What is smart heating and how much money could it save you?

Control your heating through your smartphone or tablet, and save money on your bills? We’re warming to the idea…

Smart heating systems connect your home heating to your smartphone so you can control the temperature of your house from anywhere in the world.

But they do more than that. They learn your habits and adapt to them. Like the house nice and toasty when you get home from work? It’ll take care of it. Go running three evenings a week and want to come home to a cool lounge? Ditto.

[Read more: What is a smart home?]

As well as the undoubted convenience and cool factor, manufacturers claim smart systems heat your home more efficiently, and if heating comprises two thirds of an electricity bill, you can save a lot of money.

Check out the video above to find out more.

After that, the systems learn as you go. Some of them even know when you’ve nipped to the pub, and automatically turn themselves off so they don’t waste energy. Of course, you can then get the temperature just right for when you’ve finished your pint and are ready to head home.

How do smart heating systems work?

Once the hardware is all in place, they’re easy to use. But the tricky part is setting them up in the first place.

Although the systems are compatible with most boilers, you don’t want to risk disabling your heating completely, so you’re better off getting a pro to install it than trying to do it yourself.

Once the hardware’s in place, you’ll need to connect your smart heating system to your home wi-fi network and download the partner app. Then you can communicate with your home heating from anywhere in the world just by opening the app on your smartphone or tablet.

What systems are there?

There are several systems currently on the market. The best known, Nest, was started by an ex-Apple employee called Tony Fadell. It was subsequently bought by Google.

But Nest isn’t the only smart heating system in town.

British Gas has already developed its own system Hive, which also encompasses a range of other internet of things devices such as lighting and sensors (read more about the internet of things here).

In Germany, Tado has performed well because of its speed. It realises quickly when you’ve left the house, and uses your smartphone track your location and turn the heating back on when it senses that you’re on your way back home. Many more systems are now following this approach.

Others include:

- Honeywell Lyric T6 series – available here.

- Inspire Ignite – available here.

- Heatmiser neoUltra – available here.

- Heat Genius – available here.

- Netatmo Smart Thermostat – available here.

This is just a selection of the devices available. Lesser-known ones include nCube, Owl Intuition and Insteon.

Energy companies are also installing smart meters for free as part of a government plan to make sure everyone has smart heating by 2020. Smart meters shouldn’t be confused with smart heating though (see below).

How much money can I save?

Quite a bit, though the exact amount depends on the type and size of your home.

Tado claims owners of smaller flats can reduce their heating bills by up to 31%, while Hive puts the saving at “up to £150 every year”, though it doesn’t specify what kind of house that applies to.

One great feature is that the systems let you know how much energy – and hence money – you’re saving via monthly reports. Drop the temperature by 1 degree on Nest and it’ll show you a real-world saving that proves that every little really does help.

What’s the difference between smart heating and smart meters?

Smart meters, which are being rolled out for free, are fixed digitalised systems which allow you to track your electricity and gas usage at home. Whereas smart heating works from remote devices such as your smartphone, allowing you to control your home heating from anywhere in the world and set more specific programs. Smart meters are good, but they’re just not as advanced as smart heating, or function the same way.

You can find out more about smart meters on the Smart Energy GB website.

How much do smart heating systems cost?

They’re more expensive than traditional heating systems, but once the savings start adding up, they'll soon pay for themselves. Nest costs £219. The Hive thermostat costs £178, or you can buy the Heating Plan (which includes everything you need to heat your home remotely) for £19.99 a month.

Tado costs £199, but also offers a rental option that starts at £3.99 a month.

Energy providers are doing some deals to encourage you to install smart heating, so make sure you check their websites. For example, N Power is offering £30 off the Nest Learning Thermostat.

[Read more: The smart home explained]

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