Building a NEST Thermostat with Arduino and an RTL-SDR

The Nest thermostat is a smart thermostat that learns your schedule and automatically adjusts the heat in your house for optimal energy savings.  Tristan didn’t want to buy a Nest, but wanted to replicate the Nest thermostat’s functionality by using an Arduino to automatically regulate his apartments central heating boiler. To do this he needed to find a way to turn the heating on and off programatically.

Fortunately Tristan’s current thermostat is wireless, so he decided to use his RTL-SDR to sniff the data it sends to try and find the on and off signals. By using SDR# he was able to discover the radio traffic stream in the ISM band at 433 MHz. After simply recording the signal audio, he passed the audio file into Audacity to analyze the messages. He discovered that the ON and OFF signals were on-off key (OOK) modulated, and he was able to discover the binary control string and pulse timings.

With this information at hand, Tristan was then able to use a cheap 433 MHz radio transmitter together with his Arduino to replicate the ON/OFF boiler control signals. In the future Tristan plans to add a temperature sensor and web interface to monitor everything.

In the past we’ve also posted about a similar project by Tom Taylor where he reverse engineers his thermostat with an RTL-SDR and controls it with an Arduino.


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