Nest thermostat almost paid for itself in less than a year

A number of friends have been involved in developing the Nest thermostat and service (@nest).  If I’d known that this is what a friend was coming out of retirement to work on when I departed Tellme in 2010, I might have tried to join them instead of venturing out on my own.  I finally convinced myself to get the second revision of the first generation Nest thermostat when it was available, again, in early 2012.  I figured that I was mostly supporting friends and purchasing an expensive remote temperature sensor.  Well, and a more accurate one. The ~40 year old thermostat (with an error bar of probably 5–10ºF) was being replaced:

Old (~40 years) next to new @nest thermostat.

A post shared by Jeff Kellem (@composerjk) on

Admittedly, the old thermostat may still work in another 40 years, whereas the Nest probably won’t.

Though I haven’t pulled in weather data to adjust for those differences nor changes in natural gas prices, I recently looked at billing numbers for May–December 2008–2011 to compare to 2012.  If Opower (@opower) and PG&E (@pge4me) allowed for arbitrary bill/cost comparisons beyond just the current bill, it’d be easier to show real differences since they adjust for weather and costs.  But, still the numbers are interesting.

The 2012 numbers were the smallest of the past 5 years.  Smallest savings difference was just over $100.  Largest was $270!   Averaging the costs from 2008–2011 showed a savings of $195 when compared to 2012.  So, in less than a year, the Nest thermostat almost paid for itself.  Admittedly, my scenario was the easiest to provide savings: I’d often just set the thermostat once and leave it, except when traveling. I have a simple heating system. For those that turn down the thermostat at night, regularly, it might take longer.  I was still surprised at how quickly it paid for itself.

I wish Nest had an API for in-depth data access and showed more details, immediately, too. I’ve noticed claims of auto-away savings for 1 hour when it should’ve said 6+ hours; would be easier to diagnose if data was available, immediately.

Now, I’m experimenting with turning it down at night and letting it learn more about that routine.  I’ll be curious to see how the numbers change next year.  You can purchase a Nest from Amazon or any of the stores listed at Nest.com (Apple, BestBuy, Home Deport, Lowes, directly from Nest, etc.).

Jeff Kellem (@composerjk / @slantedhall)

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