Reviewed by Jacob Stig Bruntse Nielsen.
When I think of home automation, it is almost impossible to avoid the control of heating in the home, in the smart way. There are several manufacturers of smart thermostats, some smarter than others. The first kind I know of are those that were typically available in DIY shops or home improvement stores, where the individual thermostat is controlled electronically via a small display built into the thermostat. Via the display you can control a day and week program, set times for start and end, comfort temperature and night/away temperature.
Of course, the thermostat also has a rotary knob where the temperature can be controlled manually as on an old-fashioned thermostat. Next kind are systems such as Danfoss Living Connect. Here, thermostats are controlled centrally via a small display and an app on a phone via a bluetooth connection.
Both types described above are not considered “smart” but the self-contained thermostat is inexpensive and can provide better comfort and a greater financial saving over a standard manually controlled thermostat. It only gets really smart when you get a system with a gateway to the Internet such as those that are compatible with IFTTT or similar home automation systems.
The product that I review in this article is produced by Tado. Tado is a German company that regards itself as the market leader in smart home climate control. Their mission is to reduce private energy consumption on climate solutions with products that offer high comfort, better indoor climate and ease of use.
Tado produces several different products within both smart control of heating and cooling, but the article here is about their Smart Radiator Thermostats.
Tado Smart Radiator Thermostats
The Tado product line for climate control of heat in the home includes a smart radiator thermostat, a smart room thermostat, a gateway and an extension kit.
All the products are packed nicely so you also get an extremely joyful unboxing experience. The Tado smart radiator thermostat comes in a box with various adapters so that it can be mounted on almost any radiator valve of recent date. The only valves they cannot handle are the old ones with a large, closed-open handle, which is only a valve and not intended for mounting a thermostat.
The first step is to mount the Tado Gateway. This device creates a connection between the Tado Cloud service and the devices that are subsequently registered. The device connects to power and a regular LAN cable to a switch or router with access to the Internet. Tado Gateway offers, among other things, the possibility of Geofencing, a function that overrides Smart Control, which I will come back to later, on the radiator thermostats.
When the Tado app is installed on your smartphone and your home address is entered, the gateway is able to turn down the heat in the house if you leave the home. As soon as you near your home again, the gateway prompts the smart radiator thermostats to increase the heat again.
Everyone in the family should have the app installed, as it provides the best management. It doesn’t make much sense that it is only one person who has the app as the heat will then be turned down even though there are others at home.
After the Tado Gateway installation, the smart radiator thermostats must be installed. This is done using an app, which shows a detailed guide on how to register the thermostat in the app and then mount it on the radiator valve. The thermostat calibrates as soon as it is mounted. If the temperature feels a little too high or a little too low, you can manually calibrate the smart radiator thermostat in the app.
This is best done by measuring with a thermometer in the middle of the room and then selecting the temperature in the app for the room in which the smart radiator thermostat is located. Subsequently, the radiator thermostat can then be attached to a room that you configure in the app.
You can also add more smart radiator thermostats to the same room so that they are all controlled simultaneously when choosing a room temperature for eg. the living room. Now the thermostat can be configured using the app’s Smart Schedule to set a comfort temperature and save temperature at predetermined times of the day and day of the week.
Here it is also possible to read the desired temperature, the room’s current temperature and humidity. In the large square with the desired temperature, just press once and push a line up and down if you want to change the temperature manually. The temperature can of course also be changed on the smart radiator thermostat rotary knob.
If you download IFTTT you can automate the system. In my own case, for example, I use it to send an SMS to my old-fashioned security alarm to activate it as soon as GeoFencing sees that everyone in the household has left the home. Similarly, the alarm is deactivated when GeoFencing sees that a family member associated with the home is approaching the home.
If you have a room thermostat, cable or wireless, there is also a Tado Smart Thermostat that can replace the old one. However, this must be installed together with an extension kit that connects to the gas boiler of the home to function. Here you have to be aware that not all gas boilers can communicate with the extension kit which I experienced. I would recommend that you contact the manufacturer of the gas boiler you have before you buy a Smart Thermostat and extension kit, as Tado does not provide this kind of information before the purchase.
Pros and Cons
The benefits of a system such as Tado are clearly the great compatibility with radiator valves, the GeoFencing feature, the possibility of great financial savings and that the system is both Apple Homekit, Google Assistant and Alexa compatible. Just go ahead and say “OK, Google, turn down the heat in the bedroom” and it’s done. There are also IFTTT applets that support Tado.
Tado also promises up to 31% savings on the heating bill according to the independent Fraunhofer institute for building physics (see Fraunhofer IBP report no. 527).
The app can also provide humidity messages so you can remember to get aired out. The app also shows data from a weather service, which is especially good if you live in a bigger city. You are told whether the air quality outdoors is too poor and you can therefore take the appropriate action. Last but not least, you get the Weather Adaptation function which ensures that the heat is turned up or down in advance based on the weather forecast.
The disadvantage is that Auto-assist GeoFencing and the Open Window function are only available if you pay a subscription. However, the subscription is affordable at approx. 3 euros per month and can be terminated at any time, eg. during the summer months when you do not heat your house anyway.
The smart radiator thermostats may be a little difficult to mount on the adapters and if it has first calibrated, remove the batteries to be able to mount it again. If not, the mechanism to press the radiator valve pin will make it very difficult to push the thermostat over the adapter.
Some users have mentioned that the smart radiator thermostats use a lot of power and that the batteries have to be replaced frequently. It’s not something I’ve experienced even in the three months I’ve had them and if you choose to use rechargeable batteries it shouldn’t be a problem.
The price is high, too high someone might think. But since Tado offers that you can return the product if you are not satisfied with the savings after a 12-month periods where you have at least tried them for 6 months, you cannot go wrong. See it as an investment that is returned in 1-4 years depending on the usage pattern and the size of your home and the price the units are purchased for.
At the time of writing, a starter kit costs approx. 133 euros and a package with 4 extra thermostats approx. 295 euros.