What can smart heating controls do?
The most notable and well-known feature of all smart thermostats is the ability to change your heating using your phone. This can be useful in many situations and is perfect for warming up your home on the way back from work or maintaining the perfect ambiance for a lazy day on the sofa. However, smart thermostats and heating controls are capable of so much more and include many features that tend to be overlooked by the user. Below we have outlined some of the key features of smart heating controls:
Geofencing uses your smartphones location to detect when you are home or out and about. It essentially sets a virtual boundary, or ‘fence’, around your home. When you enter or leave the boundary your smartphone will trigger a response from your smart thermostat, allowing it to regulate the temperature accordingly. This is a great feature for people who don’t follow a typical day-to-day schedule, or for anyone that has forgotten to turn off their heating after they’ve left the house. Geofencing is a feature of many smart devices and not just limited to thermostats. Many smart hubs incorporate geofencing technology and it can be used to control all smart devices throughout your home.
Smart thermostats that enable the use of geofencing include Nest, Tado, Honeywell Lyric and Heatmiser Neo (see below). Nest refer to their geofencing as “Home/Away assist” and are one of the manufacturers that have implemented geofencing most effectively. Both Nest and Honeywell support multiple accounts and can track the location of all members of a household, turning the thermostat to ‘away’ mode once the last person leaves.
Individual room control
The pinnacle of smart heating control is the ability to control every room individually. This can allow for huge savings on energy bills by only heating the rooms that you actually use. For instance, bedroom heating could be turned off until the evening, thus reducing your energy consumption.
Honeywell are the manufacturer that have implemented this most effectively. Their EvoHome range of products includes smart room thermostats, smart hot water cylinder thermostats, smart underfloor heating, and smart thermostatic radiator valves for individual room zoning. It is an ideal system for larger homes that feature hot water cylinders and multiple radiators. It gives the user the ability to control their heating system with precision and avoid wasting money on energy bills. We always recommend Honeywell EvoHome to our clients as it is one of the most reliable and innovative systems out there.
Tado also manufacture smart thermostatic radiator valves that allow for individual room control. While not as in depth as Honeywell, Tado is a great, moderately priced system for someone who wants a more straightforward approach to smart room zoning.
Very few thermostats have built in voice activation technology (apart from certain Honeywell models), but almost all can be linked to a voice activated smart home hub such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Nest, Honeywell, Tado and Hive systems work with most smart home hubs, but Nest systems work particularly well with Google Home as they are manufactured by the same company.
If you have Honeywell or Tado smart thermostatic radiator valves, the temperature of each individual room can be controlled with your voice. Just say something like ‘Alexa, make my bedroom 22 degrees’, and just like that, your heating system will begin heating up the chosen room. Controlling the temperature of your home has never been so easy!
Before OpenTherm technology, thermostats would just act as an on/off switch, telling the boiler when to turn on and off in relation to the desired room temperature. Newer boilers and thermostats that support OpenTherm technology communicate with each other in a more efficient way. The thermostat will tell the boiler when to adjust the water temperature and when to use more or less gas as appropriate. This advanced method of modulation allows your heating system to control the temperature in your home more precisely and can lead to considerable savings in energy bills
For more info on OpenTherm boilers, please read the boiler installation section.
Some smart thermostats, such as Nest, have a built-in motion sensor that they use alongside geofencing for a function called ‘Home/Away Assist’. This will turn down the heat accordingly if it detects that no one is home and vice versa. It is also used for activating the screen and displaying the current room temperature if someone walks past. This is usually an optional feature that can be turned on or off via the app.
Schedules and auto-scheduling
Nearly all smart heating controls allow you to set schedules to suit your workday.
One of Nest’s great features is auto-schedule. Once installed, Nest will log any changes you make during the first few days and begin to prepare a schedule for you. Initially every adjustment will be incorporated into your schedule, but over time, it will start to detect certain patterns and only incorporate major changes to your routine.
Nest is a learning smart heating control, which means it knows that your routine is different during the week to what it is at the weekend, and it will adjust to your schedule accordingly. It is currently one of the only smart thermostats on the market to incorporate this function.
Frost protection is a very basic function that switches on your central heating for a few minutes should the room temperature fall below 5°C . This prevents pipes from freezing and bursting in the event of a cold snap. Nearly all smart thermostats now include this function.
How much does smart heating cost?
A simple nest installation will set you back around £300, whereas something more involved like a Honeywell EvoHome installation can vary greatly depending on the number of radiators, user requirements etc. and will be priced accordingly. We offer a free quotation service for all smart heating installations.
What are the benefits, and can they save me money?
The benefits of smart heating controls are clear – savings on your energy bills, making life easier and reducing your environmental impact due to smarter energy usage. The type of thermostat you go for will have an impact on how much you save. Thermostats with geofencing, OpenTherm technology, or individual room control will run your heating more efficiently and precisely, allowing for greater savings. However, smart thermostats are not a magic solution, and the type of boiler you have and how well your home is insulated will also have a great impact on your energy usage. We can discuss your current setup with you before recommending a specific type of installation.
It must be noted that the technology one finds in smart heating systems means that some users will benefit more than others from the installation. Tech savvy users with a busy lifestyle will definitely benefit from the remote and/or automated controls of a smart heating system more so than users without a smartphone.
The short answer is yes, smart thermostats can save you up to 25% on your heating bills according to some figures. However, all of the above factors must be taken into account before installation. Please get in touch for a free consultation or quotation to discuss your smart heating requirements.
Types of smart heating controls
Smart heating controls typically consist of room thermostats, wireless TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves), hot water cylinder thermostats and user interface hubs.
As previously outlined, individual room control is the most efficient and cost-effective way to heat your home. Adding smart thermostatic radiator valves to every room can seem like a costly endeavour, but they should start paying for themselves within a few years. They allow you to control the heating in individual rooms rather than using a whole-house thermostat. For example, you can turn certain bedrooms off while leaving the living room and bathrooms switched on, all from comfort of your sofa.
At ASP Plumbing and Heating Services we favour Honeywell smart TRVs due to their product reliability, ease of use, and their long-standing reputation as a market leader.
Hot water cylinder thermostats are primarily used in S and Y plan heating systems (link to section in heating system repairs) where a vented or unvented hot water cylinder is present. Other than Honeywell, very few manufactures actually build smart cylinder thermostats. They are a great addition to any Honeywell Evohome setup as they allow you to adjust and monitor the temperature of the hot water stored in your cylinder, which directly affects the temperature of your taps, baths, and showers. Hot water schedules can then be set up using the Honeywell EvoHome hub, which will only heat your water at the times you have specified
The most notable smart heating hub is the Honeywell Evohome which lets you create and control up to 12 different heating zones using their smart TRVs or smart room thermostats. It also lets you control your hot water cylinder temperature and underfloor heating zones all from the same screen.
Other manufacturers, such as Heatmiser and Tado, allow you to monitor and adjust each room via their respective apps which act as control hubs.
Both Honeywell and Heatmiser now manufacturer smart underfloor heating wiring centres. They act as smart hubs that link to each individual room thermostat which can be controlled from your phone. Honeywell’s EvoHome hub is a great choice for a home that consists of both conventional radiators and underfloor heating.
British company ADEY now manufacture a smart magnetic heating system filter. This does the same job as a normal filter but features an internal sensor that monitors magnetite build up in your system. It is linked to the app on your phone and will allow you to view the current filter capacity and when it is due for cleaning. For more on magnetic filters, see the boiler and heating system installations page.
Smart Thermostat Brands
Smart thermostats are the basis of any smart heating system. At the very minimum they give you the ability to switch your heating on and off remotely. Below we have outlined some of the top brands, along with pros and cons for each, to make choosing the right brand easier for you.
The Nest Thermostat uses self-programming technology to learn the more you use it, so it can start building a schedule based on your movements throughout the day. After one week of use, Nest will create a schedule for your home, meaning you no longer have to manually manage your heating.
One of Nest’s main drawbacks is that it cannot be wall mounted unless a cable can be brought from the boiler location to the new thermostat position on the wall. This usually requires quite a lot of work unless you are installing one in place of an existing hardwired room thermostat. If the system cannot be wall mounted, a Nest Stand will be required. The Nest Stand allows the user to move the thermostat around the house and plug it in to a local power socket.
- Supports multiple accounts
- Has “Home/Away Assist” which senses when the last person leaves the house and changes the temperature automatically.
- Uses geofencing
- Sleek design
- OpenTherm support
- App can also control smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, cameras and doorbells
- Does not give an option to set a geofencing radius
- Requires hard-wiring to be wall mounted.
- No individual radiator controls
Hive is a British Gas invention and was one of the first smart thermostats to launch in 2012. It is quite a basic device compared to others on the market, but it does the job in terms of remote heating control and scheduling. Hive is an easy-to-use, well rounded thermostat offering plenty of features and an affordable entry into smart heating controls.
Hive Active Heating 2 includes full app control, integration with other Hive products and features such as multi-zones, hot water control and geolocation.
- Simple and easy to use either from the app or the thermostat interface
- Can set heating and hot water schedules
- Battery powered, can be wall mounted anywhere or placed on a stand
- Can support multiple heating zones, either with multiple thermostats or Hive smart radiator valves
- No smart learning function
- Does not have OpenTherm support
- Batteries will eventually run out and require replacing
The Tado Smart Thermostat is a smart and easy to use device. Expanding the system is straight forward thanks to its smart radiator thermostats, which allow you to control the temperature of individual rooms. However, you will need to pay a monthly fee in order to access its extensive range of features. Existing users can upgrade to the V3+ app, whereas new users will be required to pay a monthly fee in order to use the automation feature. This is not essential but it is a nice touch, especially if you often forget to turn your heating off when you go out or open a window.
- Multi-room zoning made possible with additional smart radiator thermostats
- Easy-to-use app and intelligent design
- Features geofencing, open window detection, air comfort and smart scheduling
- OpenTherm Support
- The “Reporting” feature issues you with reports of usage and energy savings via the app
- You have to pay for auto-assist geofencing and auto-assist open window detection. (Without the auto-assist function, Tado will send you a notification via the app rather than adjust the heating itself)
- Extension kit required for hot water or wireless thermostat installation
- Thermostat uses a plug-in Wi-Fi bridge to allow for internet connection, an extra component that isn’t required with other thermostat brands
Honeywell Evohome is an advanced interface that gives you complete control over your heating system, allowing you to create and control 12 different heating zones without the need for pipework alteration. Honeywell Evohome boasts a greater level of energy savings than Nest and Tado, but unfortunately without the learning technology.
Individually zoning rooms gives homeowners the potential to save the most money on their heating bills. Each individual zone can be manually controlled via the EvoHome hub (a small, touch-screen panel), or from your smartphone. It is a more comprehensive kit in comparison to Nest, Tado, or Hive, but will set you back a little bit more too. It is also quite difficult to set up which makes professional installation a must. Honeywell are one of the original manufacturers of the room thermostat, and their long standing reputation as one of the largest manufacturers in the world gives users peace of mind that their products are reliable and of a high quality.
Evohome smart zoning can deliver as much as a 40% saving on your heating bills according to Honeywell’s website. Giving the user modular control over the temperature of individual zones is the most efficient way to heat a home and is what sets Evohome apart from other popular smart heating systems.
Honeywell Evohome also allows you to control your hot water cylinder temperature and underfloor heating all from one interface, something that other manufacturers do not offer yet.
- Control up to 12 heating zones around the home
- Supports smart hot water and smart underfloor heating control
- Precise individual room control
- Lyric Thermostats have OpenTherm support
- Features geofencing
- Honeywell have a reputation of producing high quality heating system components
- Thermostatic radiator valves have a clear and easy to read display
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Home and Apple Home Kit
- No learning technology
- Requires a more hands-on approach with scheduling
- Initial installation cost can be expensive