Some thoughts on the tado (www.tado.com
) thermostat (I got bored waiting for Nest to launch theirs).
My aims with the product were to:
1. A system that came on and off automatically (when asleep, out of the house, on holiday, etc). British Gas Hive and others just provide app remote control, I wanted automation, beyond manual remote control.
2. A system I can actually operate, unlike the impenetrable UI on my boiler (my boiler has a "party mode", I mean seriously, wtf, who designs this shit?)
3. Remote monitoring, e.g. making sure the heating is off while on holiday (or on if very cold at home) and seeing what temperature the house is.
- It does all the above. I have set the sleep temperature, the day-time temperature for when people are at home, and sleep/wake times. Last night we jumped on the train to come home, by the time we got home the house was warming up nicely, having switched off automatically when we went out. Magic.
- Their staff are keen to help
- The service and software are certainly beta
- Installation is painful. Let their UK contractor do it, or if you plan to do it yourself you'll probably need half a day, to be comfortable delving into a boiler with a screwdriver, and to call tado engineers to get advice (which they're happy to provide)
- The iOS and Android apps are ok, but not great. e.g. the Android app is a bit sluggish, it doesn't confirm to Android app design guidelines, and I find the UI pretty confusing at times, e.g. yesterday an icon of a pedestrian appeared and everything went green - to me it's not obvious that this means "you're out, the heating is now off". The app doesn't clearly show a binary status for the heating, you have to dig into the charts, that seems a shame. The iPhone app seems less successful at sending locations than Android.
- Similarly the web app is ok, but could be improved a lot. e.g. if you get the temp sensor hot at any point (e.g. put it near a heater by mistake) the scales on the heating charts will be permanently screwed by your erroneous max temp.
- The system is COMPLETELY reliant on the phones' ability to reliably send distance-from-home data to tado. All it takes is for one person to appear to be at home when they're not and your heating will be on all day when the house is empty. Background app function, GPS/wifi access, phone battery life, and mobile coverage are all important factors.
- I remain concerned about any company having access to my location. I don't know if the tado apps calculate the distance from home and send that to their servers, or my specific location.
For anyone interested in the installation process.... tado comprises three boxes which comes all pre-paired to each other:
1. The temperature sensor. Battery operated, chargeable via USB, stick it on the wall anywhere you like. Easy. Mine had some problems communicating initially but I suspect that's because the battery was flat when it was delivered, it's fine since being charged.
2. The tado network/bridge box. Plugs into the router ethernet port. It needs USB power, I'm using a router USB socket. Again, very easy.
3. The tado box. This beast is conceptually much like a switch that connects two points inside the boiler - when they are joined the boiler is on, when not it's off. It also needs power. Installing this is the challenge.
That tado box can be connected in two ways:
1. One (surface) cable goes from the tado box into the boiler guts, connecting to where a thermostat would normally be wired (this was pretty easy in my boiler, just wire into the connection block using the manual instructions). The tado box then gets power over USB. Sadly with this method the original thermostat ends up being blanked off as it's not being used (you could put the temp sensor on the front of the blanking plate if you wanted, it's designed for that). You also end up with the tado box with a wire going into the boiler, and one going to USB power, if your boiler is on a wall and visible this doesn't look great. If your boiler is in a cupboard, it's probably fine. You need a power socket near the boiler.
2. The "premium" installation is to replace the original wired wall thermostat with the tado box, in such a way there are no visible wires. The result will be much neater, if your thermostat is in a sensible place. This approach relies on the existing wiring in the wall from the boiler to the thermostat. That wiring is used to feed the two switching connections in the tado box (to turn the boiler on and off) and power in the form of 230V neutral. If the existing cable is three core (earth + 2) you'll likely have to use earth to feed neutral power, and the other two for the switching circuit. If it's four core (earth +3 ) cable it's better as earth can remain earth. Either way, the boiler end of the neutral power line needs to be connected to neutral mains inside the boiler, how easy or possible that is depends on your boiler. I've not found the connection yet so my tado box is hanging from a cable under the boiler.
Tado suggested to me their installers will only do the basic install, so if you want the wires hidden away like the second method you'll likely need to do it yourself or pay a professional.
As a home-owner I hated the installation, but so far having got past that it works pretty well though it's early days.
As a landlord, would I install this in rented properties? I suspect not as the install will be difficult, and I think it's too bleeding edge, but in the long-term, who knows - it does have the potential to make life easier and save money on bills.