(Pocket-lint) - Look back across the smart home industry, specifically smart thermostats, and you'll see Tado has been around since the beginning. While Google Nest went with that attractive and design-focused piece of tech, Tado went the opposite route, wanting to give you a smart product that vanished into the background.
That same approach has been maintained for a number of years. Tado's main thermostat hasn't really changed at all since the early days, but that doesn't mean it's old technology. If anything, Tado has pushed further into the future by offering more than just a smart heating solution.
With this latest hardware and software you don't just get heating, you get deep insight into the air quality of your home, along with some extra added smarts. So is the Tado V3+ still one of the best smart heating systems you can have installed?
As thermostats go, Tado's design is minimalist and inoffensive. It looks modern and clean, a white square that sits on the wall not drawing attention to itself, thus it's easy to ignore.
Depending on where your boiler is and how far away from it the room is that you want it to monitor/heat, you can install the thermostat in two ways: one, connect it using the cables connecting your boiler to an existing traditional thermostat; or, two, install the extension kit, which replaces an existing wireless thermostat receiver.
In our particular instance, because the house was already fitted with a wireless thermostat, we needed the extension kit (which is essentially a big white cuboid that sits beneath your boiler) to enable Tado to communicate with the boiler.
Regardless of how you connect, there's also the little dongle that lets your thermostat communicate with the internet. That means you don't need to directly/wireless connect to your Wi-Fi network. It automatically hooks onto this little internet bridge and does its thing.
Although there's no flashy multicoloured lights (unlike some others), Tado's thermostat does have a display of sorts. It's not a fancy all-colour screen, but rather individual little LEDs that light up when you press the function button (see lead picture up top). They show the current temperature, before sliding across to the screen that lets you change the current setting. That means, if you want to, you can ditch any app use and just turn the heating up and down at any time.
As this isn't mains wired, the thermostat requires AAA batteries, which live under the cover. You can use a small flat head screwdriver to remove this, so if the battery level ever drops to the point where you need to swap them, it's really easy to do. It's not a frequent change either: we've been using the system solidly for around 10 months at the time of writing and haven't had to change them yet.
Smart radiator valves
Like the main thermostat, the smart thermostatic radiator heads are also designed to blend into the background. They're simple white plastic cylinders with no eye-catching accent or design feature.
The radiator head connects wirelessly to the existing system and the internet bridge for monitoring and adjusting temperature. It even has the same kind of LED-based display system for showing temperature, which is off most of the time and only lights up when you make a change to the heat setting in the room.
The joy of having radiator heads is that these allow you to split room heating up. If, for instance, you had your primary thermostat situated in the hallway/corridor, then your lounge or bedroom might get a bit too toasty without constantly going to adjust the radiator manually. And even then, you might adjust it too much and make it too cold in there.
With the smart radiator thermostats installed, it does it all automatically. Just set the ideal temperature for that room and it'll continuously adjust the flow of hot water to ensure the temperature is consistent in that room. The only downside: every once in a while, you'll hear an unusual whirring noise as it adjusts itself.
Moving away from the hardware and onto the part that pins the whole system together: the app. It's available for Apple iOS and Android devices.
Like you've been able to do since Tado's very beginning: you use the app to set a schedule for your heating for when you're home and when you're away. That means allowing the app to access your phone's location services, because it needs to be able to communicate with the service that you're away from the house when you go to work, or travel.
You set one temperature for a chunk of the day, between morning and evening for when you're home, and another for when you're out. And you can set a temperature for each of the thermostats - whether it's the main thermostat, or any radiator one.
This Away setting can be adjusted on a scale of eco-consciousness. That means you can have it so that - based on your location and distance from the house - it'll ensure that the home is up to temperature before you get inside. Or, on the most economical setting, it'll just begin to warm up the house as you get to the property. On the least economical setting, it'll have it warmed up before you get home.
As for the Home setting, you setup the smart schedule yourself and choose when you want that temperature to be active. Ideal for when you wake up and when you go to bed.
Each thermostat/room shows up as a simple square icon on the app's home screen, and is joined by some other smart features. It's these features that take Tado beyond a simple heating system.
One of the features is Air Comfort. This can tell you you how good the air quality is outdoors and indoors, and can then suggest how you can improve your indoor quality. It'll tell you when the air in any room is too humid or cold, then suggests adjusting the temperature to improve that.
One reason it measures the air quality is to sense when there's an open window or door. And, when it does detect an open window or door, it'll automatically shut off the heating for that particular room until the window or door is shut again. This way it conserves energy by not trying to warm up a room you're actively trying to freshen up or cool down.
It's worth noting that if you want the window detection and geofencing location-based features to work automatically on their own in the background, that's a feature wrapped up in the 'Auto Assist' now, which is an additional subscription of £2.99 per month. However, if you're happy to just receive a notification alerting you to an open window, and asking you if you'd like to switch the heating off in that room, you don't need to pay a penny extra.
Heading into the Energy Savings portion of the app, you can see how efficient the system is. There's a breakdown of how many times it's adapted for the weather (i.e. if it's warm outside) and how many hours it's spent in Away mode in the previous calendar month.
You'll also be able to how many hours per day the heating was set to its smart schedule or how many times it used the open window detection to shut off the heating. On average, our Tado system saved us around 25 per cent per month by using these smart features, and it takes no effort compared to going all manual with more traditional thermostat and radiator heads.
There's a plethora of possible reasons why you might want to control the heating manually and ditch your smart schedule temporarily. You could be home and not want to move to a different room to adjust using the thermostats, or you might be out and you've left someone at home, or you might just be feeling like you want it much warmer/cooler for a while. For these instances, you can use HomeKit, Alexa or Google Assistant support and use a voice action to change the temperature.
With our home full of Amazon Echo devices, it was easy to setup voice control for all of the Tado thermostats in the house. Once the relevant Tado skill was installed on our Alexa account, and the thermostats placed in their correct rooms, we could simply say "Alexa, turn the heating up to 22 degrees", or "Alexa, what temperature is the living room set to", and it worked/responded flawlessly.
As for HomeKit, that was a struggle in our use. Setup in Apple's system isn't as automatic or easy as it should be - and we didn't successfully manage to add our heating system, even with manually inputting the relevant details in Apple's Home app.
Google Home worked similarly to Alexa, in that it asks you to link the service, and then discovers the products through your account. It can even automatically figure out which room to place the devices in, but even if it doesn't it's easy enough to adjust after.
Proactive customer service
One of the absolute best parts of our experience with Tado has been the proactive customer service. Without us realising anything might be wrong with one of our radiator valves, we received an email from customer services explaining that it had detected inefficient use of battery in one of the smart radiator thermostats.
Over the long term, that would mean a battery would deplete far sooner than it should have. Seemingly without a consumer friendly software/firmware update available, the solution was to swap it out for a new one and send the old one back. It was all arranged before we discovered a problem ourselves and a new unit was sent and installed before the bug found a way to tarnish our experience. Thanks Tado!
If you're after a smart heating system that's easy to manage, doesn't stick out like a sore thumb, and is compatible with all your smart speakers and assistants, Tado is a genuinely great option. It might not look fancy, but it works well.
Tado's V3+ system has a tonne of really useful features, especially with the use of smart thermostatic radiator heads for room-based heating specifics.
Apart from smart scheduling and temperature control based on your home/away location, Tado can also inform you of the air quality in the house and outdoors, as well as tell you if your rooms are a bit humid or dry. It can even figure out if windows are open to cool a room and adjust its behaviour accordingly.
After almost a year of using Tado's system, we've almost forgotten it's there, which is probably the highest praise we can give it. It does its job well, keeping your house at a comfortable temperature, without being flashy and in-your-face.
Nest Thermostat E
Nest's Learning Thermostat E doesn't require professional installation, is cheaper than Nest 3.0 proper, while having many similar features, including learning your routine, scheduling, Home/Away and energy reports. It doesn't offer hot water control though.
Hive Active Heating 2.0
Hive Active Heating 2.0 isn't as elegant looking but it is a great upgrade to your current central heating system. It is a straightforward and easy way to bring smartphone control to your home, with minimal changes to your system and at a cost that won't break the bank.