Nest 3rd Generation Learning Thermostat Review

Like the previous versions of the Nest Learning Thermostat, the 3rd generation device learns user preferences over time in the hopes of reducing total energy usage.

Engineers redesigned the device’s aesthetics and user interface as well as the external shell. It’s what’s on the inside, though, that counts.


  • Larger display
  • Improved learning capabilities
  • Auto-away feature adjusts temperature whenever user leaves
  • Can be used for the large homes when paired with room sensors (needs to purchase separately)


  • No touchscreen possibility
  • Not compatible with around six percent of all 24 volt HVAC systems

Key Features

Nest Labs decided the promote the most visible changes, but their engineers made many notable internal changes to their learning thermostat as well. Support for the Nest app was completely redesigned in order to allow you to check your temperature at all times remotely with a high degree of accuracy.

Users won’t have to worry about the app lagging behind the actual internal temperature of their homes nearly as much any longer. The remote control app also permits users to check their energy history at any time and receive alters if their home gets below or above a certain checkpoint.

If you have a second home and are worried about humidity causing mold or pipes freezing while you’re not there, then this might be a feature you’d be interested in. They’ve also upgraded the humidistat module that was first included with version 2.6 thermostats.

Most users will notice the fact that the new unit is physically thinner than the older models. The user interface was redesigned to match that of most newer Unix desktop implementations. This gives it a fresh new look that fits some of the new pictorial features like the leaf energy icon.


Google Nest Temperature Sensor- That Works with Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Thermostat E - Smart Home, White

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Starting from April 2018 Nest offers remote room sensors. This feature allows you to monitor multiple rooms and the thermostat will make sure the climate in those rooms is according to the set temperature. However, the sensors need to be purchased separately.

Ease of Use

Users who want to manually adjust the temperature have two different options. The 3rd Generation Nest puck allows users to spin and click a control wheel in order to bring up a menu that switches numerical values and then transmits a standard electrical signal to the HVAC equipment that it’s attached to.

While it’s certainly easy enough to spin this click wheel around in order to set the temperature, it doesn’t actually feel like using a discrete traditional thermostat’s control so much as it feels something like the click wheel on an early Apple iPod or perhaps even a vintage Intellivision controller.

Some users feel that Nest Labs might have done better to completely go away from the classic paradigm, but whether or not you will like the control comes down more to a judgment call. Fortunately, editing the schedule is easy enough through the same control. Pushing the wheel allows you to select an options menu that you can then use to edit the current temperature schedule.

The interface can provide you with a small chart that illustrates what the impact of the weather will be on your total energy usage for the period of time you’re working with. This schedule information is more accurate for the next few days than it is for a longer period of time.

Nest Mobile App Features

While the Nest Manager doesn’t work with some older mobile devices, specifically those that use the Bluetooth Classic interface, the company has ensured that the third generation app is compatible with as many different software packages as possible.

You can download essentially the same app for Android, iOS and Windows Mobile devices. It allows you to interface with any Nest-branded device through linear menus, but the app notably changes as soon as you tap on the thermostat function.

The pie menus are designed to look like a physical thermostat, which means you don’t have to learn any new gestures to work with the mobile app. They instead modeled the touchscreen interface after the third generation’s click wheel. You might want to use it to adjust the temperature from a remote location or view and edit the schedule.

Those who have their thermostat interfaced with a domestic water heater can turn it on or off as well. Those who live in manufactured housing in more humid climates have long had discrete switches to turn their water heaters on and off.

By offering a remote switch through the app, Nest is helping to ensure that people won’t leave their units on longer than they need to be. Considering the new gamification options present in the app, this makes sense in more than just an energy conservation sense.

When you choose temperatures that save energy, you’ll actually earn leaf icons. These icons match the ones that display on the screen, which can help you keep an eye on just how much energy you’re saving.

While it might be a tad pedantic, many users treat it like a game and find that it encourages them to avoid setting their thermostats too high or low as they don’t wish to lose out on the leaf icons they’ve worked hard to build up.

Multizone Control Capabilities

The 3rd-gen Nest Learning Thermostat uses a traditional paradigm to configure zoned systems. Each thermostat a user configures controls heating or cooling independently in order to control only that specific zone. These systems can save energy by offering users the option to only heat part of their home or place of business.

The new thermostat provides a couple of additional options that make it particularly useful for those working with climate control systems in large buildings like libraries and hospitals. For instance, the thermostat can work alongside traditional equipment.

If you have a building with a number of zones that already have existing thermostats, then you can replace just one of them with the Nest 3rd generation and leave a number of traditional discrete units in place.

It also has a phase-in option, which allows you to slowly replace existing thermostats with Nest-based solutions. As zones get replaced with Nest units, the new learning thermostats should automatically compensate. They’ll go through their original cycle and eventually learn what the ideal settings for that specific zone are.

Nest devices use a protocol called Weave to communicate with one another. While this is based on 802.11 b/g/b Wi-Fi, it has a number of advanced features unique to itself that allows new multizone installations to eventually learn the ropes more readily.

Energy Saving Features

According to the developers, the night setback function is one of the most important options when it comes to saving energy. Many people are willing to set their thermostats back right before they go to sleep but then forget to do so.

The Nest 3rd generation consistently does this automatically in addition to setting the thermostat back when the home is unoccupied. Homeowners with heat pump equipment often forget to disable auxiliary heat usage and some may not fully be aware of the fact that their units are using the auxiliary heater when they’re otherwise working fine.

This corresponds to the emergency heat setting on traditional thermostats. The Nest 3rd-gen thermostat automatically disables auxiliary heat usage in homes with heat pumps whenever this function doesn’t need to be on.

The units also pay close attention to changes in the ambient heat pattern in homes, which can change drastically when appliances get changed out or when furniture is moved. Few people alter their thermostat settings after doing this, so the 3rd-gen can automatically do so in order to further cut down on heating or cooling costs.

Smart Home Ecosystems Integration

The 3rd-gen thermostat is designed to offer heretofore unheard of interoperability options, but most of these actually come from the app and the device is really only designed to work with other Nest-brand equipment. If you have the thermostat app, then you’ll also be able to work with the Nest Secure alarm system as well as the Nest Cam.

Nest Protect equipment will also warn you when your home gets too cold, which can then trigger the thermostat to kick on. Users of Android Wear smart equipment should also be able to interface their learning thermostats with their watches.

If being able to control the temperature of your home from a smartwatch is an important feature, then this might be worth looking into. While you do need to work exclusively with Android Wear, some users have reported decent results controlling their thermostat itself with the Nest app from an Apple iWatch.

It’s doubtful that these thermostats will ever work closely with smart-home equipment from other developers, however. Some vehicles, specifically those made by Mercedes-Benz, can connect to the Nest 3rd generation thermostat and tell it to begin heating or cooling your home when you start to get within a predetermined distance from it.

Logitech has also announced that their universal remotes should control the thermostat just fine. Chamberlain and LiftMaster garage door openers connect to the thermostat as well to tell it when you’re no longer there so it can turn down the heat or AC and save you a bit more energy.

Other Smart Features

Like all versions of the Nest Learning Thermostat, new 3rd-gen units are based on Linux and use many free open-source operating system components.

The units comply with the GPLv3 license, so technically-inclined users can install a special firmware image from Nest Labs to unlock the system. This allows you to install an unsigned operating system if you’d like. While the Nest’s thermocouple control software is proprietary, there’s a third party replacement called FreeAbode that you could install once you unlock the unit.

If you’re a user who is deeply concerned about security and privacy, then you may want to consider using these advanced options when you configure your thermostat. The open-source code doesn’t normally send any handshake packets back to a central server, which means users who avail themselves of these options don’t share any information about their HVAC systems or temperature choices with any outside organizations.

Special options are also available to European consumers who need to interface heating systems using different voltages. The 3rd-gen units are compatible with Heat Link devices that feature circuity designed for controlling equipment that works on voltages not found in North America.

Final Thoughts

The Nest Learning 3rd Generation Thermostat streamlined many of the features found in previous versions of the device.

While it doesn’t break radical new ground, it doesn’t seem like there have been any major problems associated with the upgrades.

If you’re a residential or business user who needs a device that allows you to consistently monitor the temperature at a site while you’re not there, then this might be the thermostat for you.

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