Tado thermostat review
Nest has only just started selling its smart learning thermostat in the UK. Rival Tado has a lead on it and is betting that its eponymous remote-control smart thermostat will take off in the UK as it has in its native Germany, where it is the market leader. Read our Tado thermostat review.
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 £250 (self-install) Tado should have paid for itself in 16 months. (If you get an engineer to install Tado then the cost rises to £308, so would take 20 months to recoup using Tado's figures.) With the price of energy unlikely to fall in the next few years – unless the government forces reductions – cutting costs as soon as possible makes a lot of sense.
While we can’t prove these savings until we’ve run the Tado for a longer period we can report that using such a system is a revelation in monitoring and controlling your domestic heating, and we're confident that savings are there to be made. The more control you have the more money you’ll save, and with sky-high energy prices right now you'd be silly to ignore all solutions.
Why buy a smart thermostat?
What’s the most expensive bit of tech kit in your house? HD TV? Super-slim laptop? Apple iMac? iPhone? Audio system? In most houses one of the priciest chunks of tech is the humble but expensive boiler. A new, energy-efficient boiler will likely set you back £1,200-£2,500 including installation – that’s more than most smart TVs or laptops.
The real cost of a boiler is much higher, as an inefficient one will be costing you hundreds of pounds a year in wasted energy. One option, especially if your boiler is over 15 years old, is to replace with a new energy-efficient model. The average savings when replacing a “G” rated boiler is £225 per year. If your existing boiler has a more efficient rating of “D” you can still expect to save as much as £65 per year by replacing it. Even considering the cost of a new combi boiler purchase and installation you’ll be saving money in the long run – maybe as early as 5-7 years.
Based on a saving of 25 percent gas usage, the Energy Saving Trust estimates the average saving per household on energy bills after installing a new boiler to be £310. And if your current heating system doesn’t include a room thermostat the potential savings in using a smart system such as Tado are even greater.
If your boiler isn't that old and is still going strong, a cheaper way to make your boiler more efficient is to get smarter. There is a growing list of smart thermostats and systems appearing on the market, all of which promise to slash your heating bills.
The most well known is Nest, from the ex-Apple guys who originally worked on the iPod. It looks gorgeous, and is simple to use. Google liked it so much that it forked out $3 billion to buy the company. Since October 2011 Nest claims its US customers have saved more than 1.4 billion kilowatt hours, enough electricity to power more than 135,000 homes for a year. It made its UK debut in April 2014.
The US Environmental Protection Agency claims consumers could reduce energy usage by 10-30 percent using the schedules and temperature settings of programmable (semi-smart) thermostats. These let you program temperatures for certain times of the day – so you can automatically lower the temperature when you'll be out of the house, for example.
Unfortunately up till recently these programmable thermostats have been tricky for the average homeowner to operate correctly. The new, smart remote-control thermostats, such as Nest and Tado, connect to home Wi-Fi networks and come with simple smartphone apps.
What differentiates Tado from Nest is its smarter learning features. Nest programs itself by learning your behaviour patterns and desired temperatures for certain days and times during the week – which it calls Nest Sense. It then builds a schedule for your heating system to follow. You control Nest through the outer-ring dial to adjust temperatures, and then via the mobile app.
The brains at Tado believe that the smartphone will become the remote control for everything inside the home. In this way Tado is more revolutionary than Nest. Tado doesn’t feature a physical dial for you to adjust your home’s temperature, which at first feels weird. Everything is controlled via your smartphone app (iPhone and Android) or the desktop Web app. It creates a more real-time and less static schedule than Nest’s.
You set Tado the target temperature you want your home – or rather the room in which you place the Tado Temperature Sensor – to reach. This should be placed in the room you and your family spend most of the time in. It is powered by a solar cell, which Tado claims will never run out of power.
As there’s only one sensor – Tado may add more sensors in the future to add zoning – we think Tado is best suited to smaller homes (1-4 bedrooms).
You also set the usual times you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night – which can differ for weekends. Tado 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 swipe of the mobile app screen.
Tado sets a minimum Sleep temperature of 15°C, as it argues that letting the temperature drop any lower would cause the boiler to work harder in the morning. There’s also 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. It even 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.
While Nest creates an “Auto-away mode” based on what it's learned it doesn’t actually know who is actually in your house. It guesses, based on a combination of sensors and algorithms, when you're away to prevent heating or cooling an empty home. When it thinks you’re back the Nest Thermostat returns to your regular schedule.
Via the GPS in your smartphone Tado uses Presence Detection to actually know when you’re at home or away. Indeed it controls the heating depending on how far away you are – so it knows to start heating up the house as you get nearer.
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.
Depending on how far the residents are away from home Tado lowers the temperature. As soon as one resident approaches home Tado heats your home up.
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.
Would all residents who might stay in the house unaccompanied have a smartphone? It’s likely they would as most children who are old enough not to be babysat have smartphones these days. Tado is compatible with iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android. BlackBerry is expected soon, but there’s no word on Windows Phone compatibility yet.
With the free Tado app installed on all residents’ phones Tado can run your heating to an optimum point.
Another smart thermostat is Hive – available for £199 for customers of British Gas only. Like Nest this doesn’t offer actual presence detection, and is actually a little less smart than Nest as you have to adjust room temperature as you leave the house.
Tado expects in the future to enhance the system software with an Expert mode for even finer user controls. Until then you can contact the company if you, say, wanted to extend or reduce the area of presence detection so that the heating would be lowered closer or further from home.
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.
Tado also uses a range of local weather data to know when to raise or lower the heating to your desired level of comfort – as the solar radiation of the Sun affects room temperature. The timing of sunlight shows up on the informative screen you get when you turn the app into landscape mode.
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, Mac or laptop. 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.
What happens if you leave your smartphone at work and nobody else is home? There’s a button on the Tado box that lets you or an unattended guest tell the Tado that someone is actually home. This mode is deactivated by pressing the button again, or in the Web app to tell Tado to go back to the programmed heating schedule.
If you turn off your heating in the Settings then it stays completely turned off except for warm water. Because Tado tracks the room temperature it will nevertheless turn on the heating once the room temperature falls below 5°C – a great safety, fall-back feature to prevent any frost damage.
Pet owners who leave their animal unattended for most of the day will want to consider the best temperature for their pet. A dog doesn't need a room temperature of 23°. And Tado doesn't let your home cool down completely when nobody is at home.