How Smart Thermostats Can Save You Fuel and Money | Energy bills


OWith the return to the office in full swing and fuel prices soaring, smart thermostats offer a relatively simple way to reduce your energy consumption without making major changes to your central heating system.

They are direct replacements for traditional timers and thermostats that give your boiler a high tech upgrade without negating any of its functionality.

Most work with a wide range of gas, LPG, oil or electric boilers, including those with hot water tanks, and many also work with biomass or heat pumps.

The majority consist of a control box that is wired to your boiler and a wired or wireless thermostat that you place in the center of your home. Many also require a wired hub in your router for online or telephone functions.

Smart thermostats come in all shapes, sizes, prices and capabilities and come from a range of different manufacturers.

What can a smart thermostat do?

Although features vary by model and manufacturer, most give you more control over your heating, hot water and boiler than with a standard system.

In the Nest app, you can create a heating on and off schedule. Photograph: Samuel Gibbs/The Guardian

You can adjust their temperature setting, set schedules, and turn the heating on and off via an app on your phone or using Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant smart speakers. It’s much easier to create a detailed schedule of when you want the heater to turn on and off in an app than on the pokey display of a traditional timer, but most smart models will also allow you to adjust their schedules directly on the thermostat screen.

Some, like Google’s Nest thermostats, can learn your habits and automatically adjust your heating schedule to save energy when you don’t need it. Many also learn how quickly your home heats up, so they can turn on at the right time to reach a certain temperature at a set time. The best models also take into account the outside temperature and the impact of the sun on your building, so you don’t have to pay to heat your home when you don’t need it.

Automatically turns off when you leave the house

One of the best features of a smart thermostat is the ability to automatically turn off the heating if you’re not home. Most can use your phone to find out where you are, if you sign up, and can automatically turn the heating off or prompt you to do so when you leave the house and turn it back on when you return.

The hive heating thermostat is turned down
A Hive heating thermostat.
Photograph: Kay Roxby/Alamy

Some also offer occupancy sensing right on the thermostat – it will sense if someone walks past it, helping to prevent the heater from turning off if someone is still home, even if you don’t. are not. Others can be linked to smart door and window sensors, so the heating is turned off if a window is open or you’ve exited through a door.

Heating history

Another useful feature is the ability to see a history of your heating usage over the day, week, or month, and display it in graphs comparing your usage to the outside temperature. Some let you tell it your energy rate, allowing it to show approximately how much money you’ve used for heating to help with budgeting.

However, some manufacturers, such as Hive, charge a monthly or yearly subscription to access your data.

Zone heating

Some of the smart thermostats can be linked to smart thermostatic radiator valves to allow you to control the temperature of individual rooms. They turn each radiator on and off as needed and can turn on the boiler when needed.

They promise to increase comfort but also energy efficiency by only heating the rooms that need it. But these smart TRVs aren’t cheap at £40-60 each and need to be fitted to every radiator, meaning the costs add up quickly.

How much do they cost?

There are plenty of smart thermostats to choose from, and most cost between £100-200 without professional installation. Hive’s latest Thermostat Mini is one of the cheapest, at £119, including the hub that connects to your router. Installation by Hive costs £100.

Google’s DIY Nest Thermostat E costs £199 or less from third-party retailers for heating only, or the main Nest Thermostat for hot water tank control is also £219. Installation costs under £100.

Tado’s V3 wireless smart thermostat costs £200, with installation costing less than £100.

Be sure to check compatibility with your central heating system on the thermostat manufacturer’s site if you’re buying for DIY installation.

How can I get one?

Most models can be purchased directly from the manufacturer, from online retailers such as Amazon, or from DIY stores such as Screwfix and Toolstation. But for people who need installation as well, many small local and national heating companies offer this service.

Can they save me fuel and money?

In theory, yes. Google’s Nest estimates that UK customers can save between 8.4-16.5% of their heating energy use, Tado estimates up to 31%, while Hive says up to £110 at prices of before the crisis.

However, in practice it depends on what it replaces, how you use it, and how much power you are currently using.

Being able to automatically pause a heating schedule when you leave your house can save considerable amounts of energy if your schedule is unpredictable. Systems that identify when you can turn down the heat and save money without affecting comfort too much can also help.

Just being aware of the current temperature and heating history can help you save the most money, as turning down the thermostat is still the most effective way to reduce fuel consumption without modifying your home.

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