How To Install A Nest Thermostat

a nest thermostat

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a nest thermostat

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Your heating, air conditioning and the ductwork that carries and recycles air between rooms make up the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system for your home. Data from the U.S. Department of Energy suggests that your HVAC system accounts for about half of the energy consumption in your home. For those with electric heating and air conditioning, that’s half your home’s electric bill, too. The Nest Learning Thermostat goes beyond this simple temperature detection to make a real impact in your HVAC energy consumption.

The Nest not only lets you control the temperature via a smartphone app, but also learns your patterns, and will adjust the temperature accordingly. In doing so, Nest claims its device will save you money, as it won’t heat or cool your home when you’re not there.

What Is A Nest Thermostat?

On the surface, Nest Thermostat is a connected thermostat with an Android app that lets you remotely control the temperature. Connected thermostats are nothing new, but Nest worked especially hard to make the user experience simple for everyone. The dial-style thermostat is familiar, even though the color screen and animated UI are completely new experiences.

The regular temperature settings include your basic dial and big numbers to set a desired temperature when you’re home, but also a minimum or maximum temperature for when you’re away. To make energy-saving easier, Nest includes a little green leaf that pops up on the display when you’re entering a temperature range that will most likely save you money.

Nest software claims to learn from you the more you use it. It remembers your input and will eventually start making changes for you. This is especially helpful because the thermostat uses contextual clues to make these decisions that you may not even be aware of. For example, if you occasionally turn up the thermostat up a few degrees because it’s colder outside — and the Thermostat uses your zip code to make adjustments according to outside weather conditions.

Long-term, having a Nest in your home is supposed to mean you are both saving money by reducing energy usage and effectively make your thermostat something that already knows what you want and acts on your behalf. The most useful features is its ability to track and provide feedback by breaking down individual days to show you exactly how your heating and cooling systems are used.

This daily breakdown includes the Nest leaf to show you days where your house was particularly energy efficient, and lets you know if those energy saving days were because of user interference or the temperature outside.

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How Does It Work?

The core technology behind Nest is a combination of its sensors, hardware and algorithms. The company calls this Nest Sense. Part of Nest Sense’s job is to gather data to use in its calculations. This data goes beyond just measuring the temperature in the room. Nest gathers data from several sources. Three temperature sensors get a more precise measurement than a single sensor and the Wi-Fi connection collects weather data about your area from the internet. The motion and light sensors detect activity in the room at a 150-degree angle and the humidity sensor gauges the moisture in the air inside your home. Nest sense creates a schedule for your HVAC using data from these sources. This allows the device to activate at specific times of the day on each day of the week and keep auto-away intervals during which the nest has determined you’re not home.

You can view this schedule from the nest thermostat’s interface or from your Nest account online.  If you want to make manual schedule changes, you can do that, too. Manual adjustments can be useful when you’ll be away from home for several days, or if you’ll be at home instead of away during a typical work or school day.

Software updates and bug fixes are rolled out regularly, and many of the updates bring new capabilities to the device. As of the 3.0 version of its software, which was released in conjunction with the second generation Nest thermostat, the device uses different algorithms depending upon what sort of HVAC setup you have, providing features that work more efficiently with that particular system. It also became multilingual, allowing control from the Nest device, the website and the mobile apps in English, French or Spanish.

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What You Need To Know On How To Install Nest Thermostat

The first stop for anyone considering how to install a Nest thermostat should be the interactive wire guide on the Nest website, which allows you to note which wires are connected to your existing thermostat. Filling this guide out will tell you whether or not Nest is supported through your existing wiring, but gaining access to these wires means removing the front panel of your current thermostat. If you still have concerns about whether these devices will be compatible in your home, you can send Nest a picture of your wiring. They’ll take a look and let you know what they think.

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Professional Installation

In the Nest documentation, you’ll find there may be certain situations that will require professional installation. This includes setups requiring multiple thermostats, multiple heat sources connected to your home, or one of several wiring setups that just plain need a professional involved. Should Nest determine that a professional is necessary for installation, there’s a separate part of the website that will list companies near you that are certified and know how to install a Nest Thermostat.

Since Nest has been around for a little while now and has become popular, there are a lot of HVAC companies out there that have started offering Nest installation support. This thermostat is something any HVAC tech can install, but Nest-certified professionals can install the hardware and then walk you through the energy efficiency parts of the Nest experience and help you get the most out of the software. Once your thermostat is installed, the software setup can be done from either your phone or through the Nest OS.

It is important you follow the Nest guide to make sure your home is safe after installation and if Nest says to have a professional who knows how to install a Nest thermostat do the work for you, you should do so. Pricing for the installation will vary, but the end result is you get to enjoy Nest without any issues and can get back to building your connected home.

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High-Voltage Systems

The Nest will work with any low-voltage system, but it won’t work with high-voltage systems (also known as line voltage) at all. If you’re not sure which kind of system you have, you can quickly pop off your current thermostat and take a look at the wiring. If you see a handful of tiny wires in all sorts of different colors, then you likely have a low-voltage system, but if you see only 2-4 larger wires that are connected with wire nuts, then you likely have a high-voltage system. You can also look on the thermostat itself to see how many volts it is. If it reads something like “110 VAC”, “115 VAC”, or “120 VAC”, then you have a high-voltage system and the Nest won’t work.

It is possible to convert to a low-voltage system if you have a high-voltage system, but it’s pretty involved and takes a bit of know-how, so if you absolutely want to install a Nest Thermostat, it might be best to call a professional to convert your system.

The following instructions will provide you with plenty of information to help you figure out how to install nest thermostat.


How To Install A Nest Thermostat

Nest thermostat installation requirement list isn’t terribly long. First, you’ll need a WiFi network in the building, and that should include Internet access. With that in place, you can turn your attention to your existing thermostat. Nest is designed to use the wires common to HVAC systems in homes and businesses today, but due to the wide variety of systems available on the market, using the Nest’s wiring diagram helper is a must. Another option is the Compatibility Check, also available through the Nest website.

You’ll need about thirty minutes of time to learn how to install a Nest thermostat and install it. You might also need a Phillips screwdriver, that is provided with the Nest Thermostat, but you may need a smaller one to remove your old thermostat. You may also want a pair of needle-nose pliers to straighten out the wires.

Turn Off The Power & Remove Old Thermostat

thermostat scheduler

First, locate the appropriate breaker and turn off the power to your thermostat. Once that is complete, take your time and label the wires coming out of the wall. Each should be in a specific labeled port on your old thermostat. Nest provides the stickers in the installation guide to proper label the corresponding wires. If you’re lucky, the wires may be color-coded.

Once your wires are labeled, carefully remove the wires leading from the wall into the thermostat, and then unscrew the device from the wall. Then, thread the wires through the center of the Nest base plate and, using the tiny bubble level, make sure the Nest is level. Use a pencil to mark the two screw holes. If you want to cover over the screw holes from the old thermostat, attach the trim plate in the bottom of the Nest box to the base plate.

Attach The Nest To The Wall & Connect The Wires

Use the included screws and screwdriver to secure the base to the wall. Screw in the top screw first, but before tightening it, use the level to make sure the base is even. Insert the labeled wires into the corresponding ports on the Nest. A small tab will depress once the wire has been properly inserted. Line up the small rectangular connector on the back of the display with the port on the base plate.

Turn Power On & Connect The Nest To Wi-Fi Network

Once you switch the breaker back on, follow the instructions on the Nest’s display to find your wireless network and enter the password to connect. These additional steps will make sure that the Nest’s firmware is up to date, you connected the wires properly, and lets the Nest know the type of power used for your heating system, and where in your house the Nest is located.

Download The App

This smartphone app, available for Android and iOS devices, will let you monitor and control the Nest remotely. After a week or so, the Nest will learn your behavior – when you’re home and when you’re not–and should automatically adjust the temperature in your home. However, you can still turn it on and off remotely using a smartphone, or locally by turning the Nest’s dial.


If everything looks promising as far as compatibility, you don’t need much experience to know how to install a nest thermostat. The Nest’s biggest selling point is that the Nest learns your habits, and can eventually do it all automatically. So if you tend to turn down the heat when you go to bed and turn it back up when you wake up, the Nest will learn this and do it for you, without you having to program it manually. A smart thermostat is a great accessory to have, not only to be able to adjust your home’s temperature from your phone, but to also save money on your utility costs.

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