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Did you know that the Airwave feature on your Nest thermostat could save you almost 10% off your energy bill? Despite being a minor adjustment, it's often overlooked by homeowners.

In this guide, I explain what it is and how it works.

What Does Airwave Mean on Nest?

Nest Airwave is an innovative feature found within your Nest Thermostat that’s designed to enhance energy efficiency and reduce costs.

Essentially, it shuts down the compressor prematurely and keeps the blower running until the desired setpoint is reached. 

How it Works

Every air conditioner has two integral parts – the compressor, and the fan. The compressor works to generate the temperature you want, and the fan distributes the cold air throughout your room.

Nest Airwave works as a buffer for these two components, so once your home is getting close to your desired cooling temperature, the Airwave feature shuts down the compressor but keeps the fan running until the setpoint is reached. 

This helps to draw out every last bit of cold air from the compressor and evenly distribute it to every corner of your home, meeting your desired setpoint but with the compressor shut down several minutes in advance. 

Since the compressor requires significantly more wattage than your fan, it can help save a small amount of energy, every time your Air Conditioner turns on and meets your desired setpoint.

The “Learning” Aspect of the Airwave Feature

When you first configure this setting, the thermostat shuts down the compressor 5-10 minutes before it's supposed to shut down.

After a couple of days or weeks, it will learn to gauge your compressor’s performance and decide exactly when to shut down the compressor. 

Usually, this value will be calculated based on the time the compressor is running or a particular temperature that is 2-5 degrees above your desired setpoint. 

For instance, if you’ve set the temperature to 72 degrees, the thermostat might shut down the compressor when the indoor temperature is around 74 degrees, predicting that the residual cold air blowing in will eventually cool your home perfectly to 72°F.

How to Enable or Disable The Airwave Feature

On the Nest Thermostat

  • Supported Models: Nest E and Nest Learning Thermostat

Here’s how to configure the Airwave feature on these models:

  1. On your Nest Thermostat tap the ring to open the Quick View menu.
  2. Now navigate to Settings
  3. After that, tap on Nest Sense and select “Airwave”
  4. There you will have two options: Airwave On and Airwave Off
  5. Tap “Airwave On”
  6. You will see a green check mark appear to confirm changes

Via the Nest App

First, make sure the Nest app is installed on your device and that you have the thermostat connected to the app.

  1. First, open the Nest app
  2. Then tap and hold your device’s tile/thumbnail until a drop-down list will pop up at the top right
  3. From this list, select “Settings”
  4. Tap on “Temperature Preferences”
  5. Then select “Airwave”
  6. Tap on the switch to toggle the Airwave function on and off.

How Does the Airwave Feature Impact Humidity?

Nest thermostat takes humidity into account as well and prioritizes it over the Airwave feature.

So if the humidity level in your home is uncomfortably high, and it’s supposed to shut down the thermostat according to the airwave function, the Nest thermostat will instead hold off on shutting down the compressor until the humidity level improves.

What is that comfortable humidity level you ask? Well, your Nest thermostat calculates this based on your indoor and outdoor temperature. So as soon as the humidity falls below this level, the airwave feature will turn on. 

When Should I Disable the Airwave Function?

Although the Nest thermostat is perfectly capable of automating the Airwave function so it doesn't interfere with the humidity requirements in your home, there are certain instances where you should keep it switched off.

  • If it's extremely humid inside and your home isn't well-insulated
  • If the humidity sensor in your Nest thermostat is malfunctioning
  • When the Nest thermostat is closer to the bathroom, cooking stove, heat-generating electrical appliances, or open containers or water
  • When the AC or humidifier is malfunctioning and pending repairs
  • When you suspect the system is short cycling without improving the temperature

The Airwave feature can interfere with these situations, especially when it's trying to optimize itself based on indoor and outdoor humidity levels. 

In that case, it's best to disable Airwave and let the thermostat run using “Cool-to-Dry” or regular Cool.

what does airwave mean on nest
Under extreme humidity or outside temperatures, it might be best to turn off the airwave feature

Does the Nest Airwave save you money?

On average, the Airwave feature can help you shave almost 10% off your monthly energy bills. 

However, let's try to estimate some numbers by assuming the Nest thermostat switches off the compressor 5 minutes early (average scenario).

  1. In most temperate states such as Texas, Florida, and Hawaii, the Air Conditioner's cycle rate is around 20 minutes (per hour)
  2. With Airwave turned on, we can assume the average cycle rate to be reduced to 15 minutes
  3. An average central air conditioner will use up to 3500 W per hour, so when it runs only 15 minutes it consumes approximately 875W per hour (with 20 minutes it takes up nearly 1,166W)
  4. Right then and there, you can expect to shave off around 25% of your AC's power consumption. 
  5. Compounding this into a month, your AC might consume 26.2kWh with Airwave or 34.9kWh without Airwave, saving you around 8.7 units.

However, this is only a ballpark figure so depending on your climate, house insulation, and the specifications and condition of your AC system, my best bet is that the Airwave feature will improve efficiency by around 10-20%.

Also, depending on how significant the AC is on your power bill, you can expect to save around 5-10% of your power bill under the right conditions.

FAQ

How Much Can I Hope to Reduce From My Energy Bill with Nest Airwave?

On average, you can expect your AC to run 20% less and cut off around 5-10% of your monthly energy costs.

Will the Airwave Feature Interrupt the Humidity Levels in My Home?

With uncomfortable levels of humidity, the Airwave feature will automatically disable, allowing the AC to absorb the excess moisture and reduce the humidity. 

However, it's not a good idea to be entirely reliant on this feature, so I recommend switching on the “Cool to Dry” mode instead if your goal is to get rid of excess humidity. 

If your home constantly experiences low humidity, then you might have to address it with a humidifier setup. For this, I recommend getting help from an HVAC expert.

What Other Features Can I Use to Improve the Efficiency of My Nest Thermostat?

The Airwave feature is compatible with Nest Seasonal Savings, and IFTTT. 

So if you’re hoping to integrate your Nest thermostat with these features and platforms, you might be able to cut down on power a little more.

Visit the IFTTT app to learn more – https://ifttt.com/

Is the Airwave Feature Similar to the Cool Dry Feature?

No, these two are separate features with the Cool to Dry setting designed specifically to operate your AC in order to reduce the humidity in your home. 

So with the Cool Dry (or Cool to Dry) feature turned on, your thermostat may cool the house down a few degrees lower than the setpoint and try to reduce indoor humidity when it's extremely high. 

Conclusion

The Airwave feature shuts down the compressor prematurely and leverages the blower to circulate any remaining cold air into your home, reducing the energy consumption of your compressor.

So depending on your household, the airwave feature can improve efficiency by 10-20%, cutback on your utility costs and prolong the life of your HVAC equipment.

So if you have a Nest E or Nest Learning thermostat don’t forget to take full advantage of this feature. 

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