Genius full review

Genius review: what it is

Around since 2012, Heat Genius - now known simply as Genius - offers smart heating control that learns when you use each room of your house. It allows you to automatically and remotely control each radiator. And it lets you do so from any web-connected device. Then you can either set your desired temperature for each room according to the time of day, or let the system watch and learn from your room occupancy, and set temperatures and timings appropriately.

In effect Genius makes any home a smart home, allowing you to remotely control the heating in every part of the house, as well as the hot water. It also offers other connected devices such as smart plugs and sensors, all controlled by a central hub and accessed via a mobile app or web page. And it lets you view historical usage. So - critically - it should mean you have a warm and comfortable house, with hot water, without using any more power than you absolutely need. Thus, in principle, over time Genius will save you money.

Genius review: what it costs

That's important, because Genius isn't the cheap option in this space. At £249 for the 'Genius Kit' base system that comprises Hub and Thermostat, it compares reasonably well with the £200 Nest smart thermostat, and £179 Hive active heating - although the price goes up to £294 if you want to control the hot water. And the costs add up as you add zones, with each radiator valve costing £59, and room sensors £34. You don't need a sensor in every room as the radiator valves can measure temperature, but the sensors are required to measure room occupancy.

So it can soon add up. Even more so if you want smart plugs at £29 a pop, or you have underfloor heating to control. The Genius website has a smart 'Create my system' tool that allows you to spec up your home. Through this you can see that to fully zone a four-bedroom house with a separate hall, kitchen and dining room (and with one radiator and one sensor in each room) will cost around £1,100 just for the kit. In that instance installation is free as there are more than six valves, but Heat Genius will charge £99 to send it all out to you. (If you fit it yourself postage and packing is a more reasonable £20.)

Heat Genius Kit

That's £1,200 inc VAT to get a fully trained Genius central heating engineer in your house, who won't leave before the system is installed, tested and working to your satisfaction. Not a trivial amount of money, but if you have a large house and parts of it are regularly unoccupied, Genius reckons it could save you 20- to 40 percent on your annual heating bill. So at some stage it will pay for itself.

And, in my experience, you don't need to zone everything. You can collect up into a 'Rest of house' quasi-'zone' all the rooms that are incidental (like hallways) or rarely used (guest bedrooms). These can be heated only altogether or not at all, but in the case of a guest room you can just turn down the radiators when no-one is in there. In our current setup we haven't got smart valves in either the dining room or several of the bedrooms, so we have to control them all together. Basically, if it is cold they need to be heated, and they take their temperature from the thermostat in the dining room. So it is virtually as good as separate zones.

Genius review: how it compares to the market

This is not a Nest or a Hive - it is much more sophisticated, and somewhat more expensive than those products. Hive or Nest is, in essence, a dumb on-off switch that allows you to remotely switch on and off your heating. It will allow you to set a temperature, but only from a single thermostat (or in the case of the latest Hive, several thermostats). For a smaller modern house, that is generally sufficient. And it is a lot more efficient than a timer-based heating system.

Genius is better, though. For one thing the company tells us it has yet to find the house within which it won't work, regardless of type of boiler. Its main rival is Honeywell Evohome, which is similarly sophisticated, and expensive.

A true IoT system, it creates a network of connected devices around your home. That in turn allows you to zone off living areas. Then you can set desired temperatures for each based on your occupancy of those areas. What's great is the modular nature of Genius.

You can get the Hive or Nest experience by simply buying the Genius Kit base system at £249. Adding in valves and sensors as you desire to zone off additional areas of the house. So you are paying only for the tech you use - not forgetting that you can move the zones as your needs change.

Basically, if you have a large property, with areas that are regularly unoccupied, Genius or Evohome are the ideal products for you. (For more on this subject, see: best smart thermostats of 2017 / 2018.)

Genius review: what's new for 2017?

On 21 November 2016 Heat Genius started shipping its new 'Genius Hub' system to consumers. This builds on the existing zoned heating system and offers some significant upgrades. For one thing the kit looks better: the new thermostat is small and stylish, and connects wirelessly. It replaces an older thermostat that was wired into the wall and didn't do a lot other than confuse guests who presumed it controlled the heating. With the new thermostat you can stick it anywhere in the house and in effect create a new, movable zone.

As well as measuring the temperature, it allows you to manually set the temperature for a particular length of time. So when Granny visits it is trivial to make things warmer. Going wireless and being able to be placed anywhere means you can measure ambient temperature at a sensible point that accurately reflects the feel of the house, rather than a fixed point in a drafty hallway or above a radiator. (And it really is small: ours mostly lives in the unzoned dining room, behind a picture frame on a shelf.)

The Genius Hub itself is also smaller and more attractive. This matters as the previous model was somewhat bulky and resembled the mini PC that it truly was. Given that it needs to be connected to the router this wasn't ideal in terms of space and the attractiveness of your home. The new slimline device is, if anything, an advert for Heat Genius, as curious visitors may be minded to ask just what is that slick piece of digital home kit.

Critically, the improvements aren't skin-deep. The smaller Genius Hub now has a longer wireless range, coping easily with our old house and its solid walls. In our previous, smaller home the last-generation Genius Hub needed a smart plug to be in situ in order to reach around the whole house. The new system effortlessly reaches throughout our current abode, despite having to go further and through thicker walls. (It's better than our Wi-Fi network that is still a little flaky with an extender installed.) This is important, given that Heat Genius' core constituency is large, older properties.

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