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How smart home tech can save you money on heating this winter

Even if you’ve been enjoying a mild autumn, we all know winter is on its way. Depending on where you live, you may have already had to turn on the heat. Of course, manual controls have their shortcomings, since you can’t always set a target temperature and simple heating systems don’t work according to your schedule. But with an inexpensive technology, even simple heaters can be transformed into smart systems that can save you a ton of money.

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Several new thermostats can make your heating system much smarter. / © AndroidPIT

Comparison of radiator thermostats with smart home connectivity

  Tado Netatmo Devolo Bosch
Price $90 $90 $78 $68
Starter kit offer $155 $285 n.a. $415
Connection ZigBee Bridge (included) connection module Z-Wave (bridge in starter kit) smart home controller
Geofencing yes n.a. n.a. n.a.
Learning ability n.a. yes n.a. n.a.
Humidity measurement yes available separately n.a. n.a.
Siri/Alexa/Google Assistant yes/yes/yes yes/yes/yes n.a./n.a./yes n.a./yes/no
Anti-theft protection no no no no

If you use a simple radiator at home, then installation is easy. Often you just have to replace the existing thermostat with the smart model. The configuration is then done either via the app or via a control panel. Most smart radiator thermostats can also be connected to your Wi-Fi router and to the internet through the supplied bridge. This is what makes geofencing possible.

Geofencing: don’t heat empty apartments and houses!

In the context of heating systems, the term geofencing refers to a method that accounts for when you’re not at home. This means that if your family goes on a weekend excursion, your apartment or house will only be slightly heated. In comparison to a rigidly set schedule, this will save you energy and money. So even if your programmed heating plan stipulates that your home should be cozy and warm all Saturday and Sunday, the radiators will remain cold when you’re not there.

Protection against theft is rare (but important)

Radiator thermostats are quite easy to install, but they’re also easy to remove. Thieves have an easy time stealing expensive hardware. That’s why some suppliers provide additional components that make it more difficult to disassemble their thermostats. Honeywell, for example, uses additional screws that protect both the thermostat and the battery inside. Of course, this is only relevant if you use the thermostats in a public setting.

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Unprotected thermostats can be easily stolen. / © AndroidPIT

You’ll often need an adapter

When you make your purchase, make sure that the smart radiator thermostat is supplied with the correct connection. If the thermostat doesn’t come with the correct adapter, at least make sure that the manufacturer provides them in their shop. If they don’t, all you can do is search for an alternative.

Voice control: your desired temperature on command

If you’re bedridden or otherwise weak, you’ll be happy to hear that you can adjust the room temperature via voice commands. Some of the networked thermostats can also be controlled with well-known assistants such as Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.

Humidity and air quality measurements

Tado’s thermostat, for example, not only measures the temperature, but also measures the humidity and air quality. This helps you optimize your ventilation. Regularly replacing used stale air with fresh air will reduce mold growth and  help you save on additional energy and heating costs.

Say hello to Netatmo

Netatmo’s smart heating system recognizes patterns in your everyday life and intelligently adjusts the thermostats of your individual rooms. After going through a learning phase, the system can adjust rooms to certain temperatures at certain times.

Once you configure the thermostat, it will fluently adapt to your demands without any additional help. All you have to do is manually adjust your thermostats at certain times. Netatmo will observe these adjustments and then remember them. This allows the system to make more accurate predictions about your desired temperatures at certain times.

The system will save you money after just one winter

There are different estimates about the savings potential from smart thermostats. The question is: how much time do you spend at home and to what extent do you heat your rooms? Do you leave your windows open for certain periods of time? Some of the systems automatically lower the heating when they detect that your windows are open.

The savings potential is of course considerable. In percentage terms, you’ll probably save 10-40% on heating costs. So if you were to spend $1,500 on heating over the winter, you could save $150 to $600. That means that starter sets from the systems mentioned above will pay for themselves after one winter.

First impressions with Tado

Tado sent us some models of their thermostats. They offer both radiator thermostats and thermostats that connect to underfloor heating systems. The installation is quite simple, just like with most of the competitors mentioned above.

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The first things you’ll need to do is remove the old thermostat. / © AndroidPIT

We replaced our old thermostat with the Tado radiator thermostat. First you’ll have to completely unscrew the old thermostat. You can usually do this without any tools. You can then screw in the Tado thermostat. If yours has a different connection, some adapters are included in the Tado thermostat package.

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Tado’s radiator thermostats start when they’re switched on in installation mode / © AndroidPIT

After the batteries have been inserted in the radiator thermostat for the first time, installation mode will start. This means that the thermostat will wait for the first commands from the supplied bridge, which is connected to the router. This means that the thermostat will connect to the internet. If all three lights turn on, you can put the device into pairing mode and continue.

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Connect the bridge to your router and press the pairing button. / © AndroidPIT

You can follow the installation guide in the web interface or in the Tado app. This will let you assign your thermostats to individual rooms and you can also group them together. It creates a dashboard with the temperatures of your individual rooms.

tado app
The Tado app is simple and easy to understand. / © AndroidPIT

From the app you can set schedules, read temperature values and adjust the humidity and geofencing. If nobody is in your apartment, you can turn the heaters off from a distance. If the geofencing settings are set correctly, Tado will turn them off automatically.

Smart heating: early conclusions

By the end of the winter we should know how much we actually saved. For many people, purchasing a smart thermostat is probably worthwhile. If you use geofencing and don’t leave any windows open, you’ll probably have a higher savings potential.

Besides thermostats, there are other suitable sensor accessories that can further increase the effectiveness of these devices. But if you just want to get started, a single radiator thermostat in a single room is probably enough. 

Are you planning to upgrade? Let us know if you have any experience with smart heating systems!

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