Lessons of the Thermostat: The Nest Break Up.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

ecobee3 lite thermostat installed powered on lit
That's it.  I've had it with the Nest.

nest learning thermostat
I really wanted to like you, I really really did.  You made me so happy.  At first, sigh.
This darn thing has given me so much aggravation....I shouldn't have to pay attention to a thermostat this much.  Ever.

Oy me.  What's it doing now?, you may be lamenting.  Our furnace is all of a sudden cycling weirdly.  It'll run for about a minute, shut off, then power right back up for a few minutes, shut back down for a brief hot second (ha, hot, pun), then fire back up and run.  Randomly.

I went to Nest chat support, which granted takes much longer than talking on the phone but is a faster connection to a person, spent an hour I didn't have and left with no solutions other than delete your schedule.

They wouldn't provide an explanation as to why, just do it.  Personally, I require explanations so I can understand what's happening, the point and the reasons.  But whatever, I'm testing the delete the schedule thing for a day to humor the situation.

And as it turned out, after less an hour of doing so, deleting the schedule and manually setting the temp did nothing to fix the furnace cycling.  So on yet another Nest chat, they had me call for heat, remove the unit off the wall, and after waiting a minute or so...the base plate is bad they said.

All righty.  Sending a replacement.  Which is nice but.  How many problems can one thermostat have?

"Put the unit back on in the meantime..." Yeah but isn't that bad for our furnace and it's going to run up our gas bill.  "No, it's fine, put it back on."  Uhhhh.....

The Nest's days were numbered, the new thermostat had already been ordered.

.....time elapse.....

So given that the Nest was free-to-us, I was not too busted up about breaking up with it.  I feel for those trapped by a costly purchase.

Here are things I liked:  home/away detection (when it worked); ability to sit my sorry, lazy a** on the couch or be in bed upstairs, or even away from home, and adjust it with my phone; it's simple; it looks nice.

Here are things I didn't like:  if you work from home, you realize little to no savings even with different temperature schedules (but that's any smart thermostat really); it randomly shuts down, typically on extreme weather days; customer service is never helpful;  the c-wire issue; making a schedule is fussy; sometimes it just deletes your entire schedule; the "learning" aspect is terrible and always incorrect; it disconnects from the wi-fi often; home/away was terribly inconsistent, rarely working properly; now my furnace is randomly cycling.....ya know, I could go on and on and on and on.

Why rehash a bad relationship and live in the past though?  New Year, New Me!  hahaha

Ultimately it seems to me Nest is more of a tech company than a thermostat company.  It was time to cut and run.

Thanks to our electric company, they had ecobee thermostats with generous rebates.  I picked up an ecobee3 lite* for a mere $39.  Yeah, I know there's the 4 but an extra sixty bucks so I can talk to it?  Nahhh thanks.  Besides, we don't have Alexa and really, I don't need to talk to a thermostat.  I find that disturbing, personally, but I'm old so....

ecobee3 lite in box
Welcome, ecobee3 lite.
Sure, I was enticed by the ecobee 4, in a home value kind of sense or if we ever add a controllable humidifier but figured by the time we did that or sell, guess which'll come first, there will be oodles of upgraded thermostats available.

Menards had the Honeywell Lyric T5* on sale for a hundred smackaroos and it was tempting, just down the street.  Ultimately one hundred bucks was too rich for my blood plus it's tough to beat a better rated thermostat for thirty nine dollars.  And Honeywell.  Mmph, sour grapes.  Not really New Me.

The ecobee's arrival got hung up due to Christmas but as soon as it did arrive, on the wall ASAP it went.

thermostat wires and wall holes
Man, that poor wall.
It seems to be doing a much better job of noting the room temp and humidity over the Nest.  In fact, it definitely appears to be infinitely more accurate with that room temp and humidity, almost too good for our mostly uninsulated house.

Another plus so far, a minor thing really, it displays the time and outdoor temp which is handy, set by connecting to the wi-fi.  I tried to connect the ecobee to my phone but it kept knocking my phone off the wi-fi juice.

So standing in the shower, thinking post-installation, it struck me, waaaaait a hot stinkin' minute here, the ecobee is not connected to my phone.  How's it gonna know if I'm home or away?   Uuuuhhhh

The biggest glaring problem out of the box is home/away as I quickly discovered post drying off and back on the interwebs.  I mean, it's truly one of the most basic elements of a smart thermostat, I thought anyway.  The ecobee3 lite, it doesn’t come with that geofencing feature.  At all.  Unless you buy an extra room sensor.*

What the what?!  Are you freaking kidding me?

Stunned, I was.  Jaw to floor stunned.

jaw drop gif

Almost took the thing down and packaged it for a return but, deep breath, a further internet search accidentally turned up a workaround.  Ah the internet.

Turns out if you make use of IFTTT, either online but definitely with the app (Apple or Android) you can resolve that ragingly stupid dilemma.

If you've never heard of IFTTT, it's a handy little internet thing that will run mini-programs, aka applets, to automate things in your life.  It's pretty nifty.

Buuuut I mean seriously, a major point of a smart thermostat is for it to know when you’re not home, to save you money on heating and cooling aside from setting a schedule.  Seriously, I can’t get over the shock of that.

That you have to use an outside source to connect to your thermostat to let it know you're home or away is preeetttttyyyy dumb.  Really dumb.  Outright stupid.

But ok.  After a test of the ol' IFTTT, it worked on the "away" but the applet I chose for returning home didn't work.  After switching to another then discovering it had deleted my settings, I'm all good for both home and away now.

And it works.  Johnny-on-the-spot, infinitely more reliable than Nest's home/away detection ever was, creepily enough.

Noted too, the ecobee keeps quite tight to your designated temperature settings.  In other words, ain’t much variation in temp,  your HVAC runs more often.  I was henceforth wondering which is more efficient as I always thought a larger gap between run times was better.  Less furnace running = energy savings, right?

ecobee3 lite thermostat install
Installation finished here, ready to power up.  Cross those fingers.
I found this link which, ooh, hurt my head but after several rereads and an email to support, turns out that's where the solution sorta is, under "heat differential temperature."  You can set it to flip the furnace/air on anywhere from a 0.5 drop in temp up to a 3° difference.  Ah.  Ok.  Good.  Something Nest doesn't do.

I like the display better than the Nest actually, surprisingly, though the backing plate is gargantuan, much larger than it needs to be.  Aesthetically speaking, it'd be nicer if it was the same shape as the ecobee, right?  I'll paint it to match the wall as I had the Nest plate, not that it ever really disappears.

ecobee thermostat on
And there we have it.  Weirdly it picked up a slew of Nest-set preferences.  Now that's creepy.
Also so far the ecobee strikes me as definitely more Android, more Windows if you will, more complicated and settings- and menu-laden and heavier in its operating system while the Nest is more Apple, more Mac.

I'm a right-brained Mac kid so ramping up on the ecobee is a curve.  I'll get there.

But wait, what, waaait a minute, why is the furnace still doing that weird cycling thing.......?  Uh.  What.....is going on?  Hang on, was it not the Nest?   Is it the fake C wire, the Venstar Add-a-Wire?  Hey, uh, ecobee support....help?

.......to be continued

*The ecobee and Honeywell thermostats and ecobee sensors are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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