Enter the smarthome: part 3 – tado°
Stuck living in a big grey city just waiting for your next holiday? Is your apartment in the Swiss Alps gathering dust? Ideally, you should keep the temperature of your holiday home at a constant 18 degrees during your absence to save on heating. Then, whenever you're up for a spontaneous holiday, you can turn up the heating one day before your arrival from home via an app. That way your flat will already be warm, comfy and cosy. All made possible by smart thermostats from tado°. With the system installed, you don't just control your heating directly from the device, but even from your mobile phone – regardless of whether it's a radiator or underfloor heating tado° will give any heating system the smart upgrade it needs. Following Homematic IP and Philips Hue, it's time for the third instalment in my introductory series about smart homes. This week: what smart thermostats offer, what you need for them and what else you should look out for.
Compatible with almost any system
Nowadays, households are often exclusively smart. Progress can't be stopped, not even by heating. Use tado° from your phone and save up to 31% of heating costs, according to the manufacturer's announcement. Before I switched to Homematic IP, I also used a smart wall thermostat from tado°. The thermostats, which you can use with almost any heating system, are designed to reduce your ecological footprint. Doesn't matter if you're at home or in a holiday apartment. As you can't be in two flats at the same time, you'll always be wasting some energy. Naturally, you can still manually raise or lower all heaters directly from the device. All tado° products offer this possibility – should you have guests staying in your holiday apartment that like things a bit hotter, for example. It doesn't require much: a bridge and a smart thermostat are all you need. But more on that in a moment.
You can set heating routines in the tado° app for each day of the week. This doesn't work equally well with every system. For example, depending on the type, underfloor heating systems need 24 to 48 hours to accept a change and heat up to the appropriate temperature. As a result, setting several temperature values during one day isn't very useful. tado° offers attachments for wall thermostats, which are often used in floor heating systems, and for radiators, which are standard in many older apartments. tado° Auto Assist – an in-app bonus function – detects whether you're at home, about to arrive or if any windows are open all over your smartphone. It then reacts accordingly and raises or lowers the temperature. However, this service costs extra - three euros per month. This fee-based service angered many early tado° adopters, the feature was still free a few years ago. However, this can be avoided with Homekit. Even without the Auto-Assistant, tado° has saved me between five and ten per cent on my power bill per month. This information is also provided in the tado° app. Thanks to the smart heating system, I've paid more attention to when, where and how much I heat.
What you'll need
The Starter Kits include a base station that you connect to your router and one or more thermostats. Depending on the set, extension kits are also included to improve the range and connectivity of your system. In addition, all necessary cables as well as screws or adhesive strips are included to fix the thermostats to the wall or radiator. The app is free of charge and can be found in the App Store as well as in the Google Play Store. The products appear high-quality and robust. The display is bright and easy to read. tado° thermostats are slightly larger than my normal Feller models and therefore stand out more than the flat standard covers. But as tado° is kept in plain white, this doesn't really bother me.
Set-up is easily done in a browser and on your smartphone. Everything is well explained, sufficiently illustrated and pretty much perfect. Actually, I had to wait quite a while for my confirmation mail from the tado° experts. Just so they could tell me whether my heater is compatible with tado°. If your heating system hasn't already been installed and approved by tado°, you'll have to wait as well. But I already knew that thanks to a bit of research. However, I could only continue installation after the experts gave me the go-ahead. Luckily, I also received instructions tailored to my Feller thermostats on top of the positive feedback I then knew exactly which cable I had to attach where on the smart thermostat. That made up for the rather frustrating long wait.
Any notable blemishes?
The advantages of tado° lie in the simplicity of installation and set-up – apart from the long waiting times to find out whether your system is compatible. However, your patience will be rewarded with installation instructions tailored to the heating system in question. I also like the design of the wall thermostat. Even though the box protrudes several centimetres from the wall, it still looks elegant and inconspicuous in matt white. It fits perfectly into predominantly white apartments. When touched – constantly, if desired – the display lights up to show the temperature and other information clearly. With Homematic IP thermostats, I have far more trouble understanding anything from a greater distance, an unfavourable angle or in poor light.
One of the disadvantages of tado° lies in its price. Even if competing products are cheaper, they're not absurdly expensive. After all, a smart heating control system is expensive. And the bill will only get longer if you seek to control each room in your flat via a separate thermostat or radiator. In my 3.5-room apartment, there'd be five units that I'd have to replace. That would run me almost 700 francs. To save this amount only using smart heating, I'd have to stay in the same flat for quite a while. In a condo or a house of my own, tado° would be worth it. In a rented apartment, I'd only want to replace a single device – as was the case in my parents' holiday apartment, for example.
Other smart heating control systems
One possible alternative is Homematic IP. In contrast to tado°, Homematic IP doesn't just improve your heating but also shutters, windows and much more. All controlled via an app. However, the installation is more demanding and the individual steps are, in my opinion, explained much worse than with tado° – at least in my case. For professional electricians and smart home experts, Homematic IP is certainly the more comprehensive and therefore more exciting solution. Beginners and anyone looking to dip their feet in gently are better suited to tado°. I decided against tado° and in favour of Homematic IP for my flat as it gives me more possibilites for improving my home beyond the heating area.
Devolo also offers a smart thermostat. Its design reminds me of a peephole in the bow of a ship. In order to control the heating, a radiator thermostat is also necessary. Otherwise the device is just an overpriced thermometer. For underfloor heating systems you'll need to use another product that supports the Z-Wave wireless technology that Devolo uses. Devolo itself doesn't offer a smart controller for floor heating systems. You control Devolo in- app or with a browser. This system works without a bridge. The same doesn't apply to Danfoss: its smart radiator attachments communicate with a central unit that you connect to the router. The Danfoss solution is only intended for radiators, floor heating systems aren't supported. Even the brand Netatmo, which is well-known for weather stations, has smart thermostats in its product range. In addition to the integration of all Netatmo weather stations and their values to optimise heating, Netatmo offers another advantage. This system works using IFTTT and can therefore be integrated into existing smart home solutions that are also based on this standard.
Worth considering despite its flaws
Although the installation could hardly be easier, additional subscription costs and waiting for the tado° experts puts a damper on my anticipation. But aside from that it all runs like clockwork, is extensively illustrated and compatible with almost every heating system. tado° has explicitly specialised in smart heating – successfully. While the products are slightly pricier than those of the competition, they're still within the range. In addition, tado° scores with its clearly arranged app, easy installation and fail-safe continuous operation. However, the thermostats only work with batteries. But they last quite a while and can be replaced. However, other manufacturers, such as Homematic IP for example, manage to get by. I recommend tado° to any tenants who want control heating via a single thermostat. Or owners who aren't planning to move for a while – in these cases it's worth spending money on several thermostats.
Homematic IP offers easy entry into the smart home universe – from automated roller shutters to smart weather stations. Philips Hue works similarly, whereby the focus there is on lighting. tado° scores points in the area of smart heaters with high compatibility, simple operation and long-term savings.
Next time I'll show you what the weather and climate specialist Netatmo offers with its products for possibilities. If you want to join me on my mission and don't want to miss any smart home articles, follow me by clicking on the «Follow author» button on my profile.
Senior Editor, Zurich