A smart thermostat can be a time and energy-saving addition to any home, enabling you to remotely control your heating wherever you are, via your smartphone. While the concept has been around for more than a decade, today’s smart thermostats are cutting edge, bringing the latest in motion sensor, GPS and smart technology to help you keep your energy bills down. By avoiding unnecessary heating and learning the patterns of heating depending on how many people are at home, you can target your hot water and heating needs to where and when you need it.
So, when it comes to adding intelligent heating controls to your boiler, hot water and home heating system, which product should you choose? With both Google Nest and Hive from British Gas at the forefront of smart home heating revolution, we think these two devices are a good place to start.
We compare the Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd generation) and Hive Active to see which one comes out tops as the best smart thermostat.
Why Install Any Smart Thermostat?
Also known as a connected or communicating thermostat, a smart thermostat enables you to control and track your heating and hot water from your phone, tablet or internet-connected device. The intention of the best smart thermostat is to not only put the control of your central heating system at your fingertips, whether you are at home or not, but also to help you reduce your energy use and manage your bills.
While different models have differences in the amount of functionality they offer, here are our top reasons why you should consider installing a smart thermostat:
There’s no doubting the ‘on-the-go’ convenience of a smart thermostat, putting you in the driving seat of your house’s temperature control, heating and hot water, wherever you are. You will need a wi-fi connected smart device such as a phone or tablet and also download the relevant app but then you can view your energy usage and turn on or adjust your central heating, even if you are not at home. And that means you can remotely turn the heating up, if you are leaving work early. You can also monitor and control your home’s temperature, if you are away or on holiday.
Reduce Energy Wastage
As well as being able to control your heating and home boiler, smart thermostats will also enable you to track energy usage and heating habits, so you can build an energy profile for your home and see how it changes over time. This increased visibility of the pattern of your energy consumption, heating zones and potential energy wastage can help you to make more informed decisions as to where you need to tweak or reduce your heating, depending on the time of day, which rooms are used the most, and who is in your house at any one time. And, combined with effective insulation and an energy efficient new boiler, this can reduce your energy use and ultimately translate into savings on your heating bills.
Advanced Climate Control
With smart thermostats you can get a host of smart tech that enables you to fine-tune your heating, as and when you need it. Many models include movement sensors so that they can track presence detection when a room is occupied and adjust the temperature accordingly. You can also get a GPS technology feature called ‘geofencing’ which, when set, will know when you are actually on your way home and tweak the temperature of your house, ready for when you get home. Many of the latest generation smart thermostats also include ‘smart learning’ which works from a motion sensor, your location (via your smartphone) and pre-programmed preferred temperatures to tailor your home to exactly how you like it, when you are in or out. And some models also include features such as monitoring local weather conditions, to adjust your home’s heating or air conditioning depending on the weather outside, in real-time. All this climate control also ensures you are not unnecessarily over-heating a home, saving energy and potentially save you money too.
They Work With Other Smart Home Tech
As well as keeping you connected to your central heating system, even when you are not at home, smart thermostats can also be integrated with your other in-home smart tech, such as Amazon Alexa, Amazon Echo, and the Google assistant, Google Home. Once connected, you can also give your smart thermostat commands, via your smart home assistant and voice control. Smart thermostats can also be connected to other smart home devices, such as smart humidifiers or air purifiers. When buying your new smart thermostat, do your research to ensure it is compatible with your other existing and planned smart home tech.
Easy to Install
You don’t necessarily need an engineer to install a smart thermostat, as long as you already have the right thermostat wiring. So, with a little DIY know-how and the manufacturer’s installation instructions, you can soon have your new smart system up and running. Or, if in doubt, call a tradesman and it should be a relatively inexpensive installation job.
Nest vs Hive
So, now you have the lowdown on the benefits of smart thermostat technology, and how it can save you time and reduce your energy bills, we take a look at two of the most popular models on the market – the Google Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd generation and the Hive Active Heating Thermostat from British Gas. Here’s how the Nest and Hive compare.
Nest vs Hive: Usability
Smart thermostats are so popular, thanks to their usability, changing the way home-owners control and monitor their heating system. And when it comes to comparing usability, it is a close call between Nest vs Hive. Both are controlled via an app and can respond to voice control. Both Hive and Nest apps are available for smart devices using Apple iOS as well as Android, meaning you are able to control your heating, both at home and when you are away.
When it comes to the interface, the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd generation is a more handsome-looking unit, with its sleek circular design and its user-friendly touchscreen and movable dial, making it a smoothly effortless way to adjust the settings. The Hive Active Heating unit, on the other hand, doesn’t have a touch screen, but offers a dial for scrolling, and three clickable buttons to make your adjustments.
This means that the Nest Learning Thermostat is more intuitive to use of the two and looks super-smart. However, it does need to be plugged into the mains whereas the Hive smart thermostat runs on batteries so you can actually carry it around.
Both Nest and Hive have fully featured IFTTT channels for connectivity, although Nest Learning Thermostat has access to its own ‘Work with Nest’ system, which, on balance, can be faster and integrates the device with other third-party products.
The 3rd gen Nest Learning Thermostat and the Hive Active Heating both also work with popular home assistants for integration and voice control usability, including Google Assistant and the Amazon Echo.
Nest vs Hive: Features
The best way to compare Nest vs Hive is to first look at the features they share and then the differences. As smart thermostats, both Hive and Nest enable you to control your heating temperature, hot water and energy usage via a smartphone, tablet or laptop. They both have features by which you can programme heating schedules, including a holiday mode and geolocation, so they know when you are getting nearer to home. They both have good integration with home assistants such as Alexa and can be used to control other smart devices in your home, via their relevant app. Both Hive and Nest also feature multi-zones, where you can turn rooms or areas of your home into ‘zones’, so you can choose to only heat the spaces being used or heat them to different temperatures. With Hive Active Heating thermostats, you get up to three zones, with six different settings. Nest steals this from Hive with up to 20 zones on offer.
It is here that for those who love feature-rich devices, that Nest leaves Hive behind. With the Nest Learning 3rdgeneration thermostat, you also get a furnace function, which monitors for any abnormalities in your heating cycle, to alert you to any possible faults. The Nest thermostat also has motion sensors, which the Hive does not. And the dealbreaker, especially if you like your smart thermostats with plenty of features, could be the Nest’s ability to ‘learn’ by monitoring your heating habits and adjusting to work with them.
Nest vs Hive: Compatibility with heating
One of the key reasons to choose a particular smart thermostat is its easy compatibility with your heating system and type of boiler. And for many households both Nest and Hive Active Heating score well, being compatible with most gas (combi and traditional), oil, electric and LPG boilers. But for homes with renewal heating systems, the Nest Learning 3rd generation nudges ahead when it comes to Nest vs Hive, as out of the two it is the only one which works with renewable boilers, such as biomass, air source and ground source heat pumps. It can also work with underfloor heating systems too.
Nest vs Hive: Costs and Warranty
While smart thermostats can save you money on your energy in the long run, they can also be initially costly to buy so price can also be a dealbreaker when coming to choose your preferred device. Both Nest and Hive offer straight out of the box and self-install prices as well as device and installation bundles and there is not too much of a difference between them. The Nest Learning thermostat 3rd generation is currently listed on the Google Store at £219, with installation around £80. The Hive Active Heating thermostat comes in under this budget, with the unit only priced at £179, or an extra £70 for professional installation.
So, the Nest is the more expensive product out of the two, but this can be sweetened when you look at the warranties for both smart thermostats. The Nest comes with a two-year warranty as standard, whereas the Hive only offers a warranty of 12 months.
Nest vs Hive: Energy Savings
Saving on your energy bills is most likely at top of your decision list, when it comes to selecting the best smart thermostat for your home. And as we’ve seen, smart thermostat technology enables to you have greater control over your heating system and the levels of energy you use. And both Nest and Hive have a host of features and capability to help you achieve savings over time. But when it comes to a Hive vs Nest comparison, which model is most likely to save you the most money, come energy billing time? Nest claim that you could save between 8.4% to 16.5% on your annual energy bill, while Hive state that your energy bills could be as much as 35% lower, but the average saving will typically be lower.
Factoring the initial purchase cost and installation fee, and head-to-head, the Hive vs Nest comparison comes out pretty much as a draw.
But with smart thermostats, you also have a say in how much you could save on those energy bills, by adjusting your energy usage as well as ensuring your home is well-insulated and you have a new boiler that is energy efficient.
Nest vs Hive: Installation
Both the Nest Learning and the Hive Active Heating thermostats can be self-installed, although choosing professional gas safe registered boiler engineers to do the installation is recommended. To help, both the Hive and Nest websites have a list of recommended engineers.
But if you are a competent DIYer and prefer to go it alone, both are straightforward to do.
Nest has two installation options – either plug it into a wall socket and use the optional stand or use the existing wiring from a wall-mounted thermostat – so you have a little more flexibility than the Hive. However, the Hive is easier to install, as it is battery operated and can placed on any wall.
Out of the two products, reviewers say the Nest is the easiest and most intuitive to programme and set up as it learns over time to configure your heating schedule. Hive is straightforward to set up, although you do need to manually set up your schedule, but the app makes this easier for you to do.
Will Installing A Hive Or Nest Thermostat Save You Money?
Installing a Hive or Nest smart thermostat can save you money on your energy bills in the long run, but it does depend on how you use them, as well as your energy using habits. And, as they involve an initial investment to buy the device, you won’t save money straight away.
Estimates put the potential energy bill saving of smart thermostats at up to 25% over the long-term, as long as it has been installed correctly.
You are more likely to see savings on your energy bills when using a smart thermostat such as a Hive or Nest if you:
- Monitor the pattern of your heating use and make the necessary changes to your energy consumption
- Have a busy lifestyle and home life and want to be able to programme your heating on the go
- Opt for a device such as Nest or Hive which learn your home routine and adapts your heating accordingly
- Have already embraced smart technology, and are a regular user of apps, smartphones and other home tech, such as home assistants and voice control.
- You are planning on staying in the same property for several years, so that the savings over time build up.
However, you may not see the benefits or savings of a smart thermostat if:
- You have a pretty set routine when in your home and when you are out at work, as you can programme a traditional thermostat to mirror your set routine
- You have a poorly insulated property or old, inefficient boilers
- You are planning on moving in the next few years – as you probably won’t build up enough time to see savings in your energy bills and for the smart thermostat to pay for itself in savings you make.
And the Nest vs Hive Verdict is…
Although both the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Hive Active Heating bring their own take on smart thermostats to the party, they are both excellent products that have many similarities and levels of quality. But on direct comparison, we think the Nest just nudges ahead, as it has better technology and offers more features, including zones and its learning algorithm. It is compatible with more heating systems. The Hive is not too far behind, however as it is more flexible and gives you more direct control. And both thermostats, if used correctly and consistently, will certainly save you money on your energy bills. And that’s the smart way to heat your home.