Wireless thermostats have changed how we control the heating and cooling of our homes. With proper device installation and app setup, you can control house temperatures and times through an app on your iPhone or iPad. This is a considerable convenience with an added bonus: it may save money in heating and cooling bills.
The Google Nest 3rd Generation Learning Thermostat is accessible and easy to use. You can add optional temperature sensors when you install the thermostat, or you can easily add them later.
The Nest Learning Thermostat can be controlled in several ways: at the thermostat itself, with the Nest app, with the Google Home app, or with Amazon Alexa. You need vision to control the device at the physical thermostat, but the apps and Alexa do not require sight.
The 3rd Generation Nest lists for $249, but it's frequently on sale. Check with your energy company to determine if you can get it for a reduced price or if a rebate is available. Rebate offers can vary widely over time and can be substantial.
Make sure to check all sites belonging to your energy company. Con Edison of New York had an offer on one site that was considerably different from one on the Con Ed Marketplace.
Google offers another, less expensive, thermostat, the Nest E, which includes many, but not all, of the same features as the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Nest Learning Thermostat supports a wider range of heating and cooling systems. According to Google Chat Support, as of September 2020 the Nest Learning Thermostat is not compatible with Apple HomeKit.
You can find a lot of information on the Nest Thermostat support page. Although Nest does not offer direct phone support at this time, you can chat with tech support online and also chat with a Google Nest Specialist.
What’s in the Box
The Nest’s box measures 6.5 inches x 6.5 inches X 3 inches. The top of the box lifts off. Inside, the topmost item is a cardboard sleeve that holds installation instructions and a card with tape labels for marking wires. The card provides contact information for professional installation and also explains how to begin the set-up with the Nest app. There is a Safety, Warranty & Regulatory guide and a fold out-booklet called “Meet the Google Nest Learning Thermostat.” None of these documents is in an accessible format. I scanned them with Seeing AI and KNFB Reader. Neither was able to recognize all the pages, but this same information can be found at the support link listed above.
Under the sleeve in the box is the thermostat display, which has a shape similar to a hockey puck. It's made of hard plastic and is seated in a cardboard holder. Over the display is a plastic film for protection that you should remove after installation. The display is 2 inches in diameter.
Underneath the display's cardboard holder you will find a small screwdriver, two wall screws, and the Nest’s round base.
In the box’s third level is an approximately 4.25 inch by 6 inch white decorative trim plate that can be mounted behind the thermostat to cover part of the wall. It is optional. In the box are also a steel plate and screws. These are installed in the wall if the old thermostat had a junction box implanted. If you do not already have a junction box mounted, the plate and screws can be discarded.
Google Nest and Google Home
For installation, setup, and control of the Nest Thermostat and any sensors, you need to download the Google Nest app and the Google Home app from the App Store. The Nest app is available for iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV and requires iOS 12 or later. The Home app is available for iPhone and iPad and requires iOS 12 or later.
Installing the Nest Learning Thermostat
Before anything else, the critical first step is to make sure that power is completely off for all systems, including heating, cooling, and the old thermostat. This is likely controlled by a fuse or circuit breaker box. There may be an emergency shutoff switch. There may be backup batteries in the old thermostat. Do not skip this step.
In order to install the Nest Thermostat, you must have usable vision. You need to label, choose, and attach the correct wires according to their color codes. You will need to see the leveling device that is part of the thermostat. You also need to make a decorative decision about whether to use the trim plate according to how the new thermostat covers any wall space used by the old thermostat. For optimal installation, you may wish to contact an HVAC company.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has an online installation manual, and the Nest app also gives instructions for installation. To start, open the app and sign in with your Google Mail account or, if you already have Nest products in your home, sign in with Nest. Follow the prompts. You must give Nest access to Bluetooth. Next, activate the Add button and select the thermostat. Instructions for installation will be on your screen. Since Nest communicates via WiFi, you may need to reposition your router for a strong signal.
In the upper-left corner of the Nest app screen are two useful menus, Nest and Settings.
When on the Nest menu, VoiceOver says “Open Nest Menu." Within the menu are a Messages button and a Support button. If you need help, activate the Support button to bring up the Nest support page. Toward the bottom of the page is a Chat link that can be accessed easily with headings navigation.
If you want others in your household to have access to the thermostat, you need to add them to the app. Go to Settings/Family. Activate the “Add a home member” button. The next screen has two options, “Cancel” and “Open Home app.” Open the app to start the invitation process.
The Nest Learning Thermostat gradually learns your schedule and your preferred settings. Your iPhone needs to be set up for Nest to know when you are home or away. Go to Settings > Account > Phone Location to turn this feature on.
Invitations show up in the main screen of the invited person’s Google Home app. They just have to accept the invitation. After I accepted my invitation, the thermostat was listed in my Google Home app. In addition to connecting the thermostat, Google Home gave me options to connect my Netflix and Hulu accounts.
Once you are set up with Google Home, you can invite others to access your devices.
The Google Home app has three tabs on the bottom: Home, Feed, and Talk to the Assistant. The Home tab is the main screen. The Feed tab shows recent events. The Talk to the Assistant tab accesses Google Assistant.
Controlling the Thermostat with the Nest App
On the main screen of the Nest app are the Nest and Settings menus followed by whether the thermostat is set to Home or Away. Having Nest recognize your cell phone lets the thermostat know if someone is home. Flicking right, VoiceOver will speak current weather information. Keep flicking right until you hear your thermostat’s name (mine is “Hallway”). VoiceOver then speaks the target temperature. Double tap on the thermostat’s name to select it.
On the new screen, there is a Settings button that has numerous buttons including safety temperatures and economical heating and cooling temperatures. Flicking right, VoiceOver will speak the target temperature and current temperature. Temperature setting is a picker item so just flick up or down with one finger to adjust. VoiceOver will say the new temperature as you make changes. There is no “Okay” button; Nest automatically makes the adjustment.
There also are buttons to adjust the temperature up or down one degree at a time. VoiceOver does not give any feedback but there is a “click” sound each time a button is pressed.
Check your thermostat’s target temperature to insure it has been set properly. Below the temperature change buttons it gives information about indoor humidity and outside temperature.
Across the bottom of this screen are five tabs: Mode, Eco, Fan, Schedule, and History. Mode gives options to set the thermostat to Heat, Cool, Heat and Cool, or Off. VoiceOver will say the new setting. Eco allows the thermostat to control the temperature, setting it to values that can save on energy costs. Press the Start Eco button near the bottom of the screen. Your main screen display will say Eco and there is a graphic of a green leaf that VoiceOver does not indicate. Eco temperatures on the day I wrote this were 53 degrees and 85 degrees. This means that the thermostat would begin to cool once the temperature reached 85 degrees and would begin to heat at 53 degrees.
The next tab is Fan. Activating this tab opens a box where you can set how long the fan should run in increments up to 12 hours. Next is Schedule. VoiceOver says “landscape” but does not say which way. The side and volume buttons are toward the left. If you have a Home button, it is toward the right. Touch the very left side of the screen and VoiceOver will start to speak days of the week. Flick left or right to access a specific day. You don’t need scheduling unless you manually want to control the thermostat. A main feature of this unit is that it learns your habits.
The final tab is Energy. Here is where you can view how many hours a day your system was actively heating or cooling your home.
Controlling the Thermostat with the Google Home App
On the Google Home main screen, select your thermostat. On the next screen, there is a Close button, a button to open the Nest app, a settings button, and a More Options button, which when activated has help information and a place to leave feedback.
Keep flicking right until you hear information about your heating or cooling settings. Buttons to decrease or increase the temperature by one degree are below the temperature settings. VoiceOver does not give any feedback, and no sound is made when the buttons are activated. You can verify the change as you would in the Nest app.
Underneath these buttons are the indoor temperature and a Mode button. Mode choices are Heat, Cool, Heat and Cool, Eco, and Off. VoiceOver does not give feedback about the selection.
Controlling the Nest Learning Thermostat with Your Amazon Echo
Although the Amazon Echo can't perform all the tasks that the Nest app can, it still provides useful information and allows basic tasks.
Before beginning the linking process, you must install and be signed into the Nest and Google Home apps. If you have more than one WiFi network, make sure any Amazon Echo and the thermostat are on the same network. Only people who are on the account list can enable the Nest Alexa skill.
Adding a New Device
Open the Alexa app and go to the Devices tab. Select the Add a New Device or Group button. On the next screen, select Add Echo, Smart Home, and Accessories. On the next screen is a long list of devices; select Thermostat. On the next screen, select Google Nest.
You then will be instructed to download the Nest app and set up your thermostat. If you have not already done so, do it now. Then activate the Continue button to go to the Alexa skills store to enable the Nest skill. Once there, select Enable and a new screen will load. You will be asked to enter your user name and password. The rest of the setup process involves giving permission for the Echo and Nest to communicate.
When you issue a command, you need to say your thermostat’s name. If the word “Thermostat" is part of your thermostat’s name, leave it out of the command. My thermostat’s name is “Hallway.” If I want to raise the temperature one degree, I would say, “Alexa, Hallway up one.”
You can also tell Alexa to set the thermostat to a specific temperature. For example, I could say, “Alexa, set Hallway 77.”
Check house temperature by asking “Alexa, what’s the temperature in the house?” You can also ask Alexa what the temperature is set to. If you do not give Alexa a specific temperature or number of degrees to raise or lower, by default the temperature will be changed by 2 degrees F or 1 degree C. The thermostat’s mode also can be changed with Alexa. For example, I could say, “Change Hallway to Cooling Mode.”
Visit Control your Google Nest products with Amazon Alexa for more Alexa commands and information visit
Nest Temperature Sensor
Most rooms in a home are not the same temperature. Using a Nest Temperature Sensor allows you to select where your home temperature is measured. When you select a sensor, your thermostat will take readings from the sensor instead of the thermostat. As of September 2020, the Nest Temperature Sensor does not work with Amazon’s Alexa, though it can be controlled with the Nest app. After spending a lot of time with Google Support, I learned that the sensor can't be added to Google Home. A workaround is to use Google Home and just open the Nest app from there.
Sensors are not very expensive and do go on sale. The Google Store had them for $39.00. They may come bundled with the thermostat at a discount.
Installing the Sensor
It's possible to install the sensor without vision. The box measures 4 inches by 4 inches by 1.5 inches. Both the thermostat and the sensor instructions say to “Use the Nest app to start setup” and then have you download and use the installation guide. In the box, under the paperwork, is the sensor. It's primarily plastic, 2-1/8 inches in diameter and about one inch high. The top of the sensor has a tactile Google G logo. There's a small screw for replacing the battery on the back, along with a slot for hanging the sensor on a wall screw. There is a small plastic battery pull-tab sticking out on the side. Do not remove it yet. In the next level in the box is the screw for hanging the sensor on the wall.
Open the Nest app and select Add Product from the Settings menu. The first step is to scan the sensor’s QR code. With the sensor in the upright position, the code is printed on the battery pull-tab on the side that is facing up. Authorize use of your phone’s camera and move it around. You will hear a sound when the QR code has been scanned. Continue to follow the prompts for installation. At one point, you will be asked to remove the battery pull-tab in order to activate the sensor. The battery is a Duracell Lithium CR2 3V that lasts approximately two years and costs approximately $2.50 to replace. Continue set-up procedures and place the sensor where you plan to use it.
Controlling the Sensor with the Nest App.
If you set up a Nest account, both the thermostat and sensor will be on Nest’s home screen. Otherwise, both devices can be controlled by selecting the thermostat on the main screen. If you want both devices on the main screen, open the Nest app and select Settings. Go to Spaces and select the sensor. The Spaces setting gives you a list of Nest products in your home. Now the thermostat and sensor will be on the main screen.
Below the devices is an unlabeled button, which when activated brings you to a screen with both the thermostat and sensor. It is mostly the same screen as the screen for controlling just the thermostat but with one important change. You will need to choose whether the temperature is controlled via the thermostat or the sensor. Sighted people will find a dot next to the selected device’s name. Unfortunately, the Nest app does not offer any audio confirmation of the selected device. Before adjusting the temperature, select either the thermostat or sensor and then make your change. For example, if you want your bedroom to be cooler at night and the sensor is in your bedroom, select that sensor and then adjust the temperature. Nest will use the bedroom sensor’s setting rather than the thermostat’s setting.
If you are in the market for a new thermostat, the Nest Learning Thermostat is a good option. It’s convenient and easy to use after a little practice. It would be more accessible if both the Nest and Google Home apps gave feedback when using buttons to change temperature. It would be a big improvement to have Amazon Alexa work with the Nest Temperature Sensor. Also, the sensor should be able to work with Google Home. But the advantages of the Learning Thermostat substantially outweigh any disadvantages.
Price: $249 (often discounted)
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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