MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The recent cold weather has had some Minnesota businesses working up a sweat.
Technicians from Owens Air Conditioning and Heating went to work Tuesday at homes around the Twin Cities. They say subzero temperatures have furnaces working overtime, and weaker ones can easily burn out.
But there’s another concern homeowners should keep in mind: a malfunctioning thermostat.
On Monday, Katie Miller curled up with a book after going to church. It all seemed like a delightful Christmas Day.
“And I noticed it was cold, but it was -22 degrees with wind chill, so I thought maybe it was how it was supposed to feel,” she said.
But the temperature inside kept dropping.
“So, obviously, my first reaction was to panic,” Miller said.
After some trouble-shooting, she realized it wasn’t her heater at all, it was her Nest thermostat that was the problem.
“When it gets too cold, if your power isn’t working correctly, it starts to pull from all four wires versus just the heat, and basically it short circuits and kills the battery,” Miller said.
WCCO got a response from the NEST saying they wanted to clarify, “The root cause of the issue is that there are a small number of HVAC systems that may not be able to share power effectively in extremely cold weather, which can affect operation when connected to smart thermostats.”
Turns out, others have reported the same problem with Nest thermostats. The New York Times published an article about a cold weather glitch.
The Nest says it’s not a glitch, saying “the problem to a software glitch and/or a short circuit, which is simply not the case. The root cause of the issue is that there are a small number of HVAC systems that may not be able to share power effectively in extremely cold weather, which can affect operation when connected to smart thermostats.”
The Nest’s customer service responded to Miller quickly, walking her through a quick fix.
“They had me turn off the power to the AC and furnace and then remove the yellow wire as a temporary fix,” Miller said. “So now it’s no longer pulling from air conditioning, it’s only pulling from heat.”
In a few days, a Nest rep will come to Miller’s home and add a common wire – a permanent fix.
“It’s not functioning fully,” Miller said, “but it’s enough where we’re not freezing.”
The good news is: Fixing the Nest will cost about $100. A new furnace, meanwhile, can cost thousands.