Smart thermostat guide
Everything's getting smarter these days. The smartphone started it all, and now a growing number of devices are being web-enabled to make them more useful. From smart televisions to smart fridges, the smart revolution is upon us, and your thermostat is next
The vast majority of us use simple thermostats and timers to regulate the temperatures of our homes, and when the heating and hot water will turn on. This works fine, but it is starting to look a little dated in the new digital age.
Smart thermostats look set to change all that. They're already readily available and fully automate the way you use and monitor your heating and electricity. More efficient energy use means you need less gas and electricity, which in turn means lower bills.
Here's a look at these smart devices, including how they work, how to get one and how much you could save.
What is a smart thermostat?
A traditional thermostat allows you to regulate the temperature of your home, usually by turning a dial on a wall-mounted box. A smart thermostat user can change the temperature of their home remotely, using a wireless device like a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
What's more, smart thermostats provide real-time information about your energy use and can actually learn your preferences based on how you interact with them, and adapt accordingly.
Why is this useful?
There's a lot to be said for the convenience of being able to control your heating remotely - whether it's turning up the temperature with your phone while bundled up on the sofa on a cold wintry evening, or warming up the house from the office, using your computer, ready for when you get home.
Beyond the convenience, however, there's the opportunity to save money. Being able to track, record and measure your energy use can make you more mindful of how much it's going to cost, and highlight where there's money to be saved.
Are all smart thermostats the same?
No. There are several smart thermostats on the market - some from the energy suppliers themselves and others from third-party manufacturers, each with their own take on what a smart thermostat should do.
Here's a run-down of the current popular models...
Nest is the Google-owned 'Learning Thermostat'. It is wifi-enabled and can intelligently automate your home's heating system.
For example, if you were to turn down the temperature on your way out to work every day, and turn it back up on your return, Nest would learn this pattern over time and start automatically regulating the temperature according to the time of day. An in-built motion sensor also helps to identify an empty house which doesn't need heating.
As it has a wifi connection, Nest monitors weather information from the internet and correlates that information with your preferred temperature in those conditions, so that it can make adjustments when the weather gets warmer or colder.
It can also be controlled remotely over a wifi connection, so if you're away from home and realise you don't need the heating to come on, you can use the app to cancel it. Via the app you can get real-time data about how much you're saving by turning down the heat.
Nest costs £249 with professional installation, or £179 without - though Nest itself highly recommends installation by a professional.
Hive, from British Gas
With its LCD screen and rubber buttons, Hive from British Gas looks a lot like a traditional heating programmer - at a glance. However, with its web connection and companion smartphone app, it's actually a lot smarter.
The wireless thermostat can be placed anywhere and connects to the web so that you can control your heating and hot water system from anywhere, over the internet. It does so by communicating with a hub which plugs into your broadband router and a receiver installed near your boiler.
Using the Hive Active Heating app, you can set schedules for your heating and hot water, get feedback on your energy usage and learn how to save money. British Gas says customers could save up to £150 a year by doing so.
The smart thermostat from British Gas costs £199 and can be installed by a professional in around 90 minutes.
Scottish Power Connect
Scottish Power's Connect smart thermostat and companion smartphone app allows users to adjust heating schedules, change the temperature and monitor energy usage, from anywhere with a web connection.
This means you can get the house warm for when you get home from work, or postpone the heating coming on if you end up working late. You can also use the app to read the temperature in your home and outside, from anywhere, helping you to decide how best to use your heating.
An engineer can install Connect in your home in around 60 minutes. Prices start at £9.94 a month with a £66 upfront payment, based on a two-year contract. Alternatively, you can pay nothing upfront and then £12.69 a month, over two years.
Like Nest, tado° is a more autonomous smart thermostat which adjusts temperatures automatically, depending on environmental conditions. When it senses the house or flat is empty, it lowers the temperature, and raises the temperature for when you return.
It achieves this by pairing with an app on your smartphone, and tracks your location using mobile phone tower locations and wifi access points close to your phone. It tracks your regular movements to intelligently predict the ideal temperature, and also monitors the weather, taking outdoor temperatures into account.
Of course the app can also be used manually to adjust and set the heating too. According to its makers, tado° can save a family with three children and a dog around £240 a year on heating bills.
You can rent tado° for around £6.99 a month and cancel at any time with no minimum contract. If you don't save at least £100 in the first year, tado° will refund your rental payments. Alternatively, you can buy tado° for £249.
Around 70% of tado° customers install the device themselves, but professional installation is available.
HeatSmart, from EDF Energy
Available to all, not just EDF Energy customers, HeatSmart is a smart thermostat app that enables users to monitor and control heating remotely, so they never need to waste energy heating an empty home again.
Costing £199 including professional installation, the product can be controlled from a smartphone (Andriod, Apple and Windows), tablet or desktop computer. The intelligent thermostat learns your heating habits so you can be sure your home is at a comfortable temperature as and when you want it to be.
You can also programme-in ability a weekly routine on the app so the heating comes on at desired times. An auto-adapt function predicts the start of the heating periods depending on the household insulation and the outside temperature.
An 'away' function sets the heating system to 'hibernate' when you're away from the property for longer period, while a frost guard function protects the heating system from freezing over winter.
HeatSmart works for any tariff or supplier, so there is no need to switch.
†10% of customers could save up to £670. MoneySuperMarket Data, May 2016