Smart Thermostat are becoming a staple in many homes these days. It’s not hard to see why that are so popular. They are affordable, help save money, and can be controlled from anywhere you are. No more worries about forgetting to turn off the thermostat before going on vacation.
In fact, smart thermostats are the most popular smart home device in the Unites States, with about 50% of smart homes containing one. The two most popular smart thermostats are the Google Nest Thermostat and the Ecobee Thermostat. So, given the Nest Thermostats popularity, it’s no wonder that people have questions about installation, and if they can do it themselves or if they need an electrician?
Do you need an electrician to install a Nest thermostat? Installing a Nest thermostat can be done yourself without an electrician in most cases. Nest thermostats are designed to work in homes without a common (“C”) wire. However, there are rare cases a C wire or other power-supply accessory may be required. An electrician is recommended in these rare cases.
It’s a project that typically takes about 20-30 min, as the Nest app guides you through the entire setup process. We hope by the end of this article to give you a clear, concise answer to help you determine your need for an electrician or not.
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Can I Install A Nest Thermostat Myself?
The first place to check is the Nest Thermostat Compatibility website, found here. It will ask you a few questions about wiring connected to your current thermostat, and then provide you with an answer on if Nest can be used in your home and if Nest needs to be installed by a professional.
Nest was designed to be a DIY project that can be done by just about anybody. The Nest app will guide you through the installation process and tell you if and when you need to hire a professional electrician.
Even the least handy among us can install a Nest Thermostat, as long as the wiring is already in place.
Does Your Home Have A C-Wire Routed to The Thermostat?
Older thermostats, like the ones with a turn-dial to set the temperature, didn’t require power. The way they worked is when the temperature changed, a metal coil or strip would move and causing a vial containing mercury to tip to one side. The mercury would flow to one end and send a signaling to turn on the heating or A/C.
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Thermostats today have digital temperature sensors. Modern thermostats usually are powered by a pair of batteries that have to be replaced every couple years or so. Smart thermostats require more power that would drain these batteries too fast. Think about all the things that require power: a digital screen, motion sensors, Wi-Fi chip, etc.
In order to provide that additional power, a common wire is often used. This wire is also referred to as a neutral wire, and is usually colored white in a junction box.
Homes built in the 1980s and later are typically built with a common wire routed to every power receptacle. Checking if you have a common wire if fairly easy task. You can check at your thermostat by pulling off the front cover to see how the wires are connected.
You should see a slot labeled “C”. If not, refer to the installation manual for that thermostat to see a wiring diagram. If a wire is plugged into the common wire position, you know you have a common wire. If not, don’t fret yet. It may be tucked in the wall behind the thermostat.
As a second option, if you don’t feel like taking the thermostat off the wall, is to check the furnace access panel. The access panel is often located in the attic. If you see a wire connected there, you will know that it was probably run but not connected to the thermostat.
If you have a common-wire run, the odds are that you can install the Nest thermostat (or any other brand thermostat) by yourself. The Nest app (and the Ecobee app) do a really good job at walking you through the process.
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Can I Install A Nest Thermostat Without A Common “C” Wire?
Now what if you don’t have a common wire? This will knock off some smart thermostats from the list, but he Nest Thermostat was designed to still work without a common wire. The nest detects what wires you hook up (according to the Nest app’s instructions) and automatically sets itself up.
Usually, Nest thermostats can get enough power from your system’s heating and cooling wires, as they use less than 1kWh per month. There are a very small number of people who may need to connect a common wire to deliver enough power to your thermostat to keep its internal battery charged.
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During setup, the app will usually catch if you need a common wire connected. If it doesn’t, here are some issues to be aware of that could be caused by not having a common wire, according to google support page, located here.
- Reduced thermostat battery life
- Thermostat motion sensing is disabled
- Your thermostat occasionally disconnects from Wi-Fi
- Your system unexpectedly turns on or off
- Your system is making strange noises: chattering, stuttering, clicking or thumping
- Heating or cooling is always on, and won’t turn off
- Heating or cooling repeatedly turns on and off in a short period
- There is a Delayed or Starts in message on your Nest thermostat’s screen (for example: “Heating is delayed for 2:30 mins”)
- The system fan is always running or won’t turn on
- The system fan turns on and off repeatedly in a short period
Google has a troubleshooting page, located here, if you are having issues.
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How Much Does It Cost to Install A Nest Thermostat?
Google offers professional installation for the Nest Thermostat starting at $99 for the first device, and $59 for each additional thermostat. The installation is for compatible HVAC systems, and does not include running new wiring.
Current prices can be viewed by visiting the Google product page here.
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If you have already bought the device, Google currently recommends On Tech Smart Services. Their webpage can be found here.
That is just the cost to get the Nest Thermostat installed, but what if you need help with a common wire or other electrical issue?
On Tech can “resolve minor issues if possible or recommend next steps for larger HVAC repairs.” according to their webpage located here.
That basically means they can check if a common wire is installed, and if not, they’ recommend hiring an electrician or an HVAC professional. The cost of hiring a professional really depends, but most companies charge around $80 just to come out to your house. This is often deducted from the overall cost.
The overall cost will vary depending on how difficult running a wire is, or if a Fast-Stat Common Maker can be installed. This device will create a common without having to run a wire. This device is available on Amazon using the affiliate link below, but I’ve found that it’s cheaper at other stores, like SupplyHouse (Found here).
If you are comfortable with updating the wiring, Fast-Stat has a video that will guide you through the process.