Nest Home status and some key problems

Posted on
Sat Jul 07, 2018 1:43 pm
dduff617 offline
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 05, 2006

Nest Home status and some key problems

As I dig in and try to get more serious about optimizing my HVAC system, I'm running into some limitations (of Nest Home, Nest, Indigo, etc.) and looking for workarounds, hints, or suggestions.

Home/Away. The existence of Home and Away modes looks promising as a way to store different set points for when my house is occupied or not and then easily enact them by just switching modes between home and away. Nest Home implements device actions that can set status to "Home" or "Away". However..... problem #1: Nest Home (and Nest API, apparently) will only let me set Home or Away on a whole house basis. So for example, if I have Nest thermostat on the main level covering the central area of my house, another Nest thermostat on the downstairs rec-room area (only occupied occasionally), and another one covering my upstairs converted-attic office (also occupied only occasionally), then home/away will not really solve my problem. and problem #2: Nest seems to have deprecated "away" status (see also notes below regarding "Eco").

Tracking and recording. One benefit I hoped for of having connected thermostats (setting aside any "smart" features and even if you only adjust them "manually" by using the interface on the thermostat) is the ability to track settings and performance, keep track settings in use as well as tracking of run-time hours for filter maintenance, monitor for crazy erroneous settings, etc. With the current state of Nest Home plugin (as I understand it), I can see things like changes to set points and changing of HVAC modes (heat/cool/auto/off). However, due to Problem #2, I can't detect any changes that involve Eco mode, therefore can't detect if either a user manually puts the system in Eco mode or if Nest auto home-away detection does this. So this blows a big hole in Nest Home's ability to track Nest thermostats; the only way to rely on it is to a) change settings to completely disable auto home/away detection and b) train users to avoid using either Away or Eco settings from the Nest app or locally on the thermostats. Also, Problem #3: I've seen and reported cases in the past where Indigo and Nest Home were simply not staying in sync with my thermostats. At least one other Nest Home user has confirmed he has seen similar issues..

API Changes and Eco Mode. I believe Nest Home was written prior to Eco Mode becoming part of the Nest API. No criticism of the original developer is intended, but at this point, I consider key parts of Nest Home to be "broken" until proper support for Eco is patched in. It will clearly require code and doc changes to bring the plugin back into sync with the new Nest API. I'd be happy to pitch in with developing, testing, and/or documenting if I can be of any use.

Plugin resetting, deletion of devices from Indigo. Problem #4: Twice, I've had the Nest Home plugin reset itself for some reason, and existing Indigo devices belonging to the plugin were somehow deleted along with multiple schedules and triggers that I had set up that referenced these devices. I'm not completely clear on exactly how this happened or what the specific trigger was. It could have been re-installing a new version of the Plugin. It could have been related to a version update of Indigo. Unfortunately, some time had elapsed before I realized that a bunch of stuff I had setup had simply disappeared. This issue was reported and independently reported by another user. The continuing existence of this problem and the threat of putting time and energy into configuring stuff to have it randomly disappear is discouraging me from putting much effort into my system based on the current version of the plugin.

Regarding Problem #1... I see that Nest supports the idea of multiple "structures", so I could declare different zones of my house to be different structures, but that doesn't feel right. I also see that Nest now allows for a "sticky" setting of ECO mode on a per-thermostat basis (unlike "Away" mode, which I believe only applied to the entire house). So perhaps a workaround is that (assuming Problem #2 gets resolved), I could resume using home/away and even use auto home-away detection mode in Nest, but leave my rec-room and attic-office zones set to sticky-Eco mode unless they are occupied. From Indigo, when I detect that those zones are in use, I just switch the thermostats covering those zones from sticky-eco mode back to "home" and vice versa.

Regarding Problem #2... I see the issue discussed in the forums for quite a long time now. I was hoping to see a patch, but I gather that the original plugin developer has been busy or away for a while, so I'm wondering if anyone else is contemplating taking on fixing this? Supporting Eco seems to be a fairly extensive change, as it will affect several actions and triggers. I think (but am not completely sure) that "away" mode may need to be removed also.

Regarding Problem #3... I don't have familiarity with the inner workings of the plugin. I would hope that this problem could be analyzed and addressed with better logging and diagnostic messages if/when there are problems communicating. Some plugin states that seem relate to the health of cloud communication are currently confusing at best and possibly buggy, as reported here. Fixing those might enable further diagnosis. My "wishful" thinking is that this is this is not an independent problem, but perhaps is merely a symptom of problem #2.

Regarding Problem #4... There was some discussion about this issue involving Matt and Jay. I'm not sure exactly what the fix is, but at the very least, I think it would involve some defensive coding surrounding circumstances where the plugin currently chooses to delete existing devices. Again, this would be a case where I previously would normally have hoped for a patch from the plugin owner... Anyone else working on a fix for this?

Regarding plugin status, in general... Are there still people using Nest Home? Are you somehow working around these problems or maybe just using the plugin differently than I do? Anyone know if the original plugin owner, Mike (Chameleon) is going to return? Anyone contemplating taking over development of the plugin or even just posting a patched version?

The Nest product universe continues to grow, adding cameras a few years ago and a security/alarm system more recently, neither of which are covered by Nest Home, afaik. A quick glance seems to indicate that as of now, the Nest developer API covers the former, but not the latter. Aside from the efficiency of having a single API key, there is little reason to try to roll Protect (smoke/co detectors), Thermostats, Cameras, and Alarms into a single plugin; a case could be made that each should exist separately.

I know at one point a long while back, "Nest support" appeared on a forum "ballot" to become an Indigodomo-supported technology (aka "built-in") - not sure whether anything is afoot there, but I for one would applaud that happening.

I could imagine just punting on trying to have tight Nest/Indigo coordination via plugin and just manage my Nest devices separately using their app. I could patch-in selective event notifications using IFTT or something if there were some specific capability I really needed.

Other thoughts? How are you currently using Nest?

Posted on
Sun Jan 20, 2019 12:44 pm
dduff617 offline
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 05, 2006

Time for change?

So it's been six months there's been no activity on this thread, though i do see some signs of life generally in the forum. I'll re-summarize key issues:

Key ways that plugin has drifted out of date or out of sync with current Nest API:

  • Nest Home plugin uses home/away status, which as far as I can tell was deprecated ~3 years ago. Modern Nest interface refers to "Eco" mode instead of away.
  • Nest's web and IOS UI's both let you engage ECO mode on whole house or on an individual thermostat; there is no corresponding mechanism in Nest Home - you can set "away" status only for your "master" device.

Some reported bugs/problems:
  • Nest home plugin sometimes seems to not reliably track status of thermostats; states that might help diagnose the situation are confusing (last_connection, time_since_last_connection, etc.), misleading, and/or buggy.
  • Nest Home plugin has been known to delete existing Nest devices, which also results in triggers and schedules that reference those devices getting wiped out.

Some possible Nest features that have not been added:
  • No support for Nest temperature sensors.
  • No support for Next cameras.
  • No support for Nest alarm system.

If you want to make use of any "smart" features of Nest thermostats such as Home/Away assist, you'll find it hard to even track the status of your thermostat from Indigo since "ECO" states are not really supported by the plugin.

When Nest Home was originally written, the Nest Home API and the general Nest API were in sync such that you could flexibly control your system using either the plugin or using the web, IOS, or direct UI's and the results and reporting remained consistent. Now, there are states available via the Nest UI's that are not accessible via Indigo. Reporting of states in Indigo is ambiguous or incomplete.

Even if (like me) you choose to mostly turn off most of the smart features and use the thermostat as just a basic communicating thermostat controlled mainly by Indigo triggers/schedules, you'll still find cases where it is hard to accurately track what is going on. Furthermore, some of the reported bugs have seriously undermined confidence in the plugin.

None of the above is meant in any way to be a criticism of the plugin author. In its day, Nest Home was among my most valued plugins. It seemed well-implemented and unusually well supported and documented. However, I now question whether the Indigo/Nest user community really needs to find a way to progress. Is it time to find a new plugin owner or perhaps move to an open-source new support model for Nest Home? Is the original plugin author/owner amenable to that? Anyone interested in taking up the challenge?

Random factoids:
last forum post by plugin author, chameleon: August 2017
last post to Nest Home forum by plugin author: February 2017
last modification date for Nest Home manual: June 2015

Posted on
Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:04 pm
dduff617 offline
Posts: 483
Joined: Jul 05, 2006

Re: Nest Home status and some key problems

Thanks, Ianbrown. I *thought* I had been paying attention, but it's been quite a while and I could easily have missed something. I was not (and still am not) aware of what the issue was with the original author, chameleon, that caused his departure. Looking back, I see something from 2017 that says he's coming back, but then nothing further after that. Anyway, there was no intention on my part to criticize the original author in any way - I hope that is clear.

Good to know that the author is ok with others making changes. Sorry I'm not exactly up on conventions for how this is kind of stuff is done, but would this involve taking the code and branching it to create a new plugin? ...or can changes be made and posted to create newer versions of the same plugin? If the latter, then does it generally work for this kind of thing to happen without involvement of a designated "owner" of the codebase going forward? Seems to me like that might work for minor changes, but I can see problems with trying to do major changes or add new features that way.

Posted on
Wed Jan 23, 2019 7:37 pm
matt (support) offline
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Re: Nest Home status and some key problems

We have the source hosted on our github account here. We welcome any pull request (enhancements, bug fixes). If someone wants to take over ownership/management of the plugin then contact us.

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