WiFi Enabled Thermostat Wars Disrupt Complacency

SP32-20130207-121226The patent battle that has unfolded between Honeywell and it’s upstart competitor, Nest, is well documented, but it has also forced Honeywell to inovate instead of resting upon its current product offerings and leaving the competition to its legal legions. The Nest learning thermostat has become a tech media darling because of its simple design, ease of use and installation, and non-proprietary WiFi connectivity. Unlike Honeywell’s Redlink product line, the Nest thermostat does not require a proprietary router or gateway. It simply uses the already available WiFi network to connect to Nest servers. Previously, if one wanted a Honeywell wireless system with WiFi connectivity and control via the internet, they had to purchase and install the Redlink bundle including gateway, as well as wireless FocusPRO thermostat. Now Honeywell has developed their own WiFi thermostat from the FocusPRO line that can connect directly through your wireless internet router and be controlled via your PC, smartphone or tablet. According to Honeywell’s literature, the FocusPRO TH6320WF1005  ” installs just like standard FocusPRO models, so you’ll breeze through the familiar installation. After that, it’s just a simple matter of a few easy steps to set up the remote access for use with a computer, smartphone or tablet.1 All the homeowner needs is access to their home network, and a computer or device with access to mytotalconnectcomfort.com. The connection is quick and easy.”

The most surprising revelation is the pricing of the WiFi FocusPRO. It is currently on the market at less than half the cost of Nest ($249 at their site) at about $115. The big difference is how they are going to market. Honeywell has prominently printed on their installation instructions, “Must be installed by a trained, experienced technician” whereas Nest continues to market their easy installation to all do-it-yourself homeowners (or those willing to pay $119 for Concierge install).  Honeywell has priced their product in such a manner that the installed cost by a qualified technician at a one hour street rate would be competitive with the installed cost of a Nest learning thermostat with professional concierge installation through their site or affiliates ($368).*  However, Honeywell continues to hedge their bets by selling a touchscreen DIY model through big box stores (see RTH8580WF literature) for around $150.

Of course, this begs the question “are the two products comparable”?  Honeywell’s literature touts the following WiFi capabilities for owners via the internet:

  • View and change their HVAC system settings (Heat, Cool, Off, Auto, Fan, EM Heat)
  • View and set the temperature
  • Access multiple thermostats if the system is zoned
  • Access multiple locations if more than one system is connected
  • Receive temperature alerts via e-mail or app
  • Get automatic upgrades as new features are available
  • Schedule remotely via the web

What you will not currently get from the WiFi FocusPRO that the Nest Learning Thermostat offers are:

  • A learning mode that does not require programing and allows you to set your own temperatures and then creates an auto-schedule over time
  • Motion sensors that detect unoccupied situations to set back to “Auto-Away mode” for deviating schedules
  • Balanced operation for radiant floor heating
  • “Airwave” which continues to run in fan mode to utilize evaporator coil temperature for further dehumidification and energy savings
  • A web enabled “Energy Report” that allows you to track potential energy savings
  • Filter reminders

Although not tested head-to-head by the writer, it is assumed that energy savings may be higher with Nest because of the Auto-Away function that will alter from a preset schedule via built in motion sensors to create more setback opportunities. However, if you are only looking for web enabled remote control of your system and aren’t interested in other applications, then Honeywell may have struck a balance between cost and functionality. This might particularly appeal to second homeowners who just want to monitor a vacation home and get temperature alerts, landlords who want to monitor tenants and non-tech types who simply want to raise or lower the temperature before they get home or after they leave.

It may appear that a price war could brew in the future and that Nest may have to lower their retail point as economies of scale allow. Recently, Nest was available at Lowes for $198.  CNN/Money recently took Nest to task for its price point, (see video), because it claims the Nest hard material costs were only $69, but CNN neglected to include the soft cost of design, financing and hard cost of assembly labor and logistics. Nest might be better served by increasing their tech rich features by adding increased value via software features like home security monitoring through its motion sensing capabilities, which has been rumored by some for the future.  Honeywell, on the other hand, has always kept its eye on the profit motive and they may have bigger fish to fry as they pursue smart grid technology and demand side programs in their recent venture with Opower.  Honeywell may well be more concerned with the higher profit margins that can be gleaned in local utility demand side conservation programs than in the battle for the lower margin DIY and home automation markets. Only the future will tell.

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! 

*In full disclosure, we here at Air Ideal are Nest Concierge and Certified installers. We also sell and install Honeywell products.

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Nest Releases First WiFi Software Update

nestOne of the best things about a Nest Learning Thermostat is Nest’s ability to constantly work on software improvements and send (and receive) wifi updates whenever they are available. Our Nest thermostats just received a version 2.0 update that enhances and adds to the many features and benefits of Nest. New features include an enhanced energy history for you to view and tweak your energy savings. Nest has also introduced “Airwave” with this new update which is the ability to wring additional energy savings and dehumidification from the low evaporator coil temperature during compressor off-cycles via fan delay. Nest has also enabled automatic changeover, a new feature that probably should have been a part of its initial release. This is accomplished by allowing you to set minimum and maximum temperature range settings that, once hit during occupied or active modes, will change from heating to cooling or vice-versa. Of course, some of the greatest new features aren’t necessarily being downloaded to your Nest, they are update releases to your iPhone, iPad and Android apps that allow you to view a cornucopia of new information about your energy use and scheduling to further enhance your Nest experience, savings and sense of well-being. For more on the Nest 2.0 update, visit the update blog at this link.

Not only has Nest created an amazing hardware interface, but they have also made sure that your thermostat stays updated and will not become obsolete (like that old rectangular clunker that is still in the majority of homes unnecessarily siphoning fossil fuels and electricity). Nest puts those dollars back in your pocket, gives you a sexy looking eye-piece, the ability to remotely tweak it, some cool apps to play with, a guarantee against obsolescence via free wifi updates and bragging rights. What else could you ask for! Maybe that’s why CNET has just given Nest a very rare 5 Star spectacular review.  Even Time is in love with Nest and claims it is sparking a new revolution.

Oh yeah, and we have them available to install today.

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!

Nest Undressed

The folks at SparkFun did a teardown of what makes the Nest learning thermostat tick. As the author says, “It’s always fun to see the wizard behind the curtain”.
Link here to the SparkFun article.

Add to this the NY Times Tech Guru David Pogue is enamored with his new Nest and it looks like Tony Fadell has really hit a nerve. It looks like techies may be falling over themselves to spend $250 on their new “iStat”.
Link to David Pogue’s article here.

The Wall Street Journal’s “All Things D” interviews Tony Fadell, who discusses the design concept, selling out the first production lot and funding: Link Here

Yes, if you haven’t noticed, we drank the Nestade. That is our new Nest pictured below…

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!

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!

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!