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Consumer Corner - Robert Bialkin - April 2015

Consumer Corner - Robert Bialkin - April 2015

Smart Homes: Convenience and Conservation

by Robert Bialkin

When Google buys a company I pay attention. So when I heard they were buying Nest, I wanted to know more about the company that was spending a bit of that money on a large national marketing campaign. Nest has two main products: The Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Protect Smoke and CO Detector.

Nest plans to revolutionize your thermostat, which they claim controls half your energy bill. The thermostat programs itself by remembering when you go to bed or wake up and learns when to automatically turn on or off. It also remembers the temperatures and times you use it and within a week sets itself to your preferences. Like other smart technologies, it can be controlled from your smart phone or tablet and uses motion detection to know when you arrive or go to bed. The auto-away feature automatically turns it down when you leave the house. It even features a sleep timer that will turn off the heat after a certain amount of time rather than just when reaching a specific temperature, which current thermostats have trouble doing. “Teach it well,” says Nest, and it will save you 20% on your energy bill and eventually pay for itself.

The Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector is a completely new spin on a critical staple in every home. We rarely think about our smoke alarm until we burn toast or the battery gets low and we have to track down that elusive, annoying beep. Then, we frantically try to clear the smoke by waiving a newspaper or taking it down and removing the battery.

Rather than just beeping, the nest speaks in a human voice and is programmed to tell you in which room it detects smoke or CO. Once alerted, you can turn it off simply by waving your hand at the activated unit. The App sends you messages via text or email in an emergency, and allows you to create a family emergency plan that includes local fire and police phone numbers. More importantly, it knows the difference between a little smoke and a lot of smoke, tracks rising CO levels, and can give you a heads up first before sounding the alarm. It even features a night light.