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In case you haven’t noticed, it’s rather nippy outside. And if you’re reading this in the Summer, then let us assure you, it will be cold again. You know, changing seasons and all that.
We’ve come a long way since the humble fire in our fight against Mother Nature’s attempts to render us obsolete, so we’ve gathered a handful of the cleverest heating systems currently on offer, to see how they stack up against each other.
Honeywell EvoHome (£250 plus £70 per radiator plus installation)
Best for family houses
Honeywell’s system is a lot like being God, but without all that business with beards and crosses. You can set schedules to control the precise temperature of each individual room of your home at every moment of the day and night, using either the tablet-like central controller or the free Total Connect Comfort phone app.
You will need special Wi-Fi-connected valves fitted to each radiator you want to control – which soon adds up at £70 a pop – but you can always start with two or three in selected rooms then add more yourself later.
Honeywell’s is the only system in our test that allows you to set different temperatures in different rooms; it uses its own Wi-Fi router.
The smart radiator valves are small enough not to look clunky, and you’re unlikely to be disturbed by the brief whirring noise they make when opening and closing. Each is powered by a pair of AA batteries which, Honeywell claims, should last two or three years depending on how fiddly you make your heating schedules.
The touchscreen controller is a doddle to use, and setting your schedules for the first time is a strangely empowering nerd project. Make the bathroom a couple of degrees warmer at morning shower time… make the kids’ bedrooms a couple of degrees cooler when they’re asleep but you’re still up, thus saving them from sweaty head syndrome… create a weekend schedule with warmer living areas during the daytime, and then engage it on a weekday by selecting ‘day off’ mode. And of course you can save gas by putting the whole house into chilly ‘away’ mode when you go on holiday, then override it from the airport so everything’s back to normal by the time you get home. The valves even learn how long it takes your rooms to heat up and cool down, and will adjust their timings accordingly.
Honeywell reckons EvoHome can knock anything up to 40% off your gas bill by not pumping heat into rooms that aren’t being used (there’s an urban myth that heating up a cold room uses more energy than keeping it warm all day, but that’s cobblers). So, while it is expensive, this system might pay for itself quicker than you think.
Stuff says ★★★★★
A big old investment, but you’ll soon pity anyone living without it
Best for value for money
The Netatmo by Starck Thermostat For Smartphone, to give it its grandiose full name, is a deceptively simple beast. On the surface, it’s a minimalist perspex box plus a minimalist app, either of which can control your heating with a click.
Delve a little deeper, though, and there are a wealth of customisation options plus some Skynet-level algorithms which, following a two-week learning period, should be able to predict your heating patterns and save you dosh. The physical thermostat can be customised in one of five colours and there are apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and web.
Algorithm is a dancer
The Netatmo’s real talent lies in the algorithms that lurk within its electronic brain. The PID algorithm uses data such as how long it takes your house to heat up and what the weather is like outside to fire up the boiler before or after the set time as necessary. You can even link it with the Netatmo Weather Station for ultra-accurate weather info.
Our dating days are long behind us, but living with the Netatmo cast us back to that time when awkward early misunderstandings were followed by heart-thumping love that settled down into comfortable happiness. It’s not the easiest product to install; though Netatmo compares it to changing a lightbulb, that doesn’t generally involve opening your boiler and rewiring mains cables. In the end it only took 20 minutes, but we wouldn’t attempt it hungover.
Once the relay module is hooked up to the boiler, the thermostat links to it via RF and you’re away. Well, almost: the manual neglects to mention the need to connect the relay to your computer first so you can set up the Wi-Fi. That done, you really are away. At which point you fall in love. Looks-wise, the thermostat is a Ferrari in a street full of Fords, and the apps are similarly slick.
You can set multiple heating periods per day, create profiles for different occasions – for instance term-time and holidays – and easily override the schedule: want an hour of 30° toastiness one morning? You got it. It’s a joy to use and does a fine job of making the complex and boring look simple and sexy.
Stuff says ★★★★★
After the tricky first half-hour, it’s an easy system to fall for