As Winter is looming we should all be getting reading for colder days and darker nights, what a better way to improve our winter blues with some smart tech dedicated to improve our heating at home.
Smart Heating connect to your boiler and to the Internet to enable you to regulate the temperature in your home via your smart device or voice assistant for a better lifestyle while saving money and the environment. Smart thermostats can be installed by a DIY enthusiast or a professional installer (fees range from $50-$99). A smart thermostat can cost around $150 to $220 depending on the brand and features required, you are produced to make your money back in year 1 or year 2.
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What is the difference between a thermostat and a smart thermostat?
A thermostat is used to regulate the temperature in your home by turning on and off your boiler when a certain threshold temperature is reached. Most homes have programmable thermostats which you can define a time of day and day of week in which this can turn on. Many of us would set up a schedule once every winter and leave it there. While this suited most people well for many years and is the easiest option, it might not suit everyone and I’ll tell you why.
Consider a freelancer that works from home most of the time, but they have to travel to and from client meetings, these don’t necessarily occur at the same time, the thermostat would turn on / off the heating at the same time either wasting money by heating an empty house or leaving it freezing cold when you return home earlier than usual.
Smart thermostats not only enable you to control your heating from your smartphone, but also have cool technology that can pick up if you have left the house (geofencing) and can learn your routines.
This for me is the most important features that smart thermostats can offer. I live in the UK and we have some mild days during winter and some very cold days. When I had a normal thermostat in the morning it would be either too hot (started heating too soon, or too cold).
Because unless you reprogram the thermostat each evening while consulting the weather forecast the time in which the boiler starts heating might not be enough time for it to warm up the house.
My nest thermostat, which I have had for about 3 years now, knows how long it takes for my house to warm up based on previous data, it has a temperature goal by a specific time so will start heating as early or as late as possible and takes into consideration the external temperature. Now that is a killer feature!
I mentioned geofencing as the ability of your thermostat to turn the heating off when it sense that the whole family left the house. Now some thermostats use motion detection in your house within the thermostat, most use your smartphone to understand where you are via GPS and activate away mode.
When you do get back home your heating will turn on immediately, now the downside to this is that your home might be cold as the smart thermostat doesn’t know that you are going back home, you might drive past your house but not want to enter in it. I always find myself turning on the heating, for example if I was on holiday and as soon as I leave border control then I would turn on my heating via my nest app.
At that point you have a nice warm welcoming home. Other factors to consider are pets and guests that might not have the the smart thermostat app installed on their phone.
If you are not a fan of Geofencing due to tracking you can turn it off from the settings on most smart thermostats.
My particular model the Nest learning thermostat 3rd generation, you can checkout reviews on Amazon US or UK has a hot water function which enables me to schedule when the hot water is on and potentially boost if I have an immediate need for hot water.
How does smart heating work?
In order for all of this smart functionality to work your smart thermostat will need to be connected to the Internet via WiFi. When you open your smart thermostat in the setup phase you would need to pick your SSID (WiFI Name) and password.
In the box you should find a heat link, this component would need hardwired into the boiler (replacing your programmable thermostat), the heat link is able to turn on and off the boiler based on the data that it receives from the thermostat which communicate wirelessly.
You will need to have a smartphone and download their app, all vendors have applications compatible with IOS and android.
An email to register and you should be up and running.
If you have voice assistants like Amazon Alexa you can pair them up to that you can ask: “Alexa turn the heating to 21 degrees”.
Which smart heating control is the best for me?
I will give you an overview of the smart heating options in the market and how they compare to each other.
Nest Thermostat (Google)
Nest is owned by Google has has two options:
This is the high end version, its main feature is that it programmes itself by with AI intelligence it is able to create a custom schedule that would evolve in time. Every time you regulate the temperature it stores that information to learn your habits.
It is compatible with most smart home systems and voice assistants. If you already a fan of Nest products like their cameras or smoke alarms or have google products around the house this is the perfect fit.
If you have a larger house and want to have multiple temperature readings you will need to buy more than one and that can get expensive fast.
Its little brother the Nest E, will save you a few bucks that has a more cheaper look to it, comes in one colour and doesn’t allow control of your hot water.
You also don’t have farsight. Farsight enables you to see at a glance the temperature in the room the weather and the time.
If you are home kit user then Nest might not be right for you as of the time of writing they are not compatible, but Tado is!
Tado is a German company founded in 2011, the have a very similar offering compared to Nest but with some key differences. Latest version of their hardware is V3+
Tado Multi Room Control Starter Kit: Amazon UK
Their starter kit can be found in two options a wired and wireless option, this will depend if your current thermostat is wired or not.
The internet bridge needs to be connected to your router via an ethernet cable (included in the box).
They also offer radiator kits, which allow you to control each radiator independently based on presence in the room and if a window is opened.
Tado’s app has a free to use option but also a premium version called auto-assist.
Open window detection is something unique to Tado, I haven’t personally tested how it works but I can see the heating benefits. Geofencing would come as standard with other vendors, but here it is a premium, although you can still activate through push notifications.
Hive are part of the British Gas family they offer a very similar offering, main difference compared to Nest is that the placement is easier as it doesn’t need to be hardwired (uses 4 AA batteries). The following components are included: the thermostat, the receiver and the Hive hub. The Hive thermostats comes in 12 different frame colours.
Check Reviews on Amazon UK –> here
Hive also has light bulbs, smart switches, radiator valves (TRV) and even outdoor camera, so If you are invested in Hive’s ecosystem then this is the right product for you.
It is one of the most affordable smart thermostats in the market mainly compatible with the main heating systems (Gas, oil, wood boilers). The design isn’t the fanciest but looks minimal.
With Netamo you are able to control your heating remotely via the app, receive useful energy savings report. It uses auto-adapt to calibrate when it needs to turn on the heating based on the outdoor temperature and the insulation.
Compatible with main smart hub such as Apple Homekit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Legrand.
Ecobee is targeted at the US market and is around $158 from Amazon at the time of writing, for a more accurate price check it here
The advantage Ecobee has over Nest is that they come with an additional sensor to better detect if you are at home or not. It has a built in Alexa that acts as another Echo Dot.
Ecobee have a light version without the Alexa capabilities and the additional sensor, but around $80 cheaper.
Are smart heating controls worth it ?
In my option absolutely yes, for three reasons:
- Quality of life is drastically improved by having a constant temperature without having to put that extra jumper on during those cold winter days. You can turn on the heating when you leave work and don’t have to wait for the house to warm up again.
- Saves money, different manufactures declared different figures but most state that it would save you around £100-150 a year, which means that most of these devices will pay for themselves.
- Environmentally conscious is getting more and more important each year goes by. If we can save energy by having smart thermostats we should!
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Hope you enjoyed this blog post,
Keep it digital!