Jeff: “My name is Jeff Seabold, and I like gadgets.”
Crowd: “Hi, Jeff.”
This is how I imagine in my head how it will go if I ever have to sign up for a support group for my gadget, or toy, addiction as I call it. I am fairly frugal, so I try not to pay for early adaption of things, but sometimes I can’t resist. Truthfully, most of these items are tool related or some new form of Apple product to make my life more complete, fulfilling or simpler. I really like my iPad; it makes me hate my iPhone. Have any of these items completely accomplished my personal goal for them? Not entirely, but to be able to walk around with 15.3 days worth of music in my pocket is pretty amazing! We all can confess to some level of this. What? Is it just me? I have seen Apple’s profits this past year. I will argue the point that I am not alone. They have really touched onto something that drives the consumer.
So what happens when you take two key developers of the iPhone and the iPod, arguably, the main two products that are responsible for radically transforming the marketplace for both music and mobile phones across the world, and ask them to transform yet another marketplace? A marketplace that is in desperate need of transformation? It is one product that 99 percent of the developed world have in their house or office and use it everyday. It is the one product that has changed all our lives more than the mobile phone and mobile music market could ever dream of changing us. And it the one product that affects our daily comfort more than anything. It is the thermostat.[Insert needle scratching across the record playing here.]
OK, I know that is not where you thought I was going. I don’t know what these guys were thinking, but they really hit the mark. They did their research. No doubt a lot of us still have the old rotary or rectangle manual thermostats on our walls either at home or in the office. Either you have an old dated heating and air conditioning system or a newer one and just didn’t want to replace what wasn’t broke. The Nest Thermostat is modeled to look like an old rotary thermostat. Well, it is more like the child of an old rotary thermostat and an iPod. It has a sleek stainless steel bezel and a crisp LED screen. It acts like a regular thermostat and the makers claim an eight-year-old can install it.
I am a pretty frugal consumer when it comes to my utilities. I don’t like paying the power company more than I need to, but at the end of the day, I am human. It hurts to write that check each month to the power companies. I know Entergy and Atmos would like me to pay more, but I don’t want to. So I installed a programmable thermostat years ago to cut down on the days I forgot to adjust my thermostat up for then I wasn’t at home. I also didn’t like coming home to a sweltering or freezing house after a long day at the office on the days I did remember. A programmable thermostat is perfect for this. It makes us comfortable automatically, and it cuts down on energy costs. Again, these guys did their research, because the problem was that most consumers didn’t know how to use their programmable thermostat. They were clumsy or too complicated to program and adjust, so developers Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers made one that wasn’t. If properly installed and programed these thermostats could cut down our utility bills by 20 percent or more. So if your average power bill is $200 a month, that’s $2,400 annually. 20 percent of that would be $480 annually on energy savings. But people were not using them properly.
The Nest is a thermostat that learns your habits, your comings and goings, and is interactive with your smart phone or any computer. The more you use it the first two weeks the less you have to use it later as it says in their marketing material. When the green leaf appears on the screen, you are saving money. Coming home early? Not a problem — just pull up the application and adjust the air. Leaving town suddenly? Again, not a problem — just adjust the thermostat from your account. Coming back the office on the weekend? You get the idea.
It has a relatively expensive entry price of $250 compared to some other models that cost about $100 for just a decent programmable thermostat. Still if the majority of the $100-ones aren’t programed or are clumsy to use, just like the predecessors of the iPod, then spending $250 to double the return on your investment in a year makes a whole lot of sense.
Our home comfort systems (heating and air conditioning systems) are responsible for almost half of our utility bills, followed by appliances and lighting. To accomplish these energy savings and to help you track your consumption, it is tied into your home network, and it has a motion sensor. Giving you feedback allows you to respond to it. By being connect to the Internet it is able to track your usage and compare it to the weather. It will give you a report at the end of the month telling you where you saved your money. If it was the weather, your control or the thermostat that saved you the most, the Nest will let you know. Recent studies have shown that when we have information about our power consumption, we respond to it by reducing our consumption. Just changing our thermostat one-degree can save as much as 5 percent on our utility bills. Reducing the amount that we heat or cool our house when we are not at home can save us a whole lot more.
If you are still using your Zune Mp3 player and your palm pilot to track your meetings, the Nest might not be for you. The Nest Thermostat is now in its second generation, making some modest changes to the design and improving the interaction. It is also able to update its own software automatically, so you have the most current technology without having to replace anything. This seems so simple of an idea, yet it seems like a marked improvement to anything out there. I am personally in the process of purchasing a new home, and I look to replace my thermostat there in the next few months. I will let you know how the Nest really performs.