TheGreenAge team review their smart thermostats
There are lots of different ‘smart’ heating systems currently available on the market; in this blog we take a look at our top 10. The can broadly be split in to two categories: basic smart thermostats and then smart heating control systems that include rooms sensors, linked thermostatic radiator valves as well as the thermostat units to give you a higher level of heating control.
In the old days, a thermostat with a simple programmer was a pretty sensible way of controlling your heating – a dial sat somewhere conveniently in the home with which you could set a preferred temperature. Provided the heating was switched on (via the programmer), the heating system would fire up and when the required temperature had been met, the thermostat would then cause the boiler to stop sending hot water round the radiator system.
It worked well, but as time has gone on, people are looking at further levels of control so smart heating controls were introduced. These include features like an app that allows you to remotely turn your heating on and off or the ability to zone parts of your house, thereby allowing you to heat different rooms at different times and to different temperatures.
To be honest, most of us here in the office have installed different smart heating controls. The reason for this is the manufacturers want us to try out their products, so basically whenever we have a new starter they get sent away on their first day with a new smart heating control system!
Below, we talk you through some of the systems we have installed in our homes and their features, good and bad!
James – Heatmiser Smartstat Smart Thermostat
I set up 4 heating zones in my home with the Heatmiser SmartStat – The first thing to mention is that each Heatmiser SmartStat units need to be wired down to the relevant 2-way valve (the thing that allows hot water to flow around the central heating system (e.g. radiators) so retrofitting this into a house would be a nightmare. Fortunately, I installed this when I had access to the stud partition walls so could hide the wires from the units down. If you have a traditional wired system then the Heatmiser can be retrofitted as a replacement.
In terms of the units themselves, they all link directly to your broadband router, they do not require a separate hub which is quite nice as a bit of space saver. In terms of zonal heating control, they just act as individual thermostats wherever they are located. This might not seem ideal, but fortunately there is an app that you can get that consolidates all the units and therefore lets you to control your zonal Smart Heating Control system.
SmartStat also talks advantage of Geo Location which is a feature designed to make it easier to reduce your energy costs. The SmartStat will lower the temperature in your home when it detects the last person has left and will turn the heating back on when it will detects someone is on their way home. There is also holiday functionality and frost protection built in too. On the whole it works well, it is pretty smart to look at and also the app does give an exceptional level of heating control.
Henry – Tado Smart Thermostat
I’ve had the Tado thermostat now for over a year, so I’ve tested it through winter, summer and everything in between. The app is pretty easy to use, with a really nice display and a user-friendly feel. Flicking between times, temperatures and days of the week is pretty easy so any change in my weekly routine can be implemented straight away to make sure that I’m not going to be heating my house unnecessarily. It also has a manual mode, where you can simply set the temperature and override all programs that you’ve set. The good thing is that when you want to revert back to the previous settings after you leave manual mode, they’re all saved. However, there’s been one occasion where I’ve forgotten to revert it back to automatic, so it kept my house at 20 until I remembered a couple of days later! The features such as GeoLocation are a bit pointless, tends to drain my iPhone battery and has quite a short radius, so it has switched the heating on when I’ve been down the local pub! Not entirely sure on the savings that it has made, but it has certainly made my house more comfortable.
Ellen – Hive Active Heating
The main unit of the Hive system – the thermostat – was really quick to install. You can’t set up yourself (it has to be professionally installed by a British Gas installer) but this wasn’t much of an issue for me, as I wouldn’t have wanted to anyway! The unit looks good on the wall – it’s unfussy, with coloured lights and big numbers that are easy to read. It measures the current temperature and then you can also set target temperature and see both side by side. The thermostat unit is fairly straightforward, but there’s little reason to use it when the phone app is so easy.
You can set up to 6 time zones a day with different required temperatures, and they can be the same every day or, for instance, different on the weekend when you might be in more. Hive doesn’t use TRVs, but the optional add-on Multizone lets you add units to as many rooms as you like, to give you maximum control over the temperature of your home. It controls hot water too, and if you want a little bit more heating, you can just boost for an hour at the touch of a button .
You can programme ‘Holiday mode’ with dates you’ll be out of the house so that you’re not wasting money on heating an empty home, and it’ll warm the house ready for you on the day you come back. This ties in with its ‘Frost protection’ mode, which turns on automatically when your heating’s off and the temperature inside your home drops below 7°C. It also has optional location detection, so it knows when you’re nearly home so it can warm up for you in time to get back. I can’t say I’ve used this feature much, as I don’t deviate much from the timings I’ve pre-programmed, so there’s no need.
There are loads of ways to customise the system, like you can add LED light bulbs which you can dim from your phone, or smart plugs, to control appliances when you’re out of the house. If, like me, you tend to panic when you leave the house that you’ve left your straighteners on, this is a huge relief!
If you have limited interest in fiddling with controls and want something that you can just set up and let it do its job, and boost when you need to via your phone, this is perfect. It’s simple and it does its job, so I’m happy!
David – Netatmo Smart Thermostat
The Netatmo Smart Thermostat is about as user-friendly as it gets. It also looks good – there’s a plain, white, modern unit with an interchangeable coloured strip around the outside. The display is really simple; it just shows you the current temperature and target temperature.
It’s super easy to set up the thermostat – you are asked 5 questions during installation to find out about your lifestyle and habits. Then it automatically sets up what time and what temperature your heating comes on at.
You can create as many schedules as you like for how you want your heating at different times and on different days. Mine turns the heating off when I leave for work and starts heating up in time for when I get back in the evening.
You can track how much energy you’re using on the app and I get sent a monthly report on how I am using your energy and suggestions of how to cut down my usage. The app also allows me to control my heating easily when I go away.
You can also add thermostatic radiator valves to control temperature more accurately in different rooms. All in all, a pretty good piece of kit!
Check back later in the week to read part two, in which we review 4 more smart heating systems.