Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Emptying Out the Nest

nest thermostatSometimes I feel like I’m swimming backwards: searching for retrograde items to replace commonplace tools that were once so functional  you barely noticed they were there but that have been replaced with computerized junk so complicated you can’t even begin to figure out how to make it work — or even if it does work. Current case in point: the Nest.

My son kindly bought me one of these formerly extremely kewl thermostats as a birthday present. And at the time it was awesomely kewl, the product of a band of ambitious young Turks. You could tell it what time you wanted to jack up or down the house’s temperature; or you could tell it to watch for you and to turn off when you’re not around. So, say, you could set it for 80 degrees on a 110-degree day, and it would keep the temperature around there while you were in the house, but if you went out for a few hours, it would shut itself off until you came back, saving you large amounts of money.

Then Google bought Nest.


thermostat honeywellWell, even if you didn’t mind the presumption that here’s another way for Google to spy on you, the problem is that Google decided to break the Nest. A year or so ago Google force-fed programming into the thing (you have no choice in the matter: the software downloads automatically and unbidden), and that program is just simply incomprehensible. You can NOT figure out how to make it work.

Lately I’ve been waking up every morning at 2:00 a.m. sharp, in a fit of discomfort: thinking I’m having hot flashes!

Hot flashes? At 71? Really?

Through the wee-hours stupor, I realize the heater’s running. In a daze, I climb out of bed, stumble down the hall, and turn the damn thermostat back off. And I wonder: is this a senile error? Did I not turn it off last night? I’m SURE I turned it off. The house was colder than a bigawd when the dogs and I huddled together in the bed at 10 p.m. How can it be back on?

Well, of course, “back on” unbidden is the Nest’s nature. And there seems to be no way to tell it off, OFF, goddammit STAY OFF! The Nest will turn itself back on when it deems proper: at about 65 degrees. Thank you very much for arrogating my decisions unto Thyself, dear Google.

Peeved after I see this month’s power bill — about $30 more than it should be, even though it’s effin’ freezing in here when I’m not having the 2 a.m. “hot flash” — I google “nonprogrammable thermostat.”

What should come up but a simulacrum of the good old Honeywell round thermostat!

Unfortunately it’s not the real good old thermostat, because it’s not a mercury thermostat. That was the reason they took real thermostats — the ones that used to…you know, function? — off the market. We might hurt ourselves with that mercury. And God knows we’re all too stupid to figure out how to recycle it properly.

User reviews are middling. At Home Depot, the Honeywell racks up a 4 out 5 possible stars, with 14% hating it. At Amazon, though, a full 20% bash it with one-star reviews.  Since on average you can expect to see 9% negative, this comes under the heading of bad reviews. By and large the main complaint (except for the guy who got an empty box in the mail) is inaccuracy, but as I recall the old real Honeywell mercury thermostat left something to be desired in that department…it’s pretty easy to adapt to, though. Only 59% of Amazon reviewers love it up with 5 stars; most of those folk seem to be the nostalgic type, pining for gear that has escaped digitization.

On the other hand…i prob’ly fall into that category… 😀

So, what we have here, so far, are four tools so laden with electronic frou-frou that they barely operate:

A shiny double oven, about $2,500 worth, whose highest and best use is to store pots and pans.

A thermostat that thinks it knows your mind better than you do, and will not brook any argument.

A car whose steering wheel is so packed with buttons to operate doo-dads that you have to take your hands off the wheel to honk the horn. Makes sense, eh? No one would ever think of honking a horn when some emergency was under way… A car bearing 28 computers, which working in concert will track your every move, operate your telephone, tell you which way to turn (not always correctly), and god only knows what else. But it’ll cost you $1,000 to fix a door that quits operating.

A clothes washer that will not wash, but that will explode. 😀

Hilariously, a few days ago Samsung sent me an urgent message with instructions about what can and cannot be washed in the washer — your comforter, for example, topmost among the NOTs… And with a new dial stick-on emphasizing that you cannot wash sheets in any cycle other than the “bedding” cycle. Which is just as well, one figures, since that’s the only cycle that releases enough water to launder so much as a pair of nylon panties…

Well, now we have a very fine wash machine, a throwback to the 1970s, whose agitator actually sloshes the laundry around in a whole tubful of water.

The dishwasher, a Bosch, has started to make ominous growling noises. I suppose that will be the next to go, soon to be replaced by yet another over-engineered device that doesn’t work. Kitchen appliances, including the Bosch models, are now engineered to crap out in 7 years. The other day SDXB reflected that he’s been in Sun City for 13 years now. He moved out there shortly after I moved into this house, in the wake of a dispute with a nefarious neighbor. So…that dishwasher is well into its dotage.

Just like its human…which also growls a lot.

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Author: funny

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  1. I love my programmable thermostat – it predates the Nest – but I’m looking to replace it, probably next winter. NOT with the Nest – my biggest issue with the Nest, is that it overrides the program based on what it “thinks” – for example – you can say “turn the heat up to 65 from 6pm to 9pm on weekdays” – but if it doesn’t “see” you moving around in the house, it will assume you’ve left and turn the heat off. Since my thermostat points at the (always empty in the evenings) kitchen eating area and NOT at the living room where I might be sitting and watching tv/working – unless I jump up and run in front of the sensor every so often, I’m going to freeze!

    Now – programmed schedules are fine…except when the schedule doesn’t match my reality 🙂 So for example – on weekends I tell the thermostat to turn on *later* so that I can attempt to sleep in – since the moment the force air furnace starts blwoing, I am AWAKE. But, that means that if I wake up before the furnace kicks in, it’s DARNED COLD in my house.

    What I really want is the ability to say “Alexa, turn on the heat” – because yup, I’ve invited Amazon into my house to listen and I am embracing the concept of voice-activated STUFF in my house. But sadly, my furnace is old enough that it doesn’t have the requisite wires to work with a fancy programmable thermostat that is wifi enabled, and thus able to talk to Alexa or other smart things.

    So, I’m saving up my pennies and waiting to see how things shake out – I’m not convinced that Alexa will end up being the smart thing in charge of my house – Google Home has some much better features – so next year we’ll see where we’re at.

  2. On the Nest, you can turn off the “away’ mode — which is now part of the “eco” mode. “Away” or “eco” causes it to stay off if it doesn’t sense someone walking around. When you turn that feature off, the Nest behaves like a normal thermostat: you set it to come on at, say, 68, and it just comes on at 68 without “thinking” about whether you’re there or not.

    For me, this process used to be very simple, but the latest software update has made the thing incomprehensibly complicated. That was the problem I had with other programmable thermostats: I just couldn’t figure out how to work the things.

    “Cold” in an Arizona winter is not like cold in the real world. This morning it was 64 in the house (after the system was set to “off” overnight), and it’s about 50 outside. Not your normal Nebraska winter.

    I believe that the Nest stayed OFF off during the night. Given my senility, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that yesterday I thought I’d turned it off and didn’t. Now I’m sticking a sign next to it to remind myself to turn the damn thing off after it’s taken the morning chill off the air.

  3. I enjoyed this post. My big laugh came when you talked about mercury thermostats and all I could think of is the political mandate that took most incandescent light bulbs out of our inept hands, while making us put more mercury into our homes.
    I am not overly fond of tech since it seems to make many things more difficult not less.

    • Ha ha!!!! I’ve dropped two of those damn incandescent bulbs in the house…one of them inside the hall closet! Result: All my coats presumably are saturated with mercury. Luckily, it doesn’t get cold enough to wear a coat here anymore (thanks, presumably, to global warming).

  4. I like my programmable thermostat but I have been looking at a new one. The two things that I would like versus the one I have now are:

    1) Wi-fi – I’d like to be able to make changes and see the temp of the house from my smartphone.

    2) More programming slots – The current thermostat only allows you a handful of ‘slots’ per day. I’d like to be able to program with as many changes as I want. For example I like having the house warm up gradually in the morning, so why shouldn’t I be able to set 4-5 programs over the course of the morning to make it go up 1-2 degrees per hour? But for some reason there are very few thermostats that allow you do this.

    The Nest scares me only because of what you said, that it’s interpreting things for you. I would have to think that it’s learning might eventually pick up on the fact that you keep turning the heat off.

  5. I think the Nest may be a choice for you. My son is able to adjust his from his smartphone — I could, too, if I could afford cell service and could figure out how to use one of the gadgets.

    It has a LOT of room for adjustment. Before Google overcomplicated it, I had mine programmed to adjust temperature throughout a 24-hour period, according to how warm or cold I was willing to be at any given time of day. Now I can’t figure out how to get into that feature — I’m sure it’s still there; it’s just inscrutable.

    I really liked the “Away” feature, but apparently some people didn’t. Part of that is the creepiness factor: Big Brother IS watching. That’s apparently why they changed the feature’s name to “Eco” and then butched it up with a lot of overcomplicated programming options: to trick people into thinking they’d done away with “Away.” But at base, it still is “Away”: you can set it so that when it doesn’t sense anyone moving around for awhile, it shuts off the AC or heat. This saves a LOT of money.

    Also, apparently the Nest will work with Alexa.

    Remember: you’re not an old lady who has about reached the end of her learning curve, and you have a cell phone and can figure out how to use it. I imagine if you have the patience and sophistication to operate a smartphone, you surely can figure out how to work the Nest.

  6. I’m strongly resisting any upgrades of the sort as well, I have a bit of a horror of Skynet taking over 🙂

    My friends quite enjoy these upgraded technologies but I’d rather have a manual thermometer than one that’s programmable over wifi if it means that someone other than me, even if it’s a computer, has the ability to control my temperature.