Install your Nest thermostat yourself

The Nest thermostat is probably the smartest thermostat you can get. Unfortunately, the Nest isn’t smart enough to install itself yet. You can ask an installer for this, but if you are a bit handy you can also do it yourself. We explain how.

Nest recommends that you have the installation done by an installer, and you can find an installer near you via the Nest website. It depends on the installer exactly how much the installation costs, but count on an amount of about 99 euros. If you are a bit handy and like most people have a wired thermostat and central heating boiler (combi boiler or solo boiler), then you can probably also do the installation yourself.

In this article, we’ll show you how to install the Nest Learning Thermostat yourself and get an impression of whether you can do that yourself. Opening the boiler is the most difficult step and you have to make sure that you connect the Heat Link to the right contacts. If you do not have an average central heating boiler but a somewhat more complicated heating installation with zone valves (such as in district heating or underfloor heating, for example), then it is better to call in an installer.

01 In the box

In addition to the thermostat, you will find a number of elements in the package that you will need for installation. The most important of these are the round base plate on which you mount the Nest and the Heat Link. The Heat Link is a square box with a round button. You connect this box to your boiler.

You will also find a USB adapter and micro USB cable in the package. You will need this if you decide not to connect the Nest to an existing wired thermostat or if you want to use the Nest wirelessly on the optional stand. In this masterclass we assume the traditional wall installation at the location of an existing wired thermostat. If you don’t want that, you can read more in the box ‘Using wireless’. You only need the large square finishing plate that is also in the packaging if the wall around the place where you want to hang the Nest is ugly, for example due to holes from a previous thermostat. The finishing plate has a size of 15 by 11 centimeters. Finally, you will find a number of screws in the package.

On / off control

There are two ways in which a thermostat can communicate with a boiler. The simplest is an on / off control, where the burner is simply switched on or off. A more advanced control method is modulation, in which the burner intensity can also be controlled.

Some boiler manufacturers such as Nefit use their own protocol for this, but most manufacturers use OpenTherm. The Nest Thermostat only supports the on / off control, while many modern boilers can also handle the better OpenTherm. In practice, every OpenTherm boiler will also be able to handle an on / off thermostat, but usually you have to connect the thermostat wire to two other screw contacts in the boiler.

03 Why the Heat Link?

Most thermostats are connected directly to the boiler. With the Nest Thermostat, you need to install the Heat Link between the boiler and the thermostat. The Heat Link acts as a voltage source and a relay for the heating demand. The thermostat wire that runs from your living room to the boiler is used as the power cable for the Nest. So instead of one wire, you need two thermostat wires: one from the Nest to the Heat Link and one from your boiler to the Heat Link. You could choose to cut the existing thermostat wire. It is not smarter to do this and to buy an extra piece of signal or bell wire in the hardware store. This way you can restore the existing situation later.

04 Install Heat Link

Before starting, switch off the boiler and pull the plug out of the socket. Open your boiler. Consult the manual for this. Disconnect the wire going to your current thermostat from the thermostat screw contacts. Then mount a new piece of wire (for example signal or bell wire) on the on / off thermostat screw contacts of your boiler.

Open the Nest Heat Link and mount it on the wall about thirty centimeters from your boiler. You connect the thermostat wire from your boiler to the two rightmost screw contacts (2 and 3), the polarity is not important. The thermostat wire that comes from the living room is connected to the two contacts on the far right (T1 and T2). Polarity, again, is not important. Many boilers have built-in mains voltage contacts. You can then connect the Heat Link via an electricity cable to the mains voltage contacts of the Heat Link (N and L). We have chosen to mount a power cord with plug. Close your Heat Link and the boiler. Leave everything off and do not plug in any power plugs yet!

05 Installing the Nest Thermostat

The base plate contains a spirit level so that you can be sure that you hang it straight.

Remove your existing thermostat from the wall. Usually you click the thermostat off the base plate, after which you can screw the base plate off the wall. Now screw the base plate of the Nest to your wall or to the flush-mounted box. If you have an ugly or discolored wall, you can use the finishing plate.

Handy is that the base plate is equipped with a built-in spirit level so that you can be sure that you hang the thermostat straight. Then connect the two wires of the thermostat wire to the two screw contacts. Although you can also see the indications T1 and T2 on the base plate, the polarity is not important. After installing the base plate, click the Nest Learning onto the base plate. The Nest won’t do anything yet because it isn’t getting power from the Heat Link yet. Now go to your boiler and switch it on again. You can also plug the Heat Link into the socket.

06 Wrap up

Now that the Nest Learning Thermostat is powered up, you’ll need to go through a short setup where you connect the thermostat to you wifi network, indicates where you live and how your heating installation is constructed. You have to choose what the heating source is (in my case gas) and how your house is heated (in my case radiators).

You operate the Nest with a combination of turning and clicking. Turn the ring to select a menu item and press the Nest to confirm this selection. Also download the Nest app on your smartphone or tablet and create a Nest account via the app. You can link this to your Nest Thermostat by requesting a code on the Nest and entering it in the app. Your Nest Learning Thermostat is now installed. You should turn on the heating if you turn the temperature higher than the current temperature.

The Nest Learning Thermostat is installed and ready to use!

Use wirelessly

In this article, we’ll take a look at what we believe will be the most common installation option. You can also mount the Nest Learning Thermostat anywhere on the wall. You do not connect the thermostat wired to the Heat Link, but you use the included USB charger. The supplied cable is one and a half meters long. So there must be an electrical outlet nearby. With the wireless installation, you still install the Heat Link with your boiler. In that case you do not use the rightmost screw contacts with which (T1 and T2) with which the Nest is charged, the rest of the installation is the same.


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