Pros and cons of smart thermostats – The Week UK

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Smart meters have rocketed in popularity during the cost-of-living crisis
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Smart thermostats are increasingly popular for the extra flexibility they offer, allowing you to remotely control your home’s temperature and heating schedule, and also have different temperatures and schedules for different rooms.
Like smart meters, they can cost more than standard thermostats but can save you money in the long run, depending on how you use them. This has made them more popular as energy costs rocket during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Smart heating is everywhere,” said Living etc. And “yet there is still debate over how beneficial smart thermostats are, with some research indicating that installing one doesn’t always result in reduced energy use”, said the BBC.
So how easy to use and cost-effective are smart thermostats, and what are the drawbacks?
“Does it really save me money?” wonders Digital Trends. “In short, yes it does,” it answers, “but how much specifically will vary by brand, home, and occupancy.”
You can expect “roughly 10% in electrical savings”, it explains. Most smart thermostats allow you to view and monitor how much energy you’re using, which makes it easier to see where you could save money. However, how much you save also depends on how much you spend on the gadget in the first place.
Smart thermostats can be “three to four times more expensive” compared to a conventional model, said Gasify. The cost “goes up even more if you’re also getting smart radiator valves”, said Which?, meaning “it will take time to recoup this extra upfront cost through saving on heating bills”.
The cost of a smart thermostat can range from £120 to £220, “depending on the make and model that you choose”, said Checkatrade.
If you spend most of your day in one part of the house, you won’t want to heat those rooms you rarely go into. Most models allow the user to set different temperatures for different areas of the house. Smart radiator valves mean you can control each room’s temperature and schedule individually.
With smart thermostats you can “create multiple heating zones”, explains Which?. Using multiple smart thermostats, or a smart thermostat with smart radiator valves, you can control the temperature on a room-by-room basis and make further energy savings.
Although smart thermostats can be easy to use, they can be a “headache to install”, said Gasify. So “if you were thinking of installing it yourself, you might want to rethink that idea”, it advises. “Most of the time, you need a professional to come and install the thermostat,” it adds.
To soften the blow of the installation expense, Which? recommends that you ask your engineer to also help set up your heating schedule for you, as all the controls and features can take some getting used to.
You can control smart thermostats through an app on your phone or tablet, meaning you don’t need to get up and walk to the thermostat to make changes.
“This feature might not seem very useful while you’re in the house,” said Gasify, “but when you’re headed home after a long day at work, you can use the app from your office only to set your desired temperature, so that the house is perfectly warm or cool just as you arrive.” It means you can also turn the thermostat off if you forgot to do so before leaving the house.
Studies on how people actually use these devices paints a “mixed picture”, said the BBC. Analysis of smart thermostat data from 1,379 households in California found that users “generally undid the benefits of the gadgets by manually overriding their scheduled programme of heating or cooling”, it added.
If you are regularly overriding your system it calls into question the wisdom of using a smart thermostat in the first place. Brent Huchuk, who led a similar study, told the broadcaster that people who are good at tweaking their own system are likely to do better than a smart thermostat.
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