Tado Smart Thermostat Starter Kit V3+ full review
Tado is a German smart heating thermostat that cleverly uses your location to determine when to turn down your heating while you're away from home, and then turn it back up again as you return.
It does this using GPS and other location indicators from your smartphone, which you link to the Tado Smart Thermostat - Tado calls this feature 'geofencing'. You link all the smartphones of the residents, so if one person remains at home while the rest of the family is out, the heating knows to stay on and keep that person warm.
When everybody is out of the house, Tado dials the heating down (so it is not heating an empty house) but is always looking out for when one or all return home so that it can turn the heating back on.
Tado can control individual radiators with add-on smart radiator valves that boast built-in thermostat sensors for room-by-room heating optimisation - a smarter and cheaper system than with Google's Nest.
The next phase of the UK’s decarbonisation programme will require individuals to make many more personal changes to the way they heat their homes, a smart thermostat system such as Tado will be required.
Price and availability
Tado V3+ Smart Thermostat Starter Kits cost from £179.99; with an optional £60 charge for professional installation. That £60 pro-installation is probably a wise investment for most home users, especially if you don't already have a wired room thermostat.
The Tado Online Instruction Assistant is excellent but if you are not both competent and confident when it comes to electrical wiring (terminating cables and so on) we'd recommend the professional installation.
You need the Tado Wired Smart Thermostat Starter Kit if your home has both an existing wired thermostat (typically mounted in the living room) and a combi boiler (no hot water tank).
You need the Tado Wireless Smart Thermostat Starter Kit with Hot Water Control if your home has either a thermostat with a wireless connection to the boiler or no thermostat at all. If your home has a hot water tank and you want to control the hot water via the Tado app, then this is also the kit for you.
Each uses a minimalist wall-mounted sensor that's a lot less showy than Google's Nest thermostat.
Another benefit you won't find with Nest is the chance to add extra Smart Radiator Thermostats for multi-room control. These cost £69.99 for a single unit, £119.99 for two or £229.99 for four. Make sure you buy the right type, depending on whether your radiator has vertical or horizontal fittings.
These are super easy to work either manually or via the mobile app.
Tado, approved by the UK Energy Saving Trust, claims that its smart thermostat will help consumers save an average 27 percent in heating costs - about £180 per year. At a cost of £179 (self-install) Tado should have paid for itself within a year or so. (If you get an engineer to install Tado then the cost rises to £249, so would take 16 months to recoup using Tado's figures.)
Tado is more manual than Nest, which learns your heating requirements over time, but it offers more individual room-by-room control via the smart radiator thermostats and the add-on Wireless Temperature Sensors.
How Tado works
Tado lets you schedule your heating needs, as you know your usual evening bedtimes and wakes - which can differ for weekends. The system 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 tap on the mobile app screen.
You can set a minimum Sleep temperature of 5°C. There’s 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 and turning on/off for you.
Here's the really clever bit. Through the Geofencing feature, it 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, using the GPS or other location functions in your smartphone and other smartphones assigned to the home.
The latest V3+ version doesn't include geofencing as an automatic feature - although previous versions did. Instead, it notifies the last person leaving the home to turn it on (via the mobile app). For an extra fee, you can buy a convenient feature called Auto-Assist that does all this for you automatically - so no need for notifications and app tapping; instead Tado just does it all for you.
Auto-Assist also offers Care & Protect (see below) that could help prevent heating system breakdowns as it monitors your heating system and notifies you if it detects unusual behaviour.
The V3+ Auto-Assist fee is £2.99 a month, or £24.99 for a full year (which works out just over £2/month). For sheer convenience, we'd recommend Auto-Assist - although with the monthly fee you can choose to activate it only in the winter months when your heating is most in use.
The Tado app uses the most battery-efficient way to determine how far you are from home (for example, with iOS geofencing/region monitoring) and works in the background. GPS is called upon only in exceptional cases. This takes place fully automatically.
If you have deactivated the GPS function, Tado uses the other geolocation functions of your smartphone. In general, Tado always uses the last distance from home that has been transmitted by your phone. This information is used to determine the level of heating. In case your phone does not send any location data anymore (e.g. when deactivating all geolocation functions), Tado will use the distance of the phone that was last transmitted.
Tado can also begin raising the temperature as you approach the house, so that it's already warm by the time you arrive. 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.
Rather than detecting motion, Tado relies on every member of the household having the Tado app installed so to knows when the house is empty and avoid heating it. Switching it to manual control of Home or Away is a simple click in the app, and the Auto-Assist subscription does everything automatically.
Even more intelligently, you can set the level that you want Tado to start pre-heating your home. When set to Comfort Tado ensures that your desired home temperature is reached shortly before your arrival. An Eco mode, on the other hand, saves more money by not turning the temperature up until you get much closer to home. And there's a Balance mode somewhere in between. You can toggle between these modes until you get to the level between cost-saving and comfort that's right for you and your family.
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. Longer-term guests can be added to your account, so their phones are recognised and they don't freeze while you're away from home.
You set different ideal temperatures for various times of the day (night, day, and evening), and you can separately control more than one room in the house using extra sensors in Tado's Internet-connected Smart Radiator Thermostats, which work hand-in-hand with the central Tado smart thermostat. The schedules work only when someone is at home.
Installing a Smart Radiator Thermostat to each radiator is the most thorough home-heating system with Tado. You don't need an engineer to help you add these, although they can be a bit fiddly at first. They run on batteries so you will need to change the two AA batteries when they run low after a year or so.
The radiator valves are easy to switch between automatic (when they obey the schedule you set in the app) or manual (when you turn the valve to the temperature you desire). For a quick blast of heat or pause on the heating, you can also use the app to set a temporary temperature that reverts to the schedule after a few hours - this saves you from leaving the radiator thermostats on manual and forgetting to turn them back to automatic.
You can set multiple zones for more individual temperature operation if you have a Tado sensor in each space you wish to control.
A new add-on product, Tado’s Wireless Temperature Sensor (£69.99) is equipped with temperature and humidity detectors. It supports the control of multiple Smart Radiator Thermostats in one or multiple rooms, and looks just like the central thermostat.
By decoupling temperature measurement from one central sensor, you can get more accurate readings for individual rooms – even more so than you get with the radiator thermostats on their own.
And you can override the app with manual control (on Smart Thermostat and Smart Radiator Thermostats), which is useful if you have guests/babysitter visiting and you are out of the house.
Tado supports the three main voice assistants: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri, so you can set the temperature simply by speaking using your phone or a smart speaker.
It is certified for Apple Home Kit, unlike the Google Nest thermostat, which therefore can't natively or directly integrate with Apple HomeKit and requires a home-bridge hub to work with Siri.
The Energy Savings Report (shown above right) shows how much energy Tado has saved you on a month-by-month basis. Tado also adapts to the weather - when sunshine is predicted, it turns the heating down to take advantage of the solar gain and avoid overshooting the set temperature, for higher efficiency and comfort at home. A new climate report now visualises these effects.
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) your 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.
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 or Mac. 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.
There are three different heating operations, set either on the phone app or on the Tado thermostat itself.
Off: When set to Off, Tado heats only when the room temperature drops below 5°C to avoid frost damage.
Auto: When set to Auto, Tado controls your heating based on your location and schedule. You can adjust your preferred home and sleep temperatures. The optimal away temperature is set by Tado automatically.
Manual: When set to Manual, Tado keeps the room temperature at the selected set point. This allows you to override the app's settings, and can be set to end when the next schedule starts or when Manual is turned off in the app.
Air Comfort features
Open Window Detection uses the temperature and humidity sensors built into Tado's Smart Thermostats and Smart Radiator Thermostats. When a sudden drop in temperature or humidity is detected it recognises that this is most likely an open window and can turn your heating temporarily down to save energy.
The Air Comfort skill helps you achieve a healthier indoor climate by providing insights into your home's air quality and humidity and suggesting ways in which you can improve it and avoid health risks such as mould.
Besides the current room climate and inside-air quality, Tado also uses outdoor air quality data for your home’s location to help you ventilate your home at the right time. For instance, it informs you to keep the windows closed if the air outside your home is polluted due to heavy traffic, or has high instances of particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. It also informs you of the pollen levels in the air, which can be useful if anyone in your family suffers from allergies.
Clear and concise online instructions guide you through the multi-part installation process.
If you have a wired thermostat in your home you simply replace your old thermostat with the Tado Smart Thermostat. Any type of thermostat can be replaced, whether digital, analogue or relay controlled.
If you don’t have a wired thermostat you will need the Extension Kit to connect to your heating; you also need the Smart Thermostat.
You usually place the Smart Thermostat in the living room - it's battery-powered so doesn't need a power connection - and the Extension Box is connected to your boiler via cable and placed next to it. The two devices connect wirelessly.
If you have a programmer attached to your boiler to control hot-water production, the Extension Kit can replace it. It fits the UK standard backplate, so it's easy to replace the programmer without any rewiring. That said, we were mighty glad we had the installer there to do it all for us.
In addition, there's a Tado Internet Bridge that connects to your router or home network, via Ethernet cable. We found placing the Bridge near to the Tado box helped connectivity, and for that we set up a simple powerline home network, but depending on the layout of your home you might be able to get a great connection out of the box.
This communicates between sensors and also the mobile app.
Tado claims that installing the system is “easy to do in just a few simple steps”. We’re less sure of that, especially if you don't have an existing room thermostat on the wall. Either way, you need to be competent with rewiring wall boxes.
We’ve talked to a few heating engineers and they all recommended an expert install any of these smart heating systems. Of course, they would say that, wouldn't they, but I had an engineer install mine and I’m glad that I did as there were parts of the job that would have had me concerned. If you’re a very competent DIYer this may well be within your skillset. I’m man enough to admit that it would have worried me on more than one of the above actions. See below for what needed doing to wire the Tado box to the electrics inside my boiler.
Note though that my house didn’t have an existing room thermostat so the boiler needed more wiring - to take over the boiler’s clock timer - than it would have done if it did. Replacing a wired room thermostat with the Tado thermostat is much simpler.
To be fair to Tado this is not unique to its system. A Nest engineer also warned us against self-install, and Nest itself "highly recommends" a full professional installation, though Nest has since released the Nest Thermostat E, a smart thermostat variant that's been specifically designed to be easy to install yourself.
Tado says that the system is compatible with boilers from the major manufacturers, including Vaillant, Worcester, Honeywell, Potterton, British Gas, Ariston, Buderus, Siemens, Wolf, Junkers, Drayton, Ideal, Danfoss, Baxi, Glow-worm, and more. Indeed, Tado claims that it is the most compatible smart thermostat on the market.
Tado Care And Protect
With an Auto Assist subscription, Tado Care and Protect will monitor your home heating around the clock and alert you if it detects anything unusual.
This should nip problems in the bud but, if not, the platform will ask a series of questions and, based on your answers, offer step-by-step instructions on how to sort out your boiler. Most of the time, a simple reset will do the trick and it'll save you from having to call out an engineer.
Tado says that most heating problems can easily be sorted out by the user at home on the same day. And half of those problems can be resolved by simply restarting the boiler. The software will help you know what's happened, as it can interpret boiler error codes, identify low water pressure and show you how to refill the system.
Care & Protect features include:
• Self Fix Guides, to resolve issues yourself
* Heating Activity information that shows heating use for the day, week, month and year. You can also compare data with the previous period.
Having a house’s heating being determined by who is in the house and who isn’t makes a lot of sense. Tado is the best smart thermostat at this as its presence detection simply follows you and your smartphone via GPS and other location factors, but those features are now locked behind a paid subscription.
Most of us just set the timer and only go back to the boiler to flick it on or off when we get too hot or cold. Being able to control this (wherever you are) via an app on your phone is a much more intelligent way to control your heating and energy costs. New inside and outside Air Comfort reports and Open Window Detection features, plus the ability to control multiple zones through smart radiator thermostats, improve on the central idea.
Tado isn’t cheap, but there is a money-back guarantee, and you should start saving on your heating bills within a few days, even with the subscription fee.
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