What could be more low-tech than gas? Fine if you’re lighting a late-Victorian drawing room but hardly the stuff of 21st-century cool.
But gas is still a perfectly good way to heat your home. And if you want to keep bills down, control your central heating with a simpler, more user-friendly interface and show off a bit to your friends, a control system such as British Gas’s Hive is the way to go.
How to get remote controlled heating
A new thermostat will need to be installed. Plus a little Wi-Fi doohickey that plugs into your existing broadband router. The ‘front end’ of the system is a free app that lives on your smartphone or tablet. The whole instalation takes a couple of hours, and will cost you about £200.
It will keep bills down, partly, because you’re more likely to turn the thermostat down when it’s in your pocket rather than mounted on the wall in the hallway.
Hive also pings you a text message if you leave the house unexpectedly, asking if you’d like to turn the heating down since you won’t be in to enjoy it.
It’s a neat trick, although if you’ve left any family members at home who don’t have Hive’s smartphone app installed, they won’t thank you if the heating goes off just because you’ve popped out.
And the really glorious part is pulling your phone out to warm the house up just as you’re leaving the pub. There really is no point being part of the futuristic connected home revolution if you never get to show off about it.
Nest, HeatGenius and the Honeywell Lyric
Hive is great, but it’s not the only game in town. The Nest learning thermostat is an elegantly-designed device that networks with a modular connected home system.
You can buy smoke alarms, car adaptors or a lock for your front door and they all link together in an invisible conspiracy of security and comfort.
The Nest ecosystem doesn’t quite deliver on its promise just yet, but the promise is extraordinary. One day soon, all homes will have a system like Nest built in.
Other alternatives include the Honeywell Lyric, which is almost as pretty as the Nest device but offers functionality more in line with Hive, and HeatGenius which will – if properly installed – only heat the parts of the house that you’re actually in: theoretically paying for itself in no time flat as a result.
Realistically, few of us live in a house that’s big enough to make zoned heating any more than a clever notion. And a full system is a good deal more expensive than its principal rivals. But HeatGenius is a powerful system that industry professionals tend to like. It’s definitely worth considering.
The only one of these systems that I’ve ‘lived with’ is Hive. So far, after about a year of use, it’s been flawless. I’m not good enough at maths to work out how much I’ve saved after my initial £200 outlay.
But the joy of firing up the boiler when you’re still ten minutes away from home? You can’t put a price on that.