Smart thermostats and radiator valves have transformed modern heating, with app controls, zoned heating, and home-away detection all combining to cut energy bills, improve convenience, and help save the environment to boot.
Still, not every smart heating system is the same - and in fact there's a huge amount of variation in tech and pricing, which can make it pretty confusing to the uninitiated. We've tested most of the smart systems in the UK market though, and here we've done our best to break down how each works and what might make them worth your money.
Read on below our chart for more in-depth buying advice.
Best smart heating system reviews
- Reviewed on: 8 May 2019
The Hive Active Heating system is a great upgrade for anyone that wants or needs the ability to be able to control their heating remotely. The recent addition of multizone support is also good, and the ability to boost heating and hot water is a great feature.
This second iteration of Hive is a giant leap forward from the solid (but somewhat dull) first-generation product. The interfaces of both the app and thermostat are intuitive and quick to use. There are clearly energy savings which Hive can help you make and you can quickly recoup your expenditure if you're conservative with your temperatures and schedule. And it is easy to add Hive Active Light as well as smart plugs and switches, too.
Read our Hive Active Heating 2 review.
- Reviewed on: 18 May 2016
Evohome is the best smart heating system we've tested. However, it isn't perfect and it's also very expensive, or can be. But if you value convenience and comfort above saving money in the short term, it's the one to buy.
Read our Honeywell Evohome review.
- Reviewed on: 21 November 2019
Being reliable, well-designed and easy to use, the Nest thermostat is a great choice. It doesn't have the array of accessories and compatibility of systems such as Honeywell Evohome, but you can buy separate smart TRVs to control radiators without changing your plumbing. The Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm also works with the thermostat, as does the Nest Cam camera. The 3rd generation can also control your hot water, making it even better, and the latest app update means your phone can tell it when you've gone out.
- Reviewed on: 27 September 2019
Genius is very good at a very useful thing. It is easy to use and efficient, and over time it may even save you the cost of installation. And it is fairly priced, but far from cheap. How long Genius takes to pay for itself will depend on your circumstances, and it may be that dropping £800 to £1,200 or more is too much of a long-term investment for you. But it is a great product, and if you are looking to install in your home a zoned smart heating system, we are happy to recommend Genius - not least because of its potential as a true smart home network for your house.
Read our Genius review.
- Reviewed on: 28 November 2019
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.
- Reviewed on: 24 August 2018
Wiser is easy to install and easy to use. It doesn’t have lots of advanced features but is a lot cheaper than some of its rivals, including Tado and Netatmo.
The app is great, too, and several features have been added since launch including Alexa and IFTTT.
Read our Drayton Wiser Multi-Zone review.
- Reviewed on: 21 November 2019
The Nest E is a great smart thermostat that’s comfortably among the most stylish and easy to use on the market, but as it stands in the UK, there’s not much reason to opt for the E over the existing 3rd gen Nest, which has some extra functionality for a similar price - excluding the potential cost of a professional installation.
The E is slightly easier to install by yourself, but still requires dealing with screws, fuses, and wiring. If you’re so worried about picking up a screwdriver that you’ll pay for installation either way, then you might as well buy the 3rd gen. If you’re so confident that you know you could install either, buy the 3rd gen too. The only real reason to buy the E is if you’re confident enough in DIY to install the E, but not enough to try for the full Nest.
It's a different story in the US though - a bigger price gap makes the E an easy recommendation if you're in the States, as there it offers all of the most important features of the third generation Nest, together with design improvements, for a significantly lower price.
Read our Nest Thermostat E review.
- Reviewed on: 15 May 2015
Netatmo's thermostat is relatively basic, lacking any kind of presence detection, but it works well and is one of the cheaper options. The display lets you adjust temperature and nothing else, so you'll need a compatible phone or tablet to get the most from the system.
Read our Netatmo Smart Thermostat review.
- Reviewed on: 28 January 2016
So, what do we think of the Devolo home control system as a smart heating system? Even though it was designed with the whole home in mind, the heating accessories make the Devolo system a great smart heating system, although not as invasive as the likes of Hive and Nest. Unlike those, you don’t need an engineer to install it – in fact, it only took us minutes to do it ourselves. It provides per-room temperature control, where Nest and Hive can only control the temperature of the house as a whole. However, to control the boiler you'll need the smart thermostat as well.
The app experience lets it down a bit, but the full website more than makes up for a frustrating mobile app. Devolo’s additional accessories can turn a dumb home smart, and it can be a gradual process as all accessories are sold separately.
- Reviewed on: 11 February 2016
If you're replacing a wired thermostat and don't mind fixing the Momit in the same place, then installation is an absolute breeze, and a snip at under £100. It's certainly not the most stylish and isn't really suitable if you need to control hot water too, but for many people it will give them the remote control they need, with good presence detection and geo-location as bonuses. If you need a wireless smart thermostat you'll need to buy the optional £29 extension box which brings the price very close to the 2nd Gen Nest (now around £130) which may be a better buy if looks are important to you, or you value the integration with the Nest Cam and Nest Protect.
Read our Momit Home Thermostat review.
Guide to buying smart home heating
The key question is the level to which you need - or want - to make your heating smart.
Most of these systems - Hive, Nest, Netatmo and Tado - simply put a smart thermostat into the most-used room in the house or the hallway, and moderate the temperature of the whole house to match that room. For smaller houses in which most rooms are in regular use this is probably a cost-effective way of attaining the desired results. You can always turn off the radiators you don't need to avoid heating rooms unnecessarily.
They also make it easier to set schedules and many have 'smart' features to make your heating more efficient and therefore save you money. For example, they can detect when no one's home and automatically turn off the heating.
Honeywell Evohome, Tado, and Genius offer something better. One of the ways they do this is by replacing the valves on your radiators with 'smart' valves. They allow you to divide up your home into various zones and then offer smart heating in each zone, so your guest bedroom is heated only when required, the master bedroom is warm in the morning and at bedtime, and the kitchen is hot at tea time.
Tado can be smart-radiator based or a combination of room thermostat and zonal control via its Smart Radiator Thermostats. These smart TRVs can often be used independently of the thermostat so you don't necessarily need to buy the same brand and you can still use them with Nest, which doesn't currently offer the valves. The only issue there is that you'll need two separate apps to control your heating.
In any case, Honeywell, Genius and certain others can control more sophisticated heating systems (including underfloor heating and hot water tanks) but, of course, they are a lot more expensive. And in the UK at least, all modern houses with living space covering ground greater than 150m2 have to be built with at least two zones of heating, according to 2013 Building Regulations Part L.
So again: a well-used, modern, small house (or flat) is unlikely to need this level of sophistication, and a well-used large home may have sufficient zones plumbed in to make Nest or Hive a good solution. Just remember that you'll need one thermostat per zone, so while it's cheaper than fitting each radiator with a £50/$50 smart TRV, it's still relatively expensive.
If you have a boiler and central heating you will likely be able to fit any of the systems here. Storage heaters are another matter, as we discuss in this article: can I use a smart thermostat if I have a storage heater?
The right smart-heating system for you will be dictated by your home, your use of that home and your requirement to save money.
The good news is there is a way of making every house more efficient, comfortable and the householder more wealthy (or at least less poor). But the best way for each house will differ.
Remember that you might also want to supplement your central heating system with a separate portable system, which can give you some more manual control over where you heat. We've reviewed a few portable heaters here, so take a look for our recommendations.