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What are smart thermostats?

By Matt Clear

We explain how smart thermostats actually work, the features and benefits they offer, and if their money-saving claims stack up.

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Smart thermostats are the latest trend in home heating. A smart thermostat can switch your heating on or off remotely via the internet - so you can use your smart phone to turn your heating on when you're on your way back from a weekend away, or off when you pop out unexpectedly.

Many of these programmable digital heating systems show you how much heating you’re using. Some smart thermostats also monitor your usage and learn your routine.

There are several brands of smart heating thermostats on the market, and each works in a slightly different way. Take a look at our smart thermostat reviews to compare thermostats from Nest, Hive and Honeywell.

Keep reading to find out whether a smart heating control system will make your life easier, keep your home cosy and save you money.

How do smart thermostats work?

The idea behind smart thermostats is that they can make heating our homes a more efficient process.

Heating represents the biggest portion of most domestic energy bills - especially during the winter months. As smart thermostats are connected to the internet over your wi-fi, you can use your smart phone to control your heating even when you're not at home or if you can't be bothered to get up from the sofa to turn the thermostat down.

As well as being able to use your phone or computer to turn your heating on and off, you can program a smart thermostat - just as you would a traditional thermostat. Except instead of having to go to your actual thermostat and work out what the buttons do, you can use your phone or computer to program it.

Some smart thermostats can control themselves by learning your routine or tracking you via GPS, switching on your heating when you're near home. 

Depending on which smart thermostat you buy, they come with a whole host of different features. Some are able to provide you with a detailed breakdown of how much energy you use and store information to allow you to track your heating history. Some smart thermostats can even control your hot water, provided you don't have a combi boiler.

The hope is that giving you greater control will save you money, as you won't end up heating an empty home or heating water unnecessarily.

How can smart thermostats save you money?

There are several ways that smart thermostats can help you to save money. Although many come with a hefty price tag, the potential savings that some people can make on their heating bills mean that it may be a worthwhile investment for you.

Here are just a few ways that smart thermostats can save you money:

  • you can switch your heating on when you are on your way home. So you're not wasting money on heating if you’re stuck at work, or if you decide to go out for the evening 
  • you can also switch your heating off if you forget to when you leave
  • some smart thermostats learn your daily routine and switch themselves on and off automatically
  • some smart thermostats encourage you to turn your heating down by a degree or two, as you'll see exactly how much you can save
  • there are even smart thermostats that allow you to control individual rooms in your home, so you can heat only the rooms that you frequently use
  • so you don't unintentionally end up heating your home on a warm day, some smart thermostats can adjust themselves depending on the weather
  • certain smart thermostats can even track you and your family via GPS. They can tell when you leave your home, and when you’re on your way back, so will switch off the heating when it's not needed.

Some households are much more likely to save money with a smart thermostat than others. See if you are likely to save money with a smart thermostat - check out our article on whether smart thermostats are worth buying.

Should you install a smart thermostat?

There are no guarantees that a smart thermostat will save you money. This depends entirely on whether you take advantage of all the features it offers you. And if you're committed to using your smart thermostat to reduce the amount of energy you use.

The initial cost of a smart thermostat is generally several hundred pounds. If you are only planning on staying in your home for a year or two, then you may not have long enough to recoup the cost of installation.

Most brands recommend that you get a professional heating engineer to carry out the installation. Although you can install some yourself, if you're confident at DIY.

Find out which smart thermostat is best for you and your home by checking out our smart thermostat reviews.

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