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Guide to smart thermostats

Almost a quarter of all Brits now have at least one smart device installed in their home. Could a smart thermostat be a good choice for you? Let’s find out.

Almost a quarter of all Brits now have at least one smart device installed in their home. Could a smart thermostat be a good choice for you? Let’s find out.

Sofia Hutson
Utilities expert
minute read
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Last Updated 8 JUNE 2022

How much money can a smart thermostat save me?

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 or how efficient your heating system already 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 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 or tablet.

Out and about and don’t fancy coming home to a cold house? Simply turn on the heating using your mobile. Lying in bed and need to switch the heating off? No need to move a muscle. Grab your tablet and you can control your boiler with a couple of clicks. What a smart thermostat offers that a conventional one doesn’t, is total convenience.

Are there different kinds of smart thermostats?

Yes, and some are more advanced than others. For example:

  • Certain smart thermostats have ‘learning’ capabilities , in that they learn exactly how long it takes to heat each room in your home and then check the weather report, to ensure optimal energy-efficient heating.
  • The most sophisticated systems can also learn how you like your home heated, so over time will get to know your patterns and preferences – for example, if you get up later at weekends than during the week.
  • Some new-generation models have ‘presence detection , so can tell whether or not you are at home, turning the heating on and off accordingly.
  • Some systems also have a holiday mode that will keep your home just warm enough to prevent pipes freezing while you’re away.

Others might not be as fancy, but they can still be controlled using your smart devices. Your smart thermostat’s functionality will depend on the make and model you buy, and how much you’re willing to spend.

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.

What are the 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. Away for the weekend and forgot to turn off the heating? A couple of clicks and it’s done. And once you’re due to come home, you can turn up the heating to ensure you return to a warm and welcoming house.
  • 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 – having full control over your heating settings means you only use energy when you need it. And if you don’t want to heat the whole house, you can also set the heating to come on in certain rooms or zones, and even choose different temperatures for different rooms.
  • Accuracy – you can be sure that the temperatures you’re more comfortable with are accurate and tailored to your needs.
  • Save money – using your smart thermostat’s energy-efficiency features can help reduce your energy use. Less waste also means your energy bills could be lower.

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 a hassle to install, so it’s best to get a professional in to set it up for you, rather than doing it yourself. Professional installation will add to the upfront cost.
  • 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 consumption down, additional savings might not be as much as some manufacturers claim.

How much does a smart thermostat cost?

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, while others may offer you a payment plan – allowing you to pay in monthly increments, instead of a lump sum.

Smart thermostat buying advice

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.

How to save money on your energy bill

While a smart thermostat could help you shave a few pounds off your energy bill, there are other simple ways to potentially save money:

  • Turn down the thermostat – you’ll hardly notice the difference, but turning down the heating by just one degree could save up to 10% on your energy bill.
  • Bleed your radiators – regularly releasing trapped air from your radiators will ensure water is flowing through your central heating system and heating your home to full capacity.
  • Insulate the loft – a quarter of a home’s heat is lost through the roof if it isn’t insulated. Roof and loft insulation could save you hundreds of pounds each year in heating costs.
  • Draught-proof – fitting adhesive thermal strips around draughty doors and windows will help to keep your home warmer and can save on heating costs.
  • Use radiator foils – simple but effective, purpose-made foil positioned behind your radiators will transfer heat back into the room, rather than it being absorbed into the walls.

Read more of our hot tips on how to save energy, to help reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint.

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, helping you to reduce your energy consumption, bills and carbon footprint.

What is geo-fencing?

Geo-fencing is a ‘presence detection’ feature that some advanced smart thermostats have. It allows your smart thermostat to recognise when you leave or enter your home, adjusting the temperature accordingly.

What other smart thermostat features should I consider?

It depends on how much you’re willing to spend and the model you buy. Typically, smart thermostats with more advanced features will be more expensive.

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

  • Voice control – allows you to adjust the temperature 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.
  • Geo-fencing – recognises when you enter or leave your home and adjusts the temperature accordingly.
  • Smart links – links up with smart assistants such as Alexa or Siri, 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 an optimal 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.

Will my smart thermostat work if the internet is down?

If there’s a problem with your home broadband and your internet connection is down, don’t worry – you won’t end up with a freezing cold house. 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 app, keep the heating on full blast anyway, and have a poorly insulated home, you could be throwing your energy and money out of the window.

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.