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Customer Review

2,983 of 3,346 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Stay away - stay far, far away!, April 9, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Nest Learning Thermostat, 2nd Generation, Works with Alexa (Tools & Home Improvement)
I received and installed my second-gen Nest thermostat about three weeks ago and was initially very happy with it. Simple to install, beautiful, easy to use, it is certainly all that. Unfortunately, it lacks one characteristic that a thermostat MUST have. It is not robust. It fails under circumstances that a $50 hardware store thermostat would have no problems with, and when it fails it DOES NOT FAIL SAFE - which is a pretty major problem when you're talking about a device that is controlling expensive heat and cooling (and, in a cold climate, keeping your pipes from freezing!)

I was pretty surprised to come home today to a sweltering-hot apartment when the outside temperature was in the mid-to-high sixties. It's a brand-new apartment, very well insulated, and initially I simply thought that all the sun streaming through the skylights and windows was responsible for the high temperature. The Nest indicated that it was 86 degrees inside and of course, with a set point of 50 degrees, it was obviously not heating. (Right?) I set the temperature to 75 and switched it to cooling mode. Cool air started streaming from the AC vents - great. Should cool down in a little while. (Right?) After thirty minutes with the AC on, I was if anything more uncomfortable, so I went over to the Nest again - imagine my surprise when I saw that the inside temperature had gone up to 89 degrees! At this point I knew something was very wrong. It took only a few seconds to determine that the Nest had my heating on full bore - even while the AC was cooling. No wonder the place was sweltering! I called Nest and after a very short debugging session (the customer service agent had obviously seen this many, many times before) he determined that the Nest had failed in such a way that the heating was stuck on, full-time.

The rep informed me that this was a known issue that Nest's engineers were trying to solve. Apparently the Nest, unlike a cheap hardware store thermostat, is extremely sensitive to voltage "spikes" on the wires that connect it to your HVAC. Such spikes are pretty much par for the course in an HVAC environment - those wires are connected to electromechanical relays, transformers, and other old-school electrical gear - and regular thermostats are designed to deal with it, which is why you don't have problems with your cheap Honeywell. (The one I replaced with the Nest had been doing its job happily for the better part of a decade.) But this electrical "noise" can make the Nest fail - and fail spectacularly, typically by leaving the heat (or cooling) on full time, or else keeping them from coming on. Any of those failure modes could get pretty expensive if you happened to be away when they happen - you could burn through a lot of fuel and/or use a lot of electricity, and in the worst case scenario your pipes could freeze and flood your house. Nest knows this, so they are no longer replacing thermostats that fail this way (since their hardware is flawed, any replacement is just going to fail again, and the next time it could be a lot worse). Of course, they won't tell you this in so many words: the company line is that your system (because it exhibits voltage spikes) is "incompatible" with the Nest. Never mind that it is a bog-standard HVAC setup, passed their compatibility test with no issues, and has worked fine for a couple of weeks). Never mind that it works fine with a garden-variety hardware-store thermostat. Naturally Nest doesn't want to admit that their fancy hardware is seriously flawed in its inability to handle the kind of electrical noise that is found on ordinary HVAC control lines, but make no mistake about it: the fault isn't in your system. It's in their thermostat, which isn't designed to handle real-world conditions.

This isn't just a matter of semantics. The problem is that, if you purchased your thermostat from Amazon, Nest wants you to return it to Amazon (not to them). They are explicitly disclaiming any responsibility under their warranty - since it's your HVAC system that's "incompatible," not their thermostat that is broken. Presumably if the thermostat fails outside of Amazon's 30-day return window you're out of luck. At least the Nest would make a nice paperweight. This is the part that really shocked me and made me feel that the company must be getting a bit desperate. Reading the online forums, I can see that this is a pretty common problem, and I suspect that Nest financially can't handle the number of returns it would have to handle if it treated this as a warranty issue. Fortunately, my Nest is only 3 weeks old, so I can return it to Amazon, but I really hate to have to do that - it seems like an abuse of Amazon's generous return policy, when it's really Nest that should be facing up to their problem. I feel very sorry for those whose devices fail, excuse me, prove to be "incompatible" outside of the return window. At least I kept my old thermostat rather than recycling it as Nest suggests I do!

Nest has a serious engineering problem on their hands and I believe they are scrambling to do something about it before it all comes crashing down. (The rep offered to put me on a mailing list to be informed when their engineers fix the issue, presumably so that, I can court disaster again by buying the next version.) They've had a lot of really great press (not undeserved, because their device *is* really nice, when it works) but that can only carry them so far - if the news gets out that their $250 thermostat could leave you overheated or flood your house, they're going to lose that momentum. So it's not surprising that they're trying to frame this as "merely" a compatibility issue. But if I had a Nest at this point, even if it seemed to be working OK, I would still be really, really nervous about it, for two reasons: (1) the device is not robust to typical levels of electrical noise; a voltage spike could happen on any system at any time, possibly breaking the Nest and subjecting to you God-knows-what financial loss, and (2) it's not clear that the company would stand behind their product if that did happen.

Advice: stay far, far away from this product.
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Tracked by 17 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 121 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 6, 2013 1:17:52 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Dec 9, 2013 8:23:53 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2013 11:12:39 AM PDT
Same thing happened to my 2nd Gen Nest! The only difference is that their level 2 customer support technician was actually honest about the trouble they are having. BUT... you've got to get beyond their level 1 support (who also claimed that my system was not compatible!!). I also bought mine through Amazon back in March 2013, but Nest agreed to a full refund. They even paid the Fedex shipping. Hopefully, I will see a refund check soon. I have a Gen 1 Nest on another system in the house, and would really like to be able to use the nest on my new system (2 stage heating and cooling ... 1st Gen doesn't work with a 2 stage system).

Sorry, Mr. Z, but your response is out of line.

My advice....
if you have a single stage system: the 1st generation nest should be fine (mine has worked well for 8 months)

2 stage systems: don't buy a nest at this point

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2013 5:51:49 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2013 5:53:52 AM PDT
Kiscica says:
What on earth is that supposed to mean? This is an accurate description of my 3-week experience with the Nest. What part of it, exactly, do you regard as "BS"? Read the online forums - you'll discover that many other people have had similar experiences, indicating that this isn't just an isolated problem.

This much is objective fact: the Nest is not robust to electrical noise (Nest themselves will tell you that) and it doesn't "fail safe" - when it dies it does so in a way that can leave your heating or cooling running full blast (many people have had this experience) - this is because the electronic switches on the device's base fuse closed, and the device cannot detect this.

The subjective part of my review is my honest opinion that (1) this is a major engineering flaw that warrants staying far away from this product, and (2) Nest is not handling the problem in a good way (e.g. not treating this as a warranty issue but instead retroactively labeling customers whose devices fail as having "incompatible" systems). You're free to disagree with my opinion, but please don't accuse me of trolling (according to Wikipedia, "post[ing] inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community"). In no way is my post extraneous or off-topic, and I do not believe it is inflammatory either - strongly worded, yes, but my experience with Nest's product and with their customer support was pretty stressful, so it provoked a strong reaction from me.

Posted on May 12, 2013 1:13:32 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on May 12, 2013 1:14:14 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2013 5:37:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 14, 2013 7:12:40 PM PDT
Jaw says:
Scott--when i did the compatability thing with my wires on the Nest site, i got a response saying i could use either generation 1 or generation 2. Does that man i have a stage 1 heating and cooling system? sorry, i don't know what those terms mean, and don't know anything about heating cooling systems, but want to get some kind of remote control for my system--i posted on a Remote Control forum and someone suggested i might get a Nest, so until yesterday i never heard of them. If Gen 1 will work with my system, it might be a good option. This thread is the first review reading i've done. Pretty serious problem raised here.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2013 8:27:51 PM PDT
gadgethog says:
I think Scott is saying if you only have one thermostat in your home, you should be fine. If you have multiple thermostats to control different regions of your home or different HVAC systems, avoid a nest for now.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2013 6:44:00 PM PDT
smopoim86 says:
knowledge worker, That is incorrect. Single or 2 stage heating has to do with the unit. Most heat-pump systems are 2 stage systems meaning that the primary heat source is the heat-pump but there is a second stage for when the heat-pump can't keep up (usually resistive electric or fossil fuel).

If Nest's site says you can use either gen, then you have a single stage system.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2013 7:14:22 PM PDT
Jaw says:
thanks--that is helpful.

In reply to an earlier post on May 15, 2013 9:58:46 AM PDT
Not exactly... What I meant was buy the Gen 1 if it is compatible with your system. And, you can have multiple gen 1 thermostats on multiple different systems. Just stay don't buy the gen 2 for any reason.

In reply to an earlier post on May 15, 2013 10:03:22 AM PDT
I've been using the Gen 1 for about 10 months without any problems. I would be comfortable recommending the Gen 1 for your system, but I would not purchase the Gen 2. Honestly, the only real difference between the two models is that (1) the Gen 1 works, and (2) the Gen 1 is a little bit thicker (sticks out about 1/2" more from the wall than the Gen 2 model). I love my Gen 1 and all it's great features!
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