(Pocket-lint) - The Google Nest 3.0 smart learning thermostat has been installed in our home since 2015, sensing and learning our heating habits.
Now, we know a thermostat probably sounds oh so boring - even a smart one like this - but one that learns your heating habits, that you can schedule from an easy-to-use app on your phone, and adjust over Wi-Fi from wherever you are in the world? C'mon, that's cool. Or more to the point, warm.
With plenty of competition for smart heating systems - from the likes of Hive, Tado and Honeywell Evohome - how does Nest 3.0 stack up? Does it iron out all the cold moments of its predecessor to reign as king of the smart thermostats?
When it comes to intelligent heating solutions the Nest Learning Thermostat 3.0 is the best looking of the bunch that we've seen. Sorry Tado, Honeywell, Hive, et al - even though all of these allow you to control your heating from anywhere you are in the world (with a signal/Wi-Fi anyway) - the Nest 3.0 is elegant looking, easy to use, and we like how responsive the new Farsight sensitivity is in responding to motion.
The third-generation model irons out the previous hot water issue from the Nest 2.0 by adding controls for those with an immersion tank, while Family Accounts and smartphone-based GPS data all impact on Home/Away automation for the best experience yet.
It's that last part that helps Nest 3.0 smooth out its predecessor's issues and integrate better with other Google Nest devices like Nest Cam. Sure there's still no zone controls (well, they're limited to one thermostat per boiler should you operate more than one; there aren't individual radiator controller options like with Honeywell Evohome) but that's about all that's now missing.
When it comes to central heating control, and keeping one eye on economical spending, the Nest Learning Thermostat 3.0 is a clever little package. Easy to install and manage, with the potential to save energy and therefore money, it's a choice option for a modern thermostat. It's already got better through updates - and having seen such improvements the idea of yet more improvements means it'll only get more intelligent in the future.
- Best looking smart thermostat solution
- Hot water control for 3.0
- Smartphone GPS tracking
- Family Accounts
- Detailed scheduling is easy to use
- Learns your preferred settings over time
- Compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa
- Lacks zone controls around the home
- “heating boost” option would benefit for things like drying washing in winter
- Installed on wall on mounted on Nest Stand
- Separate Heat Link connects to boiler
- Around one hour for professional install
The Nest Learning Thermostat 3.0 requires a professional install. That means your existing thermostat will be replaced and Nest will be installed - whether on the wall or via a plug socket and mounted on the Nest Stand (which is sold separately for an extra £35). Note, Nest 3.0 needs a different stand to Nest 2.0 due to size differences, should you be thinking of upgrading.
Whatever you opt for, however, you'll need open access to your boiler - so make sure it's tidy and accessible for work, as a separate wall-mounted timer box (called Heat Link) needs to be installed.
Even if you've got a relatively old boiler - our combi has an analogue 24-hour wheel with on/off switches, it looks well retro - it shouldn't be a problem. If you've got concerns about your boiler's compatibility then take a look at Nest's own installation page which will assist with compatibility. The Heat Link box is wired in to bypass existing timers, like a clever technological parasite, and accepts the mains power available from the boiler without the need to go digging holes or adding new electrical wiring into the walls.
For us, the Nest 3.0 install was interesting because swapping out from Nest 2.0 meant the new Heat Link box could use the existing wired connections to the boiler. It was, therefore, a super-fast update taking only about 15-minutes to install. Our earlier Nest 2.0 install from scratch was a longer process of about an hour given the more considerable amount of work that had to be done, so you'll need to allot that amount of time for a brand new install.
Our installer knew the product well due to hundreds of previous installations. We certainly wouldn't advise buying Nest and trying to install yourself unless you're a professional. You could consider the Nest Learning Thermostat E though, which can be installed yourself, though it does miss off a couple of the Nest 3.0's features.
- Control via Nest App or thermostat itself
- Heat Link has manual override
- Farsight feature offers better sensors
Once the install is done, download the Nest app on your smartphone - available for iOS or Android - and the Learning Thermostat is clever enough to recognise a phone on the same Wi-Fi network for sync. Should it not, a manual registration is easy to figure out, but it goes without saying that Wi-Fi is an essential.
If the network goes down then so too does the ability to remote control via the app and, of course, to relay information to your boiler. No need to panic, though: a physical button on the Heat Link box can be pressed-and-held to override the heating and pop it on for a manual boost of heat.
The Nest phone app is our preferred way of controlling heat, but you can also use voice control with an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant-compatible device, and using the thermostat itself doesn't disappoint either: its single circular face acts as a button, while the metal exterior rotates infinitely to cycle through settings and, importantly, the current desired temperature.
The display turns orange to let you know when heating is taking place, and also provides a time estimate of how long it will take to reach the desired temperature, which Nest calls Time-to-Temp. Read our Nest Thermostat tips and tricks to get the most out of your Nest 3.0.
The Thermostat includes sensors to monitor temperature and humidity where it has been set-up - so that's something to keep in mind. If, for example, it's installed in a small room that retains heat better than other larger rooms in the house then it will assume its temperature reading represents that of the whole house.
For Nest 3.0 there's improved sensor range, which Nest calls "Farsight", to catch motion at greater distances and with heightened accuracy compared to with Nest 2.0. It's certainly a lot better, catching motion and displaying a nice analogue or digital clock face and the current temperature as a result.
As the thermostat operates as a feedback system it won't keep on heating once the desired temperature has been reached to conserve energy. That's far better than just lobbing the heating on for two hours at any given time. If the temperature drops half a degree below your optimum setting then Nest will ensure it kicks back in again.
Choosing lower temperatures will generate a Leaf symbol to show that you're conserving energy, the idea being your overall costs to the gas man decrease too.
- No individual zone control
- Multiple boiler support
- Hot water control available
Unfortunately Nest has no way to individually control multiple zones or rooms in your home, because it's not positioned at multiple radiator points like, say, Honeywell Evohome can be. However, Nest can be connected to multiple boilers if you have more than one in your home (read mansion), and the system can handle two separate homes at once. So if you already have a zoned heating system then you'll need a Nest Learning Thermostat for each of those zones, all of which can be controllable from within the one app.
However, using multiple Nest Learning Thermostats raises an interesting point: you can monitor others that you've registered with. Whether you want to know, for example, that your elderly mother has got an ample temperature in the house, or your unoccupied holida