The best smart thermostat systems and smart-heating systems you can buy in the UK in 2016. The best home-automation services dedicated to keeping you warm and saving you money. It's Nest vs Hive vs Tado vs Heat Genius and we've just added our full Netatmo and Honeywell reviews. PLUS: Inspire, PassivSystems and HeatMiser.
You've probably seen the adverts for Hive with its quirky song about how great it is to control your heating from a laptop, smartphone or tablet. And yes, it is - pun intended - a cool thing to be able to do. But more than that, smart heating is likely to be a key part of every home going forward. As fuel costs rise and supplies run dry the ability to heat our homes in an efficient way will stop being a nice bonus, and become an essential part of every home's economics. We're in the process of installing and testing the second-generation Hive thermostat and will be updating our full review soon.
As part of the burgeoning 'Internet of Things', IoT smart home heating systems are only the beginning of a process that will see us able to control power and fuel consumption. Expect in time to be able to switch off your fridge and freezer for the peak hour of each day. And even to order food and other supplies only as you need them. The aim of the game is efficiency: maximum comfort for minimal cost to you - and to the environment.
In the course of 2014 and 2015 smart thermostats and smart home heating systems have become readily available to almost all homes. If you have a boiler and central heating you will likely be able to fit any of the systems we have reviewed in this article, and the other systems we examine. Storage heaters are another matter, as we discuss in this article: Can I use a smart thermostat if I have a storage heater?
But not all smart home heating systems are made equal, and which one works best for you is another question altogether.
We have been testing these systems over the last year or more to give the best possible purchasing advice. As you can imagine it takes time (and a home) to fit and test these systems, and you can't judge a system simply on its features or a single days' testing.
Best IoT smart heating systems 2016 UK: Smart heating buying advice
The key question is the level to which you need- or want to make your heating smart. Most of these systems - Hive, Nest, Netatmo, Honeywell and Tado - simply put a smart thermostat into the most-used room in the house or the hallway, and moderate the temperature of the whole house to match that room. For smaller houses in which most rooms are in regular use this is probably a cost-effective way of attaining the desired results. You can always turn off the radiators you don't need to avoid heatnig rooms unnecessarily.
Honeywell Evohome and Heat Genius offer something more, by replacing the valves on your radiators with 'smart' valves. They allow you to divide up your home into various zones and then offer smart heating in each zone, so your guest bedroom is heated only when required, the master bedroom is warm in the morning and at bed time, and the kitchen is hot at tea time. They are more sophisticated and objectively better solutions but, of course, they are a lot more expensive. And in the UK at least, all modern houses with living space covering ground greater than 150m2 have to be built with at least two zones of heating, according to 2013 Building Regulations Part L.
So again: a well-used, modern, small house (or flat) is unlikely to need this level of sophistication, and a well-used large home may have sufficient zones plumbed in to make Nest or Hive a good solution. Just remember that you'll need one thermostat per zone, so while it's cheaper than fitting each radiator with a £50 smart TRV, it's still relatively 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.
The good news is there is a way of making every house more efficient, comfortable and the householder more wealthy (or at least less poor). But the best way for each house will differ. Which is why we bring you this feature in which we review the best smart heating systems of 2016, and give an overview of the entire market. (For more on Heat Genius, see our piece 'Heat Genius: the self-funded startup that is changing the world.')
Best IoT smart heating systems 2016 UK: those we haven't tested
Inspire Home Automation Room Thermostat
From Inspire Home Automation we find this internet controlled programmable Room Thermostat. It costs £124.99 inc VAT and can be installed - Inspire tells us - by anyone. Once in it gives you remote access to your existing heating controls and the ability to monitor your central heating system from anywhere with an internet connection. So like Netatmo, Tado, Nest, Hive and Honeywell, it is a simple system intended to make the whole house hot or cold at your command. There is an app for iPhone and Android devices, but you can also control it from the web. This is a cheap if basic solution, that on the face of it will be a simple answer for smaller homes.
Based in Ireland, Climote's partnership with Scottish Power means it's available at a discount to thousands of customers. But anyone can buy it for £299, which includes installation. It may be more expensive than some, but it was designed "from day one" to handle three zones out of the box. That means you can control the main living area, the bedroom area and hot water separately.
Another interesting feature is the built-in SIM, so there's no reliance on Wi-Fi or your broadband connection. There's a smartphone app, but you can also send commands via text to the system from old feature phones, making it accessible to anyone with a mobile phone.
HeatMiser is the closest thing to Heat Genius on the market right now: a fully zoned heating system that gives you smart control over the heating for each room in the house. Like Honeywell Lyric it offers a geofencing feature so you can set the house to automatically heat as you approach. Alternatively like Heat Genius you can set up each room on a timer, or measure usage of the house and heat only when rooms are in use.
With Neo you get air and floor sensing, flexible programming similar to Heat Genius. You can set comfort levels for day and night, and easily switch off your heating, remotely. It requires a DHCP compatible broadband router, and you'll need an iOS or Android compatible mobile device. The basic kit costs just £203, but realistically you may need someone to fit it for you. And that kit contains only one zone, so to get a Heat Genius-style setup you need to pay out a Heat Genius-style amount.
One disadvantage of HeatMiser is that it's a fully wired system. This means it can be complex and expensive to have it installed if you want hidden wires. And you can't take it with you when you move. It also makes it difficult to change the setup.
Also simple but effective is PassivLiving HEAT. For a total cost of £279 (plus an optional service fee of £3 a month that kicks in after a year) PassivLiving simply installs a smart controller for the boiler. You control this via smartphone app or online interface.
PassivLiving HEAT is relatively basic and lacks zoning. You can set your boiler to one of four states: IN, OUT, ASLEEP, AWAY. And you can preset what these modes mean to make your home the temperature you want, when you want it. The system measures the inside- and outside temperature of your home, and adjusts the system automatically should the external temperature change. Interestingly you can also see your energy usage data.
PassivLiving is compatible with the majority of boilers available in the UK. Installation is included in the initial fee.
Best IoT smart heating systems 2016 UK: smart heating reviews
- Reviewed on: 11 November 15
- RRP: £249 inc VAT
EvoHome is the best smart heating system we've tested. However, it isn't perfect and it's also very expensive, or can be. But if you value convenience and comfort above saving money in the short term, it's the one to buy.
Read our Honeywell EvoHome review.
2. Heat Genius
- Reviewed on: 12 October 15
- RRP: £799 inc VAT as installed (Genius Hub costs £249 inc VAT)
Heat Genius is very good at a very useful thing. It is easy to use and efficient, and over time it will save you the cost of installation. And it is fairly priced. How long Heat Genius takes to pay for itself will depend on your circumstances, and it may that dropping £799 is too much of a long-term investment for you. But it is a great product, and if you are looking to install in your home a zoned smart heating system, we are happy to recommend Heat Genius.
Read our Heat Genius review.
- Reviewed on: 8 September 16
- RRP: £199 inc VAT
Being reliable, well-designed and easy to use, the Nest thermostat is a great choice. It doesn't have the array of accessories and compatibility of systems such as Honeywell Evohome, but you can buy separate smart TRVs to control radiators without changing your plumbing. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm also works with the thermostat, as does the Nest Cam camera. The 3rd generation can also control your hot water, making it even better, and the latest app update means your phone can tell it when you've gone out.
- Reviewed on: 23 March 16
- RRP: £179 inc VAT (£249 with installation)
The Hive Active Heating system is a great upgrade for anyone that wants or needs the ability to be able to control their heating remotely. The recent addition of multizone support is also good, and the ability to boost heating and hot water is a great feature. This second iteration of Hive is a giant leap forward from the solid (but somewhat dull) first-generation product. The interfaces of both the app and thermostat are intuitive and quick to use. There are clearly energy savings which Hive can help you make and you can quickly recoup your expenditure if you're conservative with your temperatures and schedule.
Read our Hive Active Heating 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 29 April 16
- RRP: £199
Although time will tell how much energy/money Tado has saved me it’s clear that having control over a house’s heating determined by who is in the house and who isn’t makes a lot of sense. Tado is the best smart thermostat at this as its presence detection simply follows you and your smartphone via GPS, and turns the heating up or down as you get further away or nearer home. Most of us just set the timer and only go back to the boiler to flick it on or off when we get too hot or cold. Being able to control this (wherever you are) via an app on your phone is a much more intelligent way to control your heating and energy costs. The initial cost isn’t cheap, but there is a money-back monthly payment option, and you should start saving on your heating bills within a few days.
Read our Tado review.
- Reviewed on: 28 January 16
- RRP: From £179.99
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.
Read our Devolo Home Control review.
- Reviewed on: 15 May 15
- RRP: £140 inc VAT
Netatmo's thermostat is relatively basic, lacking any kind of presence detection, but it works well and is one of the cheaper options. The display lets you adjust temperature and nothing else, so you'll need a compatible phone or tablet to get the most from the system.
Read our Netatmo Thermostat for Smartphone review.
- Reviewed on: 11 February 16
- RRP: £99 inc VAT
If you're replacing a wired thermostat and don't mind fixing the Momit in the same place, then installation is an absolute breeze, and a snip at under £100. It's certainly not the most stylish and isn't really suitable if you need to control hot water too, but for many people it will give them the remote control they need, with good presence detection and geo-location as bonuses. If you need a wireless smart thermostat you'll need to buy the optional £29 extension box which brings the price very close to the 2nd Gen Nest (now around £130) which may be a better buy if looks are important to you, or you value the integration with the Nest Cam and Nest Protect.
Read our Momit Home Thermostat review.