Devolo Home Control smart heating system review

While companies are releasing smart home products left, right and centre, offering to control everything from your kettle to your light switch, Devolo is one of the first we’ve come across that offers an accessory that allows you to control your radiators via your smartphone or tablet. Heat Genius also offers similar functionality, and you can read our review of the Heat Genius system here. This isn’t to be confused with the likes of Nest and Hive that control your heating system via the boiler, though. So, can the Devolo home control system give other smart heating systems a run for their money? Here is where we find out.

See also: Can I use a smart thermostat if I have a storage heater?

Home Control isn't just a smart heating system, it's a collection of smart home products which will likely expand over time. You can buy just the Starter Kit, which includes a main hub, door/window sensor and a smart metering plug. But there are other components, including a smart thermostat, smart radiator valves, smoke detector, motion sensor, key fob and wall switch. Here we're focusing on the smart heating components.

 

Regardless of how much you buy, you'll need a Starter Pack as a minimum. Home Control is similar to other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, with a central unit communicating to accessories all over the home. One interesting point about the Devolo system is that it uses Z-Wave technology, which both has quite a large range and will work with non-Devolo branded accessories.

It’s a great idea because if smart home kit explodes in popularity, chances are that not all accessories you want will come from a single manufacturer. No-one wants to switch between multiple apps to control different gadgets in their homes, but that's the reality today. In theory, Home Control should be one of the more compatible systems, with good integration with other products. We're told that Nest integration, for example, is on the roadmap.

Devolo Home Control smart heating system review: Setup

The basic process is to sign up for a free My Devolo account and then connect the central unit to the internet. For creating an account the company recommends is done on a device with a minimum of a 13in display. We used the 12.9in iPad Pro with no issue, but when we tried to do the same on our iPhone it was almost impossible.

With an account created you then need to connect the central hub to your home internet connection.

According to the manual that comes with the central unit, the unit should be placed somewhere central in the house so it can communicate with accessories regardless of where they may be. While this is absolutely fine, it got confusing pretty quickly. Instead of connecting via Wi-Fi like others on the market, the Devolo central unit offers two options; either connect to an existing Devolo dLAN system (powerline adaptors), allowing you to place it anywhere in the home, or directly connect it to the router via an Ethernet cable. The only issue with the latter is that unless your router is centrally placed, your central unit won’t be either. Luckily we had a dLAN system already set up, so it was as simple as pushing a few buttons on each device to connect it to the Internet.

Once it was successfully connected to the Internet, the next step was to head back to the My Devolo website and add it to our account. While the on-screen prompts were very user-friendly, including embedded YouTube videos for each step, it took us three or four attempts to connect before it was successful.

Once the central unit had been set up, we were free to install our Devolo smart radiator valve (TRV) on our radiators, which was a lot easier than we’d originally thought. Unscrewing our old TRV was fairly simple and thanks to Devolo including two adaptors for different radiator fittings, we were able to attach it fairly quickly and easily. The most interesting feature of the smart radiator thermostat during the setup was that after we screwed it into place, the accessory continued to tighten itself up until it was completely secure. Once it was attached, it was just a case of following the on-screen setup instructions and within minutes, it was connected and ‘talking’ to the central unit.

Read next: Hive VS Nest - which is best?

Devolo home control smart heating system review: Radiator thermostat and room thermostat

The smart TRV turns any ‘dumb’ radiator in your home into a smart one that can be controlled in a number of ways. It has an LED display that is bright and clear, displaying the current temperature of the radiator in degrees Celsius, which is a huge upgrade over many conventional TRVs that only let you change between five pre-set temperatures. It features physical buttons that let you tweak the temperature by 0.5 degrees at a time, but why would you do that when you can do it via the My Devolo app?

As well as being able to control radiators individually, you can group radiators together in the My Devolo app, allowing the temperature between radiators to be synced up. For example, we have two smart radiator thermostats connected to two radiators in our front room and we’ve paired them together in-app, allowing us to tweak the temperature of the front room without having to repeat the process for each radiator. It’s the small things that Devolo have thought about that make this system really nice to use.

The company also provides a room thermostat that can be synced with specific radiators, allowing for a more traditional way to change the temperature for those that want it. We’re awaiting a sample to test, so we’ll update the review in coming weeks with more information about the accessory.

As well as controlling the temperature yourself, you can set up schedules to automate the process. Get up at 7am every morning? Now your front room can be nice and toasty, without having to waste money on heating up the whole house when you’ll be heading out to work within the hour. It’s fairly easy to set up and it can be as complicated or as simple as you want, depending on how many smart accessories you want to automate.

The great thing about the Devolo smart home control system is that it isn’t just to control the heating in your home. There are many other accessories available (we come to those in more detail below) from smart plugs to Window/door detectors and even smoke alarms. You’re able to set up IFTTT-esque rules in-app, which can trigger the heating system to change whenever an event occurs. For example, if we had a window sensor in our front room, you could set up a rule that if the system detects that the window is open, the radiators turn off and once it's closed, they turn back on.

Now, we have to be clear that this system isn’t the same as the likes of Nest or Hive, as those systems can control the heating system directly via the boiler, allowing you to control the heating of the whole home via the app. However, while they offer whole-home control, you can’t control the heating on a per-room basis like you can with the Devolo smart home system. On the other hand, if you wanted to turn your Devolo-enabled smart radiators up to 25 degrees but the boiler temperature is only 20 degrees, it’ll only reach 20 degrees and there isn’t much (apart from physically adjusting the settings in the boiler) you can do about it.

With this being said, we believe that a combination of a Hive/Nest heating system and Devolo’s smart thermostat controls would provide users with complete control over their heating systems, allowing them to control heating both on a whole-home basis and a per-room basis.

Devolo home control smart heating system review: My Devolo app and website

Right, let's talk a little bit about how the system is controlled. The setup of rules, groups, schedules and scenes has to be done via the My Devolo website, while the accompanying iOS and Android apps are used to add new devices, toggle switches, tweak the temperature of radiators and other actions of a similar nature.

The My Devolo website is extremely well laid out and looks fairly simple, which is an achievement when you think about how much you can do with it. It uses moveable widgets for the majority of the rule/schedule creation, which feels like a much more natural way than, for instance, selecting a name of a device from a list. Each widget has its name, an icon and a specific colour so you know exactly what it is, at a glance.  

It also features a Dashboard, which is essentially an overview of your smart home. There are a number of widgets available, including the weather (so you can adjust temperatures accordingly) and quick access to smart plugs, heating controls and more, depending on which accessories you have. All in all, the website is great – all Devolo needs is a great mobile app, but, unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

While we love using the My Devolo website on Safari on our Mac and iPad Pro, we’re restricted to using the My Devolo app on our iPhone. After using the app for a few minutes, it became clear that instead of developing a native app for iOS users, the company instead uses a scaled-down version of the My Devolo website.

While this is nothing new and many manufacturers have similar ideas, we’ve found that the My Devolo app just feels a bit slow and laggy when compared to the ultra-responsiveness of its full website. It’s not as convenient as the website either, as you have to first load the app, then select ‘Home Control’ then the name of your central unit (ours was called ‘Home’) and then you have to tap on the item you want to control before being taken to another page where you can activate/deactivate it. Convenience is the key to a mobile app, and we don’t think that Devolo has quite cracked it yet.

Devolo home control smart heating system: Smart home accessories

Now, as mentioned above, the Devolo home control system isn’t specifically designed to be a smart heating system. Instead, the Devolo home control range offers a variety of smart accessories that’ll turn your home into a smart home, one accessory at a time.

The company, at the time of writing, offers smart metering plugs, which both controls a plug socket and monitors the electrical current being used. It’s a great plug to use with a fridge, for example, as you’ll be able to monitor and be notified if the fridge stops working. It can just as easily be used to turn a lamp into a smart lamp, and when combined with Devolo’s motion sensor or door contact, can make your lights turn on automatically when you walk into a room and turn off after a period of no movement.

Along with the above, users can also get a smart wall switch – no, not to control your lighting system, for something far more interesting. Instead of toggling the switches up and down to turn lights off, they can be programmed to control different things. For example, pushing one switch could turn on the TV and lamp, while another switch could be used to turn off all lights and turn down the heating when you’re about to leave home. It’s only limited by the amount of accessories you have available, and the amount of time you want to spend customising the system. If a wall switch isn’t for you, the company also offers a handheld fob with four programmable buttons for easy one-touch controls.

The firm also produces a smart smoke detector that functions in the exact same way as a standard smoke alarm would, but with the extra benefit of being able to notify users via email, text and push notifications. Ideal for when you’re away from home!

As mentioned earlier, the Devolo system works using Z-Wave technology, which allows it to communicate with non-Devolo smart home accessories, like the Piper NV home security camera. This means that if the Piper NV camera spots an intruder with its built-in night vision, it can try and scare them off by turning on all the lights and sounding its 125db siren. We’re huge supporters of Z-Wave technology, and we hope it becomes the smart home accessory standard.

Devolo home control smart heating system review: Pricing and availability

So, where and when can you get your hands on the Devolo home control system? You’ll be glad to know that the system can be bought directly from the Devolo website. Now, it’s not the cheapest system to get up and running as you have to first buy the Devolo home control starter kit for £179.99, which includes the central unit, along with a door/window contact and a smart metering plug. Once you’ve got those, you can grab the smart radiator thermostats for £59.99 each and the room thermostat will set you back £79.99.

We’re aware that £180 is a lot to put down for a starter kit that doesn’t even include smart heating accessories, but think of it as a kit that’ll turn your entire home into a smart home, not just the heating.

Read next: Best smart heating systems

Devolo Home Control: Specs

  • Smart heating system
  • Z-Wave technology, can talk to non-Devolo accessories
  • Can slowly buy accessories over time
  • Control your radiators via your mobile or tablet
  • Smart heating system
  • Z-Wave technology, can talk to non-Devolo accessories
  • Can slowly buy accessories over time
  • Control your radiators via your mobile or tablet

OUR VERDICT

So, what do we think of the Devolo home control system as a smart heating system? Even though it was designed with the whole home in mind, the heating accessories make the Devolo system a great smart heating system, although not as invasive as the likes of Hive and Nest. Unlike those, you don’t need an engineer to install it – in fact, it only took us minutes to do it ourselves. It provides per-room temperature control, where Nest and Hive can only control the temperature of the house as a whole. However, to control the boiler you'll need the smart thermostat as well.

The app experience lets it down a bit, but the full website more than makes up for a frustrating mobile app. Devolo’s additional accessories can turn a dumb home smart, and it can be a gradual process as all accessories are sold separately. With more accessories planned for release in 2016, we’re quite impressed by the Devolo system and excited to see what they have in store in future.

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