Would You Switch Utility Providers For Free Nest Thermostat?

While the wireless industry is trying to abandon the practice of giving customers hardware discounts in exchange for agreeing to a two-year contract, Google is trying out that subsidized-device approach in Ireland with its pricey Nest thermostats.

Nest, which was purchased earlier this year by Google for $3.2 billion, charges around $250 for one of its Internet-connect thermostats.

The device has enjoyed favor among certain audiences but its price point may be preventing it from wider adoption.

So today Nest announced a partnership with Electric Ireland — which is a utility company and not an all-girl dance troupe from 1984 — to offer discounted and free Nest devices to customers willing to lock themselves into 2-year contracts.

New customers who switch to EI get the device for free, while current customers pay 99 Euros (around $123) for the device.

“This is just like the cell phone industry,” explained Nest CEO Tony Fadell at the Web Summit in Dublin. “We always thought it was going to be much more mobile-phone driven. You have a service and a carrier, and you have products that bond to that.”

If the program is a success in Ireland, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Google try out this sort of discount-for-contract offer stateside — or at least in those markets where consumers have some say in the provider of home heat.

Many utility companies do have partnerships with more efficient products — like offering discounts/rebates on LED and CFL bulbs — but very few of these deals are presented at the point where a customer makes the decision of which utility to go with. Being told that you can get a $250 thermostat for free (or some similar offer with a competing device) might be enough to convince people to switch providers.

[via Bloomberg]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.