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Smart Thermostats Explained

What are they? Should you get one? Will they help you save?

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Andrew | Edited by Guy

Updated Monthly

Smart thermostats are a new trend that allow you to control your heating on the go from your phone, tablet or other device. They're touted as a great way to save cash, but they're not cheap – so whether one will save you money depends on how you use it and what type of home you have.

So, what can they do and are they worth it? To help, this guide examines the basics and more...

This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please suggest any changes or questions in the Smart Thermostats guide discussion.

What are smart thermostats? The six need-to-knows

What are smart thermostats?

Smart thermostats are a new bit of kit that connects your heating system to the internet – letting you change the temperature or switch your heating off on your smartphone or other device when you're out and about, or with your computer.

You need an internet connection to use them of course, but seeing as you're reading this we'll go ahead and assume you do.

Remember that these are different from smart meters – which most energy firms are currently offering to install for free. For more, see our Smart Meters guide.

Plus, unlike smart meters, you install or arrange installation of smart thermostats yourself – so it doesn't matter which energy provider supplies your energy. Also, they don't affect switching suppliers.

Quick questions

How does the programmer work on smart thermostats?

How are they different from my standard thermostat?

Will it work with my boiler?

What if my internet goes down?

How much do smart thermostats cost?

Smart thermostats typically cost anywhere between £150 and £250, depending on make and model. Most makers also offer professional installation. This usually adds about £50 to £100.

But some can be easy to install yourself, and most brands have installation instructions. For where to pick one up, see the main thermostats and where to get them.

Can smart thermostats help you save money?

There's no guarantee you'll save money. They're useful if you come home at different times every day, as if you're a little later one day you can delay the heating coming on remotely.

If your routine is set, you can programme most thermostats to come on at specific times. If you don't have controls – smart or traditional – they're worth it to avoid wasting heat or going back to a cold home.

Yet the best way to save on energy is to switch supplier – to find your best deal, use our Cheap Energy Club for a full market comparison. Most can save £300+/year.

Plus, see if you can save by making your home more energy efficient – many firms offer free insulation or help towards a new boiler. See Free Insulation and Boilers for more.

Be wary of savings estimates

What can smart thermostats do?

The cool feature of all smart thermostats is changing your heating with your phone – whether you're out and about, lounging on the couch or having a lie-in.

Other features vary by thermostat, but common ones include multi-room control, hot water control, 'geofencing' to track when you leave and enter your home, draught detection, safety and holiday modes to protect your pipes when you're not there, and feedback on your heating patterns.

Not every model will have all these features, but most are prevalent across different makes.

Quick questions

What is 'zoned heating' and do I need it?

What is 'geofencing'?

Can they let me control my hot water settings?

How can smart thermostats learn my habits?

How does detecting draughts or open windows help?

How do they stop your pipes from freezing?

What kind of feedback about my heating can I get?

Do smart thermostats work with other home tech such as the Amazon Echo?

They do. Most can work with Amazon Echo, Google Home and IFTTT (which stands for 'if this, then that'; it's an online platform that can connect apps and devices to each other). A more limited number work with Microsoft Cortana and Apple HomeKit.

Once you've connected your thermostat to your smart home device, you should be able to ask Alexa (Amazon Echo), Cortana or Google to set your heating at a certain temperature, increase or decrease the heating, or check what temperature your home is at – among other funky features.

You can still switch energy supplier with a smart thermostat – and save £100s/year

Smart thermostats have no impact on switching energy provider, so don't let it stop you – most can save £300+/year by grabbing a cheap energy deal. Check our Cheap Energy Club to see what you could save.

The main smart thermostats and how to get 'em cheap

Prices of smart thermostats don't change much across retailers, though you can sometimes find discounts via electronic sellers such as Amazon, Currys and Argos.

Just remember to factor in installation cost. Whether you go through the manufacturers themselves – such as Hive or Nest – or through retailers, you can usually choose to buy them with or without installation. So if you're handy with DIY, you may save £50-£100.

A number of energy suppliers also sell smart thermostats and install them for you, and it generally costs much the same as going direct to the manufacturer. Some energy tariffs also include a smart thermostat – they're often touted as freebies as you don't pay the upfront cost, but you generally pay via higher bills.

You can also pay monthly, or rent smart thermostats

The main smart thermostats

We've listed the major providers and what their kit can do, but as some of the snazzy types of controls may be unfamiliar to you, here's an explanation of what the different features actually do.

Smart thermostats – features and jargon explained

Hive (part of British Gas)

Rightmove

Typical cost: £250ish

Features: Multizone, hot water control, geolocation, temperature notifications, weather forecasts, frost protection and holiday mode.

Extra info: Hive also gives you historical information on temperatures inside and outside your home.

Nest (part of Google)

Rightmove

Typical cost: £280ish

Key features: Learns your habits, multizone, hot water control, geolocation, frost protection and holiday mode.

Extra info: Nest also says it can help you save on heating by using a green leaf symbol that pops up when you adjust your thermostat to an energy-efficient temperature.

Tado

RightmoveTypical cost: £290ish

Features: Multizone, hot water control, geolocation, open window detection, weather forecasts, frost protection and holiday mode.

Extra info: Tado also gives you estimated savings from using its thermostat – based on the number of hours you'd be heating your home without it.

These are some of the main brands – all backed or partnered with major tech and energy firms – yet there are plenty of alternatives. Other popular ones include Netatmo, Honeywell, Genius and Geo Cosy.

Smart thermostats are NOT the same as smart meters

detailed opinionIt's easy to confuse smart thermostats and smart meters, but they're actually very different pieces of kit. While smart thermostats give you remote control over your heating system, smart meters mainly deal with your gas and electricity readings.

The new meters, which will be offered to all homes in England, Scotland and Wales by 2020 (though they're not compulsory), take automatic meter readings and send them to your supplier, with the aim of ending estimated billing – as well as giving you more information on your energy use through the in-home display they come with.

Unlike smart thermostats, smart meters are free from your supplier. To see if these new meters are right for you, check our Smart Meters guide.

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