To the Point Home Services Podcast

The Home Services Podcast That Gives Back

Episode 144: Smart Home Technology: Nest & The Rest

November 1, 2022

Episode 144: Smart Home Technology: Nest & The Rest

Published: November 1, 2022


Gene LaNois (Director of Professional & Enterprise Industry Partnerships at Google) pays a visit to the To the Point Podcast and talks about Nest, Google, Smart Thermostats, and the effect Smart Home technology has on the trade industry.

Gene LaNois and Chris Yano first met when they were introduced by the current V.P. of Digital Strategy for RYNO, and second bestie to Martha Stewart, Peter Simpson. Gene has worked in the trades industry since 1991. He came from humble beginnings as a HVAC contractor in Western Massachusetts. From there, Gene has worked his way to his position as Director of Professional & Enterprise Industry Partnerships at Google, starting off as a contractor and then selling his business in the 1990’s. He moved into a manufacturing role and worked for Honeywell for many years. He moved into the wholesale distribution side of things which led him to his relationship with Nest.

Nest: The Early Days

Nest was a simple start up business at the time. But for a small company, it was moving fast. Before Gene’s time at Nest, he says he feels as if he was on “vacation” at previous companies. Just kind of skating by and biding time. When he came to Nest, he knew he was about to be a part of something big. And he wasn’t wrong! Chris mentions Nest was purchased by Google in 2014 for about 3.2 billion dollars. Gene remembers this well and says this was a fast close and life-changing in many ways. He was there for the unveiling of the Nest thermostat and was even able to give input in the early days. Gene was a witness to the first 3 generations of Nest. Gene’s contributions have put a “footprint” in the history of the industry.

More than a Smart Home Thermostat

The Nest Thermostat is a smart thermostat that helps you save energy, reduces energy bills, programs itself, and supports a cleaner future. The Nest is ENERGY STAR certified. It learns what temperature you like and can automatically adjust based on your schedule, or you can program it yourself. Some studies have proven that the Nest Thermostat has saved users an average of 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling. It’s not just an energy smart system, but a cost-effective one.

With the Nest app, you can monitor your HVAC system from anywhere and catch issues early on. It can even go as far as to connect you with a certified contractor for repairs or a tune-up. The app even sends reminders when you need to change your filter! No more forgetting! The Nest Thermostat can be controlled from just about anywhere with the app. The system can also sense movement and adjust to your preferred comfortable temperature automatically.

The most convenient fact of all is that you can connect any other smart systems you have in the home (such as doorbells, security cameras, and lights) to the app and control it from one place, even away from home! This is what makes the Nest Thermostat such a successful sell for HVAC contractors because they can get their new HVAC system installed with a Nest thermostat at the same time!

Smart Technology and Its Impact on the Trades

Chris talks about how some contractors aren’t fans of changes in technology in the industry and asks Gene how he can help them break past that mental barrier. Gene mentions that contractors didn’t like Nest at first because of its transparent pricing. Over time Nest began providing Nest products with a longer, professional warranty and different cost margins to ease the concerns of the contractors.

Gene says most sales of Nest happen when a system is being sold. Gene says they have come so far with contractors and have built a lot of credibility. In the background, Nest has been building value for the product in the background. The example he uses is the Nest Pro. With the Nest Pro you are given a Pro I.D. that you input into the thermostat. As soon as the new automatic thermostat is turned on and ready to go, a program called HVAC monitoring kicks in. With this technology, Nest can see in real-time if something is wrong with the automatic thermostat connected to the Nest and even go as far as to see what contact the customer, tell them who installed their system, and see if they want to call the company. The customer can schedule a repair at the press of a button.

How are Contractors Using Nest to get Ahead of their Competitors?

According to LaNois, Nest has the largest smart home portfolio under one app. The Nest thermostat opens opportunities for other smart home products. it doesn’t end at a thermostat. The brilliance of the system is that you need the app to control your smart thermostat and you can easily connect other smart products to it. If you want to automatically operate your security cameras, doorbells, Wi-Fi, etc. the Nest app is there and makes it easy. You can run third-party products, lights, fans, etc. This thermostat opens the opportunity for contractors to sell and install new smart products for homeowners.

Gene says once you install that thermostat, you have an array of products you can talk to the customer about. They probably want them, but aren’t educated on these kinds of products. Even if the contractor’s business isn’t in lights or doorbells, they can sell customers on these smart products to paint the picture of the perfect “smart” home. There’s so much that opens up as a contractor by installing this one smart thermostat.

Gene’s overall message is that HVAC contractors need to figure out a way to participate in this Smart Home movement. People want fewer apps, and want all their smart home systems to be centralized in one controlled system.

What’s Next on the Horizon for Nest?

Without giving away too much, LaNois says new smart home technology is coming, and energy use will play a major role in what the company gets invested in. Gene LaNois is Director of Professional & Enterprise Industry Partnerships at Google. To connect with Gene you can follow him on LinkedIn or @genelanois on Twitter.

Be sure to listen to this week’s podcast episode to hear more about Gene and his journey as well as how smart technology has changed the trades industry!

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