Can You Install A Nest Thermostat in An Apartment? Is It Worth It?


Adjusting Nest Thermostat

Renters are often put in the predicament of wanting to upgrade where they live, but not breaking their lease agreement. Renters are often stuck with the amenities that came with the apartment when the contract was signed. These devices, including the thermostat, are often obsolete, outdates, and waste money.

Can you install a Nest thermostat in an apartment? The Nest Thermostat can easily be installed in an apartment, but it’s important to check your lease agreement for provisions that prevent a tenant from making improvements to the property without getting the written consent. Make sure to get written consent from the landlord before starting to install the Nest thermostat.

The second important thing to establish is who owns the thermostat once it is installed. Anything attached to the rental property is a “fixture”, and generally becomes the property of the landlord if you leave.

That’s easy enough to get done, but there are a few considerations that might make installing a Nest Thermostat trickier in an apartment than it might be in a place you own.

Is Nest Thermostat Worth It for An Apartment?

Okay, you’re probably wondering “What’s in it for me?” Is it even worth it to install a Nest Thermostat?

A Nest Thermostat is well worth installing in an apartment. The benefits of energy savings, comfort, and convenience far outweigh the cons of having to get permission from the landlord. Plus, you can take it with you when you move. Make sure to get everything in writing first.

Wasting energy really irritates me, especially when I know its being wasted and then I get an overpriced electric bill for it. Outdated, inefficient thermostats can waste energy like no other. They are often not accurate, with temperature swings of 10 degrees or more a common occurrence. You crank up the heat because it suddenly got cool, or vice versa! How much energy does that use? And it will also increase your electric bill.

And what about when the old thermostat is not a programmable one? It’s not uncommon to forget to change the temperature, and it stays set to the same temperature for the whole day, even while you are at work or away from home. More energy wasted, and a higher electric bill. I guess the alternative is to set the thermostat to a lower temperature, which will ultimately leave you uncomfortable. 

Energy Consumption

Nest Thermostats fix all these problems. You can manage the temperature from anywhere. Nest adapts to your comfort preferences, automatically adjusting for when you’re not home, or when you go to bed.

It’s even so smart that it learns your schedule, and will have the house ready for you based on when it thinks you should be getting home. You could also use geo-fencing, which will allow the Next to know for sure when you are on the way home.

HVAC System Compatibility

Since you are renting an apartment, your access to the heating and air conditioning systems may be limited. Depending on how modern the current wiring to the thermostat is, you may need access to the furnace to install a device that provides a common wire to the Next Thermostat.

The Nest is designed to work without a common wire in most situations, but there are a few.

If you have already talked to your apartment manager or landlord, and they approved the project, then getting access should be easy. I recommend talking to them about it while you are getting permission in the first place. Talk to your landlord or building maintenance person to figure out HVAC system is used and if they foresee any problems with installing the Nest Thermostat.

Nest Thermostat Ownership & Permission to Install

Most leases and rental agreements have some sort of provision that say you have to get written permission before making any sore of building improvement. Installing a Nest Thermostat counts as an improvement.

If you install a Nest and something breaks, you are going to have an angry Landlord and could be responsible for all the repairs. Not to mention you broke your lease agreement and could be evicted if it comes down to that.

It’s not uncommon for a landlord to require a professional to do the installation. This covers them from a legal liability standpoint. Hiring someone to install the Nest Thermostat for you runs for about $99 if you purchase the service through Google.

Now, once the Nest Thermostat is installed, who owns it? You may assume that you own it since you paid for it and installed it, but that may not be the case. If a device is installed, it becomes a fixture, and now belongs to the owner of the property. Make sure when you get written permission from the landlord that it also clarifies who owns the Nest Thermostat.

Moving - Packed Boxes

Moving with the Nest Thermostat

The Nest Thermostat is great if you plan to move from your rental and want to take it with you. It is usually as simple as pulling it from the wall and removing a few screws. For that reason, I recommend keeping the old thermostat so you can reinstall it when you leave. This is another thing that should be in the written agreement with your landlord.

Here are a few paths to consider in terms of installation options:

  1. Install the Nest Thermostat yourself and keep the old one. When you move plug the old one back in.
  2. Install the Nest Thermostat yourself and toss the old one. Your landlord gets a free Nest Thermostat.
  3. Ask your landlord to pay for and install the new Nest Thermostat. It’s not cheap, but may be a good investment for the landlord. He can increase rent on you or the next tenant. It’s profitable in the long run even if he only charges $5 per month more.

How Do I Setup My Nest Thermostat in My Apartment?

Have you decided that you do want to go ahead and install the Nest Thermostat in your apartment? That’s great! I have some good news for you: Nest includes al the tools you need to install the Nest Thermostat. Here is how you get it done.

Note: These steps assume that you don’t need any additional wiring. Check the Nest Compatibility Checker website here to determine if you have the wires you need.

How To Setup Nest Thermostat in An Apartment

  1. Turn off circuit breakers that power the HVAC

    This can be hard to tell sometimes because thermostats often have battery backups. A quick way to check it by trying to turn the fan on and off, or you can check with a wire tester if you have one.
  2. Remove the front panel of the old thermostat
  3. Take note of how the wires or connected

    I highly recommend taking a picture.
  4. Disconnect the wires and remove the old thermostat’s backplate
  5. Feed the wires through the Nest Thermostat base plate

    If your previous thermostat used a junction box or had a large whole, you will need to use the Nest Trim plate as well. Feed the wires through the trim plate first, and then through the base plate.

    The trim plate had a sport that the base plate fits into. I find it east to put the base plate in that spot and feed the wires through both at the same time.
  6. Install the Nest Thermostat panel using the provided screws
  7. Connect the thermostat wires to the Nest base plate

    The wires can be inserted by pushing down the tab, and then inserting the wires. The Nest app should tell you which wire goes where.

    Give the wire a little tug. It should stay, but if it comes out that means it was not properly inserted.
  8. Attach the main Nest Thermostat unit

    The Nest slides straight onto the base plate, with the word Nest being at the top.
  9. Turn the circuit breakers back on

Time to make sure everything is working properly. Once the Nest Thermostat is powered, it should display the Nest logo as it boots up. The Nest will ask a few setup questions, connect to internet, confirm that it is properly connected to the wiring, and then test the HVAC system.

Conclusion

The Nest Thermostat is a great improvement to any home or apartment, whether you own it or are renting it. There are so many advantages to using a Nest Thermostat. They can save you energy, which will save you money in the long run, and they can allow you to adjust the temperature at anytime from anywhere.

If Nest Thermostat isn’t for you, I’d recommend taking a look at the Ecobee Thermostats. They are great because the temperature room sensors can keep your comfortable no matter what room you are in. The thermostat also integrates with their security system, so that it adjusts the temperature immediately when you alarm the system.

The overall point though, is that I highly recommend a smart thermostat. Nest and Ecobee are the two leading brands. You can view my recommendation here.

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