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Climote: We go hands-on with Scottish Power’s favourite smart heating system

Climote is one of the many smart heating systems that’s going toe-to-toe with the likes of Hive and Nest right now. 

It’s currently being offered to Scottish Power customers at a discounted rate in the UK, but you can pick one up today, no matter who your energy provider is, and start saving money. 

In Ireland where the company is supplying three of the largest utilities, two of them are now offering Climote free with a 24 month energy tariff, not unlike how mobile networks offer new iPhones on long-term contracts

We caught up with Climote co-founder Derek Roddy to talk about the benefits Climote offers customers, why it’s a Trojan horse and how it differs from the competition. 

Turn up the heat: Climote is a three-in-one water, bedroom and living room heating machine
Turn up the heat: Climote is a three-in-one water, bedroom and living room heating machine

Unlike some smart heating systems that only control heating of the whole house, Climote controls the heat in three ‘zones’ – the main living zone and the bedroom zone and you can also add in remote thermostats. 

As well as regulating the heat in these areas, Climote also controls your hot water, letting you turn up the heat for a hot shower or the washing up. Roddy said that it’s these three things or ‘zones’ that customers want to be able to control the most. 

“The cost of building a three-zone system from day one would made more sense to us, rather than selling customers everything piece by piece,” said Roddy. “This unit is also designed to replace old-style pin clocks and can be installed in around 30 minutes.”

Climote: Like a pin clock, iPod and Sky+ remote all rolled into one

In order to make the transition from pin clocks easier, Climote has transplanted the familiar design of these traditional dial controls and mapped them onto a bright colour display of its Hub main control unit. 

The menus are navigated by turning and pressing the grey clickwheel in a manner that’ll be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever used an iPod. 

Despite this, the one piece of iconic design Roddy cites as an inspiration above anything is the Sky+ remote control. 

Like a iPod for your heating: Climote co-founder Derek Roddy shows us how it's done
Like an iPod for your heating: Climote co-founder Derek Roddy shows us how it’s done

“The thing about the Sky+ remote is that it’s instinctive. Over 10 million people use this device daily without any training or hours spent reading instructions. You pick it up and you more or less know what to do with it, but there’s options there. We wanted to create that same sense of accessibility and possibility. 

“It’s a great lesson in keeping it simple and not falling into the trap of adding features that just don’t and won’t get used. We have taken the feedback from over 400 electricians and plumbers who have Climote in their own homes and ‘keep it simple’ is what we consistently hear.”

Setting times for your heating and hot water to come on is based around Climote’s patented ‘one touch programming’ approach. 

Cycling left and right on the wheel allows you to pick from one of the three zones. One click will let you access the thermostat for that zone. You’re then taken to a circular clock – a digital facsimile of the old pin clock. Scroll through until you find the start time for your heating to come on, click once and scroll through until you reach your desired finish time, click again and you’re done. 

Editing heating intervals is a simple case of navigating to one of the dots, clicking, moving the goalposts as you see fit and clicking again. To delete an interval, simply move the pointer into the coloured field and click once when you see the ‘X’ symbol appear. 

As well as setting times you can also fire up boosts – short bursts of heating that last from half an hour to six hours – on demand. 

Changing the temperature is just as straightforwards. Watch the video below to see how everything works. 

Once you’ve set your timers you can then specify how hot things get, controlling the heat of both the water and the individual zones. 

Smart heating makers often refer to rooms and floors as ‘zones’, due to the fact that rooms and floors can often be grouped together, letting you heat one side or floor of the house at the same time, as well as individual rooms. See our feature on Honeywell Evohome and our extensive smart heating comparison for a fuller explanation of zoning.  

Mobile smart homes

Climote wouldn’t be a smart heating system if there wasn’t a mobile app to go with it. Everything the main Climote unit does you’ll be able to do on your iOS or Android device.  

Speaking of phones, a key advantage of Climote over other systems is that it doesn’t rely on a fixed broadband or a WiFi connection for you to send instructions to it.  

Like Amazon’s 3G Kindles, Climote is embedding a Global SIM card in every device which will communicate to your phone over GPRS. 

This unique approach gives the company access to every home in the UK. Once the unit powers up it automatically connects to the best mobile network in the area and Climote says it will stay connected for years if not decades. Only a small amount of data is needed to convey instructions, so 3G, not to mention 4G was deemed an unnecessary expense. 

If you can see your network's name on your phone, you can issue commands to Climote.
If you can see your network’s name on your phone, you can issue commands to Climote.

This means if your broadband service falters or your router is on the fritz, it won’t stop you from getting your home as warm as you like it to be.  

The global SIM is provided by a company called Arkessa, and means Climote will work on any of the UK networks, using hardly any signal. “If you only have one bar but you can see the Vodafone or O2 name popping up on your phone, you’ll be able to use Climote,” Roddy said. 

This might be a dealbreaker for customers living in some seriously remote regions where there’s no mobile signal at all. The UK Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project, due to be completed by 2015, should fill in any remaining mobile blackspots, so on paper the number of customers who could be affected by this is tiny. 

Humans aren’t robots

Another distinguishing feature of Climote compared to systems like Nest and Tado is that it won’t learn to predict customer’s routines, at least not initially. 

Climote isn’t ruling out bringing things like geolocation triggers and learning patterns into the fold in the future, but for the short term it wants to put the customer in control of the system – not the other way round. 

“Boosts are the most used function on Climote, by far,” said Roddy. “Then it’s temperature adjustment. Give someone a simple on off button and they’ll use it. Humans aren’t predictable.” 

The Climote argument is that while learning algorithms which turn the heaters on at, say 5:00pm because your house expects you to be home just after 6:00pm are great, plans change, you’re caught in traffic or your train is cancelled. Climote wants to put control in peoples hands first while it works on perfecting schedule learning or location-based services. 

The Climote apps replicate the functions of the Hub main control unit
The Climote apps replicate the functions of the Hub main control unit

Climote: What’s next?

Apart from geolocation and learning what else is on the horizon for Climote? 

Roddy remained tight-lipped on the specifics but told Recombu that the main Climote unit on sale now is a Trojan horse for the Internet of Things. 

Wireless thermostats with dials on for other rooms could allow for further zoning. Smart smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors could also be added to the Climote repertoire. 

As well as other devices emerging under the Climote umbrella, the company will continue to investigate how customers could save more money by using energy more efficiently and intelligently. 

The company is looking at how smart grid interactive controls, load balancing and hybrid technology could be used to save customers money. 

Roddy said that storing renewable energy is a massive challenge but added that Climote is excited about the ‘game-changing technology’ its developing in this area with utility partners. 

The rise of smart meters – which will let customers see how much money they’re spending in real time – could also be transformative, but right now Climote is only interested in three things; keeping your living room warm, your bedroom warm and your water hot. 

Head over to Climote’s site for more information. 

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