What does a former Apple exec that’s responsible for the iconic iPod do when the thermostats on the market are too lame for his new green home? He brings design and software savvy to bear on the problem.
The result is the puck-like Nest, from Tony Fadell’s startup of the same name. It’s a learning, connected thermostat that not only looks great, but has the potential to save households big on energy costs. It goes on sale in November for $249.99 (preorders are open now).
Sure it’s costlier than most thermostats, but that price buys more than looks alone. There’s also a bunch of features that make efficiently heating and cooling a home intuitive, and over time, automatic. This is important because according to the company, only 6 percent of programmable thermostats wind up getting programmed. (Memories of VCRs, anyone?) Worse, those non-programmed, programmable thermostats wind up squandering 30 to 40 percent lower heating and cooling costs.
So what makes Nest different?
To start, Nest learns user patterns over time when people set the temperature by turning its outer ring. Nest then takes over using time, sensor and location data. It also nudges people into greener consumption patterns by displaying a leaf on its big, bright screen at energy efficient temperature ranges.
Another exciting feature are the connectivity options. Using a laptop PC or smartphone app (mindtrip alert: controlling the Nest with an iPod Touch), users can access their Nest accounts to send commands and tweak the settings on their Wi-Fi connected thermostats. Flight cancelled? Running late? With a few taps, users can eke out even more savings.
So it’s too early to tell if Nest will be a success; the Nest preorder page is virtually unreachable as of this writing. (A good sign?) But at first glance, it looks like Fadell and his team are bringing to market that irresistible, Apple-like design and usability that has eluded so many smart thermostat companies and home energy management startups thus far.