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2014 – The year of the Smart Thermostat?

on February 11, 2014 at 7:32 am

With Google’s recent acquisition of Nest Laboratories for $3.2 Billion in cash catching headlines, people are beginning to take the concept of Smart connected devices for the home seriously. Nest have done well in the States for with their Smart Thermostat, which was the first product they released (in 2011). And whilst their Smart Smoke detector has been shipped outside the U.S.A, they have yet to announce a UK release date for their Thermostat, giving rise to a number of alternatives trying to pre-emptively capitalise on the market before its inevitable arrival.

What makes a Smart Thermostat Smart?

Nest was founded by Tony Fadell, an ex-Apple executive known as the ‘Father of the iPod’ for his development of the music player, who was also involved with the first three generations of the iPhone. Nest was started in 2010 (with a number of Apple engineers joining the company), and a year later, the first mainstream Smart Thermostat was released. Combining beautifully designed hardware and software; the stylishly minimalist thermostat with touch-sensitive LED display, and the accompanying apps made heating your home simple and intuitive. More than simply allowing you to control the heating in your home from your Smartphone; the Nest Learning Thermostat learns your heating preferences and habits over a few days and then programs itself to make more efficient use of your energy (helping to save you money). It even features an Auto-Away function that detects when the last person has left and adjusts the heating accordingly. Straightforward to install, and set-up – it offers a very modern solution to keeping our homes warm and our energy bills down.

Why would you want one in your home?

TadoIn an age of soaring energy prices (the 6 biggest suppliers in the UK have increased their prices by 37% since October 2010), the potential for cutting down your bills (Nest claims that an un-programmed thermostat can waste up to 20% of your heating and cooling bill) is definitely an attractive reason to want one in your home (especially if you’re on a budget). In the U.S.A even with a price tag of $249 Nest were shipping between 40-50,000 units per month by January 2013, and the testimonials from users are overwhelmingly positive. So, if seen as a long-term investment, a Smart Thermostat could be viewed as paying for itself with the savings you’ll make.

However, Google’s take-over of Nest has raised some questions over whether this will infringe even further on our privacy. With their extensive history of tracking and collating our online behaviours for the purposes of targeted marketing; along with their contentious consolidation of over 60 privacy documents resulting in legal issues for the tech giant, people should be wary. So far Nest has tried to allay these fears, with Faddell’s first speech since the Google take-over stipulating that any changes to device user privacy policy would be opt-in and transparent.
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3 alternatives to a Nest Thermostat

Tado

Already dominating the market of Smart Thermostats in Germany, the Tado adapts to your environment and should become an autonomous unit that anticipates and controls the heating in your home for you. Whilst not as stylish as the Nest, and controlled purely via the App, the Tado does offer many of the same features.

Hive

From the smart energy arm of British Gas comes the Hive, and likely to be a cheaper option than both Nest and Tado. It offers the additional benefit of being able to control your hot water, but does lack the ability to detect whether there is anyone in and adjust itself accordingly.

Neo HeatMiser

The HeatMiser can be setup to work in 5/2 day, 7 day or 24 hour mode, and can be programmed for easily for holidays. Not quite as Smart as the Nest Learning Thermostat or the Tado, but cheaper and perhaps more appealing to those who would prefer to retain more control over the settings.
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