Home Heating From Afar


Awhile ago I read about Nest, a newfangled thermostat with a color display and some interesting 'learning' techniques for keeping your home warmed or cooled, as sensible as possible. Did I mention the beast has IR proximity, PIR movement, humidity, magneto scroll, and a mini USB connector? Oh. It does.

http://dlnmh9ip6v2uc.cloudfront.net/tutorialimages/Nest/Nest-24-M.jpg

It's a pretty awesome little piece of technology, though a bit pricey. Being a sucker for new-fangled tech, I made a pre-order and waited. A few days later, I got an email from Nest offering a free professional installation. I wasn't interested, but on a whim, I replied:

Hi Matt,

This offer is a great idea! I feel very much appreciated as a customer but I won't need an install, thanks! I can't wait to get my nest and poke around inside. Depending on what's inside it might be worth doing a homepage post. Would you mind?

From your friends at SparkFun,
-Nathan

Much to my surprise and honor, I got a response from Matt: "Thanks for the note Nathan! I'm a frequent shopper of SparkFun myself. Feel free to dig, poke, and post!' -Matt, Founder and VP Engineering. Awesome! So dig and poke I did - and you can see the results here. Really cool. It's awesome to see a piece of commercial technology so very....hackable. Check out the full dissection. Nice product, Nest!


Comments 15 comments

  • It is a beautiful product… The kind of thing that could wrench my wallet open. I already have programmable thermostats, however, my family sets the bloody things to “permanent hold” mode at their favorite temps. Of course this defeats the whole purpose of having them. :(

    However, the Nest has a Orwellian flaw that I would have to have fixed before I could own one. The way it works now, I think “the net” would know your home schedule and if you are away as a part of its normal operation. Which is of course a privacy/security issue. Just think of it, an appliance that you tell when you are away, it has its own motion detector just to see for itself, and just imagine if it also included a microphone! Big Brother is watching. ;)

  • wow it’s beautiful will you be selling it on spark fun nate.

    • Hah! No, we won’t be selling Nests. But I bet you could stitch one together with our parts ;)

  • My personal experience with the Nest was not so good. The Nest thermostat blew up two furnace control boards on my not particularly new furnace (brrr). The techs at Nest weren’t particularly knowledgable, and even though I was able to get my money back on the thermostat (but not the parts it blew up), I’ve been ignored by their support people for the last few weeks. Caveat emptor.

  • I wonder if this can be adapted to work with minisplit (aka “split level”) HVAC systems such as those made by Sanyo. These systems are ductless which makes them great for masonry homes that you want to upgrade to a heat pump type system for efficiency and cost reasons. You operate each indoor unit with a remote. It would be interesting to turn my heat or air up from the office just before I go home. The security issues are interesting too.

    • Splits and DX systems should be fine as the nest has the connections for a primary/secondary heat/cooling setup… Looks like the only type of system that it does not work with is line or 240 volt electric heat. So if you split has an electric heating coil then it may be a no go, unless a relay 24v/240v system is used…

  • Very cool… but $250 cool… meh. I would just buy the normal $40 programmable thermostat and spend the remaining $210 at sparkfun.

    • Yeah, its not for everyone, but think about people already spending a few thousand dollars on an HVAC system, or people who are buying or building a house. An extra $250 isn’t that bad. And when you look at the competition: http://store.radiothermostat.com/ you can see how much better the Nest product is than equally priced products from other people.

      Reading the full teardown, its very obvious how much better this is than everything else out there.

  • I still think its funny that someone finally made this product - I’ve hated how ugly and disconnected thermostats are for years! We’ve all got wifi and always on internet, with crazy high tech phones and computers - many of us even have drawers full of old phones with perfectly good processors - why can’t I adjust my thermostat from the internet?

    Seriously, even without adding wifi, someone could have made a product that plugged into your computer via USB for super cheap. I’m sure someone did, but no one that actually seemed to have much clout in the industry did.

    Better thermostats was something I wanted to do down the road, but I’m glad to see someone beat me to it! Especially these guys, who just knocked it out of the park!

  • So what is inside? CPU, wifi chip, flash, ram? More photos?

    • (Copy paste from my comment on the teardown page.)

      Hmmm, interesting. Wonder what OS it is running, Linux? Anyways have some interesting links:

      CPU It’s an ARM CPU in that thing!

      RAM (Can’t find anything but a product selection PDF that says its a 512Mb (assuming mbit) 32M x 16 MDDR 1.8v 60 pin fbga)

      ROM (Google, shame on you, you failed me on this)

      Power Management A power management chip in a thermostat? Whats next?

      Battery charger LiPo USB charger, move along.

      Zigbee Transceiver

      Zigbee SoC

      Wireless module (can’t find anything that would seem like it from looking up the numbers on it)

      And according to bdubs

      According to Micron’s FBGA magic decoder ring, the ROM is a 2Gb (WOW!), 16-bit NAND flash.

    • Check here

      TI ARM Cortex 1GHz (!) of course they probably have it clocked lower

    • From the chips and the writeup a TI Sitara running a Cortex A8 CPU (not sure of the clock speed, but capable of 300Mhz up to 1GHz), 32MB RAM, 256MB NAND, Zigbee, and Wifi. The Sitara doesn’t have a PowerVR GPU, so no 3D gaming, but I’ve seen low end smartphones with less horsepower.

  • Very cool! And that response is a whole lot nicer that the response from Calculated Industries.

  • They are pretty neat, from what I’ve heard - it’s just too bad they haven’t kept up with demand, seeming to have made only a relatively small handful of them to meet the overwhelming desire to own one. Most people don’t want to wait years to get a shot at buying one - they will just go to Home Depot and buy one that ‘sorta-kinda’ works the way they want.


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