Nest: "Heat or Eat" Dilemmas Could Disappear Thanks to Learning Thermostat Savings

By Gerald Lynch on at

Launching in the UK today, Nest's Learning Thermostat aims to smartly save you money on your energy bills by adapting your heating schedules as it learns your preferences and habits. But with a £179 initial outlay (£249 including a recommended installation fee), will cash-strapped Brits take to the gadget the same way their US counterparts have?

"It is an investment," Maxime Veron, Head of Product Marketing at Nest told us. "But it's the best investment you can make for your home, from a financial savings point of view. It pays back for itself within two years. After that point, it just keeps saving you money."

So exactly how much can a Nest Learning Thermostat save you? Using data provided by Ofgem, Nest puts the average annual UK energy bill at £1,342 annually, with 66 per cent of all UK utility bill costs thermostat-controlled. Nest estimates that it can save you between four and 29 per cent of that cost with the Learning Thermostat, with an average saving of 20 per cent.  At that average saving rate on an average bill, Nest Learning Thermostat owners could be saving themselves £268.40 a year. The company also claims that a reduction of just 1-degree on average over the course of a year can save a Nest owner £75. "We've built it to last for ten years," stresses Veron -- so for a £249 outlay, you'd be knocking off £2,684 of your bills over the course of the thermostat's lifespan, on average.

"I heard recently that as many as 50 per cent of people in the UK have to turn down or turn off their heating, making a 'heat or eat' choice," said Veron. "That's a real problem, and a real problem with energy pricing. We believe that this product can help some people."

Are we getting ripped off in the UK then in terms of energy pricing tariffs? Veron wouldn't be drawn into the subject, simply saying that "there's an opportunity here to save a lot of money."

If a couple of extra quid in a user's pocket isn't incentive enough to track energy usage habits, Nest's Learning Thermostat also has gamified elements. A user that turns the thermostat down to eco-friendly levels will earn Nest Leaf points, highlighted by a green logo on the thermostat's screen. While these Leaf points are purely vanity achievements at the moment, Veron said they've been surprisingly popular among US users.

"Some people have got really into it and are competitive with Leaf," said Veron. "It's fuelled some interesting discussions among users: when should you be rewarded with a Leaf? When you turn off your boiler in the summer? When you turn it off every night?" It's certainly interesting that the Learning Thermostat can inspire debate over what exactly constitutes green-living.

With a delay of roughly two years between launching in the US and UK, Nest now lands in a crowded market on our shores. Tado, Hive, Owl and even British Gas itself offer smart monitoring tools -- is there room now for Nest too?

"Most of our key features are based on learning -- from you, from your home. We tailor everything personally, based on information unlike anyone else on the market does. We're happy that there are great competitors in the field, driving up awareness, but we're not playing in the same field as them."