A user test result: “Smart thermostats” disappoint (including Nest thermostat)

An extensive study by Nest Labs Inc. on how customers use thermostats has found that the one — the sleek unit that is supposed to be drop-dead simple to make use of — fell in the middle of the pack on numerous criteria and features a design and style flaw that gave it a near-bottom rating for usability.

An additional important conclusion within the study of “smart” thermostats is that none was all that intuitive or helped users easily adjust settings in methods that save power.

The study was carried out by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) in California, where the thermostat plays an particularly important role in energy use. Residential thermostats manage one-quarter of all power consumption, far more than any California utility. On a hot summer season day in SMUD’s service area in the Central Valley, home air conditioning accounts for about a third from the utility’s 300-gigawatt peak demand.

“What we discovered is that clients actually do possess a challenge utilizing thermostats. They are not in a position to use them really well, they discover the interface nonintuitive,” said Lupe Jimenez, a senior project manager at SMUD who managed the study. “You’d think by now the industry would have gotten about to it.”

A brand new generation of “smart” thermostats wirelessly connect to other devices inside the house. They may be being sold by alarm organizations, big-box shops and cable providers with the promise of managing energy use without having significantly input from the occupant (EnergyWire, April 14). Nevertheless, the study makes clear that the new connected thermostats aren’t a great deal easier to manually system than the old “dumb” thermostats.

The results for Nest had been surprising, especially offered that the company’s founder and CEO, Tony Fadell, led the design in the original iPod and brought Apple’s design aesthetic to Nest. In February, Google acquired Nest for $3.two billion.

The survey was absolutely nothing if not extensive. A total of 163 folks in SMUD’s service area participated, selected to represent a balanced sampling of gender, age, race, earnings, education and house ownership. Participants were videotaped to measure how long it took to execute tasks having a thermostat, filled out questionnaires and participated in follow-up interviews.

The study looked at the “walk-up usability” of a thermostat — in other words, with out any guidance or even a manual. Ten “smart” thermostats had been inside the study, together with two “dumb” thermostats. Every participant compared two thermostats side by side, and each and every thermostat was evaluated by a minimum of 26 folks.

The all round winner was the Carrier ComfortChoice Touch, which came in initial in each overall ease of use and general really feel and sound. Ninety-one percent of those that tried it known as it their favorite thermostat. Runners-up were the Ecobee Smart  Si and Emerson Smart Energy. (I will test both of them very soon, and will publish the review in here. Please be around 🙂 ).

Pitfalls for the Nest

In general ease of use, Nest came in 11th, second in the bottom, behind even the two “dumb” thermostats within the competitors. In all round feel and sound, it came in seventh. In all round look, Nest came in fourth. On the rating of “task efficiency” — how extended it takes to complete a specific function — Nest came in second from last.

The study found that most of the dissatisfaction with Nest came down to a single function: the dial. As opposed to all other thermostats tested which can be boxes controlled by buttons, the Nest is essentially a circle which is manipulated by pushing and twisting the entire unit.

“More than half from the participants that tested the Nest — 16 of 28 — had been unable to figure out the input mechanism at all or till the really end. Because of this, the Nest garnered a really low 38% Activity Efficiency score,” the study noted.

It added, “Removing those frustrated users who couldn’t determine the dial, the efficiency score changed to put Nest in first for efficiency and fourth for preference.”

The capability to utilize a thermostat without having a manual is vital in managing the energy use of the numerous properties where the thermostat is currently on the wall when a brand new renter or homeowner moves in.

“A customer who buys a Nest and brings it home is probably not going to possess the problem. But if somebody moves into that residence, that client might not have the ability to figure it out,” Jimenez stated.

Participants in the study stated they liked that the Nest was sleek and modern-looking and thought the dial and also the app had been easy to utilize. On the other hand, they thought that the screen was as well little, that the menu was hard to decipher and that it was hard to get started.

Jimenez stated that SMUD would base its future acquisitions of thermostats around the final results of this study. Moreover, she hoped that it would nudge the whole thermostat market to produce user encounter a priority.

“The question remains … regardless of whether the new thermostats will be utilized in a way that actually aids consumers use less energy,” the study said. “While it’s also soon [to] pass judgment on the far finish of the communications path, we are able to say with some certainty that these new requirements is not going to impact power savings if clients don’t like or can not determine how you can make use of the new thermostats.”