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How To: Install The Nest Thermostat

how to install the nest thermostatThe Nest Thermostat is a great learning thermostat that can be installed very easily by any DIYer. The install is fairly straight forward and you can be saving money on your energy bills in under 30 minutes by following the steps on this tutorial.

Just because you have an old home doesn’t mean you need to be stuck in the dark ages of electronics. Modern technology like The Nest Thermostat can very easily be incorporated into historic buildings to make them energy efficient all-stars.

This week, I get to combine a how to post with installing one of my Christmas presents! I’m thrilled to kill two birds with one stone and hopefully we’ll both learn something. I’m a huge fan of plug & play devices and I’m hopeful The Nest Thermostat 3rd gen. will be just that, so let’s get started.

Total Project Time: 20-30 mins

What you’ll need:

Really nothing since Nest is nice enough to provide all the tools you need in their package. Mounting hardware and a reversible phillips/flat head screwdriver is included. You may need a smaller screwdriver to remove the wires from your old thermostat.

1. Turn off power to your HVAC system

Locate the appropriate circuit breaker (there may be more than one), and switch it to the “Off” position. If you can’t figure out which breaker it is, then you can always turn off the main but that means 30 minutes of reseting clocks around the house.

2. Remove cover and take picture of old thermostat wiring

how to change thermostatMost covers just click off the front of your old thermostat to reveal the wiring. Before you do anything, take out your phone and take a picture of the wiring. Use this photo as your guide for when you connect the wires to The Nest later.

If your thermostat is labeled 120v or 240v, or has thick wires, you have a high-voltage system which is not compatible. You’ll need to call an electrician to complete installation.

nest thermostat wiring diagram3. Determine Nest’s compatibility with your system

Before you disconnect anything check Nest’s Compatibility Checker to check your system’s compatibility. Enter the wire labels on the webpage and Nest will tell you if you are compatible and which wires to attach to what terminal on your Nest Thermostat.

4. Remove your old thermostat

Most thermostats are attached with only a couple screws on the face (just like The Nest will be). Remove those screws and take the old thermostat down and into retirement. You can hold a small ceremony if you’d like commemorating its years of wasteful service.

5. Install the trim plate (optional)

If you want to cover old screw holes or different colored paint hiding underneath, you can attach the white trim plate included in the box to give you a clean appearance. Make this decision first, unlike me, who was almost done with installation before deciding I wanted this trim plate. You’ll notice in a couple proceeding pics that there is no trim plate because I installed the thermostat wiring prematurely before deciding to ad the trim plate.

There is a metal baseplate included, but it seems to be unnecessary to me. I simply ran the screws through the Nest base into the trim plate and that was sufficient.

6. Attach The Nest base

how to install nest baseSlip the wiring through the center of the Nest base and place it on the wall. Use the two longer self-tapping screws included and screw through the top hole of the base into the wall. Screwing into plaster walls can be done with just the included screwdriver but it will take some muscle. You may need to mark and pre-drill with a 3/32″ drill bit for plaster or wood.

Install the top screw first and use the built-in bubble level to level your nest before securing the bottom screw.

Read More: How To: Hang Things on Plaster Walls

7. Wire your Nest Thermostat

how to install nest wiringUsing the picture you took of the old thermostat wiring and the Nest website from Step 3, attach the wires to the appropriate connections by pressing the button next to each slot on the base and fully inserting each wire. The button will remain depressed if the wire is installed properly.

8. Attach the Nest display

how to install nest displayPress the beautiful glass face of The Nest thermostat right onto the base. Don’t screw or tilt it in, just line it up and press in place. It will light up when attached properly. If things don’t light up then go back to the previous step and check your thermostat wiring connections.

9. Turn on the power

Turn those circuit breakers back on and get ready to roll.

10. Follow the on-screen setup

The Nest Thermostat will walk you through connecting to you home’s WIFI network and then setting up everything you need. Just follow the prompts and you should be running in another 5 minutes.

11. Dress it up

As if The Nest wasn’t already attractive enough, you can add some extra decor by putting a fun picture frame around it to make it more than just the heart of your home’s HVAC system like we did. You can thank my wife for this clever idea!

12. Download the Nest mobile app.

One of the great things about The Nest is being able to control it remotely with your smartphone. Download the app and connect it for the best features like remote access and energy savings while you are away from home.

Slowly, over the first couple weeks, The Nest will learn your behavior and begin to create its own schedule based on your preferences. Take that week to look into all the cool features and tweak your new smart thermostat to get the most from it and start saving on your utility bills.

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10 thoughts on “How To: Install The Nest Thermostat

  1. You mention that the provided metal base plate seemed unnecessary, but I found it really helpful for installing on a lathe and plaster wall. The trim plate has four fixed screw positions, which may not line up well to the lathe to get a secure attachment. The metal base plate has four slots which give you more flexibility for lining up to the lathe. You can then use the supplied metal screws to attach both the face plate and the Nest base to the metal plate.

    I was able to line up the slots on the base plate to the screw holes from the old thermostat, so I didn’t even need to do any drilling!

  2. Jerold Here:
    Boy…..This stuff is good for “warming the heart ” of an old 1960 city kid from Brooklyn, N Y. My dad was a carpenter from Savanna Georgia, who knew how to build, maintain and weather proof an house.
    Preventing waste of any and all household waste….. in every corner of the house.
    No dripping taps nor drafty doors & rooms around my dad.

    Boy…. Do I Miss Him Now!

    Thanks For Warming My Fatherly Themostat ,


  3. I have a fancy boiler with an OpenTherm interface that allows the thermostat to control modulation rate, hot water temperature (it also does our domestic hot water), etc. Nest’s latest version for European markets has OpenTherm support, but not their American version.

    Has anyone had success in ordering and installing the European version over here in the US? I know that OpenTherm is much more rare over here (I’m the only one I know that has it), but there must be someone else—especially among old house owners.

    The boiler is a Viessman, and is currently paired with a Como OT thermostat. That stat is excellent, but I’m encountering some issues with it shutting off (haven’t isolated yet whether it’s the stat, boiler, or wiring), so I got started at looking for alternatives. I would still highly recommend the Como—it gives you a ton of control over the heating curve, scheduling etc., and they have excellent customer support.

  4. We live in an 1880’s brick farmhouse in Ontario Canada. We bought and installed the Nest thermostat a couple of weeks ago and it works great. It was super easy to install. It’s so nice to be able to turn the heat up using the Nest app from bed on a cold Canadian morning or from the car after being away from the house.

    1. Rob, that’s so funny because I started doing the same thing already on cold mornings to turn the heat up before I venture out of bed. I’m sure it’s nothing like the cold you guys deal with though!

  5. Excellent article on the Nest thermostat. Is there any security in the wifi that you may need if others share the connection, whether you know it, or not? Just what information does the Nest thermostat send back to the parent company?

    1. I’m not sure about security for a shared wifi but that is a good thing to check out in those circumstances. I use mine for personal use only, but am considering one at my shop as well.

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