How the Nest Learning Thermostat Works

Nest Technology: Nest Sense

We know the main features of the Nest Learning Thermostat. But what's behind that sleek black screen? The core technology behind Nest is a combination of its sensors, hardware and algorithms. The company calls this Nest Sense. Let's take a look at how Nest Sense works.

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. In fact, Nest gathers data from the following sources:

  • Three temperature sensors, designed to get a more precise measurement than a single sensor
  • A humidity sensor to gauge the moisture in your home's air
  • Motion and light sensors that detect activity in the room at a 150-degree angle
  • A WiFi connection to get weather data about your area from the Internet

Using data from these sources, Nest Sense creates a schedule for your HVAC. The schedule includes the following:

  • Device settings to activate at specific times of the day on each day of the week
  • Auto-away times, which are intervals that Nest has determined you're not at 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.

Version 3.5 added the ability to control just the fan, to kick on the AC when humidity hits a certain level, and to adjust temperature settings when the device is in direct sunlight.

But what is installation and setup like? We'll examine those next.