Could a smart thermostat help you save energy?

31 March 2016

Household energy expert, Chris Saunders, founder of LoopEnergySaver.com, offers advice on whether a smart thermostat is right for your needs and what to consider if you install a device.



As the temperature remains low, our thoughts turn to keeping warm. Smart thermostats such as Hive, Nest and Honeywell Evohome promise better control over your heating, enabling you to ensure that you never heat an empty house, which should lead to significant savings.

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Is there anything wrong with my existing thermostat?

According to the Energy Trust, up to 60% of households don’t know how to set their thermostats correctly, a basic error that could be costing you loads.

Spend time familiarising yourself with the workings of your thermostat and then choose a particular date every month to check that the times your heating and hot water are set for still match your schedule.

If you don’t have a routine which means you are in your home at the same time each day, then a smart thermostat could help.

Monitoring your energy in real-time with a smart monitor will also help identify when you are regularly heating your house unnecessarily and whether you would benefit from the flexibility a smart thermostat offers.

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What does a smart thermostat have that my existing thermostat doesn’t?

Smart thermostats typically have easy to use displays, with larger colour touch screens to make them easier to use and programme.

They connect to your mobile device so you can control your heating on the go from your phone or tablet. If you’re coming home early, you can turn the heating on so that the house is warm when you arrive. Similarly, if you accidentally leave the heating on, you can turn it off.

Depending on which thermostat you choose, they differ on extra functions.

Nest, for example, can detect whether you’re in the house and will adapt the heating accordingly. Some smart thermostats take this one step further and will send a message to your phone when you are close to home, asking whether you want the heating turned on.

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What do I want to achieve with a smart thermostat?

Smart thermostats are primarily designed for convenience, with suppliers claiming they also help you save 20-30% on your heating bill. However, there is little evidence to support this, with some studies even suggesting that consumption increases.

Yet, when used alongside a smart monitor, which shows your energy consumption in in pounds and pence, smart thermostats can help you to make smart decisions about your energy usage and decide whether coming home to a warm house is worth the extra cost.

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Some of my rooms are colder than others, will a smart thermostat help?

Not on its own, but it can when combined with a zoned heating system, such as the Honeywell EvoHome or EQ3.

These systems provide smart valves that attach to each radiator and enable you to set the temperature for specific rooms. You can even set different schedules for different rooms, so that you can have a lovely warm sitting room all day and then heat your bedrooms in time for bed.

If a room is particularly cold, then it is also worth checking that you are blocking out chimney draughts, have sufficient insulation and consider upgrading your windows to keep the heat in.

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How much will a smart thermostat cost?

Basic thermostat models cost between £150 and £250 and this includes installation.

Zoned heating systems, which enable you to control the temperature, will typically cost between £500 and £1,000, depending on the size of the house.

Some thermostats, including Tado and Scottish Power Connect, allow you to pay a monthly fee of around £7-£12 across a two-year contract.

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Can I install the technology myself?

Some smart thermostats, such as Tado, boast that the device is easy to install yourself but this does require some technical knowledge and can involve wiring the device into your boiler, so you may prefer to opt for professional installation, which costs extra. For smart thermostats, such as Nest and Tado, this costs between £70 and £100.

Installation can take around 60-90 minutes.

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Will it save me money?

Ultimately, the best way to bring down your heating bills is to be on top of your heating controls so that you are not wasting energy heating an empty house!

Bringing together smart thermostats and radiator valves will ensure that your home will be as energy efficient as possible. However, the key to really saving money is knowing what you are spending on energy in the first place, so that you can make an informed purchase decision on smart controls.

LoopEnergySaver.com manufactures gas and electricity monitors to help consumers track their energy usage and spend. Visit their website for more energy saving tips and impartial advice on further reducing your household energy bills.

For more tips and useful information, browse our money articles.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.