Smart Heating – what is it and should you have it?

Image:Lora Bates

Image:Lora Bates

2014 has been billed as the year of the smart thermostat, but firstly what exactly is a smart thermostat and secondly and perhaps more importantly, should you get one?

At present, only a relatively small number of households in the UK have a room thermostat and fewer still use them regularly to properly control their home’s temperature.

However, recent years have seen a huge surge in what is known as “smart heating” or “smart thermostat technology” Why is this we hear you cry? Well there are a number of reasons which we’ve taken a look at below.

Firstly, energy prices in recent years have gone through the roof, with increases of almost 170%. Having more flexibility to better manage and control our heating expenses is therefore a very important reason to consider a smart heating system, especially when you bear in mind that around 60% of the average households energy consumption goes on central heating.

A second important reason is the rise in the popularity of smart devices, such as phones, tablets and desktops. These devices and their affordability has made home automation technology much more practical and economic. This technology allows you to go on holiday and use your tablet to turn off your heating from anywhere in the world if you forgot before you left!

So instead of a traditional room thermostat which just lets you change the temperature in your home using a dial or control panel, a smart thermostat gives you full control over your entire home’s heating based on time of day, weather conditions and how you use your home. Some of them even learn and adapt to your individual households behaviour!

In addition to giving you insight into your energy consumption (which in itself could be quite scary!) smart thermostats should help make your life a bit more comfortable. For example, say you head out to work one morning and the temperature falls throughout the day. You can leave the heating off until just before you get in, so that you don’t waste any energy heating an empty room, but still come back to a warm home and hopefully significant energy savings. Control panel builders  such as Yorkshire based have some great advice.

So, as fuel costs rise and supplies run dry the ability to heat our homes in an energy efficient way is likely to be a key part of every home going forward. It will stop being a “nice to have” and become an essential part of every home’s basic economics.

But not all smart home heating systems are made equal, and which one will work best for you is another question altogether and difficult to quantify based on so many variables.

Most of the systems – Hive, Nest, Netatmo, Honeywell and Tado – simply put a smart thermostat and control panel into the most-used room in the house, and moderate the temperature of the whole house to match that room. Whilst in smaller houses this is probably a cost-effective way of attaining the desired results. You can always switch off the radiators you don’t need at all. For larger properties you could give consideration to systems such as the Honeywell Evohome and Heat Genius both of which offer something more. They have the ability to allow you to zone your house and then offer smart heating in each zone, so your guest bedroom is only heated when required, your master bedroom is warm just in the morning and at bed time, and the kitchen is hot at tea time. Obviously these require more sophisticated control panels and whilst undoubtedly offer better economic solutions, they are a lot more expensive.

The right smart-heating system for you will be dictated by your home, your use of that home and your requirement to save money.