Tado thermostat review
Tado had a lead on the popular Nest thermostat, launching several months earlier in the UK, and is betting that its eponymous remote-control smart thermostat will take off in the UK as it has in its native Germany, where it is the market leader. Read our Tado thermostat review.
Tado has since updated its thermostat to show off the room temerature (see above), as this aspect of the Nest display was liked by customers. The new Tado box features a touch LED display for enhanced use outside of the app and desktop controls. See also our Best smart heating system and thermostat feature.
Unlike the Nest, the Tado has a more subtle, minimalist look, so shouldn't stand out in most domestic settings – unless you have black walls, of course.
Its secret weapon and the bit that outs the "smart" in smart thermostat is the way that it links with your smartphone's GPS. Tado knows when you and your fellow residents are at home or how far away, and can dial down or turn up your heating based on this information, so you're not heating an empty house. As you get closer to home it recognises this, and starts heating the home ready for your return.
Tado claims that its smart thermostat will help consumers save an average 27 percent in heating costs – about £180 per year. At a cost of £199 (self-install) Tado should have paid for itself within a year or so. (If you get an engineer to install Tado then the cost rises to £258, so would take 18 months to recoup using Tado's figures.) While the price of energy has fallen in the past few months, cutting energy costs as soon as possible makes a lot of sense. See also: Best smart thermostats 2014: Hive vs Nest vs Tado vs Heat Genius.
We have run the Tado for 18 months, and our energy costs have dropped, although it's impossible to pin this all on that Tado, although just having such a device does make the householder more keen to save heating and other energy costs around the home.
Using such a system is a revelation in monitoring and controlling your domestic heating, and we're confident that savings are there to be made. The more control you have the more money you’ll save, and with sky-high energy prices right now you'd be silly to ignore all solutions. (See also: Heat Genius review.)
Why buy a smart thermostat?
What’s the most expensive bit of tech kit in your house? HD TV? Super-slim laptop? Apple iMac? iPhone? Audio system? In most houses one of the priciest chunks of tech is the humble but expensive boiler. A new, energy-efficient boiler will likely set you back £1,200-£2,500 including installation – that’s more than most smart TVs or laptops.
The real cost of a boiler is much higher, as an inefficient one will be costing you hundreds of pounds a year in wasted energy. One option, especially if your boiler is over 15 years old, is to replace with a new energy-efficient model. The average savings when replacing a “G” rated boiler is £225 per year. If your existing boiler has a more efficient rating of “D” you can still expect to save as much as £65 per year by replacing it. Even considering the cost of a new combi boiler purchase and installation you’ll be saving money in the long run – maybe as early as 5-7 years.
Based on a saving of 25 percent gas usage, the Energy Saving Trust estimates the average saving per household on energy bills after installing a new boiler to be £310. And if your current heating system doesn’t include a room thermostat the potential savings in using a smart system such as Tado are even greater.
If your boiler isn't that old and is still going strong, a cheaper way to make your boiler more efficient is to get smarter. There is a growing list of smart thermostats and systems appearing on the market, all of which promise to slash your heating bills.
The most well known is Nest, from the ex-Apple guys who originally worked on the iPod. It looks gorgeous, and is simple to use. Google liked it so much that it forked out $3 billion to buy the company. Since October 2011 Nest claims its US customers have saved more than 1.4 billion kilowatt hours, enough electricity to power more than 135,000 homes for a year. It made its UK debut in April 2014. Read our Nest review.
The US Environmental Protection Agency claims consumers could reduce energy usage by 10-30 percent using the schedules and temperature settings of programmable (semi-smart) thermostats. These let you program temperatures for certain times of the day – so you can automatically lower the temperature when you'll be out of the house, for example.
Unfortunately up till recently these programmable thermostats have been tricky for the average homeowner to operate correctly. The new, smart remote-control thermostats, such as Nest and Tado, connect to home Wi-Fi networks and come with simple smartphone apps.
Tado vs Nest: features
What differentiates Tado from Nest is its smarter learning features. Nest programs itself by learning your behaviour patterns and desired temperatures for certain days and times during the week – which it calls Nest Sense. It then builds a schedule for your heating system to follow. You control Nest through the outer-ring dial to adjust temperatures, and then via the mobile app.
The brains at Tado believe that the smartphone will become the remote control for everything inside the home. In this way Tado is more revolutionary than Nest. Tado doesn’t feature a physical dial for you to adjust your home’s temperature, which at first feels weird. Mostly, everything is controlled via your smartphone app (iPhone, Android and Windows Phone) or the desktop Web app. It creates a more real-time and less static schedule than Nest’s. The new Tado box does allow you to turn the temperature up via the touch display on the sensor.
Since Tado uses your location to determine whether or not the heating should be on, you don't need a set a schedule. Nor do you need to worry when your schedule changes unexpectedly: Tado will make sure the house isn't heated unnecessarily and that it's always warming up before you get home.
This is one reason to opt for Tado over Nest. Nest doesn't use geolocation at all, and only basic sensing to work out if you've left the house while the heating is still on.
We're not the biggest fans of Nest's automatic schedule as it's slow to respond when you change your daily routine. This simply isn't an issue for Tado.
It also takes too long in our opinion to activate the Nest's Auto Away mode. If you've set the heating to come on at 5pm but you decide to go out for the evening, it could heat for two hours before activating Auto Away at 7pm.
You set Tado the target temperature you want your home – or rather the room in which you place the Tado thermostat – to reach. This should be placed in the room you and your family spend most of the time in. The Tado Smart Thermostat is powered by three AAA batteries. Tado claims that these batteries typically last for two years, and will inform you via email and/or push notification when it is time to replace them.
Initially Tado could work with just one sensor so we recommended it as best suited for smaller homes (1-4 bedrooms). Now (2016) if you have more than one heating zone in your home, Tado lets you control each zone and your hot water tank separately – as long as each room thermostat is replaced with a smart thermostat.
You also set the usual times you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night – which can differ for weekends. Tado then knows to heat up the house ready for when you bound (or crawl) out of bed in the morning. If you think the heating comes on too soon it’s easy to adjust Tado’s settings via the apps. You get to the settings with a simple swipe of the mobile app screen.
You can set a minimum Sleep temperature of 10°C, which is a change from the previous 15° following user requests. There’s also a maximum of 25°, so if you like your house really hot then Tado might not be for you – but then you probably don’t care much about energy efficiency…
All this smartness takes a bit of getting accustomed to. In the UK we’re used to setting our boilers to come on and off using timers. Creatures of habit we get up at the same times on weekdays and mostly pretty regularly on weekends, too. If we get cold we walk to the boiler and turn up the temperature.
With Tado you leave the heating on all the time (initially scary for energy-efficiency nuts), and the smart thermostat does all the thinking for you.
Here's the really clever bit. It even knows whether you are at home or elsewhere, so if you do break out of your usual routine – either staying at home for the day when you’d usually be out, or being away when you’d normally be in – Tado is watching you and turning the heating up or down depending on your location – using the GPS or other location functions in your smartphone, and other smartphones assigned to the home.
The Tado app uses the most battery-efficient way to determine how far you are from home (for example, with iOS geofencing/region monitoring) and works in the background. GPS is only called upon in exceptional cases. This takes place fully automatically.
If you have deactivated the GPS function, Tado uses the other geolocation functions of your smartphone. In general Tado always uses the last distance from home that has been transmitted by your phone. This information is used to determine the level of heating. In case your phone does not send any location data anymore (e.g. when deactivating all geolocation functions), Tado will use the distance of the phone that was last transmitted.
While Nest creates an “Auto-away mode” based on what it's learned it doesn’t actually know who is actually in your house. It guesses, based on a combination of sensors and algorithms, when you're away to prevent heating or cooling an empty home. When it thinks you’re back the Nest Thermostat returns to your regular schedule.
Via the GPS/geofencing in your smartphone Tado uses Presence Detection to actually know when you’re at home or away. Indeed it controls the heating depending on how far away you are – so it knows to start heating up the house as you get nearer.
If you pop to the shops for an hour it will gently lower the temperature to save money but raise it again as you approach home. If you’re out all day on a trip, Tado will lower the heating further and for longer, but knows when to raise it again when you’re on your way home.
Depending on how far the residents are away from home Tado lowers the temperature. As soon as one resident approaches home Tado heats your home up. We would prefer for Tado to allow the user to determine the distance from the home, as this is important if one resident works close to home.
If you have a guest or a babysitter who remains in the house while you’re away you can switch Tado to Manual mode. If you want to you can set a temperature manually at any time. This way you can remotely control your heating. longer-term guests can be added to your account, so their phones are recognised and they don't freeze while you're away from home.
Would all residents who might stay in the house unaccompanied have a smartphone? It’s likely they would as most children who are old enough not to be babysat have smartphones these days. Tado is compatible with iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android and Windows Phone.
With the free Tado app installed on all residents’ phones Tado can run your heating to an optimum point.
Another smart thermostat is Hive – available for £199 for customers of British Gas only. Like Nest this doesn’t offer actual presence detection, and is actually a little less smart than Nest as you have to adjust room temperature as you leave the house.
Tado expects in the future to enhance the system software with an Expert mode for even finer user controls. Until then you can contact the company if you, say, wanted to extend or reduce the area of presence detection so that the heating would be lowered closer or further from home.
Tado is a clever little thing. It learns about the performance of your heating and how it works together with your house or apartment. The company claims that within three weeks Tado should be operating at maximum efficiency. Tado examines your daily temperature data to work out how fast (or slow) you house warms up, for instance.
In the first few days Tado might behave a little erratically as it tests and gets to know your heating system and your home.
Tado also uses a range of local weather data to know when to raise or lower the heating to your desired level of comfort – as the solar radiation of the Sun affects room temperature. The timing of sunlight shows up on the informative screen you get when you turn the app into landscape mode.
The Tado app is clear and simple but full of information. The background colour changes depending on the mode Tado is in. Orange denotes Tado is in Home mode – when one of the residents is home. Green is away mode – when the last person has left the house. And Blue shows Tado is in Sleep mode – when your sleep time begins.
There is also a Tado Web App that you can access with a web browser on a PC, Mac or laptop. On the Web app there’s an overview of all of Tado's activities: a detailed report with a temperature curve, heating activity and events that influence the temperature regulation. Additionally you can adjust all settings, set a schedule for residents without a smartphone, and manage your account.
There are three different heating operations, set either on the phone app or on the Tado thermostat itself.
Off: When set to Off, Tado only heats when the room temperature drops below 5°C to avoid frost damage.
Auto: When set to Auto, Tado controls your heating based on your location and schedule. You can adjust your preferred home and sleep temperatures. The optimal away temperature is set by Tado automatically.
Manual: When set to Manual, Tado keeps the room temperature at the selected set point.
What happens if you leave your smartphone at work and nobody else is home? On the firsgeberation Tado there was a button on the Tado box that let you or an unattended guest tell the Tado that someone is actually home. This mode was deactivated by pressing the button again, or in the Web app to tell Tado to go back to the programmed heating schedule.
In the second-gen Tado the unattended guest can interact using the LED matrix display’s user interface on the thermostat. Of course, as a generous host you can also warm the house up for him or her with your mobile app or over your computer.
If you turn off your heating in the Settings then it stays completely turned off except for warm water. Because Tado tracks the room temperature it will nevertheless turn on the heating once the room temperature falls below 5°C – a great safety, fall-back feature to prevent any frost damage.
Pet owners who leave their animal unattended for most of the day will want to consider the best temperature for their pet. A dog doesn't need a room temperature of 23°. And Tado doesn't let your home cool down completely when nobody is at home.