• Some things about Google Nest Protect you won’t find on the internet

    I hate it when I can’t find anything on the internet that documents the problems I have or observe. I have a blog, so I can fix that. This edition is about Google Nest Protect.

    First, the scintillating backstory: My family had a hardwired/interconnected First Alert smoke/CO system. Thanks to local building codes, we had a unit in every bedroom and on every landing — nine in total.

    I spent about 1.5 years battling false alarms. We had a lot of them, about one per month on average. I kept a list. I documented which ones alarmed and when. None had anything to do with kitchen use or shower steam. I talked to First Alert tech support several times and did everything they told me to keep the units clean. I identified and replaced malfunctioning units. I think the culprit was spiders crawling in and triggering an alarm.

    I can forgive a system for false alarming due to spiders. But I can’t forgive it for being so damn hard to figure out which unit is alarming. Yes, I had units that could speak the location of the trigger. It’s no good. The alarm is too loud and drowns out the voice. Plus, one’s brain is freaking out with the deafening sound. It’s too difficult to make out what they’re saying. I know the units flash some light at some rate to indicate it has tripped, but I could never remember the pattern. Moreover, we had two different kinds of units, and the manuals said they had different light patterns (bad). Also, I had alarms with no light patterns on any unit. After three in one day like this, I gave up. (Don’t even get me started on the nighttime low battery chirping.)

    So, Nest Protect. I trust it will be better, as it doesn’t communicate with flashing lights. It speaks more clearly than First Alert. It notifies you by app (nice). It has a calmer alarm (“heads up” it’s called) when the risk is super low, but not zero. Very sensible. And, it tells you every night before bed if the batteries are low, so you won’t get the 3AM wake up chirp. This all sounds great, but I’ve only had them a week, so I cannot speak from experience that it is actually great.

    I can only tell you a few things that are not so great and that Nest should fix. I could not find any of this elsewhere online:

    1. The battery-only version has a back plate with screw holes that do not line up with wire junction boxes. Even though I have alarm system wiring, I accidentally bought battery-only Nest Protects. This turns out to have been rational, if accidental. The batteries last five years and are inexpensive to replace (like ~$5 per unit). The units only last 10 years, so one need only replace them about once. Wiring in units wouldn’t actually save very much and one would need to do the wiring. No, it’s not hard. But it’s another small chore. Even the wired units don’t use wires to communicate with one another. Both kinds form interconnected systems, wirelessly, So, I would imagine quite a few customers might buy battery-only versions to go over wiring. Well, the battery-only back plates don’t fit nicely to the wire junction boxes! The wired version back plates do because they’re different. There’s no good reason for them to be different, as both kinds of Nest Protects can screw onto either. Nest, just make one kind of back plate!!! Why would you make two kinds?!?!
    2. The installation instructions aren’t as helpful as they could be. My version would include the following step right at the beginning: “Unpack all your Nest Protects. Turn them upside down so you can see all the QR codes. Put labels next to each QR code indicating what room or area of your house each unit will go. Take a picture that includes all labels and QR codes. Print out the picture. Now proceed with the usual instructions.” Why do this? Because the way units register in your app is via QR code. But once units are on ceilings, QR codes are not visible as they’re on the underside. This doesn’t matter if you never have a problem. But if you need to troubleshoot by removing and re-adding a unit from your system, you’ve got to take the damn thing off the ceiling. It’s a pain, and a needless one if you have a sheet of QR codes. Nest could also put the QR code on the outside of the unit, but maybe some customers would think it’s ugly. Nest could also create an online page within one’s account that includes all QR codes and locations, which it can deduce once you’ve registered all your units. That would be very nice for customers! What Nest should stop doing is pretending like customers will only need QR codes once. In an ideal world yes. In my world, not even close. Because …
    3. There are units with manufacturing defects. Unlucky me got three of them (out of nine). This precipitated a lot of tech support and a lot of fussing with units. The fault in these units, as I observed, is that they will tell you verbally there are problems (when you press one of the unit’s buttons) but the app will tell you everything is fine. My Nest system kept telling me that three of my units were offline (they weren’t) or that they couldn’t speak or alarm (they could). Do you know how maddening it is to hear a Nest Protect tell you from its own “mouth” that it has no voice … the very voice you’re listening to? It shouldn’t even be able to say such nonsense!!! It took several calls to tech support before a senior technician admitted they have some bad units. Nest sent me new ones, which work fine. (For the purpose of people trying to Google this problem here are the sort of search terms I was using: “Nest Protect voice disagrees with app”; “Nest Protect nightly promise doesn’t work”; “Nest Protect voice working but says it isn’t”.)
    4. One’s entire Google Home (the software thingy in which one’s Nest system resides) can become corrupted. Yikes! This happened to me. After I got my three replacement Nest Protects, one of them still acted weird. A tech suggested that my Google Home was corrupt. He recommended creating a new Google Home and moving all my units to it, deleting my old Google Home. That solved my problem.

    I learned several other tricks for soft or hard Nest Protect resets. There probably isn’t a tech alley I didn’t go down this week. It was a lot of work, but the system seems to be functioning properly now. Let’s see how the spiders like it.


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