Published on January 12th, 2012 | by Ravinder Casley Gera4
From the Designer of the iPod and iPhone Comes a New Energy-Saving ‘Learning Thermostat’ (VIDEO)
January 12th, 2012 by Ravinder Casley Gera
Think of a piece of classic design from the last decade. There’s a decent chance you thought of either the iPhone or the iPod, right? Apple’s ubiquitous gadgets have become so wildly popular, not in small part because of their attractive, smart design.
Now, imagine if the guy who designed them had decided to devote his energies to creating a tool to help reduce your energy consumption? That’d be pretty great, huh?
Well, that’s just what’s happened.
Tony Fadell led the teams that created the first 18 generations of the iPod, from the original chunky model right through to the sleek iPod Nano. He also led the design of the first three generations of the iPhone (you know, the ones that didn’t shatter if you dropped them). Sir Jony Ive may get all the attention, but to those in the know, Tony Fadell is a big part of the reason for Apple’s stellar success in recent years.
So, when it emerged last year that he was working on a thermostat, folks were a little surprised. How sexy is a thermostat, really? How much potential is there for design innovation?
Turns out, a whole lot — and the resulting product should be of interest to planet-savers as well as gadget nerds. Because Nest — the company’s new ‘learning thermostat’ — has the potential to seriously reduce household energy use.
As you might expect, given Fadell’s heritage, the Nest is a lot better-looking than the average thermostat. And it’s easy to use — you just turn the dial left and right to set your desired temperature. But it’s what’s going on inside that’s interesting. The Nest contains some fairly smart silicon, and that enables it to ‘learn’ your schedule and adjust the heating or cooling of your home around it.
It sounds easy: for the first few days, you turn the thermostat down a bit at night, up again in the morning, and down again when you leave the house, much like you probably do now. But after a week, Nest will start understanding when you do these things and start doing them automatically — for example, heating the house in time for your usual waking-up time, or turning off when you’re at work.
This might sound more like a labour-saving device — preventing you having to adjust your thermostat manually — than an energy-saving one. But Nest point out that an awful lot of people don’t adjust their thermostats regularly enough and, subsequently, a lot of energy is wasted heating or cooling empty homes. The EPA say that a properly programmed thermostat can cut 20% off your heating and cooling bill. But, apparently, 90% of programmable thermostats are never programmed, and many of those using manual thermostats rarely remember to adjust them.
And if you do go out at an unusual time and forget to turn it down, you can access and control Nest from a smartphone application or over the web.
Nest certainly sounds like it has the potential to seriously improve energy efficiency in homes — but we’ll reserve judgment until people start using it. The company says its initial run of thermostats is sold out, but is yet to ship. If you’ve got $249 to spare — which the company says you’ll make back in savings in less than two years — you can reserve one here.