(Pocket-lint) - A connected home is becoming a more desirable prospect these days and the Internet of Things (IoT) is making that a feasible reality. Whether it be through appliances that let you know when your undies are clean and ready to hang on the line, through to heating systems that can be controlled from your phone. The latter being exactly where Tado comes in.
While connected appliances are still finding their feet with only a few manufacturers holding the reins, the connected heating system market is well on its way with plenty options available. There's Nest by Google, Hive by British Gas, Honeywell's Evohome and a number of others more.
Tado's distinct sell is that it syncs with your phone to track where you are, when you're heading home and, therefore, how to automate heating and hot water. We've been living with it for several months to see how it stacks up compared to the other systems on the market.
What is Tado?
Tado wants to take make heating simpler and less wasteful. The system can be retrofitted to your current thermostat setup, with the idea being it acts as an assistant to manage the controls for you.
Like many of the other systems on the market, it will allow you to manually control everything via a smartphone or tablet (iOS and Android systems for now), but where Tado differs in its approach is by monitoring and tracking your device's location. That's what makes it intelligent: it knows when you have left the house and when you are on your way back based on your phone's location.
The idea is that the system will automatically help you save energy by turning the heating off when you leave the house, and back on not just when you come back through the door but in advance when you are on your way home. Tado uses a technology which it calls Model Predictive Control to pull in and analyse a range of data points such as outside temperature, weather forecast, the speed you travel home and how fast your house heats up to calculate the best temperature for you to come home to - clever, right?
There are three parts to the Tado system: the Box that connects to your boiler; the Gateway that connects to your router; and the Temperature Sensor that is placed in your living space and is powered by a solar cell. It's compatible with plenty of boilers, meaning it should be accessible to most.
Our boiler fell into the compatible list, meaning we were able to get it set up in our home, although we lacked a hot water programmer so this wasn't something the system could do for us - but if you have the relevant programmer installed then Tado has you covered on all fronts.
Tado does say that the system can be installed by yourself and it does offer step-by-step instructions to follow online (once you enter your login details), but we didn't fancy trying to be a gas engineer for the day. We would advise being adept at DIY if you're going to take it on. Fortunately Tado offers install for £50, you might just have to be little patient for availability.
The instructions are detailed enough to be able to follow and when the engineer was installing the system for us, we did shadow him to see what was what. Ironically we ended up with two engineers coming over to fit Tado as the first wasn't entirely sure how to complete the install.
That brings a criticism in itself: it seemed he had no direct support at Tado to be able to call for help. If we had of attempted the installation ourselves and fallen into chin-stroking troubles then we might have ended up stuck. Our boiler may have been more complicated than newer boilers, but having technical support at hand beyond online instructions is surely a vital safety net?
The online system does know when everything is wired up and working correctly though, identifying when the router wasn't connected for example. So once the installation was complete, which took a couple of hours overall, we were confident it was fully operational and we weren't going to have any issues.
One thing to be aware of is the Tado Box that connects to your boiler and the Gateway that connects to your router both need power so you need to have an electrical socket close by and you will also need a spare port in your router to be able to connect the system.
The components within the Tado system have a sophisticated and sleek design, which is a good job seeing as it is always on display. The Temperature Sensor certainly made a nice change from the previous thermostat control that sat on our hallway wall. It took some time to get used to the absence of a temperature display, and not being able to control temperature from there, but then that's where the app takes over.
Both the Box and Gateway are hidden out of sight in our setup, but if they were to be on display they are completely inoffensive and stand out less than your router or landline phone would. The Tado system does a good job of blending in seamlessly.
All the components are important to making the system work as a whole, but it's the Temperature Sensor and the Tado Box that will determine the temperature of your house. Therefore it's worth considering that when you decide where they are placed.
For example, if the Temperature Sensor is placed in the line of direct sunlight then you might find that your house is cooler than you would like as the sensor will think it is hotter than it is. This is also the case if you put it upstairs where it is likely to be warmer. Try and place it in an area that will reflect the actual temperature of your home to give better consistency.
You can change which of the two devices measure the temperature in your house online in the expert settings. Unlike the Honeywell Evohome system, which offers a modular approach to adjust heating in multiple zones, Tado will heat your entire house up to your optimum temperature. You can't choose to have your bedroom cooler and your bathroom warmer, for example, it's all the same.
READ: Honeywell Evohome review
When it comes to control, we loved the Tado system because it's always at arm's reach. Plus it's intelligent, easy to use and it makes controlling your heating as easy as sending a text message.
At first we did have a few issues logging into the app on our Android device due to a bug that has since been fixed. Before it had been ironed out each letter we typed into the password section was over-written by the letter before it, meaning we had to put a space after each character and then delete it for it to register. It shows that software is always being updated and, according to Tado's website, a Windows Phone and Blackberry version of the app are also in the works.
Once you are in the app, you have control over the entire system. From optimum temperature, to night time temperature when you are sleeping, through to whether you want the presence detection active or not. This detection, which tracks your location, is what gives Tado its special selling point - the only reason we could think to turn it off is when you're on holiday and a friend is looking after your house, for example.
Swiping left in the app will take you to these main controls and it is here that you can really make the system work for you. There is the option to turn on manual control if you want your house hotter or cooler at that particular time but don't want to change your optimum temperature. You can also switch the heating on or off, and Tado will only intervene to keep the room above five degrees Celsius to avoid freezing pipes. There's even the option to see your heating costs, which is useful.
One of the things we liked most about the app was the ability to alter sleep timings. This was handy as we work from home most days but enjoy a lie-in on a Saturday. We set the sleep temperature to continue until 8am between Monday to Friday, but until 11am on Saturday, for example. You can choose to have the same schedule Monday to Sunday, the same schedule Monday to Friday and then Saturday and Sunday or a separate schedule for each day.
There is also the option to set a different schedule for those in your household without a smartphone. Perhaps the best thing about Tado is that once you have set the temperatures you want and the schedules you want, you literally don't need to touch the app again because it automatically adjusts your heating accordingly.
You can register a number of devices to the system for partner and family control and if you go out but another member of your family is still at home, they will be able to override the system through the app on their own device or online. There's no chance of anyone getting cold feet - quite literally.
If you want to see what is going on and how the system is working around your life, you can head into the app and spin your phone or tablet horizontal. Doing so will bring up a graph displaying information: when you left, when you came home, when the system went into sleep mode, and what the temperature of your house was correlating to your actions.
Tado wants to save you money by reducing unnecessary energy costs. How extensively it does this is difficult to judge without a full year of data, but even just from a comfort point of view there's benefit to be had.
If you set the slider to the left, indicating savings with a green leaf symbol, Tado will make sure your home isn't heated too early. Set it to the Comfort Setting and Tado will make sure it is heated to the temperature you request before you get in. You can also set it to the middle of the slider, giving you the best of both worlds.
The app also provides all the control you need in terms of adjusting your heating, but if you want to deal with advanced settings, such as changing an offset temperature, then you can handle this online in the Expert Mode section. Once you are logged in online, you will also be able to delete users, change your login details and password and change your home address so Tado actually knows where home is.
Overall, we had no problems figuring out how to control Tado. Whether online or via the app we always got exactly what we wanted.
Aside from the installation being a little more effort than we would have liked - not that it was us doing the hard work here - we didn't experience major problems with the Tado heating system in our home.
We didn't find ourselves coming home to a cold house, while during sleeping hours we never felt like we were overheating. The system did exactly what it said it would.
However, there were times when we felt areas of our home were warmer than the temperature on the app stated. This is most likely down to the layout of our house rather than the system temperature not being completely accurate, but is something to keep in mind. Even so, thanks to the offset temperature adjustment feature in the Expert Mode online, this is easily countered and resolved.
We had no issues with connection in our use either, although Tado prefers Wi-Fi rather than just a cellular connection and will flash up with a warning if you turn Wi-Fi off. Worth bearing in mind.
Even though it lacks individual room or zone controls, Tado otherwise does exactly what it sets out to do: intelligently controlling your heating based on your location to home. It's clever stuff and if you have a hot water programmer then it can handle this too (we don't so couldn't test this aspect).
Once the install is handled - you can do that yourself, but we wouldn't recommend it - it's all plain sailing. Tado will set you back £249, making it £50 more than Hive by British Gas, but as Tado's install is a reasonable £50 it's potentially enough to cancel the price difference.
What Tado can do that others can't is track your location. This stalker-like ability continues to make us feel like we're saving money in the long term for those late night arrivals home or when away from home for work. By and large it's stopped us needing to think about heating at all: Tado has become ingrained in our day-to-day that it's just how heating control is for us now.
If you want to be able to control your heating system from your smartphone and have a system that does near enough everything for you too, then Tado is a great option. It is easy to use, intelligent and the physical components blend in well thanks to their subtle design.