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What is a smart thermostat?

Almost a quarter of all Brits now have at least one smart device installed in their home. What is a smart thermostat, and how could it help you cut your energy bills? Let’s find out.

Almost a quarter of all Brits now have at least one smart device installed in their home. What is a smart thermostat, and how could it help you cut your energy bills? Let’s find out.

Written by
Sajni Shah
Utilities comparison expert
Last Updated
8 JUNE 2022
9 min read
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What is a smart thermostat?

A smart thermostat, just like a regular thermostat, is a device designed to control the heating in your home. The only difference is that it can be controlled by your smartphone, tablet or other gadgets.

How does a smart thermostat work?

A smart thermostat is connected to your heating system and smart devices.  
 
It measures your home’s temperature and sends signals to a HVAC system (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) to make necessary changes based on your personalised settings. You can also make changes from a smart device. 

How much is a smart thermostat going to cost to install?

According to Checkatrade, most smart thermostats will set you back between £120 and £220, with professional installation (which is highly recommended) costing an additional £50 to £100. You'll also need smart thermostatic radiator valves to be fitted to each radiator so they can be controlled individually – these can be around £40 to £60 each.

Many brands also give you the option of renting a smart thermostat for just a few pounds a month. Others may offer you a payment plan – allowing you to pay in monthly increments, instead of a lump sum.

How much does a smart thermostat save?

With gas prices soaring and the cost of living at a record high, everyone is looking to save money where they can.

How much money a smart thermostat could save you depends very much on:

  • your heating habits
  • the size of your home
  • how efficient your heating system is

You’ll see savings by installing a smart thermostat if you usually leave the heating on all the time and don’t currently use any other energy-saving measures. 

What are the other benefits of a smart thermostat?

  • Convenience – you can control your home heating from practically anywhere via your smartphone or tablet. Out for the evening? Set the heating to come on later. A couple of clicks and it’s done. 
  • Cold weather protection – setting your smart thermostat to ‘holiday mode’ while you’re away means your home is heated to just the right level to prevent frozen pipes and potential flooding.
  • Save energy – being able to fully manage your heating controls means you only use energy when and where you need it. This can help you to prevent wasting energy and money.
  • Accuracy – you can be sure that the temperatures you’re more comfortable with are accurate and tailored to your needs.

What are the disadvantages of a smart thermostat?

  • Initial cost – before you start considering the savings, you’ll need to factor in the cost of your new smart thermostat. They can be complicated, so it’s best to get a professional to install it.
  • Can depend on occupancy – if you’re home all day, you might not benefit from peak efficiency features that lower the temperature when the house is unoccupied.
  • Minimal savings – if you already have an efficient heating system and currently take energy-saving measures to keep your energy usage down, additional savings might not be as much as some manufacturers claim.

What is the best smart thermostat?

There are several types of smart thermostat, and some are more advanced than others. Some of the big brand names in smart thermostats include:

  • Ecobee
  • Google Nest
  • Hive
  • Honeywell
  • Tado

The best smart thermostat for you may depend on your needs and budget.

What smart thermostat features are available?

Decide what features you’ll actually use before spending money on things you don’t need. These could include:

  • Voice commands – allows you to adjust your temperature settings by talking to your thermostat.
  • Temperature alerts – notifications if the temperature is too low and you could risk frozen pipes.
  • Zoned heating ­– for certain areas or rooms in your home.
  • Geofencing – recognises when you enter or leave your home and adjusts the temperature accordingly.
  • Smart links – links up with smart speakers such as Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant or other devices in your home to create a truly integrated smart home system.
  • Learning capabilities – learns your routines and can figure out how long it takes to heat a room to ensure you benefit from the desired temperature.
  • Weather-responsive – can automatically adjust your home’s temperature according to the outside temperature and local weather forecast.
  • Holiday mode – keeps your home warm enough to stop the pipes from freezing when you’re away during the winter.
  • Hot water settings – additional kit to control your hot water supply as well as your heating.
  • Time of use setting – lets you set your home to heat during the hours energy is less expensive.

If you have other smart systems, such as for lighting or smart assistants, you may also want to check for compatibility. And if you have a hot water tank, they may also allow you to control your hot water, but you might need additional kit to be able to do this.

You may also want to check the security of any system you choose, to make sure it doesn't provide a back door to your home WiFi.

How to choose a smart thermostat

After deciding on a budget, it’s a good idea to do some research on the different makes and models of smart thermostat, as well as the different features available.

Decide which features are most important to you and which would suit your lifestyle best. It might also help to chat to a few neighbours, friends or family members, to hear their experiences with smart thermostats. They might even give you a demo to help you decide if it’s for you.

Frequently asked questions

What’s the difference between a smart thermostat and a smart meter?

A smart thermostat lets you control your heating from your smartphone or tablet, so it can be adjusted remotely.

A smart meter, on the other hand, shows you how much energy you’re using by reading your in-home display. A smart meter also takes meter readings automatically, and sends them to your energy supplier, so you no longer have to take them manually. This means your energy bills will be more accurate and not based on estimates.

While smart thermostats and smart meters work differently, they can both be used to monitor and control your energy use. This could help you to reduce your energy consumption, bills and carbon footprint. 

How does a smart thermostat connect to a boiler?

To connect your smart thermostat to your boiler, you’ll need to link a receiver to your boiler. 
 
This receiver connects your boiler, smart thermostat and internet together, allowing you to control them from your phone or other smart device. 

Do smart thermostats work with radiators?

Yes, they can, but you’ll need to make sure they have smart thermostatic radiator valves installed. 
 
These special valves allow your smart thermostat to communicate with your radiators, turning them on and off when you adjust your settings. 

How does a smart thermostat connect to a boiler?

To connect your smart thermostat to your boiler, you’ll need to link a receiver to your boiler. 
 
This receiver connects your boiler, smart thermostat and internet together, allowing you to control them from your phone or other smart device. 

Will my smart thermostat work if the internet is down?

If there’s a problem with your home broadband, your smart thermostat will still work without an internet or WiFi connection. You’ll be able to control your heating manually, just like you would with a traditional thermostat.

However, you might not be able to control the thermostat remotely, or use the voice control function (if it has one), as these need an internet connection to work. 

Is a smart thermostat worth it?

If you’re looking for convenience and a way to cut down on your energy wastage, a smart thermostat could be well worth the initial cost.

But if you forget to use the smartphone app, keep the heating on full blast anyway, and have a poorly insulated home, you could be wasting energy and money. 

To get the full benefit of a smart thermostat, it might be worth improving the energy efficiency of your home first, before investing in one.

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