Tado Smart Thermostat Starter Kit V3+ full review
Tado is a German smart heating thermostat that cleverly uses your location to determine when to turn down your heating while you're away from home, and then turn it back up again as you return.
It does this using GPS and other location indicators from your smartphone, which you link to the Tado Smart Thermostat - Tado calls this feature 'geofencing'. You link all the smartphones of the residents, so if one person remains at home while the rest of the family is out, the heating knows to stay on and keep that person warm.
When everybody is out of the house, Tado dials the heating down (so it is not heating an empty house) but is always looking out for when one or all return home so that it can turn the heating back on.
Price and availability
The Tado Smart Thermostat Starter Kit costs £199.99; with an optional £50 charge for professional installation. That £50 pro-installation is probably a wise investment for most home users, especially if you don't already have a room thermostat. Tado itself "strong recommends" an engineer installation.
Households that don’t have an existing room thermostat can use the Tado Extension Kit to set up a wireless connection to their heating system. The Extension Kit is available as an accessory to buy for £79.
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 £249, so would take 16 months to recoup using Tado's figures.)
The new V3+ version doesn't include geofencing as an automatic feature - although previous versions did. Instead, it notifies the last person leaving the home to turn it on (via the mobile app). For an extra fee, you buy a feature called Auto-Assist that does all this for you automatically - so no need for notifications and app tapping; instead Tado just does it all for you.
The V3+ Auto-Assist fee is £2.99 a month, or £24.99 for a full year. With the monthly fee, you can choose to activate it only in the winter months when your heating is most in use.
Unfortunately, some of the other best smart thermostats - including the Google Nest - offer the same geofencing features without a subscription, and have a similar upfront hardware cost, so Tado no longer looks like such good value.
How Tado works
Tado lets you schedule the usual times you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night – which can differ for weekends. The system 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 tap on the mobile app screen.
You can set a minimum Sleep temperature of 5°C. There’s 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. Through a feature called geofencing it 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.
Tado can also begin raising the temperature as you approach the house, so that it's already warm by the time you arrive. 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.
Even more intelligently, you can set the level that you want Tado to start pre-heating your home. When set to Comfort Tado ensures that your desired home temperature is reached shortly before your arrival. An Eco mode, on the other hand, saves more money by not turning the temperature up until you get much closer to home. And there's a Balance mode somewhere in between. You can toggle between these modes until you get to the level between cost-saving and comfort that's right for you and your family.
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.
You set different ideal temperatures for various times of the day (night, day, and evening), and you can separately control more than one room in the house using extra sensors in Tado's Smart Radiator Thermostats, which work hand-in-hand with the central Tado smart thermostat. The schedules work only when someone is at home.
You can set multiple zones for more individual temperature operation if you have a Tado sensor in each space you wish to control. And you can override the app with manual control (on Smart Thermostat and Smart Radiator Thermostats), which is useful if you have guests/babysitter visiting and you are out of the house.
Tado supports the three main voice assistants: Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri, so you can set the temperature simply by speaking using your phone or a smart speaker.
Another new feature, Open Window Detection, uses the temperature and humidity sensors built into Tado's Smart Thermostats and Smart Radiator Thermostats. When a sudden drop in temperature or humidity is detected it recognises that this is most likely an open window and can turn your heating temporarily down to save energy.
The Air Comfort skill helps you achieve a healthier indoor climate by providing insights into your home's air quality and humidity and suggesting ways in which you can improve it and avoid health risks such as mould.
Besides the current room climate and inside-air quality, Tado also uses outdoor air quality data for your home’s location to help you ventilate your home at the right time. For instance, it informs you to keep the windows closed if the air outside your home is polluted due to heavy traffic, or has high instances of particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. It also informs you of the pollen levels in the air, which can be useful if anyone in your family suffers from allergies.
The Energy Savings Report (shown above) shows how much energy Tado has saved you on a month-by-month basis. Tado also adapts to the weather - when sunshine is predicted, it turns the heating down to take advantage of the solar gain and avoid overshooting the set temperature, for higher efficiency and comfort at home. A new climate report now visualises these effects.
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.
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 or Mac. 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. This allows you to override the app's settings, and can be set to end when the next schedule starts or when Manual is turned off in the app.
Clear and concise online instructions guide you through the multi-part installation process.
If you have a wired thermostat you simply replace your old thermostat with the Tado Smart Thermostat. Any type of thermostat can be replaced, whether digital, analogue or relay controlled.
If you don’t have a wired thermostat you will need the Extension Kit to connect to your heating; you also need the Smart Thermostat.
You usually place the Smart Thermostat in the living room - it's battery powered so doesn't need a power connection - and the Extension Box is connected to your boiler via cable and placed next to it. The two devices connect wirelessly.
If you have a programmer attached to your boiler to control hot water production, the Extension Kit can replace it. It fits the UK standard backplate, so it's easy to replace the programmer without any rewiring. That said, we were mighty glad we had the installer there to do it all for us.
In addition, there's a Tado Gateway that connects to your router or home network, via ethernet cable. We found placing the Gateway near to the Tado box helped connectivity, and for that we set up a simple powerline home network, but depending on the layout of your home you might be able to get a great connection out of the box.
Tado claims that installing the system is “easy to do in just a few simple steps”. We’re less sure of that, especially if you don't have an existing room thermostat on the wall.
We’ve talked to a few heating engineers and they all recommended an expert install any of these smart heating systems. Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they, but I had an engineer install mine and I’m glad that I did as there were parts of the job that would have had me concerned. If you’re a very competent DIYer this may well be within your skill set. I’m man enough to admit that it would have worried me on more than one of the above actions. See below for what needed doing to wire the Tado box to the electrics inside my boiler.
Note though that my house didn’t have an existing room thermostat so the boiler needed more wiring – to take over the boiler’s clock timer – than it would have done if it did.
To be fair to Tado this is not unique to its system. A Nest engineer also warned us against self-install, and Nest itself "highly recommends" a full professional installation, though Nest has since released the Nest Thermostat E, a smart thermostat variant that's been specifically designed to be easy to install yourself.
Tado says that the system is compatible with boilers from the major manufacturers, including Vaillant, Worcester, Honetwell, Potterton, British Gas, Ariston, Buderus, Siemens, Wolf, Junkers, Drayton, Ideal, Danfoss, Baxi, Glow-worm, and more. Indeed, Tado claims that it is the most compatible smart thermostat on the market.
Tado also offers a service called Tado Care, designed to prevent heating system breakdowns and offering immediate help in case of malfunctions.
As part of the service a remote and free-of-charge boiler check is offered to all Tado customers every year in late summer. This check runs in the background and Tado sends a push notification via its app to assure that everything is working properly before the colder winter season starts.
A digital interface enables Tado Care to detect errors and maintenance requirements well in advance. It monitors the performance of the heating system and sends the user a message if action is required.
For example, if the water pressure is too low Tado will inform the customer in the mobile app news feed and will suggest self-help actions or connect him or her directly to an engineer if required. Tado is partnering with large installer networks such as HomeServe plc to offer immediate on the ground support.
Having a house’s heating being determined by who is in the house and who isn’t makes a lot of sense. Tado is the best smart thermostat at this as its presence detection simply follows you and your smartphone via GPS and other location factors, but those features are now locked behind a paid subscription.
Most of us just set the timer and only go back to the boiler to flick it on or off when we get too hot or cold. Being able to control this (wherever you are) via an app on your phone is a much more intelligent way to control your heating and energy costs. New inside and outside Air Comfort reports and Open Window Detection features, plus the ability to control multiple zones through smart radiator thermostats, improve on the central idea.
Tado isn’t cheap, but there is a money-back guarantee, and you should start saving on your heating bills within a few days, even with the subscription fee.