, and humidifier and dehumidifier add-ons.
What sets the Nest apart from other smart thermostats like the Ecobee 3, the Honeywell Lyric ($259.99 at Amazon) , and the Lux/Geo ($98.95 at Amazon) is its Auto-Schedule feature that learns your daily heating and cooling temperatures and times during the first week of use and creates a schedule based on your preferences. You can make adjustments along the way or create your own schedule, but it’s a nice option for those who don’t want to be bothered to program their thermostat.
The thermostat interacts with other Nest devices, including the Nest Protect smoke/CO alarm and the Nest Cam Indoor and Outdoor security cameras, and you can control it using Google Home ($99.00 at Target) and Amazon Alexa voice commands, as well as If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes. Moreover, it works with numerous third-party devices that are part of the Works With Nest program, including WeMo switches, Haiku fans, the Wink Hub, LIFX lighting, and more.
In addition to Auto-Schedule, the third-gen Nest offers the same Home/Away feature found on earlier models. It uses motion sensors to detect your presence and will switch to ECO (energy conservation) mode if it thinks you are not home. One of my main gripes with the original thermostat was that it would switch to Away mode when I was in another part of the house, out of range of the sensors. The addition of a Home/Away Assist geofencing feature in this version resolves that issue; if you are home with your phone, the thermostat will remain in Home mode, and when you leave it will switch over to Away mode.
Other new features include Furnace Heads-Up, which monitors your furnace’s power cycles. If it senses abnormalities, such as turning on in the middle of the night, it will let you know that you may have a system issue. The Sunblock feature uses the light sensor to prevent the thermostat from turning on or off due to exposure to direct sunlight, and the Time-to-Temp feature lets you know how long it will take for your system to reach your desired room temperature.
You can have the screen display the current or target temperature, an analog or digital clock, the weather, or nothing at all (off). The onboard menus include a schedule option that allows you to create a heating/cooling schedule or adjust the one that Nest created, an Energy History option that displays a 10-day history of heating/cooling activity, an Away option that forces the thermostat into Away mode to conserve energy, and a Settings menu. Here you can configure network configurations, enable things like Home/Away Assist, set ECO thresholds, change the time and date, set air filter replacement reminders, and edit your home’s location information.
Once the thermostat is set up using the outer ring, you can control it using the same Android, iOS, or Web-based app used for Nest’s other devices. Tapping the thermostat icon brings you to a screen that shows the heat set point, the indoor humidity level, and the outside temperature. A green leaf is displayed when the thermostat is set to an energy-saving temperature. The screen’s background is black when the thermostat is idle, orange when it is heating, and blue when it is cooling. You can change the set point by rotating the dial with a swipe or with the up and down arrows. At the bottom of the screen are Heat, Schedule, and History buttons. The Heat button lets you enable normal scheduled heat mode, switch to ECO mode, or completely turn off the heat, and the Schedule button displays the current schedule and allows you to make adjustments to daily and weekly settings. The History button launches a 10-day Energy History log with heating and cooling times and reasons (schedule, Auto-Away, weather). The gear icon in the top right corner takes you to a settings screen where you can enable things like the Home/Away Assist, Sunblock, and Time-to Temp, and edit heat source and heat type settings.
Installation and Performance
As with the original, the third-generation thermostat is very easy to install. It comes with everything you need, including a screwdriver and mounting screws, installation and welcome guides, and a mounting base. Before removing my old thermostat I took a picture of the wiring and used the included tags to label them. I screwed the base onto the wall using the built-in level to ensure that it was straight, and connected the red and green wires to the Rh and Rc (power) terminals, the white wire to the W1 (heat) terminal, and the blue wire to the C (common) terminal. I snapped the thermostat onto the base and it fired up right away. Following the on-screen instructions, I selected the type of dwelling (single or multi-family, condo, business) and heating system (electric, oil, propane, geothermal), configured the Wi-Fi settings, connected to the Internet, and performed a quick test to see if the heating kicked in, which it did. I then let the thermostat do its thing for a week as it learned my routine.
The Nest performed flawlessly. It responded instantly whenever I raised or lowered the heat both manually and with my iPhone. The Auto-Schedule feature did a great job of creating a schedule that followed my daily routine, and the thermostat followed that schedule to a tee. It responded to my Alexa voice commands to raise and lower the heat without fail, and the Farsight feature and large display made it easy to check the thermostat from across a large room. The Home/Away Assist feature prevented the thermostat from entering ECO mode while I was in another part of the house, and it always switched from Home to Away and back as I left and returned home.
If you liked the earlier versions of the Nest Learning Thermostat, you’ll love the third-generation model. It offers all of the smarts of its predecessors, including Auto Scheduling and Auto-Away features, energy usage reporting, remote management via a mobile app, and a quick and easy installation procedure, and it boasts a few major improvements, including a larger screen with a sharper resolution that you can see across the room. It also supports geofencing to ensure it doesn’t go into Away mode while you or a family member are at home. Although it lacks remote room sensors, it does works with a variety of smart home devices and the IFTTT Internet service, not to mention other Nest products. All this earns it our Editors’ Choice for smart thermostats.
If remote room sensors are a must-have feature, consider another of our favorite smart thermostats, the Ecobee 3. It’s the same price as the Nest and offers many of the same features, including geofencing capabilities, energy reporting, third-party support, and voice commands via the Amazon Echo (Alexa) and Apple Homekit (Siri). It also offers plenty of scheduling options, but it’s not smart enough to create a schedule based on your comings and goings like the Nest can.
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)
4.5EDITORS’ CHOICESee It$249.99 at Best BuyMSRP $249.00
- Sleek design.
- Easy to install.
- Loaded with features.
- Lacks remote room sensors.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat has all the smarts of its predecessors and adds some new features including a larger display, geofencing support, a furnace monitor, and a few more sensors.