What to do when the feathers fly out of your Nest

If you’re a futurist, optimist or just a gadget lover like me, then maybe you sprang for a Nest thermostat in 2011.

I ordered one the moment I saw it. Our thermostat was about 30 years old and I suspected we were spending too much cooling and heating our modest home in the Orlando suburbs.

True, that. Over the last few years, I estimate the Nest has reduced our energy bills by between 15 and 20 percent.

But this isn’t a story about what the Nest does right. It’s about what happens when something goes wrong with a Nest. And how Nest fixes it.

See, Google owns Nest, and it has a reputation for DIY service. So when my thermostat kept resetting to 71 degrees, I assumed I would be referred to a forum of some kind, where my question might or might not be answered.

Instead, I quickly discovered a chat feature on the Nest website. And as you’ll see in a moment, all of the reps had a good command of English, wrote in complete sentences, and addressed my problem as best they could. That’s why today I’m filing a story under the Good News Guy banner. I hope Andrew isn’t too mad at me.

Here’s what I loved: An agent named Jessa answered immediately and took almost no time suggesting a solution, which involved a total reset of my settings. Things took a turn for the worse when I brought the system back online.

Me: The heat is on.
Jessa: I’m sorry, did you mean it was on heat mode or the heating just automatically kicked on?
Me: It’s in cool mode, but the heat just kicked in. This is not good!

This happened about 10 minutes into our chat, and I suspected Jessa was being timed, as customer service agents often are. With the heat blasting into my home on a sweltering Florida afternoon, I was afraid she would leave me to fend for myself. But she didn’t.

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“Based on what you described during installation, it’s possible you have an incorrect heat pump orientation,” she said. “But we’ll have to check your wiring first.”

Jessa then patiently waited for me to take a picture of my internal wiring, held on the line while I sent it to her, and guided me to the correct setting. I never felt rushed, and by the time we finished, all the right settings had been restored and all was fixed — or so I thought.

I have to warn you, this story has a bittersweet ending.

A day later, my settings returned to 70 degrees. This time, I contacted Nest again and was connected to another representative named Kimmy T. After some more back and forth, Kimmy told me that I was out of warranty, but offered to escalate my case to a supervisor.

Before doing so, she added, “Can you provide me a screenshot of your schedule, please?”

I dug through my settings to look for the schedule. In Nest, you can schedule your temperatures based on the time of day — warmer for the day, cooler for the evening. When I found the schedule, I noticed two new dots in the middle of the night that had been set to 71 degrees.

Ah-ha!

But there was one more mystery: Who gets up at 11 p.m. to reset the thermostat to 71 degrees? And here comes the troubling ending. One member of our family has been doing a lot of sleepwalking lately, although it’s kind of more than sleepwalking. It’s more like an altered state of consciousness that happens in the evenings. It’s a long story, and like I said, a bittersweet ending.

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Anyway, we knew how the thermostat was getting pulled down to 71 degrees, and we knew how to stop it. We needed to set up a PIN number so that only an authorized user could set the schedule.

Nest really came through for me with its incredible tech support via chat. I love the fact that no one ever asked me how long I’d had my unit, like some of those computer manufacturers do. (“Want tech support? Pay for it!”) Instead, Nest helped a customer in need and didn’t abandon him when the wires for AC and heat got crossed.

If only solving all of our problems were this easy.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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