Can a Thermostat be Beautiful?

Blogger: Greg Wells, Senior Graphic Designer | Washington, DC, USA
April 25, 2012

I love toys. I have an iPhone and an iPad. I have a gadget that plugs into the iPad to let me play my guitar through it. My car stereo allows me to play Pandora through my iPhone. I have a very nice dSLR and a point and shoot with an underwater housing. But I’m rarely right on the front edge of technology with my toys. My first iPhone was the 3GS and I started with the iPad2. And one of my prime decision points is whether I’ll really make use of the toy. But every once in a while, I make an exception.

In January, we purchased a Nest programmable thermostat. I had put my name on the waiting list in late November after reading some reviews about early preview units.

The Nest was designed by the designer of the original iPhone and it shows in the user-interface. It’s intuitive, easy-to-use, and, compared to every other thermostat on the market, it’s simply beautiful. Instead of a big, square, off-white plastic box with a monochrome screen, it’s a clean, circular device the size of a hockey puck with a color screen and no visible controls. Walk past it and the screen lights up. Press down on the face and the menu comes up. Spin the dial that is around the face to change options and press again to select.

Add to that the fact that you have control of the unit from wherever you happen to be via iPhone, iPad, a browser-based platform, and/or an Android app. I can set the temperature to an energy-saving level when I’m not home, and if I’m coming home early, I open up the app in my iPhone and warm the house back up in the winter before I get home. Or if I decide to go out after work, I can set the temperature to stay at an energy-saving level even longer while I’m away. Or I can just be lazy and change the temperature in the house without getting up off of the sofa (and yes, I totally do that).

The looks of the unit and ease of use were important features, but what makes the Nest particularly attractive to me is the amount of control I have over time and temperature. It is seven-day programmable at 15 minute intervals; instead of just two "on" and two "off" times per day, like my old thermostat, I can program in a very specific schedule to match up to my lifestyle.

Recently the software was upgraded to allow me to see a 10-day history, where I can see exactly when and for how long the HVAC was running.

Now, there probably are a number of other thermostats out there that can me give this level of control or historical data. But there aren’t any other thermostats that give me those features that are also easy to install, easy to control, beautiful to look at (well, for a thermostat), and with applications that allow me to do so any time and any place.

This is definitely one time I don’t mind being on the leading edge with a toy.

Images courtesy of Greg Wells