Nest Thermostat E: Review | ZDNet

Nest Thermostat E vs other smart thermostats

Nest Thermostat E

Ecobee 4

Nest Learning Thermostat


Best for:

Simple HVAC Systems

home automation



Discreet design

Highly compatible with a variety of smart homes

Machine learning technology (and motion detection)

Robust Customer Support

It comes with a power extender kit (PEK)

Robust Customer Support

Prioritizes energy-saving features

Geofencing and motion detection

Aesthetically pleasing — clear, responsive glass display

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Getting to know the Nest Thermostat

Part of what makes this thermostat so appealing is its price tag: It’s about $80 cheaper than the Nest Learning Thermostat, its more advanced sibling. In terms of functionality, you lose a high-resolution screen with the date and time and a wider range of compatible heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems when you go with the E. Still, this is a solid bet for those who have more basic HVAC systems or want the bare minimum when it comes to a smart thermostat.


Our first impressions:

  • Intelligent looking (doesn’t look like a thermostat)
  • The setup didn’t seem too intimidating
  • “Sure, this thing will definitely work with our HVAC system.”
  • Simple, manageable app that helps you prioritize to save energy

First of all, check if your HVAC system is compatible with the E, which you can do using Nest’s handy compatibility checker (for this you have to be at home and physically in front of the thermostat). Nest claims the E thermostat is compatible with 85% of 24-volt systems, while the Learning works at almost 95%. To give you some context, only one of our three test sites happened to have a compatible system. We’ll be dubbing the charm for a third time in this case, because after completing a 20 minute self-install process and a few test runs to make sure we had the wires positioned correctly, this thermostat was a breeze to install. to use.

Discreet, minimalist design

Nest’s infamous circular thermostat design makes the device look smarter than your off-white rectangular thermostat and dazzling lime-green control screen. The E is no exception to this sleek image – it’s even a tad smaller, sleeker than its sibling, and if you have white walls you’ll hardly notice it exists.

While the exterior is aesthetically pleasing, there are some design elements of the Learning Thermostat that you might miss, including Farsight.


The Nest Learning Thermostat uses motion detection (up to about 20 ft.), so the screen lights up automatically to show the temperature or time when you walk close to it. The E doesn’t use motion detection in this way and the plastic screen (frosted display) can make the information a bit blurry to read from further away. Overall, the sleek, white design of the E would fit well in a variety of rooms, and the easy handling makes temperature management clear and straightforward.

Compatibility Issues

Before you even think about purchasing this thermostat, make sure your HVAC system is compatible. It will be helpful to know the make and model number of your system, whether you are using dual fuel and how many stages of heating/cooling are used, especially if you plan to speak to customer service to verify compatibility or if you are confused. Nest offers a checklist that compares the two thermostats – with only six-wire terminals compared to the Learning’s ten. The E is much better suited to simpler systems.

Before you think about getting the Nest Thermostat E, make sure it’s compatible with your HVAC system.

If your home uses a dual fuel system (single-stage heat pump with a separate single-stage oven heater), the Nest E will work, but we recommend that you find a professional installer to set it up. However, more than a few heating and cooling systems are usually not compatible with the E. For example, with second stage heating and cooling systems have ruled out the option of installing the E in any of our test scenarios. If you don’t know what each wire does, Nest provides a dictionary for wire labels to help you better understand the ins and outs of your HVAC system.

Responsive Customer Service

Nest has an impressive range of customer support and you can be sure that your questions will be answered in a timely and personal way, no matter how you contact the company. When we decided whether the thermostat was compatible with our first test system, we called Nest to explain the tangle of wires in our wall. The representative offered to look at the photo of our system himself, asked for our email address and phone number, and called us back within five minutes to explain why our system was not compatible.

Nest offers a comprehensive range of customer support: you can call, chat, join the Nest community or tweet to Nest to get answers to your questions.

Thorough and readily available customer support is a useful feature if you are trying to complete the installation process yourself. However, you do have the option to engage a professional installer. In only one case (out of nearly ten) we had to wait more than a minute to start a chat with a representative.

Easy installation process

We clocked in just over 20 minutes to install — Nest really couldn’t make it easier. All you need to do is find the “add product” tab in your app’s settings, and each product comes with a barcode that you can then scan to start installing. While you don’t get a screwdriver with this thermostat, the E comes with two screws, a wall plate (to cover all those ugly pre-existing holes from your old thermostat’s installation), and stickers to label each wire so you don’t don’t forget what each color indicates.

You’ll want to turn off all power in your home before using the wiring system, and the Nest app will walk you through each step with clear, concise instructions.

Simply turn the knob (the outer edge of the thermostat) to adjust the temperature or setting and push in to make your choice. Removing the front of the thermostat is also easy – just pull the unit away from the wall to check for any wiring underneath.


A note about temperature sensors:

We also tested the Nest temperature sensor that comes with the thermostats. Nest claims these products will help you measure the temperature in other rooms without having to search for the thermostat, but they’re not included and we didn’t find them as useful as we’d hoped. The Nest thermostats (3rd generation Learning and E) both respond to the sensors to compensate for temperature differences between floors or rooms. The sensor can control the thermostat, but doesn’t actually assign different temperatures to different rooms or floors. And in terms of automation, these sensors lack motion activation, so they don’t respond on your schedule or just by walking around the room.


Customizable, energy-saving features

One of the most useful features of the Nest thermostat is the ability to control the temperature from your phone. But you may not even need to control it from your phone after a while – Nest gives you the option to choose whether you want the device to use machine learning to derive insights from your usage (the phone’s location, other Nest devices, etc.) ) to adapt/automate a schedule that best suits your lifestyle. Ultimately, this device can automatically adjust the temperature to your preferences at different times of the day. Of course, you can always manually control the temperature on the thermostat, in the app, or tell your Google Assistant, Amazon Echo (but not Apple HomeKit) to share or adjust the temperature.

Nest Eco Mode and Energy History feature in-app. It is possible to save energy on non-smart thermostats, but this requires more hands-on digging and supervision. If you turn the ring to adjust the temperature on the E, you may see a green leaf — this indicates: temperatures that allow you to save energy. You can also track your energy history in the app and automate the “Eco Mode”, which sets the temperature a little higher or lower based on the season while you’re away. While we can’t say if or how much this thermostat has actually shaved off our energy bills, we can say that the Nest Thermostat E makes an effort to save energy—a simple, straightforward process.

If you get into the groove of an automated temperature schedule, you may forget to check for minor changes, but that’s not always a good thing. For example, one of our testers has set her learning thermostat to automatically switch to ‘Eco Mode’ during her absence. During the summer holidays, the standard temperature of 70 degrees was too hot for her indoor cat. Nest can send you security notifications to prevent your home from falling into extreme temperatures to keep pets comfortable. But when you automate, it’s important to take into account the nuances that machines usually don’t have. As in the case of our tester, what the thermostat thinks is extreme may not be and vice versa.


It comes down to

The Learning’s price drop comes down to a few key factors that may be important to you: limited HVAC compatibility, a plastic case, and no Farsight integration. If you can live without the smarter features and have a really basic HVAC system, we highly recommend going for the more affordable Nest Thermostat E, especially if you’re on a budget or want to make your home a little greener.

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