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Smart thermostat buying guide

Smart thermostat buying guide

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

64 guides

Smart thermostats connect your central heating system to the internet so you can monitor and control your heating no matter where you are. A great way to cut down on energy usage, smart thermostats are designed to learn your habits to maximise comfort. Read on to find out more about smart thermostats.
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The heating sector is responsible for almost a third of the UK's annual carbon footprint with domestic heating alone accounting for around 14% of UK emissions. In fact, the average household in the UK emits 2.7 tonnes of CO2 every year solely from heating. It's no surprise, then, that a major part of the government's plans to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 is focused on home heating. (Sources: DEFRA; UK gov).

But in addition to reducing carbon emissions, cutting down on energy usage also helps us to make savings on our bills – and with energy prices on the rise there's no better time to think about energy management. A smart thermostat is a great way to keep an eye on consumption and help make homes more energy efficient.

Reducing energy consumption with a smart thermostat

While some companies claim savings of up to 40%, a smart thermostat should be expected to save you around 10 to 15% on your energy bill on average. Touted as one of the best ways to control your gas and electricity supply, a smart thermostat is used to control your heating in place of an old-fashioned thermostat. Hardwired into your home and connected to the Wi-Fi, a smart thermostat is used to connect your heating system to the internet so it can be controlled via phone, laptop or tablet wherever you are. Some models also provide detailed reports on your electricity consumption meaning you can check out your usage per day, per hour or even from different zones in the house. Please note that a smart thermostat is not the same thing as a smart meter which is simply a self-reading gas and electricity meter provided by your energy provider.

Geofencing technology

Most smart thermostats offer a geofencing feature which connects to your phone's location services to let the thermostat know when you have entered or exited a set perimeter around your home. This feature works to automatically turn on your heating as you are on your way home and turn off the heating when you leave. The main benefit of this technology is that it prevents you from having to program heating schedules.

Time-of-use rates

Smart thermostats allow you the option to shift some energy consumption to off-peak times when electricity is cheaper. During this time, a smart thermostat can be used to power energy-saving appliances like storage water tanks, storage heaters, and so on. The system will cut off the supply to these appliances during peak hours.

What temperature should my home be?

We often make the mistake of heating our homes to the same temperature throughout. However, managing the heat of each room can help to cut down on energy usage and make your home more comfortable. Here is a rough guide to recommended room temperatures:

  • 18°C to 21°C in living rooms (16°C if unoccupied);
  • 16°C to 18°C for bedrooms
  • 17°C for bathrooms (outside of use) and 22°C for longer periods of use.
If you plan to be away for the day, it is recommended to lower the temperature to about 16°C. Any longer than that and the temperature should be lowered to about 12°C to 14°C.
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Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats can be used to control a variety of different heating systems.

Electric heaters and radiators

Whether you have storage heaters, ceramic heater or panel heaters, a smart thermostat can help you to monitor your heating system closely. A smart thermostat can be used to turn on your electric heating when temperatures drop below a set point and turn it off once the set temperature has been reached.

Central heating

While they can be used to control electric heating, smart thermostats are most commonly used to control heating systems such as gas boilers, heat pumps, pellet stoves, underfloor heating, and so on. These central heating systems are controlled according to a set temperature or temperatures. The advantage of using a smart thermostat over a traditional thermostat is that it also takes into account outdoor conditions when adjusting temperatures.

Storage water heaters

Smart thermostats can be used to control storage water heaters according to peak and off-peak hours. The storage water heater will switch on during off-peak hours and turn off before peak hours start. This can hep you to make savings without having to install an off-peak contactor. That said, be sure to check that your energy provider offers a time-of-use tariff.

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Electric heaters and radiators

The vast majority of smart thermostats are designed to connect to your home's Wi-Fi network. For the system to work, you will need:

  • A reliable Wi-Fi connection: the smart thermostat hub is designed to connect directly to your router. Bear in mind that if your Wi-Fi signal drops so will the connection to your mobile device meaning your heating system won't work as expected.
  • A phone, tablet, desktop computer, laptop or smart home device where the smart thermostat app can be installed.
  • A compatible heating system: this will generally be a traditional gas-fired boiler. However, it is possible to get smart thermostats to control electric heating systems, heat pumps and biomass heating systems.
  • Smart radiator valves if you are hoping to set up multi-zone heating control.

To start, you'll have to set different heating zones and schedules (daytime, nighttime, etc.). It's also possible to override a programme over a set period; for example, frost mode if you plan to be away for a while.

The hub is used to control the heating system according to your pre-programmed settings. It can also monitor your energy consumption to provide you with detailed reports.

There are two different types of smart thermostats: those that control your whole home as one area and those that split your home into different zones. Here are a few features that smart thermostats can offer:

Zoned heating

Most smart thermostats are able to divide the home into multiple zones. One zone can incorporate one or several appliances. This is known as 'zoned heating'. This system involves installing smart radiator valves in each room so you can heat up different rooms at different times or set different temperatures for each room.

For example, you might want to set your living room as one room and your bedroom(s) as another. As a general rule, a bedroom should be a little cooler than a main living space at about 16°C to 18°C. A living room should generally be heated to 18°C to 21°C if in use and 16°C otherwise.

Zoned heating works particularly well in homes that have a lot of rooms. This way, you don't need to heat spare rooms or rooms that don't get used much unnecessarily.

No matter which type you choose, be sure to choose a smart thermostat that aligns with your heating needs and the requirements of your home.

Remote control

As explained above, most smart thermostats offer geofencing which uses the location on your mobile device to automatically control your heating. One of the main draws of smart thermostats, however, is that they can be controlled wherever you are.

This means that if you are arriving home a little earlier than planned, you can turn on the heating remotely so you are sure to come back to a nice warm home.

Conversely, if you are delayed, you won't get caught out heating your home unnecessarily.

Energy monitoring

Most smart thermostats allow you to track your energy usage. The system is set up to provide you with reports on how much power you are using over certain periods or even in certain zones. This can help you to pinpoint where you can cut down if you need to. More importantly, some thermostats will store this data and use it to adjust your heating schedule to maximise efficiency.

How does a smart thermostat work on a daily basis?

Smart thermostats aren't very complicated devices. Most of the time, they can be set like an ordinary thermostat. The main difference that sets them apart is that they can be controlled remotely. Here are the main settings you will find:

  • Daily and weekly settings: set temperatures can be programmed according to zones and time schedules. This means you are sure to wake up to the right temperature and come home to a cosy house in winter. You will usually set different temperatures during the week as you would at the weekend, but this depends on your habits.
  • Eco mode: this setting usually works to lower the temperature by one or two degrees for times when you want to keep a closer eye on your energy usage.
  • Holiday mode: this feature is used to turn down your set temperature in your absence.
  • Frost protection: this setting works to turn on the heating when a lower temperature threshold is reached in order to prevent your pipes from freezing.

A smart thermostat can be use to make your home more energy efficient alongside measures such as improving your hot water system and insulation, installing whole house ventilation and using a high efficiency heating system. All together, these measures aim to lower energy consumption and reduce household greenhouse gas emissions.

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Guide written by:

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester, 64 guides

Albert, Manager of a gardening service, Leicester

For several years I have been running a garden service with a clientele of both individuals and companies. I manage a team of gardeners and ensure the creation and maintenance of green spaces. At the same time, I bring my expertise to my clients in terms of the maintenance and improvement of their gardens. In fact, as a trainee and working in the hospitality industry at the beginning of my career, I focused on landscaping in a local community where I acquired solid technical skills through in-house training and the follow-up of major projects in a rapidly changing town. On a personal level, I am equally oriented towards the art of gardening. With my wife, I created our garden from start to finish and I maintain it carefully, the same goes for the vegetable garden. As for DIYing, it’s not to be outdone. Yes, gardening is also tinkering: pergolas, huts, pavements, fences, and so on...There is always something to do in a garden. After working well together, my wife and I are proud of the result and delighted to be able to take full advantage of a friendly and warm environment. So, let us give you advice and help you in your choice of tools, maintenance, or the improvement of your garden, nothing could be simpler.

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