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Nest learning thermostats now saving a whole lot of energy

Nest’s learning thermostats have collectively saved over 200 million kilowatt hours of energy since they were launched back in October 2011, says the startup. That’s about the equivalent amount of energy to power the Empire State building for four years, and which Nest says is a figure that blew their minds when they calculated it.

It’s unclear how many Nest thermostats there are out there, but a few months ago Nest said it had sold in the “hundreds of thousands” of units. But the reason Nest’s collective energy savings are so high after just a year, even with its initial sales volumes, is because the thermostats can save 20 to 30 percent in a home’s energy consumption. Per home, that’s a really high figure.

In comparison software energy leader Opower, which processes data from more than 50 million homes, says it’s saved over 1.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy, or enough energy to power the Empire State Building for more than 33 years. But Opower saves much smaller energy percentages per home — or on average about 1.5 to 3.5 percent reduction on an energy bill.

That’s why Nest is smaller and newer than Opower, but is still managing to wrack up the energy savings, too. It would be awesome if companies got really competitive over how much collective energy savings they could deliver — energy savings FTW!

Opower is looking to boost its per home energy savings. Paper reports, mailed to the utility customer, still play a substantial role in its service — of the 15 million homes that are fully connected into the Opower platform, 7 million of those are getting paper reports. Opower has newer products including a Facebook app and a smart thermostat service with Honeywell, which could make that savings number rise.

If you’ve forgotten Honeywell hit Nest with a lawsuit earlier this year. So Honeywell’s connection with Opower, is kindof like its technology answer to Nest. Maybe these two venture-backed energy startups are becoming a little more competitive, albeit from different angles. Opower sells its software service to utilities, while Nest sells its thermostats straight to consumers.

15 Responses to “Nest learning thermostats now saving a whole lot of energy”

  1. Have had my Nest installed for 5 months now. Replaced a traditional Honeywell 5/2 programmable thermostat (that had already dropped our usage 10% year-over-year when installed in 2010).

    Used for a gas-fired furnace, heating just main floor of 3 story house. Live in Vancouver, Canada, so furnace has only really come on in the last 2 months… however, so far we have saved exactly 20% (8.2GJ) year-over-year for the same 5 month period… which equates to $75 given what we pay for gas here… if I extrapolate for an entire year, especially given we haven’t hit our peak gas usage months, I calculate an annual savings of $244.72. Almost a one year payback for my situation. I’m a pretty happy Nest owner right now.

  2. Buzz, buzz. Lot’s of buzz, but no data to back it up as it is just based on the manufacturer’s own estimates of savings. That assumes the Nest works as claimed, and that homeowners aren’t over-riding it like they do with most programmable thermostats. Or that they were even able to install the Nest after they bought it, and it is actually on their wall, and operational. (It is not as easy of a DIY project as they would indicate.)

    In the end, though, anything that draws attention to the POTENTIAL savings of using set-backs is a good thing – even if these latest claims from Nest are more sizzle than steak.

  3. Where are they getting these numbers from? Do they have a comparison of before and after their thermostats were installed? Michael Kanellos has it right. This thermostat is overpriced overhyped and just not worth the money. I have programmable 5+1+1 that I got for $25 I programmed it 7 years ago and barely touch it. I dare nest to save me 20-30 percent. What do you expect from a guy who used to work for apple. The guy is selling style over substance.

    • It can easily save 100%… by simply not working ;)

      The NEST device cannot be considered a thermo-stat if it constantly varies the temperature based on some code-monkey’s idea of when I am allowed to be warm or cold. It can however be considered spyware since it monitors your domicile for human presence and reports that to the cloud.

      And the funny thing is some wonder why others still prefer to install a mercury switch electromechanical thermostat in their home.

  4. michael kanellos

    Nest has saved 224 million kilowatt hours in a year and sold about 1 million devices. That means, by their reckoning, that each device has saived 224 kilowatt hours. With 10 cents as an average, that means each $250 device has saved about $23 a year. So the payback in 10 years by their own numbers. Granted, it does work better than other smart thermostats. I have one from Trane that came with my efficient furnace and I don’t even dare try to program it–much rather have a Nest–but it underscores the challenge of home energy efficiency. Retrofit is an easier way to go. Also, EcoFactor’s ability to tie into demand response seems calculated to pay better.

  5. Opower doesn’t help consumers manage power – it’s a psychological nudge. Nest is a solution that doesn’t require the homeowner to think and take action – beyond the purchase.

  6. Rich Hilt

    It would be nice to see a side-by-side-by-side-by-side. How does the Nest perform next to other “smart” thermostats. How smart thermostats compare to simple programmables. How do they compare to dumb single settings. But more important, how domestic heating systems would work if you could control each room separately. All the thermostats listed control the entire house, not individual rooms. If the saving were there, then perhaps the focus on moving towards more intelligent heating “systems” for the home might yield the most. DOE and Lawrence Berkeley Labs have many “models” which can answer these questions.

  7. I have multiple Nest thermostats, and know that their numbers are exaggerated. They don’t really seem to account for the fact that we already had a programmable and wifi enabled thermostat. Plus, their numbers seem to not take into account the fact that a house may have a zone that is mostly unused.

  8. I’m interested in a Nest for Christmas. I appreciate the article, but the metrics provided by NEST are week. How many units have sold, and what % savings are people ACTUALLY seeing, not just what’s possible. Get real guys. You’re asking $200 for a thermostat… back it up with some numbers!!