Executive Editor, TechHiveOct 12, 2020 7:00 am PDT
Nest changed the thermostat market forever when it introduced the Nest Learning Thermostat nearly a decade ago. The third generation of that product, introduced in 2015, is still one of the best smart thermostats you can buy, but many people recoil from its $249 price tag. The Nest Thermostat E, introduced in 2017, is pretty great, too, but it costs $169 and is still out of reach for some. Today, Nest announces an even more affordable device: the Nest Thermostat. Its $129.99 price tag renders it $20 less than our top-rated budget thermostat, the not-nearly-as-attractive Honeywell Home Lyric T5.
Nest says its Energy Star-rated Nest Thermostat will suggest temperature presets via the Google Home app for when you’re home, when you’re away, and when you’re sleeping, balancing comfort with energy savings. You can also program it to achieve custom temperatures at different times and on different days. The thermostat will then monitor your HVAC system and proactively suggest tweaks that will help you save even more energy.
Unfortunately for people living in larger and multi-level homes, the new thermostat is not compatible with Nest’s remote ambient temperature sensors. Place these $39 accessories in rooms far from the thermostat, and you can then prioritize the the room you’re in, so it’s always at the temperature you desire. Remote sensors are one of the reasons why we like Ecobee’s higher-end thermostats so much, but Nest’s are compatible only with the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Thermostat E.
When the news broke that Google had submitted a new Nest thermostat to the FCC, accompanied by a radio frequency exposure report that listed a 60GHz transmitter, the internet speculated that the device would feature the Soli radar technology that powers gesture recognition on the Google Pixel 4 smartphone. You’d never touch the thermostat to adjust the temperature, people guessed, you’d just wave your hands in front of it. Well, the Nest Thermostat does indeed use Google’s Soli technology, but not for gesture recognition. On this device, it merely detects motion and works with your phone to determine when you’re home and when you’re away, so you’re not wasting energy heating and cooling an empty house.
Like the Nest E before it, the new Nest Thermostat reduces its own energy consumption by dimming its mirror-like display until you approach. That onboard motion sensor will then trigger the display to come to life so its text and graphics can shine through. Unlike the 3rd-gen Nest and the Nest Thermostat E, you won’t adjust the thermostat’s settings by rotating an outer dial. The new Nest Thermostat is equipped with a touch-sensitive bezel: You swipe up or down on it to adjust the target temperature, and tap on it to select settings.
A glass lens replaces the plastic one on the Nest Thermostat E, but the rest of the housing is made from plastic. The 3rd-gen Nest features a stainless steel housing in your choice of seven finishes. The new thermostat is available in four colors: “snow,” “sand,” “charcoal,” or “fog.” An optional matching trim plate ($14.95) is available if you need to cover unsightly holes or other wall damage from previous thermostat installations. Google says the new thermostat’s plastic components contain 49 percent recycled post-consumer plastic and that the trim plate is 75 percent recycled material.
A new HVAC system-monitoring feature to be added to all Nest thermostats will compare the home’s temperature to the current function of your HVAC system to determine if the system is operating as expected. A home’s temperature dropping despite the furnace running, or its temperature continuing to rise while the air conditioner is going are good indications that something is wrong, so the app will suggest that you call a service provider for an inspection (and provide links to local HVAC pros if you don’t have one).
Speaking of service providers, Google is withdrawing the Nest Thermostat E as a retail product, reserving it for sale through contractors and other installers. So, it stays in the lineup, but you won’t be able to buy one directly. The Nest Learning Thermostat and the new Nest Thermostat will remain in the Google Store and at “select” retailers. Google is taking preorders for the latter now, with availability “in the coming weeks.”
Michael is TechHive's lead editor, with 30+ years of experience covering the tech industry, focusing on the smart home, home audio, and home theater. He built his own smart home in 2007 and used it as a real-world test lab for product reviews. Following a relocation to the Pacific Northwest, he is now converting his new home, an 1890 Victorian bungalow, into a modern smart home.