Smart power has become a buzzword on the smart home frontier, with competing smart heating and lighting technologies like Nest, Hive, Evohome and Hue.
Recombu Digital has reviewed both Hive and Hue, and we recently compared the British Gas smart heating control system with Nest, Insteon Thermostat and Evohome.
You’ve already suggested others we could look at, like Heatmiser, Climote and Tado, but if you want to know how useful they really are, there’s one thing missing from all of these products: real-time feedback.
I’m waiting for my winter and spring gas bills to arrive before I give a verdict on Hive, but even so, will I be able to glean anything solid from this data?
So far, this winter has been milder than a year ago, with no snow and very little severe cold in south-east England, although it’s been a lot more windy [insert curry joke here].
That’s one complicating factor, but a quarterly gas bill is still a crude way to measure usage, even using the British Gas app to report monthly meter readings in line with my payments.
It won’t show the difference if I adjust my heating at will, or experiment with different heating strategies, such as maintaining a constant temperature in a well-insulated home, or creating smart heating zones with a system like Evohome.
What I need is a way to measure my gas usage in real time, and compare the data to my heating strategy. I need a smart meter.
Smart heating: a Trojan horse for smart meters?
The government wants us all to have smart meters in our homes by the end of this decade, for gas, electricity and water.
As a data and tech junkie I’m all for this in principle, although I’m far from convinced that the government or the energy industries can currently offer a safe, secure smart meter.
This government seems to have an especially cavalier attitude to our data privacy, whether it’s flogging our NHS records to businesses, or wholesale monitoring of phone and internet traffic.
It’s possible that smart heating control is really a Trojan horse to sneak smart meters into the houses of influential early tech adopters. That’s a tough bargain to weigh up the benefits for and against.
Smart appliances that talk back
If you don’t want a smart meter, then smart appliances could tell you how much energy your hob, oven, fridge and boiler are using all the time.
It’s possible to buy electricity monitors like OWL and Efergy, but manufacturers really need to build this smart energy reporting into their products, so consumers don’t need extra gadgets.
As yet there’s no standard for appliances to share their data with your apps or devices, with manufacturers no doubt unwilling to reveal their kit’s real-world performance.
All the same, whether it’s smart meters, smart appliances, or both, we’ll need to know our gas and electricity consumption by the minute before we can make smart decisions and take control of our energy bills.