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What is Auto-Away?

Your first week with Nest.

Update 5/16/13: Updated with new info now that Auto-Away has been updated and enhanced.

I practically live at the office, so Auto-Away is one of my favorite Nest thermostat features. It automatically turns down your system when you’re out of the house so you don’t waste energy heating or cooling an empty home. All you need to do is walk out the door.

But Auto-Away is a new idea and it’s been evolving and improving since we first launched. You have a lot of questions about it: how does it work at night? With pets? If Nest is in a room no one goes into? What if Auto-Away turns on while I watch a movie?

So, here are your Auto-Away questions answered.

So give me the basics: how does Auto-Away work?
Nest uses its built-in activity sensors to detect when people are moving around. After about a week on your wall, Nest will understand when people are typically home or away in your house—we call that your occupancy pattern. At that point, it’ll tell you Auto-Away is ready.

Auto-Away is a simple idea: if Nest doesn’t detect any movement for a while and is confident you’re not home, it’ll set itself to an energy-efficient Away temperature. You choose your Away temperatures when you first install your thermostat—so if it’s winter and you set your Away temperature to 60°F, then while you’re gone Nest will only heat to 60°F. When you come home, it’ll automatically turn Auto-Away off and return to Nest’s regular schedule.

How long does it take Nest to notice I’m gone?
That depends on the occupancy pattern Nest has learned for your home. If you always leave the house by 9am to go to work, then Nest may turn on Auto-Away by 9:30. On the other hand, if you’re always home in the afternoons but Nest senses no activity at 1pm, then it may wait two hours before turning on Auto-Away. That way Nest can ensure that you’re really gone, not just watching a movie in the living room.

What happens if I have temperatures in my schedule—does Auto-Away just ignore them? This also depends on your occupancy patterns. Say you leave in the morning and your schedule says to turn on the AC at 2pm. If Nest thinks you’ll be home in the afternoon, it’ll pause Auto-Away and turn down the temperature at 2pm so you’ll come home to a cool house. However, if you usually come home at 6pm, then Auto-Away will skip over that 2pm temperature and help you save energy all day long.

If you’re gone for longer than two days, Nest will start ignoring all the temperatures on your schedule. It assumes you’re on vacation and won’t be coming home anytime soon.

What if Nest turns on Auto-Away while I’m still home?
Just walk up to Nest and press the ring. Nest will immediately cancel Auto- Away and go back to your regular schedule. It’ll also realize that you were home when it thought you were out. Next time, Nest will wait a little longer before starting Auto-Away.

And don’t worry, Nest won’t turn Auto-Away on at night while you’re sleeping. We thought of that.

Can I change how long Nest waits before it turns on Auto-Away?
Nest constantly adjusts its understanding of your occupancy pattern as your schedule changes, but you can’t adjust it manually. However, if your schedule changes radically, you can reset Auto-Away in Settings. It’ll start learning a fresh occupancy pattern for your home.

But what if Nest is in an out-of-the-way place?
Nest only knows what you and its sensors tell it. In its first week on your wall, Nest will figure out if it can turn on Auto-Away or not. If Nest is in an unused bedroom or tucked behind a bookshelf, it can’t know when you’re home and when you’re gone.

The good news is, Auto-Away works in 9 out of 10 homes, even when it’s in a dining room or hallway that doesn’t get much traffic. Even if you don’t walk directly in front of your thermostat for days at a time, the level of activity that Nest needs for Auto-Away to work is actually very low. It also helps that Nest has a 150° wide-angle view and can sense movement across the room.

Why doesn’t Auto-Away work right out of the box?
It takes Nest a few days to learn how much activity is normal in your home, so it won’t enable Auto-Away immediately. But unless your thermostat is in a closet or behind a shelf, you’ll get a notification that Auto-Away is ready within a week of using Nest.

Will Auto-Away work with my pets?
Auto-Away looks across the room above most pets’ heads, so it usually works in homes with pets just fine. If you want the house warm all day for your hairless poodles, choose your Away temperature with them in mind.

How does Auto-Away work with multiple thermostats?
If you have multiple thermostats in one home and they’re all connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network, they’ll coordinate. So they’ll turn on Auto-Away together, and come out of Auto-Away together. If you don’t want your thermostats to coordinate—if you’re renting out the basement, for example—just change the “location” of the basement thermostat in your Nest Account.

What’s the difference between Away and Auto-Away?
Auto-Away turns on automatically when Nest senses you’re out of the house—it’s there just in case you forgot to change the temperature before you walked out the door. Away is a manual switch—you set Nest to Away and it stays in Away until you turn Away off. This is great if you’re going on vacation—it will take Auto-Away some time to realize you’re not coming back for awhile, but manual Away doesn’t worry about those questions. It just saves you energy until you turn it off.

Even more info about Auto-Away can be found here, but these are the biggest Auto-Away questions we’ve gotten over the past few weeks. Did I miss any?