Remote Comfort Convenience for the Masses

With the buzz created by the launch of the new Nest thermostat, it seems the ease and convenience of remotely addressing thermostat settings may be the new trend for the masses. It’s not like Nest invented remote monitoring. This type of energy management has been around commercially for years via BACNet, Lons, Crestron or a number of expensive BMS networked systems. It’s just that now, more than ever, the residential and light commercial consumer is looking for ways to monitor their energy consumption and adjust their comfort remotely. Nest wasn’t even the first to do this for the individual consumer. Both Honeywell RedLink and EcoBee have had WiFi networked thermostats on the market for a few years. They even had Android and iPhone apps available for monitoring and adjusting remotely as well. So why has Nest gotten such buzz and not those first to the market?

Nest’s brand is really based upon its simplicity. They went to market with the assumption that most folks were do-it-yourselfers, who didn’t want to hire a professional to install their thermostat, so they simplified the process. Heck, they even give you a screwdriver with interchangeable bits. No wiring diagrams, just labels to put on your 24 volt wiring to key to the old thermostats contacts. Of course, most of these should be color coded anyway, but they make no mention of that. There is no proprietary gateway or network required (like RedLink), just your own WiFi. The other manufacturer’s have protected their primary distribution partners (i.e. wholesalers and contractors) and remained with 3 step distribution while Nest has marketed (and sold) directly to the consumer. Not even Home Depot gets a cut. Nest uniquely understood that their target market was the tech savvy consumer who most likely has an iPhone or an Android and can set up his own WiFi network. The days of marketing to the consumer who can’t program his own VCR are gone. Besides, if you can’t install it, they figure your kid can.

However, there might be a bit of shortsightedness in this approach. By cutting out two steps of the historical distribution market, you also cut off significant access to an established market channel. Many contractors have a large and established service agreement base and they will not market a product to their customers if they cannot share in the profit center. Nest may not need to coddle the wholesaler because they usually do not deal directly with the consumer, but contractors are still the gatekeeper because their skill set is required to install, maintain and service heating and air conditioning systems.

Nest Labs has sold out its initial production quota of the learning thermostat and may continue to do so until the initial hype and demand subsides. Ultimately, though, Nest will need access to a larger consumer base who are not part of the iPhone generation and they will need contractor partners to access this market. That won’t happen until they develop a program that allows for a mark-up or profit sharing relationship via a contractor stocking or consignment program. This probably won’t develop until Nest has units sitting in warehousing distribution channels when supply has caught up with demand.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

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NEST is Here – Say Goodbye to Programmable Thermostats

Tony Fadell and the tech team that brought you Apple’s iPhone has gone out on their own to tackle what they believe to be the largest energy wasting culprit in the building, the thermostat. According to Nest’s studies, more than 50% of your energy bill is controlled by the thermostat. Not only did they improve its design with something aesthetically pleasing, they also made it much simpler. No longer will you have to pour through a technical manual to figure out how to program your thermostat to achieve energy savings. This little number learns on the fly. It has built-in intuitive intelligence that recognizes your preferred comfort patterns, along with motion and light sensors to keep track of occupancy and setback periods. According to their figures, nearly 90% of programmable thermostats are never programmed properly for energy savings because most laymen can’t figure out how and can’t understand the user guides. So Nest designed a very simple user interface with built in sensors, algorithms and memory functions that learn your likes, dislikes and lifestyle patterns within a week or two of manual adjustments. It even figures out when you have gone on vacation or a business trip and automatically sets back the temperature for energy savings. Best of all, you can control the Nest from anywhere with an iPhone or Android app.

OK, how much will this little gem set you back. How much did you pay for your iPhone? Well, it’s pretty damn close. Nest is not selling these through your local HVAC contractor, which is the route most other HVAC controls manufacturers rely on. They have gone purely retail. The thermostat itself cost $249 and can be bought directly through Nest’s website or from Best Buy online and in some local areas. Installation will cost you $119 for the first thermostat and $25 for each additional thermostat installed.

    However, make sure that the Nest is compatible with your type of HVAC system.

To do this, the consumer will actually have to take their thermostat off the wall and check the low voltage wiring terminal designations used. It is not available yet in multi-stage, so only single stage residential and light commercial systems are eligible. It is also not yet compatible with humidifiers and air cleaners, but a Nest that controls accessories and outdoor sensors is in the works.

So, will Nest change the world the way the iPhone did? Will slick design and marketing create piles of used thermostats in our nation’s landfills? I guess that all depends upon whether you buy it or not! For more on Nest, read this

    NY Times article


or

    visit their web site


.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!