Nest Smart Thermostat review: your heating, but smarter

We test the Nest Smart Thermostat, upgrading our heating for the smart home era

Google Nest Thermostat
(Image credit: Google)
Livingetc Verdict

A brilliantly user-friendly and self-sufficient way to upgrade your home's heating and cooling systems, the Google Nest Thermostat exceeded our expectations by keeping us cozy without wasting energy.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Works seamlessly with Google Assistant

  • +

    Looks good

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Needs professional installation

  • -

    Learning feature varies in usefulness

  • -

    Can only heat or cool whole house at once

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As we all look ahead to the colder months and wonder just how to cut costs, the one thing being recommended to thrifty households above anything else is the smart thermostat. Consistently touted as a money-saving and planet-friendlier bit of tech that can pay for itself over time, it can be hard for the uninitiated to differentiate between fact and fiction.

For this reason, we wanted to try out one of the most popular models - the Nest Learning Smart Thermostat - to see whether it could save us time and money when it came to heating our home. We inherited the thermostat with a recent home purchase, so we didn't need to get it installed, but we will still go through the process below.

Keep reading to see what we thought of our experience with the Nest thermostat over the last few months and if you're interested in learning more, take a look at our guide to the best smart thermostats.

Google Nest Thermostat: Key info

  • Set-up: Professional recommended
  • Sensors: Temperature, humidity
  • Dimensions: 8.3cm diameter

Google Nest Thermostat

(Image credit: Google)

How does the Google Nest Thermostat look in the home?

The Nest smart thermostat has an attractive design that pairs a large screen with a metallic case that comes in a few different colors. Our thermostat is silver and attached to a white mount (sold separately). If you already have a wall-mounted thermostat, you can replace this directly with the Nest.

The screen is large enough to view key information at a distance; motion detection means that this will be displayed when you walk by the device. For example, if you approach the Nest on your way to another room, it will temporarily show you the current temperature in the room.

You can customize this, too, and we soon changed ours to display the current time. It will also glow blue when it's cooling the home and orange when it's heating it.

Overall the design of the Nest thermostat is very user-friendly, with controls that make sense. For example, you simply turn the dial when you want to change the temperature. When you want to access options and settings, you press it. And unlike many smart home devices, you could probably use the thermostat over time without even opening the app more than a couple of times.

How easy is the Google Nest Thermostat to set up?

Because you're dealing with wires, it is recommended that you call in a professional to install the Nest Thermostat in your home. Before even getting to this stage, you should ensure that your system is compatible. More details on installing the Nest can be found on the Google website.

The setup consists of the thermostat itself and the Nest Heat Link that controls your boiler. Once this has all been installed by yourself or an expert, you can download the Nest app to your mobile device. Add the device, tweak the settings to your liking, and you're up and running.

Unfortunately, the Nest Smart Thermostat doesn't currently link up with smart thermostat valves or other accessories, so you can only heat or cool your whole home at the same time. On the other hand, households with existing Nest products or a Google Assistant smart system will enjoy a whole load of compatibility.

Placement is important, as the temperature sensor within the Nest will determine when it turns on and off. If you place it close to a radiator, for example, it will think it's generally warmer in your home than if you placed it by a drafty door.

Google Nest Smart Thermostat app

(Image credit: Google)

How does the Google Nest Thermostat perform?

Nest claims that its thermostat can save you up to 16% on your energy bills, and while we haven't been able to track our spending over an extended amount of time, we aim to come back to this review with our findings.

The idea behind the saving is that the Nest can reduce waste, being able to learn a household's habits and control the heating or cooling accordingly. For example, if you always head out to work at the same time each morning, the Nest will become aware of this schedule and turn the heating to Eco mode when this happens. Similarly, if you often turn the heating up in the evening, the thermostat will soon do this by itself.

For us, the learning feature of the Nest was less helpful than it might be for others. We found it much more useful to create a schedule via our Google Home app (turn to 20℃ 15-minutes before we wake up; turn it down to 16℃ when we go to sleep), and ended up turning the learning feature off.

We would guess that households with multiple people, and those who are out and about at different times throughout the week, will benefit from the learning feature the most. On the other hand, if you live alone or work from home on a relatively consistent schedule, it might be easier to adjust your system manually.

There's also geofencing, so you can tell your Nest to turn down the heating when you (or, more accurately, your phone) leave the house and turn it back up when you're walking up the street.

You can view the entire history of your heating, cooling, and overall energy usage in the Nest app, and this information will be invaluable as most of us seek to cut down on costs wherever we can.

Would we recommend the Google Nest Thermostat?

We found the Nest Learning Thermostat to be a great way of keeping track of our energy usage as the weather turned colder outside. Incredibly intuitive and needing little attention once it has been set up to your preferences, we were simultaneously impressed with how much customization was possible and how little we needed to use the app. While only time will tell how much money it can save us, we're confident enough to say it's a significant step in the right direction. 

About this review

The Nest Learning Thermostat was tested at home over several months by our smart home ecommerce editor after she moved into a new home with the smart heating system already installed. To ensure that all of the reviews on Livingetc are as honest and trustworthy as possible, we guarantee that all products are trialed in real home environments. If possible, we also revisit various products to see how they hold up over time. For more on how we work, take a look at our page on how we create our buying guides and reviews.

Caroline Preece
Smart Homes Ecommerce Editor

Caroline is the smart home ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.