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Do you need a wi-fi enabled electric heater?

We look at the pros and cons of heaters you can connect wirelessly to the internet

Do you need a wi-fi enabled electric heater?

Some electric heaters can be controlled by your smartphone or smart hub. But is this a must-have feature or just a gimmick? 

Most portable heaters are controlled manually and most come with a remote. But you can now buy heaters that connect to your home Wi-Fi and be operated as a part of a ‘smart home’.

These heaters can connect wirelessly to your router, allowing you to control them via an app released by the manufacturer. You can also control them via voice commands with an Alexa, Google Assistant or other virtual assistant.

Read on to see which smart heaters we’ve tested, and find out what you need to think about before buying – including costs, features and digital security.

Want to cast your net wider? If you just want to know which electric heaters, smart or not, topped our tests, head over to our electric heater reviews.

Smart electric heaters tested by Which?

Dyson HP09

At time of writing, we’ve tested four smart heaters to find out whether they heat your home quickly, efficiently and evenly.

All are compatible with both iOS and Android phones. However, not all are heaters that deliver a top notch heating performance. Click the links to read the full reviews of each.

Should you buy a smart heater?

If you’ve always got along fine with non-smart electric heaters, here are some pros and cons to consider before making a change.

Pros of smart heaters

Woman using an Alexa assistant

It’s not all hype: IoT connected devices do offer benefits.

  • Being able to control your heater, as well as any other smart device, with your smartphone, Alexa or Google Home can make life more convenient, because you’re operating everything through the same controller
  • You no longer need to think about remote controls getting wedged in the sofa or lost in a drawer after a summer in storage. You’re controlling your device through the internet now, not through a single remote control
  • Voice control can be useful for if you have accessibility requirements, such as reduced mobility or dexterity
  • You can return to a toasty home, as you can turn your heater on while you’re still ten minutes away
  • If you tend to worry that you left the house without turning your heater off, you can do so from miles away.

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Cons of smart heaters

Man on his phone, frustrated

And here are the main drawbacks.

  • They come at a premium. You’ll be hard-pushed to find a smart portable heater for under £100.
  • You’ll need to be reasonably tech-savvy, just in case anything goes wrong and you’re left struggling to diagnose the problem: is your Wi-fi down? Is the companion app under maintenance? Is your smart hub on the fritz? If you’re not as comfortable as you’d like to be with tech, you might find our guide on how to set up a smart home useful
  • You’ll also need to think about privacy and security, as with any smart device. If buying a smart electric heater – or a smart product of any kind – it’s especially important to buy one that’s been thoroughly tested (more on this later).

If you’re looking to control your central heating through your own Wi-Fi, then read our smart thermostat reviews and our smart radiator valve reviews to find a smart gadget that’s functional, easy to use and feature-rich.


Are smart heaters secure?

We put every Wi-Fi enabled heater we review through our digital security tests

IoT products open up a new frontier in your home for criminals to exploit. When they have security vulnerabilities, there’s a risk they could be accessed and controlled by third parties.

You might well wonder why anyone would want to hack into anything so mundane as a smart heater.

However, we explain how household goods could be compromised in our article how a smart home could be at risk from attackers.

For example, a hacker could:

  • gather personal data about your daily routine – including when you are and aren’t typically at home – which could be very interesting to thieves
  • change your heater settings to confuse and unnerve you
  • use your heater as an entry point to your home network, potentially compromising other devices
  • weaponise your heater, using it as part of a group of botnets to carry out an attack on an organisation by bombarding the organisation with communications.

Sometimes smart products allow users to engage in behaviour that’s risky: for example, they let you get away with entering a weak password or they will connect to unencrypted networks.

The sorts of red flags that we look for in our test lab includes:

  • Weak default passwords or low-standards for user-created passwords that leave you vulnerable to brute force attacks (where hackers try a huge amount of combinations hoping to get lucky)
  • Unencrypted data transfer which doesn’t keep your information private between the sender and the receiver
  • Susceptibility to cyber attacks such as malicious third parties intercepting your connection
  • Unclear and difficult processes for managing your own data and, when you’re done, decommissioning the product securely.

If a product has these vulnerabilities, we will warn you about it. While no product can be guaranteed to be 100% secure, we look out for the most common vulnerabilities.

If you buy a smart heater that we haven’t tested, make sure that you trust the brand and the marketplace you’re buying from.

A famous brand name is no guarantee of quality, nor of digital security, so it’s always safer to buy one that’s been thoroughly tested. A well-known brand has more to lose by putting an insecure product on the market, though, so has more incentive to take digital security seriously.

We’ve warned before about buying smart tech from unknown brands on digital marketplaces after we found over 1,800 individual smart products on Amazon, eBay and AliExpress that posed security risks.

Read more on this in our story about online marketplaces flooded with insecure smart products.

Deleting your data and decommissioning your heater

Smartphone

When it’s time to replace your electric heater, you’ll want to be sure that none of your personal data is still attached to it.

However, our testing has shown us that some manufacturers make it hard for you to do this. While you can sign up using an app, manufacturers sometimes prevent you from deleting your data using the same platform.

Instead, you have to email the manufacturers to ask the data controller to delete your information. In other words, it’s harder to delete your information than it is to provide it.

Resetting a smart heater can be difficult

To sell or dispose of your heater, it’s best to reset it to factory settings first. You should also be able to delete your account, and the data it holds, easily.

  • The Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool HP07 and the Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde HP09 can be factory reset, but we found there was no way to delete your account through the app.
  • There was no way to factory reset the Princess 341500 Smart Glass Panel Heater. And, though you can unlink the device from the app, this does not delete your account.
  • Meanwhile, the ElectriQ 2000W Designer Glass Heater EGH20AW enables you to factory reset the heater and you can also delete your account through the app after initiating a seven-day cooling off period.

Prefer to get a cheap, unconnected, electric heater? See our pick of cheap electric heaters for winter 2021.


Are smart heaters better than ordinary electric heaters?

Princess 341500 Smart Glass Panel

We haven’t found any evidence that smart functionality affects the key performance aspects of a good electric heater.

The best electric heaters have sensitive thermostats that accurately maintain a stable temperature. They’re designed in a way that enables the heat they produce to disperse evenly (and in the case of fan heaters, quickly) and they’re also user-friendly.

We’ve seen smart heaters that are Best Buys and smart heaters that are pretty mediocre when it comes to heating performance and usability.

Depending on your personality, you might find a smart heater easier and more pleasurable to use, or you might find it a headache. Have a think in advance about your preferences before buying.

Although smart connectivity doesn’t affect the fundamentals of heating performance, it’s a positive if it enables you to better control your heater. So while it doesn’t impact a thermostat’s quality, it’s a plus if it gives you more opportunity to set your thermostat and monitor the temperature your heater is giving out.

Are electric heaters eco friendly? Read our guide to find out whether all electric heaters are electricity guzzlers or if they can actually be energy efficient.

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