Google's new 'Nest Renew' program aims to help you use more clean energy at home
The initiative uses your Nest thermostat to help curb emissions.
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There’s an unspoken downside to smart-home products: Every smart speaker, smart camera, and smart plug you deploy consumes electricity, in most cases 24/7 electricity. The very nature of the category is that it requires full-time power and connectivity.
In an attempt to offset some of the damage, Google’s new Nest Renew project aims to lower your fossil-fuel consumption by leveraging one such product—in this case, the company’s own Nest thermostat. Let’s take a look at how Nest Renew works and what Google hopes to accomplish with it.
What is Nest Renew?
Nest Renew is a service for Nest thermostats. It’s designed to inform and educate consumers regarding their home energy consumption and impact, while at the same time helping steer them toward clean-energy options. Taking a more brass-tacks view, however, it’s really just a software update, one that includes some monitoring and reporting features.
Which devices work with Nest Renew?
The service is compatible with the 3rd-generation Nest Learning Thermostat, the Nest E Thermostat, and what Google refers to as “the newest Nest Thermostat,” which was introduced in late 2020. Whatever model you own, it must be connected to a Google account.
It doesn’t matter if you have other smart devices in your home; the thermostat is the heart of the service and the only device that plays a role.
What does Nest Renew actually do?
Google’s thermostats already provide various energy-saving features (you’ve probably seen the encouraging green leaf that appears when, say, you dial back your AC on a warm summer day). So what does Nest Renew add to the mix?
First up is Energy Shift, which aims to, well, shift your energy usage to times when your power grid is employing clean sources (wind and solar, for example) rather than less-clean ones (like coal and gas). Those cleaner sources may prove to be less expensive as well.
So if you live somewhere that has this kind of mixed grid, you can let Energy Shift prioritize the clean-energy times of the day. Google promises that your comfort won’t be compromised and that you can easily override thermostat settings as you see fit.
You’ll also receive monthly energy-impact reports designed to help you make smarter energy choices. For example, Google might reveal if it’s cheaper (and/or greener) to run your washing machine at certain times of the day.
All this happens without changing any of your utility providers.
How much does Nest Renew cost?
There are two tiers of the Nest Renew service: Basic, which is free, and Premium, which costs $10 per month and is available only in select locations. Premium includes all the features found in Basic, plus Clean Energy Match, in which Google purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) that are equivalent to the estimated fossil fuel-generated electricity your home consumes.
Premium also includes a unified monthly energy bill that combines your Nest Renew cost and standard utility charges, the idea being to give you a bigger-picture overview.
When can I get Nest Renew?
For the moment, Nest Renew is in the early-preview stage; in the coming weeks, Google will be sending invitations to select owners of the aforementioned three thermostat models. You can sign up for the waitlist at nestrenew.google.com.
Google has yet to indicate how long this preview program will last or when Nest Renew will be more widely available.
Are there any downsides to using Nest Renew?
It’s always been something of a Catch-22 to cede climate control to a smart thermostat. Sure, you want to consume less energy and lower your monthly bills, but you also don’t want to freeze during a cold winter night. There’s always the chance Energy Shift could get overzealous with regard to savings, leaving you uncomfortable or inconvenienced.
That said, everything about it is optional, and you can override anything you don’t like. So there’s probably no harm in giving it a try. The planet you save could be your own.
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