You’ve already heard of smart cars, are well-versed in the use of smartphones, and are well-versed in all the ‘internet of things has to offer.
Indeed, I’m willing to bet that you’ve heard so much about how your existence should be loaded with interconnected, network-dependent gadgets that you’ve considered building a time machine to transport you back to a simpler time.
But, before you go all Doc Brown on me, adding a smart system that regulates your home heating, saves you money on your bills, and fully revolutionises how you keep your home warm isn’t as far-fetched (or as scary) as you would think. It’s certainly something to look into.
We thought we’d put together a detailed guide to SMART heating controls so you have everything you need to get started because we like to explore things – and we’re all about providing quality service and guidance here at BestHeating.
So, without further ado, what exactly is SMART home heating, how does it operate, and why should you (or should not) invest in it?
WHAT ARE SMART HEATING CONTROLS?
As previously said, SMART stands for “Self-Monitoring Analysis and Reporting Technology,” but what exactly makes a “smart” thermostat “smart”?
While a typical boiler thermostat provides some simple functions such as turning on and off the heat, setting timers and adjusting the temperature, a SMART thermostat allows you to monitor every second of your home’s heating schedule – right from the palm of your hand, using a tablet or smartphone.
To be in complete control, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your couch.
Indeed, if you have internet access, you might be on top of a mountain in the Himalayas, raising or lowering the temperature of your heating from one of the world’s highest peaks.
That may seem a little far-fetched (though if I ever get the chance, I’ll give it a shot), but it does give you an idea of what a smart heating system can accomplish.
However, is it true that the fact that you can control the temperature of your heating from almost anywhere makes your thermostat smart?
I promise we’ll get to that in a minute.
HOW DOES A SMART THERMOSTAT WORK?
That is, after all, a concern, isn’t it?
But, to be frank, when it comes to simply control your heating, the procedure is fairly straightforward.
A smart thermostat uses three simple components to provide a more user-friendly way of regulating your home’s heating. While a traditional thermostat lets you adjust the temperature in your home using a dial or a control panel – a smart thermostat does it a little differently and more efficiently. It uses three basic components to provide a more user-friendly and accessible way of controlling your home’s heating.
The first of these components will normally connect directly into your boiler and communicate wirelessly with the second – an in-home computer that serves as the main control unit and thermostat. It monitors what is and isn’t happening – while the final component is an app that you download to your smartphone or tablet.
That’s pretty much it from top to bottom.
1 – Connect to a SMART boiler (plugs into your boiler & connects to number 2)
2 – A control device or thermostat that uses your home’s WiFi to link to the internet.
3 – A mobile/device app that allows you to monitor all of the settings and times.
The WiFi controls, internet access, and smart device integration are pretty much the core of what smart heating controls are all about. There are several different variations on this theme but from a basic – “what does a smart thermostat do?” viewpoint.
There are a few other clever features to consider (which we’ll go through in more detail later), but the basic outline and purpose of SMART heating controls is to make life easier and to make heating your home more affordable.
Allowing you, or whoever else in your home wants to regulate the temperature, to do so from practically anywhere in the building.
WHAT ARE THE TIMES WHEN A SMART THERMOSTAT IS NOT A SMART THERMOSTAT?
While programmable thermostats are a popular feature in today’s homes, a programmable or connected system is not always a “smart” device.
You will simply enter a general schedule that corresponds to the times you plan to be in or out of the house – even awake or asleep – to configure this form of thermostat.
This type of thermostat will serve you well if you work a typical Dolly Parton 9-to-5 job. Set the heat output to a more energy-efficient temperature when you’re at work (or, for the sake of the world, switch it off entirely) and then schedule it to turn back on as soon as you get home.
You can have one heating setting for weekdays and another entirely for weekends in a device like this, and you can, of course, make any manual adjustments you want as and when needed.
So, while programmable thermostats are a form of home automation, they are a fairly primitive approach, especially when compared to some of the newer forms on the market. They definitely cannot be considered ‘SMART’ technology – at least not in the sense that we now understand it.
One explanation for this is that they cannot adjust instinctively to your changing schedule – they aren’t able to “learn” what you do and how you want your heating to work.
As convenient as they are for controlling your heating and setting times for x, y, and z, you will always have to make manual changes if you need to tweak the settings because they aren’t SMART enough to do it for you.
Smart versions, such as Tado SMART Thermostats and the Nest Learning Thermostat, on the other hand, are built to give you more control over your heating (and cooling). They do this through WiFi integration, web and smartphone apps, and, in some cases, even sensors that can tell if you’re at home.
And the cherry on top?
These are do-it-yourself models, so you don’t have to contact a dealer or a heating engineer unless you really want to.
Instead, you can purchase them off the shelf or from an online retailer, making them a reasonably simple upgrade for almost everyone.
HOW DO SMART HEATING CONTROLS BENEFIT ME?
You may believe that you are fully satisfied with your current programmable thermostat setup and therefore have no need for a smart thermostat or other smart heating controls.
What’s more, do you know what? It’s perfectly normal to have such feelings.
However, learning how smart heating controls can help you directly can persuade you to reconsider.
But let’s take a closer look at the key advantages of smart thermostats and smart heating.
DO SMART HEATING CONTROLS SAVE ME MONEY?
The short answer is yes, absolutely, if you use them correctly.
Many of us who don’t have a SMART thermostat or other SMART-connected heating controls won’t be surprised to find that we’re wasting money heating an empty house (more often than not).
It’s also plain to see why.
When people I know return home from a long day at work, they want their home to be warm and welcoming, particularly during the winter months. However, some central heating systems can’t guarantee this, so they end up keeping their heating on all day.
This is costly and inefficient – something that the carbon-conscious generation of the twenty-first century is gradually seeing it as a taboo.
Set the temperature well in advance with SMART heating systems, and your system can figure out when it needs to turn back on – just in time to get your house up to the appropriate temperature for when you arrive home.
Some of the newer and more intelligent SMART heating control systems have a feature that takes the outside temperature into account.
The truly clever aspect of this is that if the temperature outside is colder than normal, your heating will turn on a little earlier than usual to compensate (but more about that later).
Geo-fencing is a function of a thermostat like the Tado SMART Room Thermostat, which monitors the position of people in your household through their mobile phones and turns the heating on automatically when they get close to home.
This is ideal if you find yourself suddenly returning home.
Let’s say you’ve decided to leave a party early because that girl/guy you’ve had a big dose of unrequited love for has turned up, and you just have to get out of there before your heating shuts down.
A SMART thermostat with geofencing will monitor your location and override your scheduled heating timer to turn on your heating in time for your return. All so you can wallow in the comfort of a warm and cosy room. Even if you are feeling down in the dumps about a missed opportunity with the person of your dreams.
However, despite the fact that a SMART Thermostat will save you money, research suggests that you will not always be beneficial, so it’s important to know who you are and whether or not they will benefit you.
CAN EVERYONE SAVE MONEY WITH SMART HEATING CONTROLS?
Since we sell a number of SMART Thermostats, SMART Radiator Valves, and other SMART heating controls, you’ll understand if we suggest that everybody can upgrade their central heating to include some kind of SMART heating appliance.
However, a few variables will decide whether or not installing smart heating will save you money on your heating bills or will be a total waste of time and effort.
So, after some research on the internet, we’ve compiled a couple of lists to decide who would and will not benefit from SMART heating controls.
WHO WILL SAVE MONEY WITH SMART HEATING CONTROLS?
- People who are passionate about technology, such as mobile users, computer users, and app users.
- Anyone who wants to know how much energy (heat) they are consuming and how much it costs to do so.
- People who want to be able to monitor their home heating when on the go.
- People that have a daily routine that a smart thermostat will learn to ensure their home is still warm when they need it.
- Anyone who isn’t planning on moving anytime soon (you can recoup installation costs by lowering your utility bills – you can’t do this if you move).
WHICH PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO NOT SAVE MONEY WITH SMART HEATING CONTROLS?
Anyone moving house in the next 12 months or so does not have enough time to recoup installation costs – However, with a system like Tado°, you can transport the SMART thermostatic radiator valves around with you all day so it’s not all bad news.
Those who don’t like smartphones or aren’t too familiar with computers and smart devices – while a learning thermostat that remembers your routine for you eliminates the need for some electronic devices.
Anyone who lives in a house that isn’t well insulated – you must first ensure that your home is well insulated before considering SMART heating control systems.
HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE FOR A SMART THERMOSTAT TO PAY FOR ITSELF?
Visit any SMART thermostat manufacturer’s website, and you’ll see a slew of promises on how easily your latest gadget can pay for itself, how much money their respective smart kits can save you, and how it will help you save the world.
For example, tado° claims that its SMART room thermostat would “pay for itself within a year” by lowering your overall heating bill by 14 to 26 percent.
Netatmo claims that their SMART heating thermostat will help you use 37 percent less energy than you would without it, reducing your carbon footprint.
British Gas claims that their Hive SMART device will save customers up to £150 a year on their energy bills.
Is that, however, a true representation of the possible savings that smart heating controls can provide, or is there more to it?
It could surprise you to learn that each of these calculations is based on the assumption that you already have your heating set to maintain a steady temperature during the day.
So, if you’re a frugal person who already turns off the heat when you leave the house, go elsewhere, or before going to bed, smart heating controls are unlikely to save you as much money as the manufacturers say.
Indeed, according to a study conducted by British Gas’ heating experts, the energy savings achieved with their Hive device would be much smaller if you only used your heating for part of the day.
In an environment where the heating was previously only on for a few hours a day on weekdays, the same study found that switching to Hive’s default schedule would result in you spending more money and using more resources than before.
With that in mind, it’s critical to look beyond the major headline-grabbing statements about saving the world and holding money in your pocket and instead conduct thorough research into what would be the best smart heating solution for you – or, conversely, which will not.
WHERE CAN I FIND THE BEST SMART HEATING CONTROLS?
So, with these considerations in mind, how do you go about selecting the best SMART thermostat? What do you look for to ensure that you get the right one for you and your home?
Fortunately, I’m in the mood for some serious investigating, and the further I go, the better educated you should be, so let’s get started.
As we’ve seen, SMART heating controls come with a variety of features and functions, and figuring out the ones that are most appropriate to you – and best suited to your lifestyle – is crucial to choosing the right thermostat for your home.
So let’s take a closer look at a few of the features.
SMART HOT WATER CONTROLS
Some SMART heating controls can also be used to monitor your hot water, in addition to regulating the performance of your central heating.
You won’t need a thermostat to regulate the temperature of your water if you have a combination (combi) boiler in your home, which offers instant hot water when you turn on a tap or perhaps your shower.
It’s also worth mentioning that not every SMART thermostat with a hot water control comes with that feature as standard; in fact, some manufacturers charge an extra fee to use it, so keep an eye on where you’re spending those ever-dwindling pounds.
However, being able to control your hot water from an app is extremely convenient.
Let’s say you’ve turned off the water for the weekend when you’ve been away and want a nice hot bath or shower when you return from your trip – just use your phone or SMART device to turn it back on before you get home, and voila!
You can programme a schedule, much like a conventional hot water thermostat, so you never have to experience the misery of a cold shower because you forgot to turn on the hot water.
But what’s the difference between a regular thermostat and a SMART thermostat? You can regain power by using your phone or, in some situations, your computer.
SMART MULTI-ROOM THERMOSTATIC CONTROLS
If you’re the lazy, idle kind like me, multi-room thermostat controls are a godsend.
They are, however, equally suitable for those with a large home with numerous spaces or for those of you who are willing to cut costs and keep a tight grip on your finances.
So, if you’re sitting in your living room, relaxing and watching TV on a quiet Thursday evening, is it really important to have the heating on in the bathroom or hallway?
With multi-room controls, you can switch off – or at least turndown – the heating in each of the rooms you aren’t using, saving money, electricity, and the environment.
To use this function, you’ll need to spend a little more on an extra thermostat or other smart controls for each of the rooms or areas where you want to use different settings – so you might have different settings in different rooms on different floors, all over the house, with one, two, or even three thermostats (or more if you’re really serious).
You must be cautious, however, because each new smart thermostat you need will incur additional costs, and they are not always inexpensive.
Some manufacturers charge the same price for an additional smart thermostat as they do for the initial package, so it’s important to balance the expense against any possible savings on your energy bill from not heating areas of your home that don’t require it.
THE SMART LEARNING THERMOSTAT
Some smart thermostat manufacturers say that their devices can learn your routine and the temperature you prefer in a room and then adjust the programmes to match those preferences.
This saves you a lot of time and effort by eliminating the need for you to programme the unit yourself, but it restricts your control over the device and, eventually, your heating control.
Many of the more well-known learning thermostats often make some bold statements about how much energy they can save you and how much they have contributed to overall energy savings.
For example, the Nest Learning Thermostat boasts that it has helped save over 8 billion kWh of energy in hundreds of thousands of homes around the world since 2011.
But what they don’t say loudly – instead mentioning it in the fine print – is that the argument they’re making is based on an estimate of how much energy consumers would have used if they hadn’t taken the time to purchase smart heating controls.
This may not be an entirely accurate portrayal of what is possible – it is, after all, an estimate – and, as I’ve already said, they base a lot of their claims on the assumption that you leave your heating on all day, every day, 365 days a year (and twice on Sundays) – so be sure to do some detailed and in-depth research into the claims being made BEFORE parting with your money.
You can still go back to the manual controls and configure it yourself if you do not want to use the settings that your new SMART learning thermostat has been programmed to use.
SMART HEATING THAT RESPONDS TO THE WEATHER
A weather-response function is one of the features that many SMART heating control systems have, and it’s definitely one of my personal favourites.
The idea that your heating will react to the weather and outside temperature isn’t something new or revolutionary; a similar device to regulate the temperature of your boiler has existed for years.
It’s also known as an ‘outdoor reset control,’ and it effectively decreases the size of your boiler (not literally) by balancing water temperature with outdoor temperature using a tiny computer chip.
This form of thermostat has a sensor on the north side of your house that communicates with a sensor on your boiler to regulate the temperature.
Some more advanced systems employ an internal room sensor to provide even more data. Heat gains from solar sources, the fireplace, heating, and people, as well as any extreme heat loss, are all examples.
The difference with modern SMART heating controls is that, rather than relying on a variety of sensors to decide how hot or cold your water and heating system should be, they use complex algorithms to accomplish the same goal.
For example, tado° has a weather adaptation feature that monitors the weather forecast to help you use more natural heat sources; if it’s sunny outside, tado° knows that the residual heat that might reach the home from the sun’s strength might mean it’s best to turn the heat down a few degrees, saving you money and energy.
A huge majority of SMART heating controls have this function, and each can adjust the ambient temperature in your home in its own unique way to take advantage of natural heat and keep you warm on colder days – perfect for anyone who despises waking up to a cold room in a cold house!
SMART MOTION SENSORS & GPS TRACKING
As I previously mentioned – and at the risk of repeating myself (it must be my advanced age) – the tado° SMART thermostat uses geolocation tracking to determine where you are in order to change your heating or make other changes based on your location.
It changes the temperature of your home automatedly, according to the environment that your preferred heat setting is already preset in and preinstalled in the thermostat.
On the other hand, the Hive geolocation function functions a little differently. During your leaving and return home, you can set distances to decide whether your heating activates and exits, but it also has the feature to warn you if the heating remains on and the temperature is set too low.
Unfortunately, Hive does not automatically change the settings, but it is simple to do so from your mobile device.
The geolocation function may not be for everybody, but it is likely to be most useful for people who come and go at odd hours of the day and night. If you’re not that type of person, sticking to the timer schedule will usually be enough to keep you warm and comfortable.
WHICH IS THE BEST SMART HEATING KIT?
So, now that we’ve discussed what almost everything SMART heating controls can do for you, which is the best SMART control you can find?
Since the vast majority of these controls are constantly changing, it’s impossible to tell which is the best. A lot depends on what you want to use it for.
So, because this is a bit of a minefield – and because I don’t want to be biassed in favour of the items we sell – I looked at some feedback from Tech Advisor, who compiled a list of SMART heating controls and thermostats for 2018.
So, here’s the best SMART heating for the year, in the order they’ve listed them on their website.
Increase efficiency, save money, and link to other smart home devices. Take care of your home’s comfort and functionality with the Honeywell Home T6 Smart Thermostat. This smart thermostat adjusts to your routine. When your schedule is erratic, you can monitor your thermostat from anywhere using your smartphone, tablet, or computer. Geofencing is used by the Honeywell Home app and your mobile to take care of everything at home. This device determines whether you are at home or away based on the location of your smartphone. Program your thermostat to save you energy while you are away, ensuring that you return to the optimal temperature. Honeywell Home knows how much it takes for your house to heat and cool off, remove your guesswork from your energy bills, and save you money. Request 21 degrees at 7 a.m. and the T6 can find out how to get there regardless of the outside temperature. When you need it, the intelligent comfort control lets you preserve the optimal temperature. As a consequence, whatever the weather, your home will always be warm and welcoming.
The Netatmo Smart Thermostat helps you save money on energy without sacrificing comfort. To create a heating schedule that fits your lifestyle, answer five questions about your daily routine. Heat your home to the perfect temperature just when it’s needed. In addition to this schedule, if you are out for an extended period of time, the Absence and Frost Defense modes change heating.
The Auto-Adapt function considers the outside temperature as well as the insulation in your home to ensure that your home is kept at the proper temperature. Track and optimise your energy use, view your data history, and get a customised Energy Savings Report.
A last-minute change of plans? You can monitor your heating from afar using your mobile, tablet, or computer. Monitor your heating with your voice thanks to Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant compatibility.
Your Smart Thermostat can be installed in less than an hour and is compatible with most boilers. Netatmo’s step-by-step guides and videos will walk you through the process, so you don’t have to be a technical expert.
Simply adjust the level. The Google Nest Learning Thermostat learns your preferred temperatures and customises a schedule for your home. The Google Nest Learning Thermostat turns itself down when you leave, so you don’t waste energy heating an empty house. To login from anywhere, you can use your phone, tablet or laptop. And by looking at your energy history, you can see how much energy you use. In a British independent study, Google Nest thermostats saved 10% to 12% on average for the heating bill and 15% on refrigeration bills. In less than two years, it will pay for itself. *Savings for individuals are not assured.
Monitor your heating from anywhere, at any time. Hive allows you to monitor your heating from your phone, tablet, or laptop. Hive 2.0 features an elegant interface, intuitive control, and simple to use features. Hive is compatible with any energy source and will operate with your current heating system. Hive eliminates the need to heat an empty home, potentially saving you up to £130 a year on energy costs. With the Hive app’s temperature graphs, you can conveniently keep track of how you’re using your heating and receive heating warnings when you leave or return home. The wireless thermostat allows you to monitor your heating from anywhere in the house, while the hub connects to your broadband router and allows you to control your thermostat remotely. The receiver connects your thermostat and hub to your boiler.
Additional product for Multi-Room Control: tado° Wired Smart Thermostat tado° is your Climate Assistant, ensuring a warm and stable environment while reducing your energy consumption significantly. Extend your setup with additional Smart Thermostats for tado° comfort in every room. With Multi-Room Power, tado° will help you save even more money on your heating bills while also making life more comfortable. A tado° Starter Kit (V2, V3, V3+) with the Internet Bridge to connect to the internet is the base of your setup. To gain even more power over your home’s environment, add more Smart Thermostats and Smart Radiator Thermostats. Individually control numerous heating zones and spaces. As a result, you’ll still have the right temperature in each room or zone at the right time. For a concise summary, use the tado° app to monitor all regions. Ninety-five percent of all central heating systems are compatible. tado° can be used to replace traditional room thermostats and power central heating systems from a variety of manufacturers, including Ariston, Baxi, British Gas, Glow-worm, Ideal, Potterton, Vaillant, Worcester, and many others.
Drayton Wiser Smart Thermostat Heating and Hot Water Control Kit – Works with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT
The Wiser Heat app allows you to use your mobile to monitor your heating and hot water from anywhere in the world. All functions are just a swipe away wherever you are with Wiser’s wireless heating controls, making staying in control of your home heating easy. Add Radiator Thermostats to your Wiser device to personalise your home heating. They have the ability to set different schedules and temperatures in different spaces, taking Wiser to a whole new level of smart: comfort, convenience, and energy efficiency at their finest. If you already have TRVs, switching to Wiser Radiator Thermostats is a breeze. With the ring nut supplied, simply attach to existing radiator valves. There are no wires or fuss since the thermostat is battery powered. Adaptors are included with the thermostats to enable installation on any radiator. You can add up to 32 separate devices per system in total, and you can add or remove thermostats at any time.
We hope you found this post useful, and the products match up to your expectations. The products we have recommended and reviewed above have a ton of positive online reviews that can be seen on each of the product links. If we missed anything or you have questions relating to this post, then either get in touch, leave us a comment on social or ask your question in our online forum.