After a month and a half of using the smart thermostat, let’s sum up: who should update their heating system? Is it really possible to consume less and save on the bill?
The German company Tado ° is one of the first companies in the smart home sector to have commercialized an intelligent thermostat with self-learning functions. The key product, the Tado ° Smart Thermostat (or Smart Thermostat), was updated at the end of 2018 with a redesign of the wall unit and application, both indicated by the initials V3 +. The Tado ° offer also includes thermostatic valves, thanks to which it is possible to control the heating of all rooms in the house in a modular way. This review, however, refers only to the most recent version of the smart thermostat, as the size of the apartment we tested it in would have made it unnecessary to replace the analog valves on the heaters.
Installation and design
As with all smart thermostats, installation is the most delicate and complex step, especially if the boiler that the Tado ° will have to control is quite dated. There are many possible combinations between the boiler model, the type of electronic controller (if present) and the consequent wiring of the thermostat. However, the Tado ° engineers have done an excellent job of cataloging the boilers on the market in Europe, and it is therefore quite easy to find your model by following the online installation procedure on the manufacturer’s website. The instructions guide the user in each step with many images and easy to understand diagrams, but we recommend installing the thermostat independently only to those users who have a minimum of experience with home electrical engineering (you don’t need to be an expert,
It should be noted that the remote activation of the service, the registration of the thermostat on the system and the physical installation are contextual procedures and all necessary for the product to work as it should. In our specific case, a failed initial installation was resolved with the help of the telephone assistance service. A Tado ° technician guided us to a second installation by solving a problem with the activation of the thermostat that prevented the device from correctly recognizing the boiler. Apart from this negligible initial hitch, the Tado ° thermostat has given us no problems in more than a month and a half of use. During the installation procedure it is necessary to connect a “bridge” to your router, ie the small device necessary to connect the thermostat to the internet. This is the most problematic feature of the system, because the router must not be too far from the thermostat. The bridge will also always occupy a LAN port of your router and one of its USB outputs for power supply (but you can also use an extension cable to connect the bridge to a common smartphone power supply).
The Tado ° system
Once the installation and activation procedure has been completed via the dedicated Tado ° app for Android and iOS, the thermostat is ready to be used. It takes a day or two to become familiar with the application and its interface. The most important initial step is to understand the mechanism for switching the heating on and off, which are controlled by the app’s tile relative to the temperature. Just tap on the number and then adjust the slider up or down to get the desired temperature. Once the choice has been confirmed with the tick at the top right, the boiler will proceed to switch on and start the heating (or vice versa to switch off). The temperature thus set can remain valid for a period of time determined by the user or indefinitely, that is, until you manually change it. It is good to specify at this point that the temperature can also be set manually from the thermostat, with the touch controls and the button. It is an operation that we do not recommend, however, because it overwrites the commands set by the app.
The Tado ° app also provides a very useful way of programming the heating by time slots. With the “intelligent programming” function, which can always be set from the temperature menu with a tap on the calendar icon, it is possible to select the times of the day in which the heating will start automatically, so as to always find the warm house and welcoming when we get up in the morning or when we return from work. Another option available (but which in our opinion becomes superfluous once we find the right balance with intelligent programming) is the activation of the thermostat with Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit or Alexa. Just say “Alexa (or Ok Google, or Hey Siri), set the heating to 22 degrees” to start the heating through the manual control of the application.
The Tado ° system also includes “skills” for intelligent management of heating which help to correctly program the activation of the boiler and promote energy savings. For example, the thermostat is able to detect indoor humidity and interpret weather forecasts to suggest the optimal temperature or the activation and deactivation of the heating under certain conditions. For example, Tado ° is able to understand when a window is open, consequently turning off the heating to avoid waste, and can check the user’s position to activate the “away” mode automatically and thus avoid heating empty rooms. To automate these last two functions, however, it is necessary to activate the subscription auto-assist function (costs € 2.99 per month or € 24.99 per year).
Finally, the “Environmental Wellbeing” tab of the Tado ° app offers a report on the quality of the air outside the house, thus suggesting when is the best time to ventilate or to keep the windows closed. The function is useful for allergy sufferers, because the app also reports the level of pollen present in the atmosphere. The quality of the air inside the house is instead a score that the app deduces from the external values, crossing them with the level of humidity and with the average internal temperature.
Do you really save?
If you switch from a traditional thermostat to the Tado ° thermostat, it takes a few days to get used to the new system. After some initial skepticism (especially if you have a fairly small house where a smart thermostat could be considered superfluous), the convenience of being able to control the heating with your smartphone becomes evident, especially after spending some time setting the time slots of the intelligent programming. In our test we found two functions particularly useful: the “away” mode and the possibility of activating the heating remotely. The first is very convenient because it has priority over intelligent programming: if we are not at home, the thermostat simply does not start and the heating remains only in antifreeze mode. The second is useful when you are returning at unusual times that cannot be predicted with the programming of the thermostat. Just tell the Google assistant to activate the heating (or do it manually from the app) while we go home to be greeted by a comfortable climate on our return.
The other advantage – at least according to Tado ° and the other manufacturers of smart thermostats – is the energy and economic savings that can be obtained by optimizing the use of heating. We haven’t tried the product long enough to make a comparison with the previous winter season, but according to the app’s estimates as early as December, the smart thermostat helped us consume 4.5% less energy. The factor is calculated taking into account the use of system skills and is to be compared to the use of a traditional thermostat. In our case, 4.5% is a low value, but it is linked to two factors: the small size of the apartment and the centralization of ignition with the thermostat only (without a capillary control of the rooms with intelligent thermostatic valves).
The answer is therefore yes, with a smart thermostat set correctly it is possible to save on heating, but the benefit is proportional to the size of the house or apartment and is linked to the possibility of controlling the rooms separately.
Overall, the Tado ° Smart Thermostat is a good product that lives up to the manufacturer’s promises. Installation can be a bit complicated but the after-sales telephone assistance is efficient and always available to solve any difficulties and problems. Overall we were positively impressed by the simplicity of use, overcoming some initial skepticism. The impression we get, however, is that installing the Tado ° Smart Thermostat is really worthwhile in large apartments and houses, with several separate rooms, where various rooms can be heated separately. In the case of smaller apartments, such as the one in our test, the convenience of remote control and simple programming of heating certainly remains, but the savings are lower.
Tado ° Smart Thermostat in the V3 + version can be purchased from various online retailers. For example, the basic kit version is available on Amazon, with a thermostat and a bridge, at 160 € (on offer at the time of writing). The version that includes two additional thermostatic valves costs € 349.99 instead.