There was a time when your home heating system did two things – heat the water and heat the home. In this article I will discuss the latest crazy in home heating, yes you guessed it Smart Thermostats.
I will endeavour to explain what smart thermostats are, what’s useful about them and I’ll even give a brief outline of how to set one up!
What is a smart thermostat?
As home automation starts to become more and more popular many newly built homes are being fitted with smart thermostats to control the not only the heating of the whole house but in a number of cases zonal heating is being introduced.
Zonal heating allows the heating system to heat the living room, kitchen and dining room to a different temperature to the bedrooms and bathrooms, for example. Of course, if you are not using a combi boiler your smart thermostat will also control the hot water system as well.
So, what does a smart thermostat do? One of the great benefits of a smart thermostat is its ability to learn your daily routines. Googles Nest Learning Thermostat will know when to turn on your heating and when to turn it off based on your routine of leaving and returning to your home.
Of course, this pattern of behaviour is dependent on you having your smart phone with you each time you leave and return home. If you think this machine learning is a bit intrusive your smartphone is tracking this information anyway. Therefore, why not put this information to good use and control your heating, it could save you lots of money!
What other benefits do smart home thermostats provide?
I suppose one of the greatest benefits is the amount of control you have over your heating system. Once you have installed the associated app on your smartphone you are able to monitor and control your system from anywhere in the world – provided you have a decent phone signal of course!!
You never need to arrive home to a cold house again. You can set up an automated routine that will turn on your heating to the desired temperature when you are 100 miles from home for example. This could be helpful when returning from holiday and driving back from the airport – heating the house is usually the last thing on my mind!
Using the app, you can still schedule when you would like the heating system to come on and what temperature you would like the whole house or the individual zones to reach. When you are at home you can simple change the temperature without leaving your comfy armchair providing you have your phone nearby!
Getting the Nest Learning Thermostat up and running!
In my view a smart thermostat is easy to use, it is no more difficult to operate that older style thermostat that are in most properties today. However, installing a smart thermostat, just like the older style ones, needs some professional help.
In the box of the Nest Learning Thermostat you will have the beautiful glass and brushed steel thermostat which is the bit you will see and use. There are also some less attractive bits which are essential for its operation like the back plate and Heat link Hub.
You could install the device yourself following the instructions or by following YouTube guides, but I would recommend having a Nest approved engineer install it for you. Why? Because they will know the best location for the thermostat and how to wire it up to your heating and if appropriate to you hot water supply.
Once your smart (learning) thermostat has been connected to the heating and water system you are good to go and connect to your home broadband. Setting up this connection is done using the associated app on either your smartphone or tablet.
With the Nest app there are numerous features that you can play about with. For example, you can try ‘True Radiant’. True Radiant allows the heating system to learn how quickly your house will heat up and cool down, this is useful for ensuring the desired temperature is achieved at your scheduled times.
The app will allow you to set ‘Auto-Away’ which senses you leaving the house (or your phone leaving the house) and turns the heating down accordingly hence saving you money.
Other Smart Heating Controls
I have mentioned the Nest Learning Thermostat which is a particular favourite of mine, but there are other choices.
British Gas have created a number of smart products under the brand name Hive. The Hive Active Heating Thermostat is very stylish and offers many of the same benefits of the Nest system.
Honeywell, which will be a familiar name to many UK households as it will be most likely that your more traditional room stat will be made by Honeywell. The Honeywell Evohome is an excellent smart thermostat with great functionality, but not as stylish in my opinion when viewed against the Nest or Hive stats.
Tado produce a smart thermostat system which provides control over the whole house and the individual radiators if you add Tados smart radiator stats. It’s a great system that should save you money. However, you need to use Tados cloud service to obtain all the benefits and the cloud service involves a small monthly subscription.
There are other smart thermostats from Drayton Wiser, Heat Genius, Netatmo and Momit for example but I am insufficiently informed to pass an opinion on these devices.
What to look for in a smart thermostat
Installing a smart thermostat is a great place start when thinking about building a smart home. It is a relatively low-cost device which once installed is easy to operate and best of all will save you money on your heating costs.
A word of caution before you dash off and order you beautiful smart thermostat – are you planning to add more smart devices to your home? If the answer is no then carry on and order the one that fits with your budget or the one that looks the most attractive to you.
If you are considering adding more smart devices to you home, then I would advise considering a supplier that offers a range of smart products such as Nest or Hive. These suppliers offer smart lighting, smart security, smart cameras and smart sensors for example.
All the devices from a single supplier will work using a single app on your smartphone making it easier to control and program. If you mix and match suppliers, you will need different apps for different functions which can also make home automation a little more challenging.
The home automation utopia is to have a ‘single button’ to switch every device on or off!
As you can imagine running an automation command such as ‘cinema night’ which with one press of the button would lock the doors, set the room temperature, turn on the smart TV and speaker system, set the lighting and close the blinds – would be much more difficult to program if all the devices and apps do not communicate with one another!
In other words, to conclude please chose a smart thermostat that will meet your current needs and budget but will also fit with your longer-term plans. Good luck and I hope the information in this article will help you make an informed choice.
If you have any questions about smart homes, home automation or smart thermostats please write them in the box below and I’ll happily respond.