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Nest Learning Thermostat: Installed, Fired right up, Used my router to download software, Then promptly updated itself into incompatibility with the wifi network. (Plus: Some Installation Info)

 

Turning On the Nest Learning Thermostat

  1. I installed my Nest Learning Thermostat, then turned on the AC unit and furnace’s breakers.
  2. It found several neighborhood wireless networks, I selected my own, and then entered the security code.
  3. It connected immediately to the internet through my router.
  4. It downloaded software updates, installed them, and suddenly couldn’t connect to my network anymore.
    • Nothing had been changed in my router settings up to that point.
    • The only variable that had been changed was that the Nest t-stat installed new software on itself and then suddenly couldn’t communicate with a router it had just successfully used to download the software one minute earlier.
    • It could still see the SSIDs (broadcasted names) of neighborhood wi-fi networks, but wouldn’t connect.
    • The error message said to visit nest.com/w2.
Nest Learning Thermostat wifi router fail to connect W2 error message

Nest Learning Thermostat wifi router fail to connect W2 error message

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do Wi-Fi (After Installing An “Upgrade”)

The “W2″ error web page explained how my router may be blocking the Nest because it has MAC address filtering turned on. But it did not. What it should also say is: Try fiddling with your router’s security settings.

2014: A Space Heating Odyssey - Nest, I want you to connect to the network like you did when you first started up. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that (since I "upgraded" myself).

2014: A Space Heating Odyssey – I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that (since I “upgraded” myself).

I called Nest support and told a person that it worked at first, then updated itself, then broke. After power cycling the router didn’t fix it, and because the model number is alphanumerically similar to another router on Nest’s Unsupported Routers list, he assumed it was the router’s fault and suggested I call Netgear support to figure it out.

Netgear doesn’t (for free) phone-support anything older than 90 days. So I started writing a support ticket. And then it dawned on me how stupid it sounded to blame Netgear for a device that worked just fine with it until it “upgraded” itself — as if that would be the router’s fault. So I called Nest back.

3 different bored Maytag repair men

Bored Maytag Repair Men

The Nest support person was the same one I had talked with an hour or so before. Maybe they’re like the Maytag Man, and no one has problems with their products (except me). But it’s nice to have 24/7 service. Anyway, he promptly blamed my router again. I became annoyed.

I walked through the chronology, again. And then again. And then at least a third time.

  1. The thermostat networked, then didn’t.
  2. The Nest had changed its settings via update, but the router settings had not changed.

Still, for some reason this was the router’s fault, according to Nest Guy. He kept patiently explaining to me how the router must have changed itself after interfacing with the Nest Learning Thermostat, and that clearly the Nest worked because it recognized SSID broadcasts (ha). This almost certainly could not be a bug with the software update, I was told, because it had recently been rewritten by engineers with wi-fi compatibility in mind, and now he received only a third of the networking troubleshooting calls as before.

I then asked if I could reset the t-stat to factory defaults and then not update it. Or somehow “downgrade” the operating system. I was told I could not, or if I did, it would just re-update itself as soon as it connected to the internet.

I eventually got peeved to the point that I asked him to annotate my account with the following information, a slightly longer version of “Worked, Then Didn’t, Only Nest Changed Settings, Not Router.” Then I said if I can’t figure it out I will call back and expect to be escalated to someone who understands networking better.

How My Nest Finally Started Talking to My Netgear Again

I finally tried removing the security from my network and just leaving it “open”. This finally worked with the Nest. But I wasn’t going to leave it that way for long.

Apparently the WEP key scheme I’ve used for wi-fi security for close to a decade is now incompatible with the Nest Learning Thermostat. But it has never been a problem for any other device. From wi-fi photo frames to Kindles to wireless networked printers to myriad laptops to smart phones.

Well, to clarify again: The Nest is compatible with WEP out of the box, but then after it uses that security scheme to access the internet and update itself to the latest and greatest software, it’s not going to be compatible with WEP any longer.

Netgear WNR3500v1 access point wifi settings, WEP wi-fi security key, Nest Learning Thermostat incompatibility problem

Netgear WNR3500v1 access point wifi settings, WEP wi-fi security key, Nest Learning Thermostat incompatibility problem

After hours of aggravated fiddling with Nest settings, resetting networks on both the thermostat and the router many times, and 2 calls into Nest customer service, I finally got it to work when I changed from a 64-bit WEP encryption to WPA2-PSK [AES] on my router’s Wireless Settings>Security Options admin page.

Netgear WNR3500 router manager page, security changed from WEP to WPA2-PSK, for Nest Thermostat compatibility

Netgear WNR3500 router manager page, security changed from WEP to WPA2-PSK, for Nest Thermostat compatibility

After that, the t-stat and the router seem to be fast friends forever.

Still Impressed, Even if Hours of Time Wasted

It works now, even if no thanks to customer service and many more hours than budgeted were spent on install. So that’s good. I think Nest engineers are continuously working on supporting this product and working out bugs. If that’s true, this bug will hopefully be fixed soon, making this post irrelevant. But until then, I hope it helps someone who can’t figure out why their new Nest Learning Thermostat connected to their router just fine until it updated itself! Makes the “Learning” moniker a tad ironic.

Nest Learning Thermostat wireless problems? They're working on it!

Nest Learning Thermostat wireless problems? They’re working on it!

Installation Photos and: Want to Hear a Good Story About Nest Customer Service?

  • Check out the next page for a little on the customized help I received from Nest representatives when I didn’t know if a “Learning Thermostat” would be compatible with my system, nor how to wire it.
  • Also a little on my installation experience (it was real freakin’ easy – except the whole wi-fi thing I just spent a thousand words complaining about, but enough of that).

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5 Responses to Nest Thermostat Not Connecting to WiFi? Try Router’s Security Settings

  1. nest_guy says:

    Thanks awesome! I dont know if it helps mine… but good crack..

  2. MS says:

    Hi Kris, thank you for your post. I am in a similar fix with Nest 2 gen thermostat. Its been working fine with the very same Netgear router I have for past 2 years but starting this May my nest suddenly started going offline time and again. Weird thing is I cannot control the interface from my phone’s app, however the moment I turn the dial from the device, it starts working from my phone too.

    Upon calling nest several times, as expected, they are blaming it on the router, to which I have two questions-
    1- It has been working fine for 2 years, what happened all of a sudden with the same router?
    2- In the current world of technology, how can a device be NOT compatible to certain routers? I mean, are we supposed to buy separate routers or compatible devices with every new gadget we own? How ridiculous is that?

    Anyway, I am hoping nest either comes with an update or my plan of buying Nest Protect goes down the drain, whats the point of a WiFi enabled device when you cannot control it with phone.

    Thanks for such a nice post.
    Take care and God Bless!

    MS

    • Kris Bunda says:

      Thanks for the story. Customer service and technical troubleshooting is a tough job, but it gets annoying when the person assumes you’re doing a simple thing incorrectly when it’s not your first rodeo and you’ve taken pains to clearly explain the steps you took to achieve the problem result (and you already did all that basic stuff you’re being told to do again for the 4th time). On the other hand, I imagine 90% of technical problems are solved by unplugging a device, counting to ten, and powering back up, so I can see why it’s easy to assume customers are overlooking the obvious.

      Hope you get your devices friendly again! Have you played with your router’s security settings like I did? That’s my only shot-in-the-dark suggestion…

      • MS says:

        Well Kris, I did play with my router settings, however my security settings were similar to yours, I did change the Channel setting though. I remembered my cable guy switched the channel saying it would pick up better signal strength but since I never had any signal issues so I thought to give it a try. Luckily, the nest device is following my every slide on the app so must have done something right :)

        NEST customer service- see its NOT the router compatibility but a setting which you should know to tell your customers. I think they lack technical assistance over at the call center, eh, just a guess!!!

        Anyway,I am glad I found your post and figured this out. Thank you for caring to reply. Take care and have a good day!

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