As clever as the Nest Learning Thermostat can be, its intelligence only extends as far as the front door: it hasn’t really been aware of how neighbors or the seasons affect our power bills. Nest Labs is improving that connection to the outside world through Nest Energy Services, a new program that links its device to the collective, cloud-based knowledge of utility companies. When owners are with an Energy Services-aware provider, the thermostat will know when to brace for an energy “rush hour” and automatically limit its cooling during peak (read: expensive) periods. It also gives a heads-up for seasonal discounts that fine-tune the temperature schedule over the course of a few weeks. Unlike previous utility-guided approaches, Nest users can always retake control if they genuinely can’t stand the heat.
Only Austin Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Reliant and Southern California Edison have lined up for the synced climate control so far, although Nest is sweetening the deal by expanding utility-based discounts for the thermostat itself. Customers of National Grid can get an immediate $100 rebate through Nest, while those who sign up with Reliant can still receive their thermostats for free with certain plans. The deals are calculated tradeoffs for companies likely to recoup their investment down the road, but they could represent big wins for homeowners still jittery about paying up front to save money later.