INFO GUIDE: Smart Thermostats
By Matt Franklin
Reading time: 6 mins
Around the country, people are relying on ‘smart thermostats’ to regulate their home environments. But what is a smart thermostat, and will it save your money and help reduce your carbon footprint whilst keeping your home comfortable?
At its core, a smart thermostat is any thermostat device that goes beyond the functionality of a traditional, manual (set to one temperature), or programmable thermostat (set to different temperatures at different times). Common brands include Tado, Drayton, Nest, and Hive.
In practical terms, a smart thermostat may be able to tell whether you are at home and adjust your heating. It may allow you to control your heating remotely from your smartphone. Some thermostats may also use ‘learning’ technology to identify patterns in your heating requirements and make automatic adjustments – something which is not always accurate! And it might support ‘zoning’ different temperatures in different parts of your home, something particularly beneficial in larger houses.
Studies have shown that using and understanding a smart thermostat over traditional thermostats can lead to major reductions in heating energy use, often more than 10%. With heating, and particularly gas heating contributing significantly to home carbon emissions this is a major selling point.
When choosing a smart thermostat it is important you pick one which has the features you need and is compatible with your existing heating technology (such as your boiler or heat pump). A useful thing to check is whether your boiler is OpenTherm compatible, as this system paired with a smart thermostat that supports boiler modulation can lead to major efficiency savings.
Integrating TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves) can be a great way to optimise your system. Many smart thermostats have their own TRVs (such as the Drayton Wiser or Tado), but even basic ‘dumb’ options can help to create different heating zones in your home and make major savings.
Privacy and local control are worth bearing in mind – some smart thermostat systems depend upon a ‘cloud’ service and may even require a paid subscription to operate, these are not inherently insecure or a problem and may integrate well with your existing smart home devices. Yet, there is a risk if the company ends the service that your heating system may become an expensive piece of e-waste. Similarly, British Gas’s Hive system in particular is tied to individual users meaning that upgrades will turn your existing device into something destined for the landfill.
A smart thermostat can be a great investment for your heating system, but it is important to choose one which meets your needs to get the maximum benefit. Researching your chosen system and the company behind it is also important since the values and ethics of manufacturers vary considerably. However, with the right setup, it is possible to have an easy-to-use and convenient system which can both reduce your bills and carbon emissions whilst maintaining a comfortable home.
This article was originally published in Ethical Consumer Magazine: In the smart home: smart thermostats | Ethical Consumer
You can find many more fantastic tips on how to be a more ethical consumer in their magazine: Ethical Consumer: the alternative consumer organisation