Moving a "Nest" to a New Nest
In December 2015, I wrote a blog post in the “Home Automation” category of my website about my (then) recent acquisition of three different wifi-aware home automation products created by a start-up company called “Nest”, which was later acquired by Google. The products continue to be branded as “Nest” products. If you wish to get a bit of background for this current blog post, you may want to take a quick look at my 2015 “Nest” post.
In the period since my purchase and deployment of the Nest devices described in the 2015 post (consisting of a thermostat, three CO2/smoke detectors, and one hi-definition security camera), we have undergone a major life transition involving my retirement in December 2017 after a 45-year work career and a cross-border relocation to the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, Canada.
As I was preparing to pack up our belongings in preparation for our move from Avon, Massachusetts, I realized that the Nest devices I had installed in our Avon house might still prove useful in the 1870’s farmhouse we were about to occupy, so I replaced them with a conventional set of thermostats and smoke detectors for the new owners and brought the Nest devices with us.
In the Avon house, the Nest thermostat functioned mostly as an experimental device, as there was no central heating system but rather a 7-zone, gas-fired hot water baseboard system. Each of the zones had its own thermostat and the idea of buying 6 more Nests at $300 each was a bridge too far, so my Nest was installed in our office where the heating needs were mostly self-contained.
Our Nova Scotia house has a wood-oil dual furnace, which is a common heating plant in these parts, as wood remains a plentiful heat source with generally a lower effective cost than fuel oil. They do say that wood heats you several times - chopping it, hauling it, stacking it, and feeding the furnace, not to mention burning it. However, heating with wood requires you to be physically be there to stoke the fire, so it’s the oil burner that ultimately stands vigilant to keep the house at the required temperature.
I was initially puzzled to see two thermostats mounted next to each other on the living room wall. The mystery was quickly solved by our property manager, who cared of the house between our purchase in October 2016 and moving day in June 2017. He explained that one thermostat “controls” the oil burner part of the furnace, whereas the other thermostat “monitors” the house temperature and tells the air supply fan mounted on the wood firebox when to turn on and off (more air = bigger fire).
As a result, the oil furnace thermostat was the clear winner for the new location of the Nest thermostat, as oil serves as the “on demand” source of heat for the house. Suffice it to say that a wood fire requires some planning, patience and presence. The Nest thermostat now fills a greater role than in our previous house, as it’s fully in charge of a central heating system rather than a single heating zone. The Nest phone app allows me to keep tabs the house temperature while I’m away and to remotely monitor or adjust the temperature setting.
The Nest app’s temperature monitoring and notification features can become quite important if you are leaving your house unattended for any period of time and something unexpected occurs. Just last week, we had experienced some gale force winds that blew open the French doors leading from our kitchen to the rear deck in the early morning, causing frigid 12F degree air to quickly fill the house. The incoming air was so cold that the water in the cats’ water bowl froze solid. Had I been awake, I would have seen the Nest app’s “safety temperature” notification that the ambient temperature had dropped below the safety limit of 45F).
If you think that a Nest thermostat might be something you want to check out, here’s a link to their website. I’ll finish up this post with a few thoughts about Nest’s smoke/CO2 detectors. The three units I brought with me to Nova Scotia have turned out to be just what I needed for wifi-aware detectors on each level of our modest farmhouse. When connected to one’s home wifi network, the devices work together to form a whole-house notification system in the event of a detected event. Any alarm is preceded by a woman’s spoken notification of the nature of the event and its location in the house. This can give you advance notice to allow for silencing the alarm in case it was tripped by a known event you are aware of. Similarly, all status reports from the devices are provided using audible spoken messages.
Smoke/CO2 detectors spend much of their lives silently waiting for events you never want to happen. However, the “out of sight, out of mind” nature of these detectors means they can easily be neglected and end up not ready to perform their jobs when needed. What I really like about the Nest detectors is that the accompanying phone app provides a very clear and up-to-date status report on the health of each device. The units also perform internal diagnostic checks on a daily basis and track history of activity and alarm conditions. If you have ever gone searching throughout your house to find the chirping “low battery” detector in need of attention, you’ll appreciate the design of the Nest detectors.
Finally, the Nest smoke/CO2 detectors have are attractive (as such detectors go) and contain a built-in white night light that is motion-activated, but also changes to other colors as needed to indicate its health condition (green) or an alarm status (red). When you are next in the market for new smoke and/or CO2 detectors, I urge you to give the Nest units a good look.