Ever wondered what it would be like to live in the future? British Gas Remote Heating Control might sound mundane, but it offers a tantalising glimpse of what the world will be like when we’re all living in web-connected smart homes. But is this app-operated heating system hot stuff, or did we give it a frosty reception?
Fortunately, you don’t need to be a plumber to have British Gas Remote Heating Control installed. You just pay your £150 (£230 if you’re not a British Gas customer) and sit back while the experts fit a smart thermostat to your boiler and hook up a dinky widget to an Ethernet port on your router. Once that’s done you simply login to the main Home Hub website, download the iOS or Android app and you’re ready to go.
How it works
Remote Heating Control gives you four ways to control your heating. The smartphone app is pretty basic, allowing you to turn your heating to On, Off or Auto, set the temperature and view some simple graphs. The web app is more fully featured: here you can do all of the above, plus set an automatic schedule as you might do on your existing boiler. You can also control it by sending a text message (yes, really). And finally there’s a physical smart thermostat that you can use in the frankly terrifying event that your home broadband dies.
You’ll want to visit the website at least once to set up a detailed automatic schedule – telling it to come on first thing in the morning for an hour, then go off during the day, for instance – but this is easily done, with a nicely colour-coded interface and the ability to customise it for different days. After that, the smartphone app is all you’ll really need. And believe us when we say that the sense of smug laziness you’ll feel as you lie on the sofa, turning the heating up when you feel like it, can’t be overstated: it almost makes you yearn for cold weather. There’s a delay of a minute or two before settings take effect, but really the whole thing works incredibly slickly.
There’s not strictly any need for SMS control unless you don’t own a smartphone – in which case what are you doing on Stuff.tv? – but that said, there’s something incredibly satisfying about sending a text such as ‘HEAT ON 20’ to make it do your bidding. Future updates may make it possible to control your hot water in the same manner, which means it can’t be long before we’re all texting our baths to fill themselves every time we’re caught in a downpour.
Texting is a two-way thing with Remote Heating Control. Use the Alerts option on the web app and the system will send you an SMS when the temperature goes above or below a certain level. All of which means you could be lazing on a Cuban beach when you get a text that your house is about to freeze solid, at which point you text it back to turn on the heating for a bit. Genius.
Remote Heating Control isn’t just about ease of use – it could well save you money. The temperature graphs on the web app give you an instant snapshot of how warm your house has been over a set period. We soon realised ours was hotter than it needed to be – a quick tweak to the schedule sorted that, nobody froze to death, and a look at the graphs a few days later confirmed that we’d reduced the daily temperature by a degree. Great – we can afford more gadgets and curry now.
You’ll only need the smart thermostat if your broadband goes down, which is just as well as it’s a bit of a dog to use. A world away from the uncomplicated apps, we found ourselves jabbing away at unlabelled buttons with increasing frustration just to turn it on. A rethink is needed here.
The biggest drawback to Remote Heating Control will be if you live with anyone who’s not tech-savvy. Yes, we know, that’s their problem – but it’s also yours. Imagine trying to explain to a luddite parent or bored babysitter that they can’t turn off the heating without logging in to a website or downloading an app… The solution is to make the physical thermostat as easy to use as those you’d find on any standard central heating system. Over to you, British Gas.
Central heating may not be the sexiest of topics, but we got pretty excited about British Gas Remote Heating Control all the same. Maybe that says something about us. It’s mostly a joy to use, offering freedom of control that you just don’t get with most household appliances. Keep an eye on the temperature graphs, set up a few alerts and program a detailed schedule and you could well find it pays for itself, too. Plus, you’ll get to bask in the warm glow of being a tech pioneer – and that’s priceless.