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Smart Energy Showdown: Nest vs Hive vs Insteon vs Evohome

Which smart energy solution is best? Nest, Hive, Insteon or Evohome? We’ve gone over all four with a fine-tooth comb to give you a better idea of which is worthy of your cash. 

Smart energy products are the new darlings of the home heating industry, giving us greater control over how much heating we use in the home and allowing us to make savings. Their popularity is such that it can be difficult to know which one to go for – Nest, Hive, Insteon Thermostat and Evohome – being just a few on the growing list of options. 

From top left clockwise: Insteon, Hive, evohome and Hive.

So, what’s available to us here in the UK right now, what’s coming round the corner and what should you get? Should you buy now or wait? How much can you save? Which is the cheapest to set up? Kick back, put the kettle on as we answer all these questions and more. 

Set-up and installation 

Setting up a smart energy system typically requires you to replace your existing thermostat with a connected ‘smart’ thermostat and connect a wireless hub to your home broadband router. The wireless hub receives commands from your phone or your computer and relays them to the smart thermostat which then adjusts the temperature accordingly. 

In most cases, set-up and installation should be handled by a professional installer. Unless you’re confident in your technical proficiency and you think you can do it yourself, it’s recommended that you get someone in. 

Nest is perhaps the most well known smart energy solution. Sadly, the Nest Learning Thermostat is only available in the US right now. A British launch for Nest’s thermostat has’t been announced, but the company has confirmed plans to bring it to the UK. 

If you’re able to get hold of one from the States, then you get everything you need in the box, including a screwdriver and screws to get you started. Those after a more DIY approach will appreciate this, but Nest Certified Professionals are on hand to assist those worried about blowing up the house.

Hive can either be installed by an engineer for £40 (included in the standard set-up fee) or if  you fancy doing it yourself (or you know someone who can do it cheaper) you can save a little money by going the DIY route. 

The Insteon Thermostat is very much a plug and play system, and as such there’s currently no offer of an engineer visit to set one up. Step by step instructions are displayed on the company’s website should you want to try your own hand, if not you’ll have to seek help from elsewhere. 

Likewise, Honeywell doesn’t offer the option of a professional installation with Evohome, meaning you’ll have to use your initiative or hire the services of a qualified installer. 

How much do they cost? 

Nest only sells its Nest Protect connected smoke alarm in the UK right now, for £109. It’s hard to say how much the Nest Learning Thermostat, priced in the US at $249 (£150), will retail for in old Blighty. Given the difference in price between the US and UK versions of the Net Protect, we expect the Learning Thermostat to be more expensive here than it is in the US. 

Hive costs £199 for the full package and a professional engineer visit (worth £40) is included. This involves a full set up of the service by a British Gas engineer and a full demonstration of how it works. Despite being a British Gas product, you don’t have to be a British Gas customer to sign up for Hive. You can be an E.ON, EDF or Co-operative Energy customer, Hive doesn’t care. 

Insteon doesn’t offer a ‘starter kit’ with everything bundled, so you’ll need to fork out for the Insteon thermostat (£99) and the Insteon hub (£99) and then arrange (and pay for) for someone to set it all up for you. 

Honeywell’s Evohome is clearly the priciest option available here. A starter kit (£249) gives you a control panel (a high grade, portable touchscreen thermostat) a hub and one control for a single radiator in your home. Additional Evohome controls for extra radiators cost around £77. Again, there’s no free installation, meaning you’ll have to fork out for that separately. 

What can I do with it? 

The Nest Learning Thermostat does what it says on the tin. It ‘learns’ about you and your daily routines in order to build up a heating plan based around your home. Thanks to an array of sensors, Nest will know when you’re out, so it won’t heat up an empty home. You’ve got the power to set up schedules so the heating comes on automatically and you can manually control Nest from your phone or desktop. 

The idea is that you let it get on with things, while giving you the power to alter the temperature when you feel like intervening. You can also review how much energy you’re using each month. 

Nest Labs also make a smart smoke alarm – Nest Protect – which you can access from a mobile app. For now, these are the only two products available in the Nest stable. 

Hive lets you control both your hot water and heating remotely. You can change the temperature manually, by flicking through a colourful wheel, or automatically. Customisable presets let you set up profiles for the morning, middle of the day and night, and an overnight frost protection setting ensures that your pipes won’t freeze. 

You can activate hour-long bursts of hot water if you want to jump in the shower first thing in the morning (or when you’ve got back in), instead of having to turn the hot water on for longer stretches.   

While Insteon’s system lets you control the temperature remotely, it has the potential to be more than just a thermostat.

As well as letting you control the heating, Insteon lets you switch off TVs, toasters, lamps and lights if you want to further automate and remotely control your home. If you’re in the market for a more automated home as well as a smart heating control, then Insteon could be for you. 

Evohome takes things a bit further by letting you set up heating controls in up to 12 rooms, or ‘zones’, across the home. This allows you to heat specific floors, areas as well as individual rooms. 

How upgradeable and future-proof is it? 

No grand future plans have been announced by Nest Labs but we expect that search giant Google, which recently splashed out nearly £2 billion for the compaby, has plans up its sleeves. For now, Nest Learning Thermostat is simply a clever device that learns about your energy usage habits and lets you control the heating from your phone.

British Gas hasn’t mentioned any plans to develop Hive beyond its current form. 

The modular nature of Insteon means than you’ll be able to connect and manipulate a wide number of appliances in the home. It’s a good example of the so-called ‘internet of things’ — devices connected to a network for extra convenience.

Evohome is strictly about controlling heating and nothing else. There’s a limit to how many heaters you can control — up to 12 — which will be more than enough for most homes, unless you live in a countryside manor or a four storey townhouse in which case you’ve probably got so much money that the heating bills are the least of your worries. 

How much money can I save? 

Honeywell calculates that you can cut your heating bill by up to 40 per cent and British Gas says that Hive customers can save up to £150 a year, but your own mileage will vary.

The amount of money you’ll be able to save with each of these systems depends on several factors. Thin, poorly insulated walls and an unlagged loft mean you’re going to spend a lot of money heating up your house regardless. 

Rooms with a south-facing wall will be naturally warmer in the early hours of the day, provided they get a decent burst of sunlight, so you might want to consider not jacking up the temperature any any rooms here if you can help it. 

The bonus of a smart energy system is that it gives you the power to turn the heating down or off if you find yourself staying out later than planned on evenings or weekends. 

Verdict

As it’s the only smart energy option here that offers a professional engineer visit and a full demo once it’s up and running, Hive is the best option right now for those who want a complete package. 

The dynamic, permanently adjusting nature of Nest’s Learning Thermostat will certainly appeal to those who like the idea of a system that adapts to them like a glove. The obvious drawback is that it’s not available in the UK right now. 

Insteon’s offering is aimed more at those who want to tinker and have control over appliances in the home other than the thermostat and radiators. For this reason, it’s also potentially expensive, so you’d need to weigh the benefits of long term savings against that initial investment. 

Honeywell’s Evohome isn’t cheap, but it affords the user a more granular degree of control (no pun intended) over heating in the home. 

 

Nest

Hive Insteon Evohome Thermostat
Price $249 (£150) £159 £198 £249
Optional Engineer Visit $varies £40 No No
DIY set up Yes Yes Yes Yes
Smoke Alarm Yes No No No
Home Automation No No Yes No

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