Nest's 'Learning Thermostat' Warms UK Cockles With Npower Partnership

By Gerald Lynch on at

The poster child for the Internet of Things push into our homes, saving thousands of Americans money on their energy bills and being one of Google's latest major acquisitions, Nest's Learning Thermostat today lands in UK shops, having jumped through the hoops of Blighty's labyrinthine array of residential boilers.

For the uninitiated, the Nest Learning Thermostat is a Wi-Fi-connected smart home heating management system. Designed by ex-Apple bods, it hooks up to your boiler and, using a combination of built in sensors and smartphone and web apps, learns to adjust the heating schedules for your home, keeping it at a temperature you find most comfortable, and ideally saving a packet on your bills by intelligently tweaking heat levels and the amount of time your boiler needs to be at work.

A small round unit with a colourful circular display, users can tweak settings and adjust the temperature of their homes by turning a chrome dial around its edge. Rather than using a touchscreen, users confirm or select settings by pushing in the spherical sensor, much like the central dice in the boardgame Frustration.

However, the physical controls tell only half the story -- for many, their main interaction with the Nest thermostat will be through an accompanying smartphone app, letting them adjust the temperature in their homes remotely from anywhere in the world that they can access an internet connection. Within weeks of setting up the thermostat for the first time, it's possible a user will never have to adjust it ever again -- as its name suggests, the thermostat learns its owner's routines, habits and preferences over time, until a point where it is able to automatically tweak its temperature settings before a user has got home from work, switching the boiler off again when they leave the house. The system also allows a user to track energy usage in minute detail, figuring out the peaks and troughs in their personal heating expenditure.

Having been available since late 2011 in the US, the massive difference between UK and US heating systems lead to the delay in release on our shores. To accommodate UK boilers, the Nest Learning Thermostat will launch here with an additional hardware component, the Heat Link, which is capable of turning a boiler off or on as required by your heating needs.

On average, UK households spend £1,342 on energy costs annually, a figure that the Nest team believes can be reduced by between four and 29 per cent with the Learning Thermostat. With many traditional thermostats lacking the ability to fine-tune precise temperature settings, Nest believes that even an average temperature reduction of just 1-degree over the course of a year could save as much as £75 for an owner.

To kick off Nest's plans for UK domination, the company has partnered with utility company Npower, which will be offering the smart thermostat along with its energy contracts in the coming months. The details of the Npower contracts are not yet available -- we'll pass them on as soon as we get them.

As for off-the-shelf pricing, those that are confident with a bit of wiring and are happy to install the Nest themselves can pick up the kit for £179, while a £249 package includes a visit from an installation engineer if you'd rather not risk getting frazzled by the 240v cabling that runs into the average boiler. It launches in the UK tomorrow, April 2nd, from retailers including Apple, Amazon, B&Q, John Lewis and direct from Nest. As an introductory offer, those that buy the Nest Learning Thermostat before April 8th will be able to redeem a free installation deal, carried out within 10 days of purchase. For those that don't already have a wall-mounted thermostat, Nest will also be introducing a stand in the UK -- though at £29 it represents a fair chunk of change knocked off the money you're supposed to be saving.