Nest Learning Thermostat 2nd Generation Review

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PROS / The Nest Learning Thermostat learns and programs itself to adjust to your lifestyle and schedule.

CONS / Nest's two-year warranty is shorter than the industry average.

VERDICT / Nest Learning Thermostat is an incredibly efficient programmable thermostat that is easy to use.

When the first Nest Learning Thermostat hit the market in late 2011, it became one of the original products to successfully blur the lines between home security, automation and climate control. Over time, the thermostat learns your habits so it can reduce your utility bills. It's attractive, has excellent customer support and works with most residential HVAC systems. The Nest Learning Thermostat earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award for being the best programmable thermostat.

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  1. This is the number of heating stages a thermostat supports.
    Higher is better
  2. 1 Nest Learning Thermostat
    3 stages
  3. 4 stages
  4. 3 stages
  5. Category Average
    3.09 stages

Temperature Control

This Wi-Fi thermostat can handle most of your home's heating and cooling needs. Nest works with many heating units, such as forced-air furnaces, heat pumps, dual-fuel systems and radiant heaters. This means Nest works with the equipment that is most suitable for your local climate, which tends to vary from place to place. The thermostat can accommodate three-stage heating using a variety of devices. Multiple heating stages allow your home to use energy more effectively.

For example, a forced-air furnace is a great option for heating your home quickly, but a radiant system is better for maintaining temperature levels. The Nest Learning Thermostat uses both systems to control the variable conditions in your home. Likewise, this programmable thermostat supports two-stage cooling for comfort in the summer.

The Nest Learning Thermostat includes an auto-changeover function that switches between heating and cooling if necessary. Independent of heating and cooling systems, this smart thermostat can control whole-home humidifiers, dehumidifiers and fans as well. It has a keypad lock to ensure that no one can change the temperature without permission. This helps prevent unwanted spikes in your energy bill when the kids turn up the AC. 

This wireless thermostat has a temperature swing of one degree. This means that the unit only activates heating or cooling if the difference in your home's temperature is more than one degree warmer or cooler than your target temperature. A large temperature swing is excellent for energy efficiency but may not offer the same precision as smaller temperature swings that you will find on other programmable thermostats.

Energy Management

Although you have the option to implement a set seven-day schedule, the Nest Learning Thermostat can actually program itself without any help. Unlike typical thermostats, Nest tracks every time you adjust the temperature or schedule, and it learns your preferences after a week of observation. If your weekly schedule is predictable, Nest matches your routine seamlessly. If your schedule is more variable, the Nest Learning Thermostat eventually reprograms itself once a pattern emerges.

The Nest Learning Thermostat's built-in sensors monitor humidity, temperature, light and movement. The Nest Learning Thermostat adjusts the temperature automatically whenever it detects changes on the sensors. Nest also uses its Wi-Fi connection to check local weather conditions so it can learn how those affect your home and adjust accordingly. The Nest Learning Thermostat notifies you when you need to change your air filter or if the AC or heater is malfunctioning; proper maintenance can extend the life of your HVAC system.

During the summer, when conditions are right, Nest activates Airwave. Airwave shuts off your AC compressor a few minutes early, but leaves the fan running, since your AC continues to run cold air for a short while after it's off. Airwave can cut your cooling costs by up to 30 percent. The thermostat has a green leaf that lights up, as well as detailed system reports, to help track how much energy you're saving. This feature is common on the best thermostats but is often absent throughout the industry.

The sensors also help the thermostat activate the Auto-Away mode. Auto-Away changes the temperature when no one is home to reduce energy usage. Additionally, you can set your Auto-Away preferences to detect your smartphone's location, a process called geofencing, which activates your system when you get within a certain distance of your home so your home is comfortable by the time you arrive. Few programmable thermostats have a geofencing feature.

Design & Setup

In the years since its introduction, the Nest Learning Thermostat has grown from a dedicated thermostat into a control center for your home. Most other smart thermostats are merely cogs in a larger system. The thermostat wirelessly connects to other devices via Wi-Fi or built-in ZigBee radio – such as other Nest thermostats, the Nest Protect smoke detector and Nest's line of IP security cameras – to create a smart home ecosystem. This smart home platform, known as Works With Nest, is also compatible with third-party products. Some notable Works With Nest products are Philips Hue, Jawbone UP, August Smart Lock and IFTTT. 

The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the most convenient programmable thermostats in our review. This is a direct result of the unit's minimalist design in terms of both hardware and software. The Nest Learning Thermostat has a metal outer ring that offers basic control and helps the unit blend in with any wall you install it on. By turning the ring or pressing it toward the wall, you can select menu items, change preferences and adjust the temperature of your home.

You can also control the Nest Learning Thermostat via most internet-connected devices, such as smartphones, tablets and computers. Though it's common for smart thermostats to have a mobile app, Nest's user-friendly app stands out in particular. The mobile app allows you to change your settings on the fly. That means if you decide to come back early from vacation, you can access your mobile account to make sure the house is ready before you get there.

The installation process for the Nest Learning Thermostat is very straightforward; you can install the unit yourself with guided video tutorials. The System Match feature on Nest's website makes it easy to know if this Wi-Fi thermostat works with your home's existing wiring. A built-in level helps you install your Nest straight, which only comes with the best programmable thermostats. Nest recommends professional installation if your home has a whole-home humidifier, dehumidifier or dual-fuel system.

Help & Support

You can contact the Nest team through email, phone and Nest's online community. The community brings Nest users and employees together in a place where you can ask questions, make feature requests and get assistance. Nest does not offer live-chat support. The thermostat has a two-year warranty, which is shorter than the industry average of three years.


The Nest Learning Thermostat's ability to program itself makes this thermostat a valuable addition in any home. It quickly learns your preferred temperature and constantly tweaks its settings to create a comfortable, efficient living environment. Nest's mobile app completes the unit's user-friendly design and allows you to control the thermostat from anywhere. The Nest Learning Thermostat's home automation features make it one of the best programmable thermostats for your home.

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