What is a smart thermostat?
A smart thermostat is a type of thermostat that lets you control your home’s heating remotely, via devices like smartphones and tablets.
Smart thermostats vs smart meters
Smart thermostats may seem similar to smart meters, but they work quite differently:
- A smart meter shows you information about your energy usage and costs, generally on a display inside your home
- A smart thermostat lets you control your home’s heating
How do smart thermostats work?
You can programme your smart thermostat to turn your heating on at a certain time, or to heat your home up to a certain temperature. Some smart thermostats can even work out how long it takes to heat all or part of your home.
They can then use this, as well as information about the outside temperature, to time it so your home will be at the perfect temperature when you arrive home. This can improve your home’s energy efficiency as it means energy will only be used when it needs to be.
Additionally, smart thermostats can have a range of useful features, including:
- Voice control: so you can command your central heating from the comfort of your sofa
- Temperature alerts: to warn you if the temperature poses a threat to your water pipes
- Geo-fencing: recognising when you’ve entered or left your home
- Weather, time, and temperature display: allowing you to adjust your home heating accordingly
- Link up with other smart technology: such as Alexa, Google Home, or other devices to make your home truly smart
What are the best smart thermostats?
There’s a range of thermostats available from different manufacturers at varying costs. The most well-known brands include:
Hive Active Heating is a brand of smart thermostats released by British Gas. They generally cost around £249, or £199 for British Gas customers – if you’re with British Gas, professional installation is included, otherwise it will cost £70. You’ll also be able to spread the cost over 12 months with no interest.
Hive smart thermostats are compatible with most gas and LPG boilers, as well as most oil boilers with an existing thermostat or programmer, and most electric boilers with a standard room thermostat/programmer.
When you buy a Hive smart thermostat, you’ll receive the thermostat itself, as well as the Hive Hub, a receiver, batteries, and use and installation guides – though you can also buy Hive without the Hub. It works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and comes with features including:
- Geolocation: Hive knows if you’ve left your home with the heating still on, so can remind you to switch it off while you’re out
- Multizone: you’ll also be able to turn the heating on or off in certain rooms or areas of the home – for example, if everyone is downstairs you can turn the heating off upstairs to save energy
- Time slots: Hive also lets you set up to six time slots on a schedule so your heating and hot water works with your daily routine
- App control: all of these features can be managed via the Hive app, which you can download to your smartphone or tablet
Nest smart thermostats are made by Google, and come in two variants:
- The Nest Thermostat E: this costs £199, though with professional installation this rises to £259
- The Nest Learning Thermostat: this costs £219, or £279 with professional installation
Both the Nest Thermostat E and the Nest Learning Thermostat are compatible with combi-boilers, heat-only boilers, zoned systems, and heat-only heat pumps. The Nest Learning Thermostat is also compatible with domestic hot water tanks, hydronic underfloor systems, and heating systems using OpenTherm technology.
When you buy the Nest Thermostat E you’ll get the thermostat itself and a Heat Link E – which works as the heating controller for the Nest. It also comes with a power adapter, terminal blocks, a trim plate with screws, user guides, and a warranty.
The Learning Thermostat comes with the display and base, a Heat Link heating controller, screws and an optional trim plate, as well as user guides and a warranty.
Nest’s thermostats can include features such as:
- Smart schedule: the Nest Learning Thermostat learns the more you use it, so it can start building a temperature schedule based on your habits
- Geolocation: it also knows when you’ve left home using your phone’s location, meaning it can turn the heating down when no-one’s in – helping you prevent energy wastage
- Nest Leaf: the Nest Leaf feature lets you know when you’ve changed the temperature enough to start saving energy
- Sensors: the device also houses a number of sensors to track the home’s temperature, humidity, and whether anyone’s at home
- Multi-zone: with Nest you can control up to 20 thermostats in your home, and you can control Nest in three homes from your account
- App control: Nest thermostats can also be controlled by your phone or tablet, letting you connect all your Nest products as well as set a schedule and adjust your hot water
The Tado smart thermostat starts at £119.99 for the thermostat itself, and with it you’ll get the kit required to mount the device on the wall, as well as batteries.
For £199.99 you can buy the starter pack, which also comes with an internet bridge that securely connects the system to your router. You’ll be able to install it yourself with its online installation service, however Tado also offers a professional installation service for £90.
Tado smart thermostats are compatible with combi, system, and heat-only boilers, conventional and condensing boilers, hydronic and electric underfloor systems, air and ground-source heat pumps (heat only), and zoned systems.
Tado also offers a Smart Radiator Thermostat, which is suitable for homes using district heating – so without their own boiler – as well as homes with their own central heating set up. They start at £69.99, though it’s £119.99 if you also need the internet bridge.
Tado’s thermostats work with a range of smart home devices, including Google Assistant, Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. You’ll be able to use features such as:
- Climate Assistant: the Tado Climate Assistant offers services such as geofencing, weather adaptation, open window detection, and insightful reports to help you achieve home comfort
- Multi-room control: you’ll also be able to control the heating in specific rooms in your home to prevent energy wastage
- Smart schedule: Tado will let you create a schedule for your heating and hot water so you only use energy to heat your home when you need to
- App control: you can manage your Tado smart thermostat through its useful app
However, these aren’t the only brands available – you can search online and in different electronic shops for other models. It’s a good idea to read reviews before buying so you know how other people have fared with these products – it could save you a lot of hassle when you do buy.
Should I get a smart thermostat?
Whether you should invest in a smart thermostat will depend on you and your circumstances as well as your energy habits. It’s worth considering the pros and cons before you make your decision.
Advantages of using a smart thermostat
- Convenience: smart thermostats offer a convenient way to manage your home’s heating, so you can control when and where you want to warm up your property directly from your device
- Energy efficiency: smart thermostats also make it easier for you be more energy efficient at home, as you can programme the heating to only turn on when you need it
- Potential savings: you may be able to save money on your energy bill by avoiding using energy when no one’s at home, or by not heating rooms that aren’t in use
Disadvantages of using a smart thermostat
- Price: the process of installing a smart thermostat can initially be quite pricey, often in the region of £200-£250
- Better for the long-term: due to the price, smart thermostats could be seen as a long-term solution – if you’re planning on moving homes soon, you may want to hold off for now
- Reliance on Wi-Fi: smart thermostats, like all smart technology, rely on your Wi-Fi working properly. When the Wi-Fi goes down you’ll lose most of the smart facilities, which is something you should be prepared for
Can a smart thermostat help me lower my energy bills?
Smart thermostats can help you reduce your energy bills, but this will depend on how you use it and what your energy habits are in general. For example:
- If you’re out longer than you planned, you’ll be able to ensure your heating doesn’t waste itself on an empty home by keeping it off until you get back
- If you or someone else forgets to turn off the heating before you leave, you’ll still be able to shut it down remotely from your phone or tablet
- Some smart thermostats let you control the heating in individual rooms, so you only use energy to heat up the rooms you use
- Some smart thermostats can learn from how you use them and programme themselves to match your daily schedule
- You’ll even receive energy saving advice from some models, as they let you know how much you could save by turning down the temperature by one or two degrees
Typical saving for a typical three bedroom semi-detached house heated by gas, based on April 2018 fuel prices . Source: The Energy Saving Trust.
Save by switching energy suppliers
Smart thermostats aren’t the only way you can save money on your energy bills. Comparing energy tariffs on MoneySuperMarket can be a good way to see what options are available, so you can find the cheapest deal right for you.
All you need to do is tell us a little about yourself, your home, and your approximate energy usage – the more you can tell us about how much energy you use, the more accurate your quote will be. Then we’ll show you a list of energy tariffs tailored to your needs, and you can sort them by the overall price per month and year, as well as the yearly savings you could make by switching.
Once you’ve found the deal you want, just click through to the supplier to finalise your purchase. Thanks to the Energy Switch Guarantee, you’ll be swapped over to your new supplier hassle-free within 21 days – you won’t be without gas or electricity at any point, and if there are any issues the supplier will work to resolve the issue as soon as possible.