Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Bug Cloud Google

Nest Thermostat Bug Leaves Owners Without Heating ( 432

An anonymous reader writes: Google-owned smart homeware company Nest has asked users to reset their connected thermostats after a software bug forced controllers offline and left owners unable to heat their homes. The company has confirmed that a software update error had caused the thermostat's batteries to drain, therefore making it unable to control the temperature. Users of the smart home device took to social media to express their anger at being left with cold houses. Some feared that the fault had put water pipes under pressure, risking burst plumbing.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nest Thermostat Bug Leaves Owners Without Heating

Comments Filter:
  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @08:56AM (#51299491)
    When you cede control of your world to The Cloud and automatic updates, you should not expect reliability.
    • From what I understand, the un-reliability of the cloud is a development paradigm: Write your software to be resilient so it will work reliably with an unreliable back end.

      The thermostat being the front end in this case, I would expect it to be as reliable as a complex system can be.

      But yeah, it's like buying the car with power windows... one more thing to fix when it fails. Keep it simple and reliability goes up... and if done well, usability is not affected.

      • by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:33AM (#51299755)

        The thermostat being the front end in this case, I would expect it to be as reliable as a complex system can be.

        See, there's where you get off track.

        I would expect something as simple as a thermostat to be "not complex" in the first place.

      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:00AM (#51299955)
        Trouble is, this thermostat is both a user interface and a control device, so it needs to be robust. If it isn't, there are 5+2 day and 7 day thermostats from Honeywell that can be programmed to expected occupancy schedules and can even be programmed to reverse the heatpump when the seasons change (basically if temp below low-setting, apply heat, if temp above high-setting, apply cool) and these only need a pair of AA batteries to run for more than a year.

        I've had to deal with EMS controller woes in the past- the HVAC people programmed the EMS controllers to basically require a network connection back to their HQ in order to function, else they went into an error-state. When it was pointed-out that there were innumerable points of failure including the LAN at the facility, the WAN, and worst of all, their own HQ's LAN or WAN that could take the entire organization down, only then did it dawn on them that it was a bad idea to so centrally-control the EMS, and they've migrated back to a more sane policy where EMS just runs its set programming until interrupted by the HQ controller.

        We've seen a lot of failure-mode problems lately, to me this points to a lack of quality assurance testing. The trend in having the programmer QA their own code is obviously not providing us with the results that we need and should be stopped.
        • by swb ( 14022 )

          I have a Honeywell 7 day and with lithium AAAs I get 18 months before a low battery warning.

          I just don't see the value add from the added complexity of the Nest. The day periods and days on mine are individually programmable and for the most part it really fits our lives just fine. If by chance I'm home during a programmed turndown, it's really not hard to bump up the temperature and it will automatically go back to following the program at the next interval start period.

          I pretty much don't want the air c

          • I switched from a basic 5+2 day thermostat to a Nest about a year ago (though I wasn't hit by the bug mentioned here). This Christmas, we left home for a few days, but left our dogs there in the care of a dog sitter who stopped by a couple times each day. Normally, we run the heat from about 6:30 PM when we get home, until 10:30 PM when we go to sleep, set to 68F. In the morning, we're not home and awake long enough to make it worth running the heat. It gets down to maybe 62 on a fairly cold day before the

    • Sure, but the cloud is saving the planet from global warming. Not to mention the monetary savings in heating fuel experienced by Nest users. (Well those that survived the last cold front anyway)

      Perhaps Slashdot needs a template for standardized reporting of the little catastrophes associated with malfunctions of the Internet of Horrors. There are gonna be a lot of them.

  • The Internet of Things breaking.
  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @08:57AM (#51299499)

    And here I am using a knob to turn the heater on and off. I like tech. I also know that it is not then end all and be all.

    Expect these kind of things more and more with the Internet of Things.

    Next: People are unable to brush their teeth due to a bug.

    • I have wireless thermostats, not nest, but a simple lower cost brand item that I think is great. It doesn't need a battery as existing control power is used. It is simple, therefore needs no updates.

      Its very easy to change the profiles for daily heating from a local browser. I can turn the heat down before I leave for vacation, and turn it back up just prior to returning. I can check while away to see what the temperature in my home is, so I know if there is a problem with one of my HVAC units.

      I'm sur
  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:08AM (#51299567) Journal
    Protip: Almost every home heating and cooling system operates on demand from a t-stat that runs on 24 volts ac low voltage.

    If you remove the Nest from the wall, the wires connecting the t-stat to the equipment relays and contacters are typically red, white, green, yellow, and brown/blue. Red is hot 24v, and white is the wire energized in a call for system heat in about 99% of single stage heating applications... plus, it will get you heat in many other multiple stage heating configurations.

    With the furnace de-energized, so you don't fry a transformer, jumper from red to white and restore the power to the furnace/air handler. Keep in mind that this will get you heat, but it will not turn itself off.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:17AM (#51299617)

      Or just put the thermostat you took off the wall to install your Nest back up.

    • by c ( 8461 )

      With the furnace de-energized, so you don't fry a transformer, jumper from red to white and restore the power to the furnace/air handler.

      Better yet, reinstall the thermostat that got replaced by the Nest.

    • For the benefit of forieng readers note that this may be true in the USA but it's not true everywhere. Here in the UK heating control wiring is usually 240V.

    • by tibit ( 1762298 )

      Almost every home heating and cooling system operates on demand from a t-stat that runs on 24 volts ac low voltage.

      Yeah, old or entry-level shit that nobody with a sane mind would get in the first place unless forced to. All less-than-basic furnaces don't use the simple on/off signaling. You'll get these in rented apartments, but I'd hope that most homes with HVAC systems replaced in the last 10 years will not have this old shit anymore.

  • Sold my Nest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:11AM (#51299575)

    I live in Florida with a high efficiency A/C (19 Seer) and I noticed very little savings $10/mo at the expense of major fluctuations in temperature and coming home to a hot humid house. The upstairs and downstairs would have strange set points that made one unit run all the time (at full power).

    I sold them online and have cheap thermostat with 4 set points during the day. The units run nearly all of the time in the summer but on the low power, high efficiency setting. The house is much more pleasant at very little extra cost.

    • Depends on the age of the house. Newer homes have much better insulation and radiant barrier below the roof. So for the same SQ footage in the same city for the same KW per hour cost, one home might blow $400 worth of electricity whereas the newer one might only hover around $120 with the same HVAC equipment and usage patters.

      • The house is 10 years old and is 4,000 sqft evenly divided over two floors. Everything is electric and my bill averages $250/mo.

      • Re:Sold my Nest (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ed Tice ( 3732157 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:19AM (#51300125)
        Insulation doesn't make that much of a difference here in Florida. The reason is that we just don't have much of a temperature gradient. In a residential setting, you don't need much cooling at all. Mostly just a way to reduce humidity but the AC unit is the only means available. I have a pretty plain vanilla system and I set it just a few degrees below ambient to ensure that the thing runs and keeps humidity down. Sure there a a few hundred degree days but even then it's only terribly hot for a few hours. Most of the time, my house is within about 5F of the outside temperature so you just can't save much with insulation. My house is about 15 years old. Newer models are adding efficiency features and guaranteeing an average heating / cooling cost of about $100 for the same size unit. I can't measure my heating/cooling cost in isolation since I also do things like cook and do laundry but it's probably around $140 or so. There just isn't a lot to gain in heating/cooling in this area. On the other hand, in the Northeast, I remember $300 gas bills for a place half the size and a smart thermostat might make sense.
    • Re: Sold my Nest (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I live in Florida too. I never understood what problem the Nest was trying to solve. A programmable thermostat that has been correctly set up is much more efficient and much less expensive, at least in our climate. Having only lived in the southern most states, the reasoning behind buying Nest always baffled me.

      • Re: Sold my Nest (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:09AM (#51300021)

        A programmable thermostat that has been correctly set up is much more efficient and much less expensive

        Agreed. Now, if we could only take the next step -- making coupled thermostats with humidity monitors more common.

        In my experience, in humid climates the most useful measure of comfort is NOT temperature (or even relative humidity), but rather dewpoint. Comfort is a little more complex than that, but I'd much rather have a device that kept my house in the summer at roughly constant dewpoint (essentially constant absolute humidity), rather than constant temperature. With low humidity, 80+ degrees F can be perfectly comfortable. With 100% humidity, 70 degrees F can be unbearable and led you to be awash in sweat with even minimal exertion. A humidistat is also not quite an answer either, particularly if it tries to maintain static relative humidity -- again, that's not the best measure of comfort either across wide temperature ranges.

        When seasons change, I'm often making on-the-fly adjustments to my programmable thermostat over several weeks, trying to strike a balance between, "I don't really need to have my AC running continuously at 70F just to remove humidity on some days" and "If I set the AC at a high temperature that would work when it's 100F, it isn't warm enough outside to make the AC run and the house will be unbearably humid."

        (I know the Nest does measure humidity and can react to it, though I don't know how effective its programming is in this regard. And I would never use one anyway.)

        I'd save more energy and effort adjusting my programmable thermostat if we just ignored temperature altogether. It's easy to measure, but it's simply not a good measure of human comfort.

      • Yes - I too wondered about this. But then I realized - how many people actually program their device properly if at all?

        I have a basic model which is difficult to program. They've tried to make it easy - but making a change is difficult. If we're home on vacation for a week it is hard to change the set points (I just use Hold). Plus I have two of them in my two story house - so changes must be made twice. Sure, once set I rarely have to make changes (I last made changes a year ago when I got married a

    • I got 4 zwave thermostats for far less than 1 nest. The only feature I can not realy find elsewhere is the slab radiant floor learning. Otherwise my thermostats are happily powered off the relay transformers and operate in a self contained manner. Higher level logic moves setpoints etc. Having that logic in a remote DC never made any sense to me, local low power device today integrated with wifi ap tomorrow. We need a standard for application specific gateway for all this stuff. I have openhab as the

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:15AM (#51299603) Homepage Journal
    Nest saved them money by not heating their homes. And still they complain???
  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:20AM (#51299637) Homepage

    due to a software error, but not the rooms that the computers are in.

  • I am curious if the Nest has a way to turn off the auto update feature. I do not currently own a Nest but I have thought about getting one. I could see this being a major headache for someone who might be away for a long trip and not be able to "reset" a thermostat because of a problem with an update. I prefer to be around when a device is being updated so that I can intervene if there is a problem. I would want to be home for at least a day or so after an update. I don't allow Windows to auto-update,
  • Your thermostat shouldn't have to be online.
  • by kent_eh ( 543303 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:48AM (#51299865)
    And this is a pretty good demonstration of a less simple tool not being better.
    At it's core, a thermostat has a simple job to do.
    The more complexity that is added to the design, the more points of failure there can be.
    And, really, how much benefit does internet connectivity really add to a thermostat anyway?
    • by c ( 8461 ) <> on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:33AM (#51300223)

      And, really, how much benefit does internet connectivity really add to a thermostat anyway?

      I can see use for a *network* connected thermostat. Adjusting the programming on a typical 5-2 with a tiny LCD display and 5-6 buttons is horrible. I have to track down the manual every time daylight savings changes. A web page served up on my LAN would be a far less aggravating user interface, unless the UI designers were from Facebook. I'd also prefer a network of temp sensors throughout the house reporting back to the thermostat rather than having it stuck on the wall of one room. But mostly, it's about the clock. My definition of "smart device" is one where I never need to program the actual time.

      Incidentally, the time/program UI issue is what I see as the major advantage of a connected coffee maker.

      That being said, there's zero need for any of that information to leave my house.

  • by zerofoo ( 262795 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:50AM (#51299879)

    Every time I see a bug like this I can't help but think - the engineers that built this don't actually use this.

    Android wear is another one. I believe no engineer on that product actually wears an Android Wear device. It's so full of bugs that it's practically useless.

    The people developing products should be forced to actually live with them (except maybe medical equipment....).

  • I can definitely sympathize with someone who went on vacation and came home to all their possessions floating because of a burst pipe. But -- here's a good example of how not knowing how the magic box works under the hood is a problem. In a real emergency, you can hook the control wires together to force the heat on in most systems until the problem is fixed, or worst case, you buy a new thermostat. So, people complaining about having no heat could have at least made do while the problem was worked out.

    I ac

  • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:57AM (#51299933) Homepage

    The company has confirmed that a software update error had caused the thermostat's batteries to drain, therefore making it unable to control the temperature.

    Wow, if this isn't an epic example of bullshit stupidity by companies who want to control the infrastructure in your home I have no idea of what it is.

    I wouldn't trust a net connected thermostat in the first place. Because it's there to gather information and upload it to the mother ship. And if you can access it via an app, someone else can.

    But then they push an update and fuck up the unit to the point people have no heat? Hell no, this is why I have no intention of letting some external party ever be able to access things like my thermostat.

    Products used to be engineered knowing their entire life cycle would be in isolation. It had to work, it had to do all of its functions, and it couldn't fuck up because if people had to replace it, they wouldn't replace it with your brand.

    Now companies make shitty stuff, ship it out the door, make updates to it, and if you end up with a broken product ... well, bummer.

    This world of connected crap tied to smart phones? It's garbage, and it's years away from being anything but. It's insecure, and violates your privacy.

    Sadly, this kind of crap is what many people have been warning about -- because you're suddenly at the mercy of some damned company who wants to be agile, or find a way to collect even more information about you. And then they push out an untested update, and you're screwed.

    As someone who lives in a place where winter means "really damned cold", if I had been stupid enough to buy one of these, I'd be replacing it immediately. Imagine coming home to frozen pipes because some lazy idiot didn't do enough testing?

  • WTF are they thinking? Updating thermostat software when temperatures are below freezing? They should immediately institute a policy of holding off updates until temperatures are above freezing unless the bug fix is *so* critical it just cannot wait. Looking at mine, I see the last update was January 13!


  • ...a self-driving car. Who wants one?
  • by hawkbug ( 94280 ) <> on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:41AM (#51300281) Homepage

    Yesterday at 5:38 PM, my nest got an update to version 5.1.6rc4. Since that time, it hasn't dropped offline due to low battery. Not that it won't in the future... but this is supposedly the fixed version. It took them 2 months to fix it! My thermostat started displaying this behavior on November 17th under version 5.1.3rc1. And before anybody asks - yes, I have the common wire hooked up and it's worked fine for over 3 years that way. Up until version 5.1.3rc1 that is. I want to know why in the hell it took them 2 months to fix this issue. At the very least, they should have rolled the broken code back to an earlier version.

  • by johncandale ( 1430587 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @11:22AM (#51300549)
    I hope some people died, and some houses got burst pipes from freezing, and I hope the lawsuits and resulting publicity shuts down the internet of things for another ten years.
  • Online Review.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @12:28PM (#51301147)

    I was reading thermostat reviews online and ran across this one.... Thinking about a Nest? Read this:

    My former wife loves to take expensive vacations. We live in Ohio, which doesn’t exactly have extravagant places to see unless you like to watch grass growing or interstate construction. While we make OK money, I’m convinced she felt the need to single handedly improve the US economy by taking elaborate vacations: Broadway shows in New York City, gambling in Las Vegas, Spa’s in Arizona, sightseeing in San Francisco. The airlines know me so well they ask about my dog when I call to make reservations. His name is Fred.

    In my attempt to try and save whatever I could so the princess could have her nice things I bought this Nest Wi-Fi enabled device so I could adjust the HVAC while we were away piling up massive amounts of debt on Mickey Mouse watches. I thought we could save a few bucks by keeping the temp cool in the winter and warm in the summer. The device was easy to install. I did not have the “blue” connector so I had to re-purpose the green one - this required an adjustment to the actual HVAC unit in our home. There are plenty of videos on Youtube to demonstrate how to do this. Within an hour I was up and running.

    The device works flawlessly. You can adjust the temp from anywhere you have a Wi-Fi or cellular signal. Little did I know that my ex had found someone that had a bit more money than I did and decided to make other travel plans. Those plans included her no longer being my wife and finding a new travel partner (Carl, a banker). She took the house, the dog and a good chunk of my 401k, but didn’t mess with the wireless access point or the Wi-Fi enabled thermostat.

    Since this past Ohio winter has been so cold I’ve been messing with the temp while the new love birds are sleeping. Doesn’t everyone want to wake up at 7 AM to a 40 degree house? When they are away on their weekend getaways, I crank the heat up to 80 degrees and back down to 40 before they arrive home. I can only imagine what their electricity bills might be. It makes me smile. I know this won’t last forever, but I can’t help but smile every time I log in and see that it still works. I also can’t wait for warmer weather when I can crank the heat up to 80 degrees while the love birds are sleeping. After all, who doesn’t want to wake up to an 80 degree home in the middle of June?

    And after laughing myself sick, decided I'm not going to have a thermostat that goes 'online' in my home..

Memory fault -- Oh dammit, I forget!