Nest Temperature Sensor review: smart accessory enhances control over home’s temp

Nest Temperature Sensor review: smart accessory enhances control over home’s temp

Nest owners, rejoice! With the new Nest Temperature Sensor, your Nest can take (and use) a temperature reading from somewhere else in your home!

This new sensor is a small, wireless, battery powered “puck” about 2″ in diameter. It can be used with the Nest Thermostat E and the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd gen. only). It’s sold separately but available everywhere Nest products are sold (check it out here on nest.com). You can add up to 6 sensors per Nest thermostat, up to 18 total in a house.

What you can do with the Nest Temperature Sensor: 

  • Take a temperature reading from somewhere other than where your thermostat is located
  • Switch between using the thermostat’s temp and the sensor’s temp reading according to a schedule
  • Monitor the temperature of various parts of your home remotely via the app

The idea isn’t new: competitor ecobee has bundled a combination room temperature and motion sensor with their flagship thermostats for a couple years now, a standout feature that helped make ecobee our top pick thermostat last year and this year. But this is a new addition to the Nest lineup, and we’re excited to see the Nest get such a great new feature!

Quick overview

  • Works with Nest Thermostat E and Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd. gen) hardware
  • Sets up in minutes (scan the QR code on the back)
  • Wireless 
  • Runs on a CR2 3V Lithium battery (expected 2-year battery life)
  • Connects to your Nest thermostat via Bluetooth LE, so they keep working even if your WiFi goes down
  • Available in a single pack (1) or 3-pack
  • Add up to 6 sensors per Nest thermostat, up to 18 total in a home
  • Can be “scheduled” (with some limitations)
  • Max. 50-foot range from “parent” thermostat
  • Small, unobtrusive size and design can be mounted on a wall or placed on a shelf

Who would benefit from the Nest Temperature Sensor?

  • Families with large or multi-story homes
  • Homes where the thermostat is in a particularly sunny or chilly location in the home
  • People who spend a lot of time in one particular room all day and don’t care about the rest of the house
  • People who can’t or don’t want to move their existing thermostat to get a more accurate reading from somewhere else

Basically, if you don’t like the temperature reading your Nest is getting wherever it’s currently located (too hot, too cold, etc.), the sensor is for you. Place it in the room or area you really care about, and use its reading instead. It’s like moving your thermostat without having to actually, well, move your thermostat.

What it won’t do

It doesn’t redirect heating or cooling

Like any smart thermostat sensor system, the Nest Temperature Sensor is not a replacement for a dual-zone HVAC system. It’s not going to redirect heating or cooling, so if you hope to use the sensor to help make a perpetually-cold room warmer without roasting the rest of your house, just know that it’s not going to stop your HVAC system from also blasting more heat into all the other rooms, too.

If you already know that getting your always-cold room up to a comfortable temperature makes the rest of your home uncomfortably warm, then the Nest Temperature Sensor isn’t going to fix that. (There are other ways to try to fix that problem, though, including closing vents elsewhere in the house and installing heat-blocking curtains in the always-warm rooms.)

Nest Temperature Sensors don’t detect motion

The Nest Temperature Sensor reads only temperature, not motion. (Contrast with Ecobee’s famous sensors, which detect both motion and temperature to determine where you are and whether you’re in a room that needs additional cooling or heating.)

This seems like such a missed opportunity to us: Nest’s flagship thermostat uses sensors (as well as your phone’s location) to determine if you’re home or not. This feature is known as Home/Away Assist. But if your Nest thermostat is tucked away in a corner somewhere, it may never see you walk by and might decide you’re not home anymore. This is a common complaint we’ve seen from Nest users. This new sensor seemed like a no-brainer for enhancing Home/Away Assist, but Nest’s engineers left it out of this version.

Limited scheduling

Nest lets you create a schedule based on the sensor’s temperature reading, but you have to use Nest’s predetermined schedule blocks:

  • “morning” is 7-11am
  • “midday” is 11am-4pm
  • “evening” is 4pm-9pm
  • “night” is 9pm to 7am

If your schedule suits this Nest-designed preset, awesome – enjoy. For the rest of us who are on an “unconventional” schedule (or just those among us who treasure more fine-tuned control), these presets might seem limiting. We hope Nest adds better granularity to this scheduling feature in a future update

Doesn’t read sensors in aggregate

You might be imagining a scenario in which the Nest thermostat looks at all your attached sensors and, if any of them dips below a particular temperature, kicks on the heat. It doesn’t do this. It just looks at what temperature it should be reading for the given time of day and behaves accordingly. This seems like an obvious feature to include in a future update, though, and we’ve seen people asking for it on the Nest forums, so hopefully it will become a reality in a future update.

Why some rooms are hotter or colder than others

Very few homes are the same temperature throughout. Your own home probably has a room that’s always colder or warmer than the rest. This variance is due to a variety of factors, such as exposure (north, east, etc.), window size (and quality), the location of your thermostat, building materials, and your HVAC system itself. Normally, a thermostat gets your home’s temperature data from itself – wherever it might be located – but for homes with a lot of temperature variance, this might not be ideal.

If this is your home, there’s a few things you can try to fix it beyond adding a remote sensor to your thermostat:

  • Hang thermal curtains in the always-warm rooms and keep them closed (so those rooms don’t become unbearably hot when you run the heat for the sake of your always-cold room)
  • Experiment with closing vents throughout your home to help direct heat to the coldest room
  • If you use some rooms less frequently, keep their doors closed
  • Use a space heater in an always-cold room

Nest Sensors vs. Ecobee sensors

If you’re comparing Nest vs. Ecobee, the playing field just got a bit more level thanks to the addition of room sensors to the Nest lineup. Ecobee’s sensors have long been their unique and defining feature (now I suppose it might be the built-in Alexa on the Ecobee4), but they’re still ahead in that they detect motion whereas Nest’s do not.

Nest sensorEcobee sensor
Bundled with thermostatNoYes
(ecobee4, ecobee3 models)
Motion detectionNoYes
User-replaceable batteryYesYes
Schedule when the sensor’s
reading is in use (or not)
Yes (limited)Yes
Maximum number of sensors allowed6 per thermostat50 per thermostat
(but that’s ridiculous, right?)

 

If you’re trying to decide between Nest and Ecobee, we still think Ecobee is tops. Ecobee’s flagship model, the ecobee4, has Alexa built right in for hands-off convenience and the room temperature sensor that ships with Ecobee is also capable of detecting motion (read our full review here). However, if you’re interested in Nest’s wider family of integrated products – such as the smoke/CO detector Nest Protect, Nest cameras, Hello doorbell, and others, then a Nest thermostat is an obvious choice made even better by the ability to pair sensors with a Nest thermostat.

Where to buy the Nest Temperature Sensor

More Nest Temperature Sensor reviews

Don’t just take our word from it – here’s what others are saying:

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