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Buying a smart thermostat: a good move?

Investing in a connected thermostat can help cut your energy consumption by optimising energy management in your home. But that doesn’t make it the right solution for everyone.

In some cases, your habits and wishes and the characteristics of your heating installation can make this kind of investment less attractive, or even absolutely pointless.

Is the smart thermostat right for you? And what to look out for when buying a smart thermostat? Let’s find out!

Did you say smart thermostat?

First of all, a quick reminder...

The smart thermostat is part of the growing family of connected objects. What distinguishes it from 'traditional' regulation systems? Its ability to collect, process and communicate information via the Internet, which opens up new possibilities for you.

It means that, like a conventional programmable thermostat, the intelligent thermostat regulates the heating of your home, following your instructions. But it also has some exciting new features. For example:

  • It can be controlled remotely using an app. That means you can turn the heating up or down without actually being at home;
  • It allows you to track your consumption in real time and analyse it over the long term thanks to data history;
  • It is self-learning. In other words, it analyses your adjustments and habits to fine tune its programming and be in step with the level of comfort you want;
  • It has automatic features. For example, by geolocating the smartphones of the house’s occupants, it turns off the heating when there is nobody at home and switches it back on again when an occupant approaches;
  • It interacts with other connected objects (connected lighting, weather station, etc.).

When is the smart thermostat a good move for you?

1. My heating needs are always changing

You are away on a regular basis, your schedules are irregular... In short, if a conventional solution does not offer you enough flexibility for optimal regulation of your heating.

2.  I want to keep careful track of my consumption

You have decided to reduce your energy bill by monitoring your day-to-day consumption.

3. I am a bit of a geek

You want to take full advantage of the possibilities of connected objects to improve your creature comforts at home.

Three reasons not to invest in a smart thermostat

The least expensive smart thermostats will set you back around €150 but the bill for the most sophisticated models can top €500. This is usually accompanied by installation costs.

Investing this kind of money may not be worthwhile if you identify with the following profiles:

1. I already have my heating regulation under control

You’re almost always at home, your schedules are generally regular or you are completely familiar with your habits... In short, you are managing perfectly well with a traditional thermostat and/or programmable valves. You have already fine tuned your settings and you’re in control of your energy consumption.

2. My installation is not compatible

For example, you use a stove that is not connected to a central heating system.

3. I am not tech savvy

You don’t have a smartphone, you’re allergic to technology and you don’t want to spend time learning to use a new system. You are wary of the potential use of your data, despite the manufacturers’ reassurances.

Buying a smart thermostat - what to look out for?

You can buy a smart thermostat through your energy supplier or simply pick one up at a specialist shop. In both cases, there are a few things to bear in mind.

Through your energy supplier

Quite a few energy suppliers have financially rewarding deals for the purchase and installation of a smart thermostat. However, in deciding to go down that road, it is worth bearing in mind the following:

  • Often, the purchase price comes with extra monthly user costs or a more expensive tariff.
  • The hefty discount offered on the actual device is often only available if you sign up to a multi-year contract with the dealer.
  • If you decide to switch to a different supplier before the contract expires, you will be required to pay the residual value on the device.
  • Always check carefully that the new thermostat is compatible with your boiler. That is not always clear, not even to your energy supplier’s helpdesk staff.
  • It is quite easy to work out how much the thermostat will actually cost you. To do so, log on to the price comparison website of your region carrying the CREG label, do the test and compare the annual price of the plan-with-thermostat against the price of the cheapest plan offered by your supplier.
TIP: Do not give your old thermostat to the fitter to take away. If you do not like the new system, this will save you the expense of reverting to the old situation.

You buy the device yourself

Obviously, you can just go out and buy and fit a smart thermostat yourself. In that case, bear the following in mind:

  • Make sure the device is compatible with your boiler. That does not automatically apply to first-generation smart thermostats. Just about every manufacturer of central heating boilers now offers smart thermostats as part of their range. They are guaranteed to be compatible.
  • A lot of the time, older models are not a good match with modulating boilers. In those cases, the thermostat operates like a two-position switch: either off or 100% on. Modulating boilers have energy-saving settings that sit somewhere in between. The result: a boiler fitted with a smart thermostat is likely to consume more energy.
TIP: Also check the Bruxelles Environnement website to find out whether you're entitled to a grant for the purchase of a ambient thermostat.

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