The Nest Learning Thermostat sounds neat, which is what I accidentally keep calling it when I forget its forgettable name. Even the nicer thermostats I use have room for improvement, but $250, excluding installation, smelled more than a little bit rich for a thermostat, even one that can “program itself around your life.”
I thought about building a thermostat that has many of the interesting features of the Nest, but I realize this would be an expensive and involved project. For example, the WiFly Shield to tie an Arduino in to my WiFi network costs $90 from Sparkfun. For the downstairs thermostat, I could use the $46 Ethernet Shield instead, but that’s approaching $50 just for network connectivity! I’m not the only one to try this. The easiest approaches I’ve seen don’t replace the existing thermostat, they just bypass it. Since I already have a digital thermostat instead of a simple mercury switch model, that approach wouldn’t work for me, and I’d have to interface with the 4-wire controls coming from my HVAC.
A lot more searching and reading leaves me with the same question as the folks over at tested.com: How is the Nest different? There are other smart, networked, programmable thermostats on the market at price points from around $100 for the Radio Thermostat, $300 for the Ecobee, and even more for solutions from traditional HVAC vendors, such as the Honeywell Prestige line that starts around $400. It seems like Nest isn’t a unique or new energy management system — it’s a networked thermostat with nice industrial design and slick software.