Installation and set-up
Tado is an internet-connected thermostat that promises to save you, on average, 26% on your heating costs. It does this by automatically adjusting your heating according to whether you’re at home or away, taking into account the weather forecast and how long your home typically takes to heat up.
There are three parts to the system, all very simple and elegantly designed: there’s a little white box that talks to your boiler, a small solar-powered temperature sensor which you can wall-mount or simply leave on a shelf, and a gateway that you plug into your router. The gateway needs power so you’ll either need to plug it into a power socket or the USB socket of your router, if your router has one.
Then there’s an app that each member of your household downloads to their iPhone or Android phone. (There’s no Windows Phone app yet.) The app enables you to adjust your heating settings, see what temperature your house is and view some basic stats. It also sends your location to the Tado box via the gateway so the system knows whether you’re at home or not.
Once set up, Tado automatically turns your heating down when the last person has left your house and turns it back on when the first person comes home. For the latter, you can move a slider in the app between ‘Comfort’ and ‘Savings’. Comfort starts heating your home before you arrive and Savings waits until you’re home.
You can purchase the Tado hardware for a one-off cost or rent it for £6.99 (8.25 euros) a month. If you later decide you want to buy instead of rent, the company will credit up to six months of previously paid rental fees towards the purchase price.
Tado doesn’t have the market to itself. It’s up against systems which include the Google-owned Nest, Hive from British Gas, Honeywell’s multi-zone Evohome system, and UK startup Heat Genius.
To set the system up, you need to connect the Tado box to your boiler or put it in place of a wall-mounted thermostat. Tado says that the box can be self-installed in less than half an hour and that 97% percent of their customers do so, although that figure drops to 70% in the UK where heating systems vary enormously. Given that I’m in the UK, and I’d be dealing with a) electricity and b) my heating system, I opted instead for the installation service, which is currently priced at £50.
When the Tado connector kit arrived, the cheery yellow ‘Beta’ sticker on the box made me wonder whether winter was the best time to test this out, but I needn’t have worried.
A couple of days later, the engineer came out to fit the box and get me set up. Fitting the box took around 15 minutes and once everything had synced I logged into the web-based interface to get set up. This involved entering my postcode, when I get up and go to bed each day of the week and the temperature I wanted it to be when I was at home. I then download the app onto my phone and, happy that everything was working correctly, the engineer left. The whole process took about half an hour.
I ran into my first and only difficulty with Tado when I returned from work on the day it had been fitted. The house was freezing cold. Cue a call to tech support.
The call was answered quickly and I wasn’t put into a queue – which would have been maddening given that I was calling from a cold house. The engineer was able to look at my location and see that Tado had got my home address wrong so didn’t register me as being at home when I was.
The problem was that Tado had assigned my home address by the postal city I entered rather than by my postcode – and that city is five miles from my house. As I was at home when I called, the support engineer was able to reset my home address to the correct location. That call would now be unnecessary as the latest version of the web-based app lets you change your home address in the account settings.
The engineer gave me as much technical information as I wanted, ensuring that I understood how the location detection worked and even talked about ideas the company was investigating to improve it. He also explained that Tado’s presence detection works by putting a virtual fence around your home – you can have this area reduced or extended by calling the support line if necessary.
It’s also worth noting that you can override the presence detection and flip the heating to manual mode via the phone app or the web-based interface, or you can simply turn on the heating by pressing the Home button on the Tado box at which point it will heat your house to your desired temperature. All useful options as a backup.
From that point on, Tado has just worked flawlessly, ensuring the house is warm in the mornings and when I get home, and reducing the temperature when there’s no one there. A quick look at the app shows the current temperature while you can also get a more detailed report showing a temperature graph for the day or week along with the times your heating was active and when your home was benefiting from solar radiation.
Unlike traditional heating controls, there’s no display on the Tado to tell you what temperature your room is and no dial to turn or button to press to adjust the temperature – for that information and functionality you need to use the phone or web app.
That takes a bit of getting used to, and may confuse guests who want to be able to adjust the heating manually, but if they have an Android or iOS device, you can install the app on their phone. That also means you can all come and go independently so if you leave the house your guests won’t be left in the cold. Alternatively, you can control your heating remotely from your own phone.
If your schedule is erratic, the Tado is ideal as you don’t need to guess when you’ll be getting home, which invariably ends up with you heating the house unnecessarily or arriving home early to a freezing cold house. I love knowing that I can jump in the car and go away for the weekend without having to remember to adjust the heating schedule or make a guess at what time I’m likely to return.
Besides convenience, Tado’s big selling point is that it can save you money, and so it should pay for itself over time. This is something I’ve been unable to measure as I recently had a new boiler fitted, replacing a horribly inefficient 20-year-old model, and so I can’t tell how much of my bill reduction is due to the boiler and how much is a benefit of the Tado. But I know the Tado is saving energy simply because the heating isn’t coming on unnecessarily early in the morning or when I’m not at home.
If you work from home, you may be frustrated that Tado doesn’t allow you to set temperatures for different times of the day and it doesn’t let you choose different temperatures according to who is home, but these are features that could be easily added to the app if there was enough demand. If settings such as this are introduced, I’d personally like to see them under an “Advanced settings” menu as the set and forget nature of Tado as it is is a big attraction.
Once the system is installed and you’ve entered your preferred settings, there’s really nothing else to do – your heating will come on when you wake up or get home and switch off when you leave the house.
You can switch to manual control if, for example, you’re out of the house and you have guests staying or you can install the app on their phone, and then choose whether to include them in Tado’s presence detection.
At £249 + £50 for installation it’s £50 more than Nest is charging in the UK but while Tado uses your phone for location detection, Nest’s “Auto-Away” system uses a sensor on the thermostat.
According to the Nest support site, how quickly Auto-Away activates depends on your schedule: if you always leave at, say, 8am, Auto-Away will activate at around 8:30am, but if your schedule follows a less predictable routine, Auto-Away could take two hours to activate. There are advantages to both systems but to me, Tado’s solution feels more elegant.
It’s clear that the creators of Tado hold simplicity as a key tenet, and this is evident in the hardware design, the app’s user interface, the ease of set-up and the way that Tado just gets on and does its thing, which is looking after your heating so you don’t ever have to think about it.
There’s really nothing to dislike about Tado as long as you have an Android phone or an iPhone. If you have a Windows phone, or any other phone, you won’t like it much, though, because there’s no app for you. You could still use the web interface to control your heating but you’d miss out on the location detection, which is a major appeal of Tado.
Tado is a smart system with a minimalist design and an intuitive user interface. It’ll save you time fiddling about with heating controls from the minute it’s set up, and it’ll save you money in the long run. We recommend it wholeheartedly, although if you have any doubts about fitting it yourself we’d advise having it professionally installed.
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