From April 1, the energy cap will rise by 54%, leaving millions of customers with much higher bills to pay.
According to Ofgem, the rise will affect approximately 22 million customers. People on default tariffs who pay by direct debit will see an increase of £693, from £1,277 to £1,971 per year. People who prepay will see an increase of £708, from £1,309 to £2,017.
So, it’s not surprising that people are turning to smart heating systems.
A smart thermostat can make your home heating easier and more convenient to control. It can ensure you always wake up in and come home to warm rooms, and help you to avoid wasting heat. But the big question is: can it save you money? And if so, how much?
There are a number of smart heating systems available today, with Hive, Honeywell, Nest, Tado and Drayton Wiser among the best known and best performing. (To find out more about each system and see which we rate the highest, check out our round-up of the best we’ve tested.)
How much does smart heating really save?
Because systems vary, as do the size of people’s homes and their households, it’s hard to get a one-size-fits-all estimate. But many people can expect to save 10-20% on their current household heating bill if they fit a smart home system and use its energy-saving features.
Some smart heating companies make more impressive claims. For instance, Tado says that it will save users up to 31% on their heating bills. But this saving is probably calculated against a household that leaves its heating on all the time and doesn’t currently use any energy-saving measures.
Essentially, though, the more heat you’re likely to be wasting in daily use, the more money you could save by improving your home heating’s efficiency.
What will a smart heating system cost?
You also need to factor in the cost of buying smart home equipment and having it installed. Smart home systems can cost from £100 to over £400 – plus installation – so it’ll be some time before you recoup your costs, let alone begin to save money.
The most budget-friendly option at the moment is probably the Hive Thermostat Mini, which costs £119, or £219 with installation from a British Gas engineer.
Aside from initial installation costs, look out for paid subscription services. Some smart heating systems, including Tado, require you to sign up to a subscription service to get the full benefit of the product, which could end up costing you more than you save.
If you buy smart radiator valves, which are radiator valves you can easily fit yourself and which allow you to control your radiators via the app, you also need to factor in the cost of batteries to run them.
So are these costs worth it? Here are some questions about your home heating. Your answers will determine how much money you’re likely to save with a smart system.
Do you own your home?
As you have to invest in smart heating, it’s only going to be financially worthwhile if you’re planning to live in the same home for at least the next couple of years. If you’re a short-term tenant or you’re considering a move in the next year or two, installing smart heating will only end up costing you money.
Do you leave the heating on when you’re not home?
Smart heating systems allow you to easily schedule when your heating turns on and off, which is great if your family has a regular routine. But if you work shifts, or have family coming and going at irregular times, you’ll need more than straightforward scheduling.
Nest is equipped with a motion sensor and will learn your schedule and tweak the heating accordingly.
Perhaps even more efficiently, Tado and Hive use geolocation technology see who’s home and adjust the heating. When the last member of your family goes out, it’ll switch off the heating until someone comes in again.
Smart controls will also allow you to turn off the heating remotely, from your phone, so if your plans change and you’re going to be out later than expected, you don’t have to heat an empty house.
Many smart heating systems also have a boost function. If your home is cold, you can press the boost button to fire off the heat but it’ll switch itself off again once it reaches the set temperature, so you won’t have to remember to do it.
Do you heat rooms you don’t often use, or at times of day that they’re empty?
If you heat your sitting room all day long but only use it in the evenings, a multi-zone system could help you save money. Most smart heating systems provide you with a smart thermostat to put in one room and will heat the whole house to the same temperature.
A multi-zone system, like the ones from Drayton Wiser, Hive Active Heating 2 or Honeywell Evohome, will allow you to set different separate heating schedules for different rooms, so they’re warm when you need them and energy-saving when you don’t.
If you don’t want to invest in a whole smart heating system, or if your home isn’t plumbed for multi-zones, you can buy individual smart radiator valves, which will allow you to control the heat in a single room. However, as they cost £50-£60 each, it’ll take a long time to recoup their cost. But, as you can take them with you when you move out, they’re an option for tenants and people planning to move in the near future.
Do you ever leave a window open accidentally?
Some smart heating systems, including Tado, have open window detection that’ll shut off the heat if a window is left ajar, to ensure you’re not paying to heat up the garden.
Do you find yourself turning down the heating on a milder day?
If you forget to factor in the weather when scheduling your heating, a smart system could help.
Temperature sensors and internet access (for local weather information) mean that some systems, including the Nest 3rd Generation, can monitor the weather and factor that into the heating schedule. So, if a heatwave hits, you won’t have the radiators running at full tilt when you get home.
Most systems also have holiday modes that turn everything off when you’re away, while some also have a feature that checks if the outside temperature gets too low, then turn on your heating to avoid freezing pipes and the bills they bring.
Do you forget to keep track of how much energy you’re using?
One big advantage of using a smart system is that you can easily see how much you’re spending. Traditional methods would have you blindly racking up a bill, only knowing the extent of the cost once the bill arrives.
Smart systems let you see a constant running tally of your usage, making it easier to budget. It can be the difference between boosting the heating on a colder night or realising that you might as well just put a jumper on instead.
Finding a smart heating system that’ll save you money
The more questions you answered yes to, the more you’re likely to financially benefit from a smart home heating system.
But if you’re largely considering investing in smart heating for financial reasons, we’d suggest that you follow these steps:
- Research the best smart heating system for you. Don’t buy a package whose best money-saving feature is geolocation if you’re in a household where there’s usually someone at home.
- Find out if there are any free features you can use with your existing set-up. For example, Bulb customers with a second-generation smart meter can get the free to download SmartThings Energy Control service via the SmartThings app (for Android and Apple), which gives users detailed information in real-time about their energy usage. This will help you monitor what you’re using and help you to make savings.
- Check whether the smart heating system you’re considering requires a subscription to unlock any money-saving features.
- Look out for deals on smart home products. Black Friday is a good time to buy.
- Consider a system you can install yourself.
- Once your system is up and running, make use of all the features you can. If you don’t use it to its full potential, you might not save any money at all.
For more money-saving energy advice, have a look at our articles on how to save on your power bills and how to find out what your appliances cost to run.