Whilst we've got used to upgrading our phones, computers and games consoles every couple of years, one piece of tech that always remains the same is the thermostat. I mean, why would you need to change it? Thermostats are boring, right?
Not any more - the Tado Heating App has just launched in the UK and it looks set to make your life a whole lot better.
What Tado does is hook up your heating to your home internet connection - enabling you to control it using an app. But it does so much more too. No more freezing cold mornings, no more uncomfortable nights when you forget to turn the temperature down before you went to bed - and no more staring with bewilderment at that weird dial on the boiler to figure out how to make it switch on at the right time.
The Hardware and Installation
Tado has been around for a couple of years in Germany, but the latest version launching here is newly redesigned for the UK market. Inside the box there's a few different components: the Tado thermostat itself, a separate temperature monitor and a receiver unit that plugs into one of the wired ethernet slots on your home router (it doesn't use your normal wifi).
Obviously the biggest challenge is going to be installing it. Originally, the plan was for Tado owners to install it themselves - apparently 95% of owners in Germany were able to do it singlehandedly. The Tado people tell me though that they've changed their plans for the UK, and will be offering professional installation to buyers - apparently thermostats over here operate on a much higher voltage, thus increasing the risk of death if someone like me starts poking around with a screwdriver.
Once the difficult bit at the wall has been installed (probably by an electrician) setup is nice and easy. Simply login to the Tado website with the username and password provided in the box, plug the receiver unit into your router and it'll call home and guide you through the setup process.
What's really nice about what you get in the box is that they've thought of everything. Not only do you get provided with a current-detecting screwdriver (in case you do want to have a go yourself), but you even get tab stickers to label the wires in the wall with - so if you move house and want to take your Tado with you, you can put your old thermostat back on the wall with ease. The separate temperature monitor is a good idea too. The thermostat box does contain a temperature gauge in it - though obviously if your thermostat is right above your radiator then this isn't terribly useful. So you can put this extra device somewhere more representative of your overall room temperature.
What the Tado uses this for is for automating the temperature - switching the boiler off if your house is already warm, rather than pumping more heat in. Which is great for use in summer, or if you have, say, a fireplace that can heat the room but not talk to the boiler. (They haven't invented wifi log fire places yet, alas).
So that's how it's put together - but how does it actually work? When you've downloaded and installed the app on your iPhone or Android smartphone, you start by setting your optimal temperatures for daytime and night - and the hours in which you sleep. This means that without you having to do anything, Tado will know to let you sleep at a cool 16 degrees, before heating things up so you can eat breakfast at a toasty 22 celsius.
"But my boring thermostat can already do that", I hear you cry. But this is where things only get started.
Not only does Tado have the real time feedback of a temperature gauge in the device figuring out how warm it actually is, and not just what it should be - but thanks to the power of the internet, it knows what the weather is going to be like too. So if it's already going to be warm and sunny out, it won't waste energy on your boiler - but will let the sun do all of the hard work instead.
Even cooler than this (umm, pun not intended) is that because the app is running on your phone, you can enable presence detection. This means that Tado will know if your home or not - and if you're not it can turn the heat down to save both money and the environment. It's even clever enough to figure out when you're heading home and switch things up before you even step in the front door. And don't worry if you have multiple people in the house - simply install the app on everyone's phone and the Tado will make sure they don't freeze to death.
There's also controls to easily toggle manual mode, and you can even switch everything off for when you go on holiday - with the Tado keeping things at 5 degrees, so your pipes won't freeze.
It even gives you a breakdown of projected costs and savings on your heating bills. And you can even see your usage as some nice graphs. Great!
The app is super slick, works great, but isn't 100% perfect though. I found rather quickly that I had to switch the presence detection mode off as it was draining my iPhone 4S (the GPS arrow symbol never quite switched off fully). But I'm optimistic a fix to this can be found. What's absolutely crucial to remember is that a minor niggle like this can be amended through an update to the app - which is easy for Tado to do. The hard bit - connecting the thermostat to the internet - has already been done, and never needs to be messed with again.
So is it worth getting a Tado? Interestingly in the UK they're selling it in two ways: You can buy the kit outright for £249, or rent the kit from them for £6/month - with a "guaranteed £10/month savings" on bills. So confident are Tado that they'll even give you a refund if you're not getting these savings after a year.
Usually the price comparison is going to be with other devices - a normal thermostat is around £20... but... you've already got a thermostat. Is it really worth replacing?
I've give an emphatic yes. Not only is Tado a thoroughly accomplished product for something so new, but if you're anything like me then your mind is filling with possibilities. I'm personally hoping that they link up Tado with Ifttt.com - the enables you to cleverly link different services (eg, "if someone tags me on Facebook, download the photo to my Dropbox). Imagine if it'd be possible to hook up your Tado with your Belkin Wemo Motion Detector (also supported by Ifttt) - and use that to trigger the presence detection? Imagine if it could hook up with your Google Calendar, so could figure out exactly where you'll be and whether your house needs heating!
Thanks to Tado, thermostats have just got a whole lot smarter - and the possibilities are only just starting to heat up!