Following Google's acquisition of Nest Labs, smart thermostats have received quite a lot of attention, however, unless you live in the USA you won't be able to get a Nest. There is little point importing one either becuase they don't typically don't work with our boilers and require complex hacks to get it functional. So if you are wanting a smart thermostat in the UK you are left with a choice of Tado, or Hive by British Gas.
Today I will be reviewing Tado, which on paper seems like a better device than both the Nest and Hive as it uses your mobile phone to detect how close you are to home and control your heating based on location. In comparison, the Nest detects people through a motion sensor and Hive has no intelligent control.
The Tado currently retails for £249.00, with £9.80 shipping and an optional £50 professional installation charge. There is also an option to rent the device at a cost of £6.99 with an optional £50 installation service too. With this option Tado guarantees a £120 saving each year or your money back for the first year. So in theory this could be a win win situation for you and is definitely worth considering.
The Tado equipment comes in 3 parts, there is the “Tado Box” which is the main unit that will connect to your boiler, a gateway which plugs into the router and also a temperature sensor. The units are quite small, plain and minimalist, nothing particularly special, they are nicer than the Salus units I have had previously though. The temperature sensor is the most interesting as it has a solar panel which Tado claims is enough to power it indefinitely, which is a great idea, though if it does run out of juice you can charge it via micro USB.
In our case Tado insisted on the professional installation and looking at the install instructions I am glad they did as I had no idea what it was on about. If you feel comfortable messing around with your boiler by all means go for the DIY option. In our case, unfortunately, it took about 6 weeks for someone to contact us to have the unit installed. The was over Christmas and with it being such a new device and I suspect there aren't that many companies contracted to fit these unit, so waiting times should not be as long as ours.
Once everything was set up we could access the system via browser or our phone. I have to say this is where the Tado shines, the user interface on the devices and browser is great and really simple to use. In fact if you are using presence detection on your phones then once you set your wake up, bed times and temperature then that is it. The settings can be expanded on, you can have individual start and end times for every day, you can also create a work and home point for people that don't use presence detection. You can also manually override the settings either via the app itself or with a button on the unit.
Once set up, if you have presence switched on the Tado will have your home at the desired temperature for when you wake up, it will then switch off the heating when you leave home and will warm up the house for your return home by anticipating your movements. You can also set the comfort setting for its automatic controls, so you can either have the system optimised for comfort, savings, or in between. Presumably on the comfort setting the house will be warm easily in time for your return, and vice versa for savings.
While the user interface is excellent and simple I did start to find that it was a little too simple and we often overrode the intelligent control. The 3 reasons behind this is the fact I am a geek so I love to tinker, I work from home, and I am tight fisted (I’m from the North of England). Because I work from home there is no point having presence on my phone or the heating would be on permanently, which is fine as Tado caters for this. But because I am quite frugal I generally only have the heating on a few hours a day. It would be good if there settings could be expanded to allow for multiple on off times when presence is not enabled. Another issue, again because me and my partner are tight fisted is that the heating would be on 100% of the day at the weekend because she is at home. Ideally it would have more settings to avoid this, perhaps just having lower temperature settings for different days. These are far from major issues, I suspect most people have their heating on a lot more than us, and using your phone it is very simple to manually switch the heating off.
During the first few days of using the system I experience some serious issues with the gateway going down. The gateway would literally disconnect every few minutes which mean resetting the unit, then having to rest the temperature sensor too. After a few hours of this I gave up and just left it, I then noticed at bed time that the boiler was firing up so I had to switch the heating off at the boiler itself. After contacting support they were able to remote into the device and fix the problem within 24 hours and communication was excellent and I have had no issues since then, the support suggested it might be due to me having so many devices on the network, so I doubt this is something that would affect most people. While I have had no issues since then, it did expose one flaw with the system, and that is it being very reliant on the gateway connecting. When the gateway was down it seemed to leave the heating in the same state as when it disconnected, so if it was off it remained off, if it was on it remained on. Again this should not really be an issue ever, but it would be good if future iterations of the device could control the heating via the temperature sensor like old fashioned systems or like Hive by BG.
Tado is a new company, and the unit was clearly marked as Beta so there is always a good chance of being a few hiccups along the way, especially when you have someone that is not a regular user, so while the few issues were a little annoying I think Tado can be forgiven. As Tado becomes more popular I imagine these issues will become more and more rare, and because the heating is controlled via an App it should be possible to expand functionality.
Since the problems have been sorted I love the system being able to control it from the couch on a lazy Sunday is great. I can’t ever imagine going back to a dumb system.
If you are a normal family that works in a office, or perhaps if you travel away a lot then this system should really shine, you will no longer have to worry about switching the heating on or off and you can always return to a nice warm home.
The upfront price is probably quite off putting to a lot of people, it is about 3 times more expensive than a Honeywell 7-day programmable thermostat, and it is £100 more expensive than Hive by British Gas. However it is the only truly smart thermostat available to UK residents at the moment, and Tado claim it will save you £120 a year so based on this it is still a good investment.
Tado is available now from www.tado.com