back to article Ecobee3: If you're crazy enough to want a smart thermostat – but not too crazy – this is for you

So in order to test out the Ecobee3 - as its names suggests, the third iteration of the product - it was necessary to pull the Nest smart thermostat off the wall and put it away. That this act seemed somehow wrong and even came with a twinge of guilt is an indication of just how entrancing the product that has become the face …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    USA-isian only

    24 V standard HVAC control. That is a USA specialty.

    Most of Eu have 12V. For example my home office aircon/heat pump has a 12V dry terminal block board because it was built to Eu market reqs. IIRC rest of the world with the exemption of the UK is also predominantly 12V control.

    UK is an odd one out with a very large install base of 220V direct action thermostats where the thermostat directly on/off the heating pump without an interim relay. Some systems even have 220V servos. I showed the spec on one of them (funnily enough built by Honeywell) to one of my USA friends and he choked on his coffee: "Are you nuts? 220V for a servo?"

    1. Gary Bickford

      Re: USA-isian only

      A small number of electric baseboard heating systems in the US use line voltage (120VAC) thermostats - presumably for reasons of cheapness and simplicity.

      1. thatisnotwhatisaid

        Re: USA-isian only

        One prime reason for line voltage control on electric heat is that modern thermostats will use duty cycle control of the power to ramp the heat output to match demand.

        I have a thermostat on an electric radiant panel that works this way. Four levels of active drive, 25%, 50%, 75%, 100%, and it uses PID control to determine the required output from the panel to achieve the set point. As a result, it rarely turns completely off, or completely on, once the room temperature stabilizes.

        That would entail a lot of 'chatter' using relays. The thermostat is solid state, and uses zero-cross sensing to avoid high IR drop during activate/cut transitions.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: USA-isian only

      If you use Zigbee you don't need to worry about varying voltages. It makes plumbing in extra sensors and radiator valves trivial too (Not that USAians use rads much, heat pumps are much more efficient than boilers)

      Heat-save's setup is nice (motion sensors, window sensore, motorised TRVs) and Honeywell have something simliar.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USA-isian only

      USA only? No, most systems sold in Australia also use 24v ac for control.

  2. John H Woods Silver badge

    Does it really save that much?

    Going out on a limb here (having no central heating at all, I don't know) but does it really make much difference turning the temperature down when you're out? Surely that can only be the case if you really need to buy some insulation? Or perhaps even shut the windows.

    1. Bassey

      Re: Does it really save that much?

      According to my heating engineer the simple answer is no. He installed a new heating system for us with a new all-singing all-dancing programmable remote thermostat. It was his son that did all the electronic set up etc for us. He doesn't see the point. According to him the most efficient way to run a modern boiler is to use thermostatic valves on all the radiators. He reckons that, once the valve is set to the correct temperature on each rad. then the boiler will use absolutely bugger-all fuel maintaining the staus quo. Modern condensor boilers only really use energy when they have to change the temperature.

      Although I should add that this really applies to modern, well insulated homes with decent windows etc. We'd just spent £2.5k on the boiler, cavity wall insulation, double insultating the loft and having any dodgy windows re-sealed which is why he thought we were wasting £120 on the gadget.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Does it really save that much?

        According to him the most efficient way to run a modern boiler is to use thermostatic valves on all the radiators.

        I have to second that. Some time ago I did just that in my well-insulated modern house. Total cost of valves - 300 EUR (some rads already had 'em).

        Payback time was under a year and manifested itself as a 450 EUR refund after the following winter. I have to admit to being somewhat gobsmacked at the time.

        Obvious really. The way you waste money is by heating rooms more than is necessary. No central thermostatic control on earth is ever going to be able to vary usage by room. So, if you're thinking of lashing out a few hundred on shiny wall-mounted toys and you haven't already got thermostatic valves, don't bother. Insulate first, then valves, then and only then get the shiny.

        1. Gary Bickford

          Re: Does it really save that much?

          The problem I've noticed in the past with stats on the radiators is that there is a very inaccurate relation between temp near the radiator and in the rest of the room. But having a thermostat in every room, or even multiple per room, does make sense. As the article notes, this Eco-whatever unit averages those thermostats to determine the useful room 'temp'. Also, if a particular room is only used for one hour per day, it seems to me that it would be better to allow that room to drift, so having some knowledge or setting regarding the time of use would also be beneficial.

          A co-worker used a Commodore Amiga back in the early 1980s to control his combination oil-fired hot water and solar hot water. In the summer oil-fired hot water is inefficient. So his system monitored the temperature outside and some other things, and balanced available solar heat with the oil-burner.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Does it really save that much?

      Depends where.

      USA - maybe.

      UK (or another place with water radiator central heating) - definitive no. Fitting Danfoss Living Eco or one of its equivalents to key radiators will get you to the same place for a fraction of the money ~ 31£ per room + the price of 2AA batteries per year. I have had them in all rooms which are not used 24x7 (sitting, dining, home office, etc). They are programmed to allow the temperature to drop to 15C at night as well as during well known "unoccupied" periods and power up back to 20C at 6am. The overall cost saving is quite noticeable too.

      The only case where you need something more complex is when you have a really weird and irregular usage pattern and only if you can hook up the central heating control to the occupancy sensors.

      1. Esme
        Meh

        Re: Does it really save that much?

        Ye gods, you set a 15C night temperature? That's a comfy day temperature for me! I have trouble sleeping well in a temperature in double-digits, and prefer night temperatures down around 5C. I've wondered for years what the impact on energy usage in the UK has been of central heating, seems to me it's just lead to gnerations of folk over-heating their environment rather than just putting a cardigan on if they're feeling a tad cold. It's certainly lead, in conjunction with waste heat from office machinery (like PCs) in buildings not designed with 'em in mind to overheated offices becoming common, with consequent adverse affect on office-workers health (overheating, larger amounts of particulates suspended in the warmer, dryer air). And don;' get me started on trains where the heaters seme to come on any time the temperature is uder 15C, despite the fact that everyone will have dressed for the weather..

        </grumpy old biddy> (chuckle)

    3. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Does it really save that much?

      Going out on a limb here (having no central heating at all, I don't know) but does it really make much difference turning the temperature down when you're out?

      Yes! Bad advice from Bassey's dodgy plumber notwithstanding, this is simple physics.

      Your heating bill is driven by the heat loss from your house. The rate of loss is set by the standards of insulation, but if you see those as set, then your heat losses are proportional to the delta between inside and outside temperature, multiplied by how long the heating is maintaining that difference.

      The daily savings from optimising the internal temp or running hours are generally pence per day, but if you can save 70p per day during the circa 190 heating days each year then you've got a two year cash payback.

      Certainly if you've got programmeable TRVs or a programmeable house stat and they are properly set up (most aren't) then a smart thermostat won't save you much if anything. And if you are a miser who only has the system on when in the house, and always turns it off over night and when out of the house, again you won't save much. Away from those scenarios then a smart thermostat would probably give you a worst case four year to five payback: Where else will you get a minimum 20-25% rate of return on an investment?

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Does it really save that much?

        And if you are a miser who only has the system on when in the house, and always turns it off over night and when out of the house, again you won't save much

        Yup, that's me. But it's not about being miserly, it's about not being wasteful. It's like not leaving the light on in any room you're not going to be in and out of frequently.

        1. Gary Bickford

          Re: Does it really save that much?

          I think what we're all talking about here is that we're gradually going to build house HVAC and lighting systems that do the misering for you, which is a good thing.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Does it really save that much?

          "It's like not leaving the light on in any room you're not going to be in and out of frequently."

          PIR light switches....

          And the ultimate extension on this is occupancy sensors and window open sensors controlling the rad valves.

          There are kits out there which do this.

      2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Does it really save that much?

        a miser who only has the system on when in the house

        Bah! A true miser simply puts on another shirt and when it's finally cold enough he unplugs the fridge.

        1. Gary Bickford

          Re: Does it really save that much?

          I used to tell my daughter that not raising the thermostat two degrees would save enough money to buy her a new sweater every month! :D She was not impressed though.

      3. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Does it really save that much?

        "Your heating bill is driven by the heat loss from your house. The rate of loss is set by the standards of insulation, but if you see those as set, then your heat losses are proportional to the delta between inside and outside temperature, multiplied by how long the heating is maintaining that difference." -- Ledswinger

        Sorry Ledswinger, I do understand the physics, but I'm still not convinced. Say at 5℃ outside, your house, at 20℃, is 15 K hotter. You drop the thermostat to 15℃ when you are out. Eventually, your house will get to 15℃ and your heat loss rate will be two thirds of what it would have been. But, until it gets to that temperature the reduction of your heat loss is less than a third. And when the heating goes back on, it has to work harder to raise the temperature of the house.

        So if your temperature drops to 15 quite quickly, your have more serious problems that your thermostatic control. And if it drops quite slowly, your house is so well insulated that you may as well keep your heating on. You probably don't want to drop your temp by much more than 5K, not just because your heating has to work harder, but because you don't really want to temperature cycle your house and its contents by much more than this on a regular basis.

        So, a themostat thats 5K lower when you are out can save you money, but maybe not as much as it seems. But these things have to be even better than that - because their opportunity to save you money is only when you are out and you didn't expect to be. And the most common scenario I see quoted for this "late home from the office" is only going to be a few hours of cooling. Finally, there is only a very brief period in family life when you are all out, or all in at the same time, so unless your the kind of office worker who thinks the spouse and kids should shiver along with you when you're stuck in the data centre, I just don't think the maths adds up for most situations.

        1. Ledswinger Silver badge

          Re: Does it really save that much?

          "You drop the thermostat to 15℃ when you are out. Eventually, your house will get to 15℃ and your heat loss rate will be two thirds of what it would have been. But, until it gets to that temperature the reduction of your heat loss is less than a third. And when the heating goes back on, it has to work harder to raise the temperature of the house."

          That sounds suspiciously like the common argument that "if you turn the heating off, it uses more energy to warm the place up" which is simply untrue (and in any event, a higher delta on the primary and return heating circuits would actually make most heating systems MORE efficient, not less). Unless you've got a poorly insulated high thermal mass house, then any half decent boiler can easily warm the house up in a few minutes, and there's no reason to set it for 15C when you're not there - why pay to keep the cats warm when they've got fur coats? In a well insulated house even turning the heating down by a few degrees will cause the boiler to turn off for a fairly protracted length of time, so you wouldn't be using gas at two thirds the rate you were in your example, even though that would be the case over a more extended time period. Potentially 10-15% of your total heating bill is being spent on eight hours a day or so of 15C heating of an empty house.

          A well set up heating system should (typically) see the CH go off twenty minutes before the house becomes vacant. With perhaps sixteen hours of daily occupancy, that twenty minutes is 2% of your space heating energy use. If the system is properly configured, then it would come on ***just*** in time to raise the temperature to the desired level for occupants coming home. If that's only ten minutes difference, you've saved another 1% of your heating bill. Now, if you vary the heating by time of day when you're in, then you're probably cutting around a further 7% from your heating costs (when you're active you can run a lower temperature and still be comfortable).

          You can do all this yourself with a dumb-ish programmable thermostat and time (I've had this for two decades), but it's a pain to set up. A good smart thermostat will do all of that for you with minimal effort, and for many people can save more than 20% of their heating costs for no change in comfort. Stuff the tree hugging issues, and look at it as an economic and practical investment, and there's relatively few scenarios where a smart thermostat doesn't make sense, particularly if you do your research and avoid the crummy "me-too" smart thermostats rushed to market by some makers. Arguably the optimal solution is a Nest. Install, let it get settled in, then when it is working to your satisfaction stop it connecting to your wifi if you've got privacy concerns.

    4. Planty Bronze badge

      Re: Does it really save that much?

      It does. Mine hit the projected payback in two year. I can correlate £10 a month saving to fitting Nest. The house is warmer when it needs to be in addition

      I have years worth of historic energy use in my online account and can see a sizeable reduction since fitting nest. Last winter was a particularly cold and extended one too.

      I also love the monthly nest energy report emails.

      Worth every penny any then some. Also a doddle to fit, especially if you use the desktop stand.

      Nest on a stand

  3. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    The elephant in the room...

    If you live in an energy efficient dwelling, then that implies that it has a fair amount of insulation and hopefully some thermal mass inside the thermal envelope. The individual rooms (being so well insulated from the outside) don't drift very far apart. It also follows that the heating system can be of fairly low power (e.g. 10 kW or 34kBTU/h). The end result is that the thermal time constant is extended. E.g. It can take hours for the house to drop in temperature for the usual overnight temperature reduction. (Applies to aircon too, in the opposite direction.)

    If your dwelling's temperature is going up and down like a yoyo, and you thus benefit from room occupancy sensors and endless adjustments, then your dwelling is hardly energy efficient.

    In summary - you're doing it wrong.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: The elephant in the room...

      Ah, but how much heat is added to the room energy balance by said elephant? The average human clocks in at around 80 Watts when idle; if energy output is proportional to body weight an average elephant (adult, spherical and of uniform density) would radiate up to 7kW (500 NorrisLinguini per second), enough to heat the entire house, not just that one room.

  4. Irongut

    I just don't see the point in these things. If it's cold I turn the heating on, if it gets too warm I turn it off. If I'm not home it stays off because I'm not there to turn it on. Where is the saving going to come from?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      I suspect you will find that most people just leave their thermostat (in the uk at least) to a constant temperature regardless of whether they are in or out. Especially if someone is not working and in and out all day.

      Your point stands in that it just requires some discipline to manage your heating - but most people don't have / or want to develop that discipline even when its costing them money.

      1. Ledswinger Silver badge

        "most people don't have / or want to develop that discipline even when its costing them money"

        The problem is the level of discipline and application needed to properly set up a heating and HW system optimised for maximum efficiency with a given comfort envelope. The failure over countless years of heating controls manufacturers to solve the complexity problem created the opportunity for Nest. Anybody's who's tried setting a typical programmeable thermostat and a separate heating & HW control timer will know what a PITA they are to set up.

        Why should people have to be rocket scientists just to get the heating to work well and efficiently? That's not really a lack of discipline, it's a supply chain failure to give them the tools to do it, right up until the former Apple guys decided to fix the problem with Nest.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "Anybody's who's tried setting a typical programmeable thermostat and a separate heating & HW control timer will know what a PITA they are to set up."

          Erm....

          Programmable thermostat controls the on/off of the heating.

          HW is on-demand with a condensing boiler, so there's no timezones to worry about (unless you like the hot tap being cold at certain times of the day). If you have a gas system using a cylinder then you're automatically using an inefficient one and if it's electric then you'd better be running it on offpeak power or you're better off using demand-heaters where you need it (and of course then there's the madness of cylinders _and_ a power shower.)

          1. Sadie
            FAIL

            as fitted to my relatively new flat :( Along with Night storage heaters >.< )

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's not just whether I'm in or out, it's whether the rest of the family are. My wife's working hours vary from week to week. When the children are in depends whether it's term time or not. We share the house with my mother-in-law who is retired, and goes out to different things at different times. In principle I want to upgrade our heating controls sometime, but I can't see a system like this with a single central thermostat saving much. Changing the existing TRVs for Z-wave units giving per room zoning might save more, but at £60 a valve payback will still take some time. Downstairs the Nu-Heat underfloor heating isn't completely fucked yet, unlike upstairs, so I haven't replaced that with radiators yet, but it'll be about the same.

        1. Gary Bickford

          Nu-heat bad, warm water radiant floor good

          I wasn't familiar with Nu-heat so looked it up. While radiant floor heating has a lot going for it, _electric_ radiant floor is just a bad idea. Warm water radiant floors have been shown to save more than 30% on heating costs in at least some studies, and they can use things like solar to make the warm water. (Warm water systems are also completely different from hot water systems of the past.) Their biggest disadvantage is the cost and PITA of retrofitting to an existing house. But going back to the topic, radiant floors are also not a particularly good candidate for these thermostats that change the temp setting multiple times per day - their time constant is much longer.

  5. Coofer Cat

    Your thermostat needs to be a datacentre!?

    I've used a Drayton Digistat 3 (with TRV valves on radiators) in my last two places - they're simple, single zone thermostats. The are 'smart' in so much as you can set the temperature for a specific time. We generally just turn ours down by a couple of degrees at night and times when the house is likely empty. It's pretty easy to push the "up" button if you're cold (and in a reasonably efficient house, it only takes maybe 30 minutes to get warm again). Having done lots of individual room temperature measurements, and other such geekery, this set up works remarkably well.

    For an upgrade, there are a handful that don't need 'clouds' to work (Heat Genius is my current favourite). Nest, Hive and these lot don't need to be told your every move to have weather-reacting temperature control. Indeed, a house that needs that probably just needs some extra insulation.

    It seems to me that if your thermostat needs a huge datacentre to work, then you're doing it wrong.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Your thermostat needs to be a datacentre!?

      "For an upgrade, there are a handful that don't need 'clouds' to work (Heat Genius is my current favourite). Nest, Hive and these lot don't need to be told your every move to have weather-reacting temperature control. Indeed, a house that needs that probably just needs some extra insulation."

      But if the thermostat has to be more human-reacting than weather-reacting? What if you're in a house with central heat (or a heat pump which can work both ways) and no radiators? What if you have a mobile household where people can come and go at just about any hour (including overnight—night owls)? IOW, what if you have an unpredictable house that can't be efficiently handled with fixed timers AND have BOTH heating and cooling needs which means individual radiators won't work for you?

  6. spiny norman

    Little boxes made of ticky tacky

    Not everyone lives in modern, fully insulated homes. It is difficult to maintain a comfortable temperature with single-glazed sash windows and single-skin brick/timber/wattle walls. I imagine Nest or EcoBee would help keep a more even temperature, but I'm as sceptical as others that it would save much money.

    1. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Little boxes made of ticky tacky

      I'm as sceptical as others that it would save much money.

      Actually you stand a better chance of saving money in a less well insulated house, because your heat loss rate is greater, so the relative savings by reducing temperature when possible are higher than in a well insulated house.

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Little boxes made of ticky tacky

      Having lived in one of those houses myself, the best thing you can do to save money is get decent insulation. The difference in the past year from having single paned windows to good double glazed K glass ones, in a stone house is noticeable each month, especially winter.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Little boxes made of ticky tacky

        "The difference in the past year from having single paned windows to good double glazed K glass ones, in a stone house is noticeable each month"

        The insulation difference between single and double glazing is less than the difference between single glazing and adding decent thermal curtains.

        Almost all the gains with double glazing come from draft sealing when the windows are replaced, plus keeping noise out.

        1. Triggerfish

          Re: Little boxes made of ticky tacky

          Well its a rather old mill workers house, and its considerably less drafty now so that may be it. But living with single panes near the peak district, I swear it felt like you could almost feel the heat seep through the window panes as well.

          As for noise the dawn chorus is currently defeating my double glazing, its amazing how much volume something as small as a wren can produce.

  7. FartingHippo
    Stop

    Not for brits

    This, like Nest, does not have separate controls for water and heating. This is ok if you have a combi boiler, but if you don't, or if (like me) you think combis are the work of the devil*, then you're stuffed. A Nest for heating and a standard controller for your water is what you end up with.

    Want to switch on the water while you're driving back from the airport? Forget it.

    * Seriously, why would you want a cold shower everytime someone fills the sink to do the washing up?

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Not for brits

      firstly I don't shower at the time someone is doing the washing up.

      Secondly most modern high flo combi's solved that problem years ago.

      1. Jon 37

        Re: Not for brits

        Thirdly - get a thermostatically controlled mixer shower, then when someone turns a tap on the shower stays the same temperature, but the flow might reduce a bit. "Slightly less warm water" coming out the shower is much better than "lots of too-hot water" or "lots of too-cold water".

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Not for brits

          Or get an electric shower. That way it doesn't matter what people are doing with the other taps ;)

          Anyway back on the main topic I have a Honeywell thermostat with 7-day/6 period programming and optimum start. It cost me about £50 just over ten years ago. And unlike the Nest earlier this year it handles DST switchover just fine. Especially since I added the optional RTC module.

          1. Ledswinger Silver badge

            Re: Not for brits

            "Or get an electric shower."

            If you enjoy flow rates equal to being pissed on in winter, when the incoming supply is 4C or less. Electric showers would be great if you could get them to run at ratings of 20kW....

            1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: Not for brits

              @ Gordon 10

              > firstly I don't shower at the time someone is doing the washing up.

              Lucky for you, some do.

              > Secondly most modern high flo combi's solved that problem years ago.

              Only by using ever higher power outputs - ie installing boilers that are grossly over-sized for what they do most of the time. I did measurements in my flat after fitting a thermal store ...

              With daytime temperatures hitting the heady heights of "not still freezing" the flat took an average of about 2kW total to keep it "comfortable". The combi (which now is only used as system boiler to reheat the store) is nearly 30kW for a p**s poor flow rate (start filling the bath, go back and watch telly, and hope it's filled before it's gone cold) - with (for this model) a minimum range of just under 10kW. So the boiler (on minimum output) is around 5 times oversized for average load when heating. Yes, modern boilers have got "better", but they are still crap compared with a decent stored heat system.

              @ Jon 37

              > Thirdly - get a thermostatically controlled mixer shower, then when someone turns a tap on the shower stays the same temperature, but the flow might reduce a bit.

              A bit ! Try "down to a dribble if you're lucky".

              @anothercynic

              > Getting your heating engineer to install a boiler that will give you hot water at mains pressure in the shower while your dishwasher *and* washing machine run is not always easy, but it's better in the long run.

              No, it's a darn stupid idea. You'll have to fit a huge capacity boiler, it'll cost you a fortune (capital, maintenance, and running costs) compared to one that's even vaguely sized to the heating load, and it'll be somewhat inefficient when running the heating.

              A 30kW combi will still only give you a "modest" flow rate, but unless you have a big house it will be well oversized for the heating. If you do have a big house where a boiler that ranges down to perhaps 8 to 10kW is suitable, then your house is most likely too big (too many people) for a 30kW combi.

              @ AndrueC

              > Or get an electric shower.

              Then you can imagine what it feels like to have someone stand over you and give you a "golden shower" such is the flow rate vs temperature trade off. Most combi boilers are around 30kW and upwards, which is enough to run a decent shower and (with care) a small flow from one tap. Most electric showers are in the "up to" 11kW range - with many significantly smaller.

              Something else while the subject is efficiency ...

              While there's the same "flushing the cold water out of the pipes" wait as you get with a stored heat system, with a combi you get either another delay (so wasted water) or wasted heat. At the same time I did the measurements in the flat, the house next door was empty so I could do a direct comparison. With the heating off, and no hot water being used, the combi in the house (a fairly modern one) used TWICE the energy keeping itself hot and ready for hot water as was lost from the thermal store in the flat. That's with the boiler firing up from time to time to keep the DHW heat exchanger warm - yes you can put it in eco mode and stop that, but then it takes longer to produce hot water (you can even buy an (expensive) valve designed to restrict the hot flow until the boiler is hot to mitigate this wastage of water while waiting for it to heat up.

              Summary - combi boilers are expensive, complicated, unreliable, and inefficient. When, not if, they break down then you are left with no heating or hot water - unlike flipping on the switch to use the electric immersion heater a stored system allows you to have for backup.

              But builders/property developers love them because it allows them to shave about 1 square meter of the space needed in a dwelling.

              1. FartingHippo

                Re: Not for brits

                @ Simon

                All of that. In spades.

                Easy to say "should have installed a bigger boiler", but when you rent you have to put up with what the landlord installs. How many do you think will spend a load more cash to oversize the system? None, or close to it.

    2. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: Not for brits

      <quote>Seriously, why would you want a cold shower everytime someone fills the sink to do the washing up?</quote>

      This only happens if you decide to skimp on a proper boiler and end up with piddly flow... Getting your heating engineer to install a boiler that will give you hot water at mains pressure in the shower while your dishwasher *and* washing machine run is not always easy, but it's better in the long run.

  8. Martin Summers Silver badge

    Tado

    I see no mention of Tado here. It is simple, does the job and has severely reduced my gas bill and more than paid for itself. I put that entirely down to one feature, the geolocation. Quite simply it saves me money by switching off the heating if me and my partner are out. Something you can't do with a dumb thermostat with just a schedule. It is worth the money just for that feature alone.

  9. SnowCrash

    The Nest Thermostat is (or at least seems to be) very effective for us. As we don't have the luxury of cavity insulation and double glazing (or even windows that fully seal) it has learnt our schedule over that last 12 months and maintains the temperature we want very well.

    It DOES look out of place in a 400 year old cottage though.......

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

    As others have pointed out there is not a lot of benefit to having these in the Uk where many (most?) people have radiators. In the US I have never seen a building built in the last 100 years that has radiators - everywhere has forced air heating (and central AC in most areas). That is what these products are designed to address - mostly very large (by UK standards) open plan homes with forced air heat or AC and huge temperature differentials between the inside and outside.

    When I lived in Duluth, MN, it was common for people in older houses to have $1000/month heating bills and in Tucson AZ, similar air conditioning bills. In those scenarios "intelligent thermostats make a lot of sense. In scenarios with more modern heating systems or less extreme climates, the payback is going to be much longer

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

      "When I lived in Duluth, MN, it was common for people in older houses to have $1000/month heating bills and in Tucson AZ, similar air conditioning bills. In those scenarios "intelligent thermostats make a lot of sense. In scenarios with more modern heating systems or less extreme climates, the payback is going to be much longer"

      That's not the half of it. Some places can't get a break and have wild seasonal temperature swings. Think 0-degree winters and 100-degree summers. With a setting like that you just can't make a house comfortable year-round passively and need to take special steps to make it livable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

        "That's not the half of it. Some places can't get a break and have wild seasonal temperature swings. Think 0-degree winters and 100-degree summers. With a setting like that you just can't make a house comfortable year-round passively and need to take special steps to make it livable."

        That's Duluth.. Away from the lake anyhow. Only -40 winters and >90F summers (-40 to 32 for the rest of the world). Near the lake temps are a bit more stable.

      2. Esme

        Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

        Can't help but wonder what Merkins did prior to the invention of air-conditioning and central heating, then. <joshing> Nor why so many of them seem to insist on living in places with climates that no sane person would want to live in </joshing>

        1. Whit.I.Are

          Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

          Prior to the widespread use of air conditioning in the hotter states of the US, many people died of heat exhaustion...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

          For cold places, they probably did what people did in northern Europe: bundle up, hunker down, and wait. Alaskans in particular still do this due to the face the sun can take a months-long absence there. As for the hot places, two things tended to help quite a bit: ice warehouses and beer (specifically lager, which you normally served cold). If you wonder why Americans switched from ale to lager, summer and the arid southwest are the big reasons.

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

      Radiant heat is common in the northeast and particularly in more rural areas where there is no natural gas line you'll find that oil fired boilers are quite common. In small homes all the radiators are tied in series but larger multilevel homes have the system zoned so it's possible to keep different temps in different areas. Also most don't have central AC as it's not particularly needed as it's only hot (>90 °F / 32 °C) and humid a few weeks out of the year.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: These are primarily products for the US - not the UK

        But some places the weather can be even more unpredictable. Take Virginia and the area around the mid-Atlantic coast. I have a friend who frequently quips, "Welcome to Virginia, where the weather can't make up its mind." Having lived in Virginia for a while, I can see why. I've seen the place go from a high of 80 one day literally to a high of 45 the next. Winters are normally mild with only some snow, but just last year we got hit hard with temperatures in the teens consistently. And now, it's in the middle of a lengthy near-100 heat wave (and summer JUST hit--and BTW, the typical Virginia summer is more a slow bake, workable with planning). And note, unlike Duluth this is moist heat off the Atlantic, so sweating ain't gonna help. And let's not start on the odd hurricane. Houses in Virginia pretty much have to be all-weather beasts able to handle just about anything Mother Nature can throw at you, from pouring rain to strong winds to snow and even freezing, on a whim.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    another option

    I put in a Wood burner last winter. cost of the Burner £650 + £450 to put in in.

    Cost of wood for last winter £0 It all came from timber rescued after a storm.

    The burner is centrally mounted in an old chimney breast. Heats the whole house as the walls get warm.

    Gas bill before Wood burner £1050/yr

    Gas bill in last 12 months £250.

    Should break even this year and I still have around 2yr worth of wood stacked up outside.

    My guestimates are that I'll use around £250 worth of wood a year when my current supply gets run down.

    Seems to work for me.

  12. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge
    Meh

    Ecobee3: If you want a smart thermostat, this is likely the one for you

    To quote the Spartans, "If".

  13. moiety

    So it's vast wads of cash for a device that spaffs your private data to a foreign company. I shall pass, I think.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On your next review...

    ...please mention whether this thing does the "cloudy" trick, wherein it calls home to some central server which is not under your direct control.

    What I am looking for is some sort of gadget that I can use to turn on / off or regulate my heating but which does not rely on any sort of third party server. Something that I could SSH into¹ (as it were) via IPv6 (or NAT, for that matter) would be ideal.

    ¹ Bonus points: CURSES interface and UTF-8 support.

    1. karlp

      Re: On your next review...

      First off I must admit to being a big fan of Ecobee*. It is true that these products are more of a North America focused solutions where large structures and forced air heating and cooling is the normal order of things.

      Additionally, it is a "Cloud" based product, although if it makes you feel any better they are a Canadian company. In this day and age of people valuing being able to faff with things on their smart-devices, it certainly makes sense for the masses.

      All that said, I completely agree that many people don't want to bound to external providers.

      If that is you, then you might want to check out the Austian based Loxone system - http://www.loxone.com/enen/start.html This is a standalone home automation controller that can be built out however you see fit, from running a few relays to spitting out RS232 commands to an arduino you programmed to run an LED pixel strip. It works on the concept of a Central Controller with some IO on board and then has a variety of I/O modules doing anything from Digital I/O to DMX lighting control.

      Karl P

      *My entire has had them for over 2 years now and we like them very much, while the new ones are very pretty, the old ones had a great heavy duty control box separate from the main control panel which made them very simple to retrofit. They still sell this product as their Commercial offering.

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: On your next review...

        > although if it makes you feel any better they are a Canadian company

        That doesn't mean they can't disappear or decide to stop supporting it.

        The big issue with anything that relies on cloud to make it work is "what happens when that support goes away" ? Does it have a local fallback, or does it stop working.

        Even big names can dump their customers - just ask anyone who bought a Zune !

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On your next review...

        > If that is you, then you might want to check out the Austian based Loxone system

        Excellent, that's the sort of thing I've been looking for. Many thanks!

    2. J__M__M

      Re: On your next review...

      I have one, and it's as cloudy as they get.

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    For what it's worth...

    Our space heating bill (Canada, electric baseboard heaters, expensive power, comfortable) is about the same over a year as what we pay for Internet (bundled with house phone).

    Lots of insulation. Some passive solar gain. Attention to details. ...Not to mention expensive fiber optic Internet. LOL.

  16. Richard Read

    "proprietary standard"

    Fail. I'm not going to touch any of the smart home appliances until they agree on an open standard so I can mix and match between manufacturers. I also want to see independent security certification, a robust patching strategy and details of data collected.

    Even then I don't see the point in a smart thermostat. The basic timer/thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves that came with my home work just fine.

    If they were offering central locking for houses on the other hand.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "proprietary standard"

      If you have a pretty basic household with few people and regular routines, then you have no need for a smart thermostat. If weather and people activity can vary considerably, then perhaps you need something that's a little more nimble with the setting dial.

      As for central locking, good news, there are options for you now. Bad news, practically all of them are cloud-based.

  17. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Security issues..

    No mention of security of these things. Wifi.... can anyone access it? Internet connection via the Wifi? If so, where does the data go?

  18. DougS Silver badge

    Touchscreen is pointless

    It already has an app, and anyone interested in a silly gadget like this will not be a feature phone owner. So save $50 off the price and avoid the need for the C-wire by dropping the LCD touchscreen and make it programmable only through the app.

    Instead you get an author raving about how it utilizes the touch screen to (wait for it) tell you what the weather is outside! Wow, what an original concept, and how convenient going to your thermostat to find out this information... This smacks way too much of the "build a LCD screen into your fridge for shopping lists and recipes" that is even more stupid. Almost all smart home gear is a solution looking for a problem, where the problem is CE makers asking "how I can sell more chips and displays by integrating them into devices that don't need them, like thermostats, fridges, ovens, toasters, washing machines, etc."

    1. Whit.I.Are

      Re: Touchscreen is pointless

      My house has screens in every room that tells me what the weather is outside. Sorry, not screens, windows...

      1. Matt Piechota

        Re: Touchscreen is pointless

        "My house has screens in every room that tells me what the weather is outside. Sorry, not screens, windows..."

        Can I get a brand name? I really need windows that'll tell me what the weather is going to be later in the day so I can plan accordingly. It'd help if they're double-hung too.

        (Maybe this is a US thing, too: the weather here on the Atlantic seaboard at this time of year varies between two things: hot-ish (30 C) and sunny, or hot-ish with thunderstorms that roll through in the afternoon and evening. Knowing which kind of day before I leave my house is pretty useful. Maybe if I lived in the UK where the weather is grey and dreary all the time would make that easier. :) )

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Touchscreen is pointless

        > Sorry, not screens, windows...

        Which version?

        (Sorry, sorry, yes, I'm leaving)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Touchscreen is pointless

      I wouldn't say it's pointless because you can do the same thing from the touchscreen on a smartphone, but I did wonder about the accessibility implications.

      Does it mean this product is not suitable for the blind or seriously vision impaired?

  19. All names Taken
    Alien

    For increased efficiency?

    What do they do in Germany?

    I am sure it is far more efficient (and time proven to be so?) that anything the uk might have to offer?

  20. jb99

    Oh well

    "It is literally like the difference between your old Nokia phone and your iPhone.

    Like most people I feel physically sick at the idea of even having to touch an iphone so this has put me right off.

  21. d3vy Silver badge

    My current thermostat has been in the house since it was built 10 years ago, because of its simplicity and lack of reliance on the cloud its likley to be here past my time in the house... What happens in 5/10 years when nest decide that the cost of keeping the servers going is too high?

    Paid subscriptions? Or Worse, do they just switch it off and you need a new thermostat?

  22. andy 28

    openTRV?

    OpenTRV was meant to give you control of each radiator TRV without tying you to some 3rd party cloud. Been waiting for a year or two for something to happen but no recent updates on the website. Oh well, I'll keep on with the Scrooge 3 jumpers, coat and hat in my study in winter to save heating the rest of the house

    I'm sure it's possible to cobble something together with Pis and the like but I can't be bothered.

  23. old man

    jwmurphymurphy15@gmail.com

    This post so far is far and away the most sensible one on this subject for the UK at least.speaking as someone who has put in 100s of hot water and heating systems if there is more than 2 people in the house a combo is useless. The UK suffers from poor main water supply chain most old cities so anyone flushing a toilet or running a tap even often in the house next door will give you a cold shower with any combo boiler unless you have a hot cylinder and cold storage tank in any house built before the 1970s. You we also right about double glazing and draft proofing. Most old houses got well shook up by bombs and any original windows you could nearly walk round.

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