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Nest test fails to save energy


Photo of Kari Sorensen with Nest thermostat

Kari Sorensen won a Nest thermostat in a Lightly Facebook drawing last October.

But other factors – not the high-tech thermostat – are probably to blame, homeowner says

Kari Sorensen’s demanding lifestyle seems like the perfect fit for a Nest Learning Thermostat. She’s too busy to have to bother with frequent setting and re-setting of temperatures to save energy in her Manson home.

But the high-tech thermostat, installed last October, failed to help Sorensen save on her electric bill. Chelan PUD staff visited with Sorensen to try to figure out why.

Sorensen thinks a series of personal circumstances, and not the thermostat, contributed to higher bills. A slip on the ice landed Sorensen in the hospital with a concussion in January. A friend stayed in her home for two weeks while she recovered, and kept the heat turned up. Sorensen also has been away frequently this spring, leaving a house-sitter to adjust temperatures to the sitter’s liking.

Over the winter and spring, Sorensen decided to remodel an unfinished top floor. She added a flat-screen TV and an electric fireplace. The uninsulated upstairs rooms previously had been closed off.

Photo of Nest in Heat/Cool modeSorensen said she’s also had trouble using the Heat/Cool mode on the Nest. This setting switches automatically between heating and cooling to keep the temperature within a preferred range. This is useful for climates that consistently require both heating and cooling in the same day – for example, if you’re living in a desert climate and require cooling during the day and heating at night. But it shouldn’t be necessary in North Central Washington. Generally, setting one or the other separately is the most efficient approach. To save energy, shoot for 68 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer.

Which brings up another point: Sorensen likes it cooler than most, setting her cooling at 72. “I do like it cool,” she confessed.

All in all though, “I love my Nest,” she said. Sorensen won the Nest in a drawing on the PUD’s Lightly Facebook page. She uses her iPad to track energy use when she’s at work at the Blueberry Hills restaurant she owns and operates with her parents. “I love to log on and see what the system is doing,” she said. And because she’s on the go, she appreciates the Auto Away feature. The Nest turns itself down automatically when it senses that nobody’s home.

Photo of Kari Sorensen with blueberry bucket

Sorensen shows off the seasonal bounty at Blueberry Hills farm, which she co-owns with her parents.

That’s a frequent occurrence this time of year, when the restaurant is buzzing with tourists and the 10½ acres of U-pick blueberry fields are filled with families out for a genuine farm experience. That flash of bright pink you see among the berry bushes is Sorensen, who moves easily from meeting with accountants and marketers in her office to jumping on a four-wheeler to find the biggest, sweetest berries and give older pickers a ride – still wearing high heels and a lacy dress.

Sorensen’s 1943 home remains an energy challenge. An addition from the ’60s brought the house to 4,000 drafty square feet that’s hard to heat and cool. She’s added a new heating/cooling system, doors and windows (using the PUD’s rebate program for windows) and energy-efficient appliances. But she knows that much of the space still needs insulation. And she’s considering installing a ductless heat pump upstairs. Both improvements are eligible for PUD rebates.

Recommendations for Sorensen are:

• Seal air leaks to the outside upstairs, around windows and doors, and outlet and switch plates. Pay particular attention to recessed lights, and plumbing and wiring penetrations.
• Insulate attic, walls and underfloor. This is the single most cost-effective thing she can do.
• Increase the cool setting to 78 or as close to that as is comfortable.
• Double-check Nest settings and recommendations to make sure she’s getting the full advantage of its many features.

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Do you have a Nest? If so, how do you like it?

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