back to article British Gas robo home remote gets itself into hot water

Energy has been in the news again lately, but not in the way that suppliers would favour. On Tuesday, opposition leader Ed Miliband promised to freeze energy prices for 20 months if Labour made it into power. It’s a message British Gas was keen to forget as it announced its renewed commitment to the connected home in London …


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      1. James Cooke

        Re: Shirley

        I already have and the price was about £50. My main purpose was in easy ability to change hot water times as we work changing shifts not change the temperature - there's a nob on the wall that does that.

        1. Roger Greenwood

          Re: Shirley

          In which case have a well earned pint.

  1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    rules of engagement?

    I've never engaged with my thermostat before, either, but I've been turning them up down for something close to half a century.. What exactly does Ms. Bhatia mean?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: rules of engagement?

      You engage with spouses and enemies... There may be deeper implications to that word than I had previously realized.

  2. Greg D

    missing the point much?

    Many of you seem to be missing the point entirely and of the same ilk as the old gits back in the 70's bemoaning the increasing interest in mobile telephony. Basically stifling progress with a mindset of "well I dont need it so no one else should have it".

    This sounds damn handy. If you're looking to save some money and gain convenience.

    - While you're at work, heating down or off and 20 mins before you arrive home, you can flick it back on. Saving money and time spent in a cold house when you arrive home from a stressful day.

    - If you're ill or suffering hot/cold flushes, getting up constantly to adjust the thermostat is a pain in the arse (depending on illness, sometimes literally).

    We have the technology, why the fuck not use it?

    1. Don Jefe

      Re: missing the point much?

      I've got full home automation. She can be temperamental, suffers recurring periods of malfunction and the contractual lock in is really long term; but also isn't ultra specialized like "just a thermostat": True whole house feature set.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: missing the point much?

      "We have the technology, why the fuck not use it?"

      Anything else YOU want? Inconsiderate but not unexpected.

  3. Arachnoid

    Wasting more money on energy

    Another ploy for making money by telling the customer they need to interact with their home environment even when they are not there.For the softies who don't like coming home to a cold house set the clock correctly [OOH there a good way of making extra money lets have an app for that too].

    I work 12 hours shifts days and nights,its not that hard to turn it off before I go out or on when I come in so stop making a big deal out of it.

  4. Flatpackhamster

    Is the home owner the only person who can control it?

    It's just that since smart electricity metering now allows the energy company to ration your energy based upon demand (part of the Grand Plan for cutting electricity consumption), does that mean that the gas company can do the same?

    If so, I think I might just keep the one on the wall that I have to turn up and down with my hand.

  5. Aidan242

    Not for modern homes.

    Sadly, living in a halfway modern home with more than one heating zone, this doesn't fly. Just as well, as I don't fancy replacing 12 thermostats/thermocron at a cost of £199 each. BG had this to say "Multiple thermostats, often termed multi-zone heating are not supported by Remote Heating Control™ at the moment. The system has been designed for single thermostat systems only."

  6. JimmyPage Silver badge

    Obvious use ...

    work out when the owners mobile is approaching home, and have heating fired up when they're 20 minutes away ?

    Could also turn on driveway lights ? And the oven ?

    Just a thought.

  7. Matt_payne666

    I like the idea of remotely controlling my heating... not so much now that im a grown up with children... the house is always empty at 9am on a weekday and its always occupied from 3:30 in the afternoon... so the olf thermostat does a good job of controlling the temps...

    but, in my past I never knew when id be home (if at all!) so being able to turn the heating and hot water on when I left for home would have been useful...

    as for £200? its not cheap, but ive pissed larger amounts up the wall for less useful gadgets....

  8. GrumpyOldMan

    Who has control?

    If you can control it with Their app, maybe they can too....? Bigger Bro is on the way perhaps?

  9. Timo

    can they prove these save money?

    Relative has one of the whizzy "nest" thermostats that are all about Industrial Design. And every 5 minutes he's on the thing turning it up or turning it down via his fondleslab.

    I can't imagine that saves much money over the long run as all he's doing is fighting with the expensive "technology" <cough> iDesign <cough> inside.

  10. Arachnoid

    so being able to turn the heating and hot water on when I left for home

    Combi boilers have instant hot water ergo don't waste unused energy storing hot water in a systern tank which leaks energy to the surrounding room or heating unused water.Sounds like you would be better investing into a new system with higher boiler efficiency than in this "toy".

    1. Richard Jones 1

      Re: so being able to turn the heating and hot water on when I left for home

      Be careful what you wish for. Those 'oh so efficient boilers' often have a life span measured in months before they eat spare parts like they were cornflakes. Over 7 years my father paid out the equal of a whole new boiler, in just the spare parts, labour extra. True he had it replaced for half the BG price by a new boiler that has less of an appetite for bits. Over 21 years my old chug along boiler has cost about £300 in spares and £ 200 for servicing. I'm sorry, the money not spent on repairs and new boilers is way greater than the money (not) saved on some crappy new style combi boiler. One other benefit, with an immersion heater I can bypass any boiler fault and still have hot water, try that with a dead combi!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "Sounds like you would be better investing into a new system with higher boiler efficiency than in this "toy"."

      The neighbour updated their 30 year old boiler. I didn't.

      Guess who has FAR more call outs?

  11. All names Taken

    yawn - boring.

    And they will still manage to overcharge anyway

  12. Arachnoid

    Combi boilers v Old Boilers

    Combi boilers are like any other tech you get the "cheap and cheerful" end and the "dearer, works better,higher spec and lasts longer type".Ergo you go for a low spec system you get more maintenance and repair bills.As for efficiency you would be lucky to get in the range of 30-40% from an older type boiler whereas a newer well built and maintained boiler can get over 70% efficiency.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: Combi boilers v Old Boilers

      Over 90% actually...

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Combi boilers v Old Boilers

      "Combi boilers are like any other tech you get the "cheap and cheerful" end and the "dearer, works better,higher spec and lasts longer type".Ergo you go for a low spec system you get more maintenance and repair bills.As for efficiency you would be lucky to get in the range of 30-40% from an older type boiler whereas a newer well built and maintained boiler can get over 70% efficiency."

      Well strictly you'd expect 80% from an old boiler but modern (condensing) types run something like 90-95% by preheating the water through the flue heat exchanger.

      But combi boilers are a compromise design. Either you want hot water for a tap and/or bath/shower or you want it to heat radiators.

      Better solution is to separate the 2 tasks with separate systems that are best at each.

      BTW IIRC in the book "Alternative Energy Without Hot Air" the author says solar water heating is always a good idea, even in the UK, as it's something everyone wants and the panels can use all the solar spectrum, unlike PV panels.

      Yes I probably spend far too much time studying plumbing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Combi boilers v Old Boilers

        "in the book "Alternative Energy Without Hot Air"

        Are you sure you don't mean Professor David Mackay's book "Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air" ?

        Freely downloadable at and well worth a read. Some will disagree with some aspects of it, but there's nothing else like it as a starting point.

        Don't remember the comment about solar hot water but there's a lot in the book and it's been a while since I read it.

        I can't help wondering if the obsession with domestic combi boilers will prove to be a short term fad, given that they rely on energy (usually gas) being available and affordable at the time of demand, whereas it seems entirely possible to me that there will soon be benefits in having a few hours heat storage (such as a well insulated and maybe hotter and larger than usual hot water tank) to benefit from daily peak/off-peak variations in energy supply and price.

        Bring back calorifiers (if you've got space). Buy the input when it's cheap, and store the heat for a few hours till you need it. Yes there'll be heat losses. But if the peak time energy price is (say) twice the off peak, and you can store the energy without too much loss, what's not to like?

  13. Lee D Silver badge

    I work in IT. Obviously.

    I live my working life in a temperature-controlled environment that does not vary by more than 1 degree at any time, no matter what time of year.

    EVERY summer, people wander in and tell me how cold my office is, repeatedly, all the time.

    EVERY winter, people wander in and tell me how hot my office is, repeatedly, all the time.

    No matter what the local weather, people seem to think my room is magically changing temperature. It's not. It hasn't. In many years. Nor have any of the server rooms. I can show you pretty graphs if you don't believe me.

    People's perception of temperature is extremely personal and odd. I'm sure if you gave someone an app that did nothing but LOOKED LIKE IT, they'd play with the temperatures just as much and tell you how well it works. That's not a selling point for the system. And, to be honest, until I NOTICE it's cold myself, why would I want to change the settings? It might have been absolutely fine, but no, I've ramped up the boiler "just in case".

    If it's a cold day, and I get home, the house will be warmer than the outside anyway and I'll be glad of the (comparative) warmth. Only after 30 minutes or so, after I've acclimatised, will it "feel" cold/hot and I'll want to change the boiler settings. So a remote thermostat does nothing here.

    And thermostats are NOT on/off switches. Set it once, when you get the house, and then NEVER TOUCH IT AGAIN. You'll save more energy than any amount of faffing about up and down in temperature. Similarly, if you feel cold but it's 20 in your living room? Chances are that ramping up the heat isn't the answer. Put a jumper on, or check yourself for a temperature, etc. You don't WANT to be submitting to every whim of temperature that your body thinks it has, really you don't. And if other people live in the house, you'll just annoy them and make them feel "worse" 50% of the time you do that. Don't. Agree on a temperature and leave it there, forever.

    My workplace (a school) has remote-controlled boilers. It's an expensive system because it has to heat dozens of rooms much larger than any you'll find in a house and it can take hours to get up to temperature. Still, it's set to be at a temperature for the duration of the school day, all year round and it just does more clever ramping up/down knowing what the temp is outside and how long it takes to heat up the building - NOTHING at all that needs remote apps or energy-provider assistance. Why would you want anything else? In fact, it's adjusted so "often", we've forgotten how to do it and the guy who did left last month. It's not been a problem thus far (and this is a workplace that has a legal minimum and maximum temperature, unlike just about every other workplace in the country).

    Privacy issues? Who cares? British Gas or any electricity company could know how much energy I'm using at any time if they bothered to adjust the pipes in the street rather than in my boiler cupboard. It's really not necessary to be in there at all for them to do that (which makes me more suspicious of it, actually, but really I don't care enough to worry about it).

    The problem is being a control freak. You're not ACTUALLY doing anything when you play with all the knobs and buttons except possibly using more energy than necessary (wonder why the energy companies like it?) and making yourself think you're controlling your environment. You're not. And if you wanted to, there have been devices to do that for DECADES and do a better job.

    How about getting on with your life, experiencing cold and switching on the heating only when you of FEEL cold like the rest of humanity? Rather than micromanaging a climate around yourself that annoys just about everyone else who ever visits?

  14. SirDigalot

    US houses

    We have a house built in 89, it is crap..

    single pane windows with more holes than a block of swiss cheese

    it is a block house (small fortune there) the loft insulation is meh (R19) and the cavity insulation is much the same, though the cavity is quite small ( about 3 inches just enough for a socket box)

    We were approached by a glazing firm at our local Members only store (BJ's - like Costco only with a name made for puerile teenage minds like mine) and they tried to sell us their new multi pane glass windows... admittedly they fit in the frames better than ours, but other than that they were just 2 pains of glass not sealed evacuated or filled with noble gasses and such, not triple pained European glory. I was quite upset really... they also showed me tinfoil that I can put on my roof to stop the loft heating up because it makes the forced air ducts get too hot ( mine are actually properly insulated I also said it is just tinfoil and the sun does not directly shine on it so being reflective on the inside of my roof is not that great ( they use one of those infrared lamps shining on raw insulation to prove how awesome it was at keeping out the heat)

    the power company give us a "credit" on our electricity bill for controlling when our A/C and or heat is on during peak times ( maybe $2 a month I am telling them to stick it since it is bloody useless anyway)

    we set the thermostat to 83 or 84 in the summer (for A/C and 78 (daytime) 68 (night) in the winter (for heat) though it rarely goes on even in winter except for the odd cold morning near freezing...which would be negated if the bloody windows were better!)

    it is a programmable timer so does not stay on all the time anyway.

    the hot water is solar and barely even uses electric heat ( unless the kid decides to have a 30 minute shower at night, even though she is told NOT to) but then I just turn off the element and they all suffer through cold water mainly because I am an a-hole.

    Even in the colder states there seemed to be a big lack of super duper efficient windows and suck unlike the UK and definitely not Europe, and, when you find one out here they charge 3 times the earth and your first born ( I tried negotiating for the second born but they were not interested)

    Though it is getting better... Luckily I live in florida so it is not too cold, just wet, the A/C is mainly for dehumidifying than cool... most people down here set the AC to mid or low 70's and complain of super high electricity bills and never seem to think A.) it is too friggen cold and B.) they have the same windows as I do single pane monstrosities with leaks, this is true even for houses built as late as 2002! I guess energy efficiency is more of a luxury add on than a necessity

    I saw some houses they have just constructed this year near my neighbourhood they have the same aweful double pane things they were trying to sell me at the store

    ** apparently they have a Low-E coating to reflect the sun or something... they are still crap, and sash style windows**

    ok enough with the ex-pat rose coloured glasses again....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: US houses


      Crap houses in Florida? You expected what in that third-world retrograde part of the US?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: US houses

        "You expected what in that third-world retrograde part of the US?"

        This is a state that's got some people with serious cash to spend.

        I'd hate to imagine what Arkansas (routinely listed as the 50th poorest US state in a field of 50) is like.

        Although I guess bacons pretty cheap there (pig farming is a big industry there, along with "Deliverance" tours).

  15. DougS Silver badge

    Hot water??

    Do people in the UK fiddle with their hot water temperature or even turn the heater on/off that much? I don't know anyone in the US who doesn't set it once and then never messes with it ever again.

    I can tell how much it costs me to run mine since it is the only consumer of gas in the summer, and it is less than $20/month. Once when I was gone for three weeks out of the month my bill was only $5, so keeping my water up to temperature obviously costs so little it wouldn't be worth messing with even if I had easy control of it. Maybe people in the UK don't believe in insulation their hot water heaters?

    The idea of messing with your hot water heater, especially in a place that only ever needs heat and not air conditioning, is just bizarre to me.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A Hive. One Queen. *many* drones.

    So who does BG think you are in this picture?

    And £200 for LCD + microcontroller +GSM card + (maybe) 4 lines for the boiler interface.

    This is for a corporation with BG's buying power.

    BTW the "smart meter" roll out is not mandated by the EU if the roll out for the business case does not close.

    And AFAIK it does not.

    You want control? Get a controller that supports an outside temperature sensor.

  17. Mage Silver badge

    If it's really cold I light the fire with some turf. Bottle or Mains gas is insanely expensive here. If we get really poor we can burn the bannisters, chairs, table etc.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like a great idea but...

    ... I'd burn my Granny as fuel before I'd give a penny to British Gas under any circumstances. In the hierarchy of consumer hate nothing else comes close.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Sounds like a great idea but...

      "... I'd burn my Granny as fuel before I'd give a penny to British Gas under any circumstances. In the hierarchy of consumer hate nothing else comes close."

      I've heard they have a talent for making enemies of their customers.

      TBF I suppose if you run say a yearly price check and they came to the top of the list as cheapest you'd have to go with them.

      I'm not sure if they ever are the cheapest.


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