In the middle of November, I bought and installed a Nest thermostat.
For three weeks I loved it. There were no problems whatsoever.
But then, a twist.
The thermostat started to go nuts. The temperature would race over 70 degrees, even though I had the thermostat set for 60 or lower.
The Nest’s problems became most pronounced on Christmas Day. My wife and I were away visiting family on Christmas eve and during Christmas Day. When we were heading home, we turned on the Nest to have the house pre-heated. When we got home, the house was more than pre-heated. It was like a sauna.
The temperature was ~72 degrees when we got in. I turned down the thermostat, but the heat kept on cranking. As we sat in the house, the temperature climbed to 76, even though I turned the temperature to 55 on the thermostat.
We went to sleep, but the heat was still cranking. So I got up and turned off my boiler altogether.
In the morning we turned it back on, and the Nest seemed ok. But that later that night, it lost its mind again and cranked the heat in the house.
Two days later, I called Nest to find out what was wrong with the thermostat. I spent 1 hour, 50 minutes talking to customer support people. Luckily, it was two days after Christmas, so it was a slow news day, and I was working from home. I could afford to be on the phone for two hours. Normally, this isn’t an option.
The Nest customer support person was really friendly, and quite helpful, despite the long talk time.
Eventually, he decided I had a “power sharing” problem. Basically, the Nest powers itself with the wires in the wall. Those same wires send a signal to the boiler to turn on the heat. Every time it was trying to give itself a charge, it sent a signal to the boiler to heat the house. As a result the heat kept cranking and cranking even though it was just the thermostat trying to get juice.
I’m not the only one that has had this problem, either.
Amazon’s reviews of the Nest warn of this happening to other people. For instance, this person had the same problem.
As did this person, who explains the problem, “The method they use to get power is a huge problem. Most wifi thermostats require a C wire so they can power themselves. The issue is, many homes don’t have an extra wire to use for this purpose. So in attempt to remain DIY friendly, they implemented a technology referred to in our industry as ‘power stealing’ which tries to get power from the HVAC control wires and is notorious for many problems. Might as well just be straightforward about it and require a C wire in the first place. There are kits such as Venstar’s ‘add a wire’ which make it easier to solve the problem without having to pull wire.”
As one reviewer noted, this is a serious problem. The house can crank up to dangerous temperatures when you’re not at home, and the consequences could be deadly.
This is 100% on Nest. When I hooked up my thermostat, it gave no indication that there was anything wrong. And the fact that it worked for a few weeks was even worse since I was lulled into thinking everything was ok.
To fix the problem, Nest recommended I find a local technician from its website. It also offered a $US99 credit towards any fixes since I am a new customer. I was told that my $US99 credit was not guaranteed, but I would be likely to get it.
It took four days for a technician to get out to my house. In those intervening days, I had to yank the Nest off the wall when I didn’t want the heat on.
When the technician came to the house, he fixed the problem relatively easily, but charged $US135. So, if the credit comes through, I’ll be paying an extra $US36 for the Nest on top of the $US250 I paid for the actual thermostat.
I don’t mind too much because I really like the product. I would still recommend it to people.
But, the fact that Nest knows its wiring system is faulty and doesn’t warn people that’ll they need a third wire is a big problem.
At no point did I say that I am a writer for Business Insider. When I decided to write this up, I reached out to Nest PR to give it a heads up. A spokesperson provided the following statement: “We see this with a small percentage of customers and typically handle it the way that your case was handled, by covering the cost to have one installed. (I understand that we requested your receipt and planned to cover the entire cost, not just the $US99.) While we find that in the vast majority of homes the Nest Learning Thermostat can charge its built-in battery using the heating and cooling wires, there are a small number of heating and cooling systems and situations where the Nest Thermostat may require a common wire to bring power to the thermostat.”
Nest is reportedly about to raise $US150 million at a $US2 billion valuation. A big part of the funding is based on the idea that it makes a product that just works. It oohs and ahhs people with its gorgeous design, and a lovely app. But if it’s causing problems for even adept users like myself, this could be a big problem in the long run for the company.