Nest thermostat software bug chills users once again

A faulty software update for the smart thermostat made batteries drain and home temperatures drop.

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The inevitability of software bugs has once again bitten Nest thermostat users, with some reporting that they’d woken up to no heat.

The problems stem from an update Nest issued in December, but only started popping up recently, the New York Times reports. In Nest’s forums and in social media posts, users are complaining that their Nest thermostats have lost power and gone offline.

A Nest support page for update 5.1.3 describes several other potential problems. The thermostat could be unresponsive or not charging efficiently. It could be turned on, but slow or uncontrollable. Or, in the worst case scenario, the Nest could be off with its battery drained, and unable to turn on again. In that case, users must unplug the Nest from the wall, charge the battery with a USB cable, and follow several other steps to get it operational.

Nest says it has fixed the bug for 99.5 percent of users. However, some users have noted that they are traveling and unable to tend to their ailing smart thermostat, which may be necessary to keep pipes from freezing. And as the Times points out, even a short outage could be a problem for elderly users or users with infants, especially during the winter.

This isn’t the first time a Nest bug has messed with users’ heating. Last march, a glitch with British Summer Time to change temperature settings at the wrong time, and two years ago, some users lost heat due to a miscommunication on Nest’s part about wiring requirements. Nest’s Dropcam security cameras also suffered an outage last fall, leaving users unable to view their camera feeds.

Why this matters: It’s unrealistic to expect Nest or any other connected home product to remain perpetually bug-free. Still, the latest incident makes a strong case for dumb battery-powered backup systems in smart thermostats. If a software can completely cut off all heating controls, it’s not really worth the convenience that its smart features provide.

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