Gone are the days of needing to head home after you’ve already left for your holiday because you’ve accidentally left the heating on. Smart thermostats control your heating from an app on your smartphone, allowing you to warm up the house before you walk through the door or turn it off for you when you’ve forgotten. Whilst some are quite expensive to set-up, as most will need to pay for an installation, the cost you will save on your energy bill will surely make up for this.
The top brands on the market continue to be Hive and Nest with the latter having learning capabilities to know when you are home or when you normally like to turn the heating on or off. Most of the devices on the market are also compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and the If This, Then That System (ITTTS), allowing you to use your smart thermostat in conjunction with your other devices and apps. Below we detail what to look out for when purchasing a smart thermostat and briefly describe the top brands on the market.
Shops With Smart Thermostat (Nest / Hive) Offers
Smart Thermostat Buying Guide
On the surface, smart thermostats seem like the ultimate in laziness. Being able to turn your heating on without leaving the couch is a new form of idleness that a generation that already struggles for fitness could probably do without. Yet the more that you find out about them, the more that you realise that they actually get better into the category of ‘didn’t know I needed, now can’t live without’.
Yes, you would survive perfectly well if you had to get up to turn on the heating, but being able to not only get your boiler boiling but also being able to programme the timer for when it comes and goes off with your mobile phone is a brilliantly convenient thing.
What Are Smart Thermostats?
In short, smart thermostats are devices that are linked to your home heating system and also connected to the Internet, allowing you to control them via an app on your mobile phone or other device. That’s not the only way to use them, of course, with the best ones also coming with a digital thermostat that you can control in person.
How They Work
In their simplest form, smart thermostats work in exactly the same way as regular thermostats do. You choose somewhere in your home to place them and then you program in when you want your heating to come on, when you’d like it to go off and what temperature you’d like the house to reach. The heating will come on at the allotted time and remain on until the desired temperature is reached, then the boiler will switch off. It will continue to switch on and off in order to maintain your requested temperature until the time that you’ve programmed it to switch off completely.
That’s the long and short of how they work, but different ones offered by the biggest companies add a whole load of different options into the mix. What pretty much all of them allow you to do is control them via your mobile phone or computer, provided you’re connected to the Internet. The companies that make them also offer downloadable applications that you can use to program the times you want them to come on, as well as control them from afar. That means that you can be on holiday, realise that you’ve forgotten to turn your heating off but be able to do it by logging into your account on the hotel’s computer, for example.
The Benefits of Owning a Smart Thermostat
There are numerous different reasons why you might want to buy and install a smart thermostat, with the ability to control them from anywhere in the world being just one part of that. The biggest thing that you might want to consider is how much money they might be able to save you if used correctly. Here’s a look at some situations you might find yourself in when having a smart thermostat could be advantageous:
- You thought you’d be home by 7pm so set your timer to come on at 6.30pm. Then you got stuck in a meeting at work and won’t be home until 9pm at the earliest. The smart thermostat allows you to change the timings from wherever you are.
- You’ve rushed out of the house to meet friends and the pub. When you arrive, you remember that you forgot to turn the heating off before you left. Previously, you’d just head home to a warm house and have wasted a load of money, but instead, you use your app to turn the device off.
- You’ve set your thermostat to twenty degrees, but you get a notification from the app telling you that eighteen would be sufficient considering the outside temperature.
- You set up location services with your device so it knows that you’re coming home or leaving the house, turning the heating on or off as appropriate.
- You tell your smart thermostat which rooms you’ll be using, so only those rooms are heated.
Not all of those services are available with every smart thermostat, but it gives you an idea about how you can use them to save yourself money, as well as not having to get up off the couch!
What to Think About When Purchasing
When you read through the above list, you’ll soon spot which of those bullet points applies to you. Are you the sort of person who regularly forgets to turn the heating off when you go out? Do you regularly find that your schedule changes at the last minute because of work or social events? Do you like to not have to think about whether or not to turn on your heating and therefore the idea of it choosing to do so itself depending on your location appeals? If that’s the case, then you’ll know what features to make sure your smart thermostat offers before you make the purchase.
Another thing to think about is how many other people there are in your life that might remove the control from your hands. If your husband is always cold, for example, then you might find that it’s not up to you when the heating is or isn’t going on. In that instance, it’s possible that you might not save as much money as someone who can control when their heating is being turned on or off. Given that the devices are expensive to install in the first place, it can be quite a big outlay to make for something that you’re not going to get the most out of. That said, if you think you will, then they can pay for themselves pretty quickly.
The other thing to bear in mind is that installation doesn’t necessarily come as standard. If you’re good at DIY, then the likelihood is that you’ll be ok installing it, but if you don’t know the difference between a nail and a screw, then you will also have to pay for someone to install the system in your home. Again, those of you that will make the most of the system will make that money back pretty quickly, but it’s something to remember when you’re looking at total costs.
Different Types of Smart Thermostat
There are numerous different smart thermostats on the market, with new ones popping up all of the time. Here we’ll tell you about the best-known of them and those that have had the biggest impact on the industry.
One of the most successful smart thermostats is the Hive system. From the British Gas stable, this device was quite basic when it was first launched. It’s improved considerably since then, with the Hive Active Heating 2. The wireless thermostat can either be installed on your wall so you know where it is, or else it can be put on a stand and moved around the home – handy if there’s one room that always seems to be colder than the others, as you can put it in there and the heating will stay on until it’s warm.
There are several reasons why this might be the heating system that you go for, including the fact that Hive have now developed an ecosystem that includes smart bulbs and smart plugs. The app can control all of them, allowing you to turn on a kettle attached to a smart plug from your bedroom, meaning you can walk into the kitchen in the morning to boiling water, or switch off your lights from the comfort of your bed. It also works with Amazon’s Alexa, meaning that you can simply command your house to go to a given temperature and it will. Finally, there’s integration with the If This Then That (IFTTT) system. That allows you to set up commands, such as ‘if the sun sets, turn on my lights’.
Nest Learning Thermostat
Probably the best-known alternative to the Hive system is that of Nest. This was one of the original smart thermostats and is now into its third iteration, meaning that it’s really starting to come into its own. The key feature of the Nest is that, as its name suggests, it learns about you the more that you use it. It has the ability to detect whether you’re at home or not and, if you’re not, will turn the heating off for you. The system works by figuring out when and why you tend to turn the heating on and then gradually learning from you so you can eventually stop telling it and it will just do it automatically.
That doesn’t remove the ability to turn it on or off yourself, of course. The app works in a similar way to the Hive alternative, as does the smart thermostat itself. It will also work with both IFTTT and Alexa, meaning that there’s not much to choose between the two devices. Nest can control your water, if you use an immersion heater, and can also be linked up to work alongside smart bulbs like the Philips Hue ecosystem. If you’re not sure which to go for, have a look at the features and see which ones best suit your lifestyle.
The Evohome by Honeywell adds something to the world of smart thermostats that the other two have yet to manage – the ability to split your house up into zones. You can add a smart thermostatic radiator valve to each radiator in your house and then only turn on the ones that you want to have heated up. It’s the perfect money-saver if you tend to only really use the bedroom, kitchen and lounge of a house and don’t want to heat up unused rooms if it’s not necessary to do so.
Once again, there’s a really good app for your phone involved with this system, allowing you to control it according to your schedule. If offers both IFTT and Alexa support, but the initial cost is much higher than the other two options higher on this list on account of the price of the thermostatic radiator valves. Still, the ability to simple not bother heating up unused rooms will certainly save you a good chunk of money in the long-term, so the initial outlay may well be worth it.
The Tado system is one of the newer ones on the market, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s got catching up to do when compared to the others. It’s a proximity based system, meaning that it tracks your movement and knows whether you’re home or not. It will also let you decide between saving money, therefore returning to a slightly colder home than might be ideal, or going for the maximum possible comfort level irrespective of the associated costs.
The entire idea behind Tado was to make smart thermostats as easy to use as possible, so it’s no real surprise that the company has joined others in getting IFTT and Alexa integration. The biggest difference comes in the fact that it will also work with the Apple HomeKit system. It will work with Smart Radiator Thermostats, though at the time of writing, Tado isn’t quite as good as the Evohome on that front.
Last but not least, a quick mention for Netatmo. Another proximity based system, Netatmo works with both Alexa and the Apple HomeKit. There’s also IFTT integration, should that be something that appeals.
This is one of the cheapest of the smart thermostats on the market, with that reflected ever so slightly in the way that the app works compared to the other systems on the list. It’s not bad, it’s just not quite as good.