How to Make Nest Run the Fan with Baseboard Heat

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Living in the northeast most of my life, I’ve only had two types of heat in my homes; baseboard/radiator and forced air.  Each has its own advantages.  Baseboard and radiator heat systems feel to me like they put out more even heat that tends to feel warm all the time, but takes while to heat the house.  Forced air heats the house much quicker, but the heat feels like it quickly dissipates once the air isn’t rushing into the room.

Like many homes, mine has warm and cold spots that the baseboards just don’t seem to heat.  In some cases it’s because those spots are close to windows or glass doors.  In others it may just be time to re-insulate.  Despite my best efforts to seal up any air leaks, the spots always seemed to stay cold.

This year I had central air installed, and for the first time I had the ability to make my Nest turn on the AC fan (without running the compressor) to circulate air throughout the house.  Nest actually offers a feature that lets you run the fan on demand or on a schedule for just this purpose.  It’s not quite as good as an attic fan for cooling purposes, but it does help normalize the house temperature and keep the air from getting stagnant.  Nest has a great post about the pro’s and con’s of doing this and they recognize that there is quite a lot of debate about whether this is good or bad for energy efficiency.  I’m not here to argue efficiency, this is just a tip on what I found to be a helpful feature.

One day, shortly after my AC had been installed, I noticed that when the heat came on the AC fan was running.  I thought I’d wired something wrong and ran outside to find the compressor was off.  When I came inside, I was freezing, since it was March and I was in a t-shirt, and while I was taking my boots off in my mudroom I noticed a curious thing; warm air was blowing out of the AC vent.  What’s more, that area of the house has two exterior doors on two different walls, and is usually a little colder than the rest of the house, but suddenly it felt warmer than usual.

I walked around the house and checked the cold spots, and sure enough, I could feel warm air slowly drifting over from the AC vents.  When the heat turned off, the fan stopped running and the house felt like there were fewer cold spots at all times.  I called my AC guy to find out what he did, and he told me that he set up the Nest to think that I had forced air heat, so it would trigger the fan every time the heat came on.  My baseboard heat would function like it was supposed to, but while the boiler was running, my fan would run as well.  Brilliant!

How it works: 

  • From your thermostat (you cant do this from the app) push the bottom of the thermostat to go to the menu
  • Select Settings and push the bottom of the thermostat to open the menu
  • Spin the dial until you see Equipment and open the menu
  • Select Continue on the next 3 (or 4) screens until you see the Heat Type choice
  • Turn the dial to highlight Heat Type and click to open it
  • Change your heat type from baseboard to forced air
  • Click Done until you have exited the setup

For the record, this may not be best practice and I have no idea if it affects Nest’s heat algorithm’s at all.  What I do know is that I have an open floor plan, two story colonial and since I’ve been running my heat in this manner the house seems to heat faster and there are fewer cold spots.