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British Gas Hive Active Heating review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

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British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating
  • British Gas Hive Active Heating

Summary

Our Score:

7

Pros

  • Slick, intuitive user interface
  • Adjustable wireless thermostat
  • Hot water control

Cons

  • No location detection
  • No British Gas bill integration
  • No self install option

Key Features

  • Remote thermostatic control
  • Remote hot water control
  • Wireless thermostat
  • Browser, Android and iOS apps
  • Manufacturer: British Gas
  • Review Price: £199.00

What is British Gas Hive Active Heating?

It is the latest entry into the burgeoning smart thermostat sector and offers not just remote control over heating but also hot water. Intriguingly you don’t need to be a British Gas customer to fit Hive, which shows how keen even major energy providers are to make an initial land grab. Furthermore, while initially offering self-install, British Gas now professionally fits all Hive units, which sets an interesting precedent against its DIY rivals.

So can the UK energy giant teach some of tech’s most innovative rivals a few tricks?

GUIDE: Smart Thermostats in the UK

Hive kiy

British Gas Hive Active Heating – Design & Features

Like Tado, the Hive system comes in three parts: a boiler control unit, wireless thermostat and hub that connects to your router. The most obvious difference is the Hive thermostat has a display with manual controls so you can always see the current temperature and switch it up or down. With Tado this can only be done via web browser or phone and tablet app and it is reassuring to have this backup method at hand.

That said, none of the three units is particularly stylish. The control unit (below left) is an 85 x 85 x 35mm gloss white box with status light and central heating on/off button, the hub (below right) is 75 x 75 x 25mm gloss white box with status light and the wireless thermostat is a 130 x 95 x 25mm gloss white rectangle with 3.5in monochrome display. The good news is, while they won’t win any fashion awards, they are unobtrusive and fit in with virtual any home decor.

Far more interesting is what they can do. The focus of Hive is anywhere control. This means not only using your computer, phone or tablet to adjust the air and hot water temperature, but using them to set bespoke daily schedules.

hub receiver

Like its rivals, Hive also has inbuilt frost protection, which means if you switch everything off when away it will not let the temperature drop below seven degrees to ward off the formation of ice that could crack your pipes. Like Tado, Hive will monitor the outside temperature as well so it doesn’t heat the house unnecessarily if it is going to be a warm day.

The big omission compared to both Tado and Nest is location detection. Both of these products actively monitor where occupants are so when you leave they turn down the temperature automatically. When they detect you are heading home they gradually warm the house back up. This smart continual adjustment has to be remembered and done manually with Hive.

Another surprise is British Gas has built-in no advantages for its existing customers. There is no way to integrate your British Gas bill or compare your savings in real-time from your tariff. What you potentially save will have to be worked out by comparing your bills when you give metre readings. We’re sure this omission will be plugged in future, but we’re surprised Hive came to market without this obvious differentiator.

Hive browser

British Gas Hive Active Heating – Setup

While its rivals give users the option of professional or cost saving DIY installations it is interesting that British Gas has quickly pulled the latter after initially offering it. As such Hive has a fixed £199 RRP that includes installation and, while different systems will present different challenges, in our case the engineer had it up and running within 30 minutes.

There are a couple of quirks to the install. Like Tado both the boiler controller and hub need a secondary power source. The former can often be taken off the mains (and will be present if you already have a digital thermostat), but the latter requires a connection to a power socket. Here Tado was more elegant as its hub can take power from the USB port that is present on the back of most modern routers and cuts down on cable mess.

Where British Gas has done an excellent job, though, is the user interface. The company has taken design queues from the flat look of iOS 7 and its minimalist appearance is elegant, intuitive and shared across browser and mobile apps. As ever iOS and Android lead the way with the arrival of a Windows Phone version unknown. One frustrating aspect to both iOS and Android, however, is the apps lack persistent sign in so you have to login every time you open it (even if you exit for just a moment). We hope this is addressed in a future version.

David Horn

February 26, 2014, 12:51 pm

Hi Gordon - I have Hive Active Heating and there is indeed a self install option, available for £159. Takes about 10 minutes and very little effort. I'm quite impressed with it.

Their development team leader is very active on Twitter and knows his stuff. I think the downsides you mention will be fixed quite shortly, especially since they're preparing to publish a public API for the system.

Den

February 26, 2014, 1:09 pm

I had Hive installed a couple of weeks ago. Although I had a digital control box fitted already, they did a safety test of my electrics and told me my 40 year old fuse box was dangerous as it wasn't earthed properly. I am very impressed with the service, and the installation charge was worth it for me.

Guvse

February 26, 2014, 10:21 pm

There is a self install option as well actually - so that shouldn't be in the con list. But for the £40 price difference I much preferred to have the proper install

Guvse

February 26, 2014, 10:24 pm

Also, the 'login every time you open it' thing. Not sure that's true - I don't have to do that, just logged in once on the app and it remembers my details.

Hamish Campbell

February 27, 2014, 8:46 am

It's hard to know exactly how much these will save you, and some will get far more savings than others due to their daily schedules, number in the house (the same as schedules really) and interest in setting it up correctly.

However, as it is a pretty sure fire way of saving, is pretty inexpensive and a quick install, shouldn't this be pushed pretty hard by governments who wan't to reduce co2/energy usage in general/pressure on energy networks? Some compensation and advertising or even making them compulsory seems like an easy way to get some significant movement in this area.

They may think that the market will put these in place pretty quickly by itself I guess....any numbers on take up?

Andy Nelson

March 6, 2014, 4:55 pm

Can this really be real being about to control my heating from a mobile!!! crazy

diane

March 15, 2014, 12:35 am

I have had nothing but problems with it since installation..back to using old style

Paul

March 30, 2014, 9:52 pm

I am pleased with this but really wish it allowed more than 2 on periods in a day. Even my old fashioned control had 3. Now on for longer in the morning as people leave at different times.

Dave Boundy

April 4, 2014, 8:39 am

I have just had this installed with a new boiler system. I am overall pleased with it except that it is important to me to have control from my mobile phone (an android HTC) and I cannot login on the android app. Using the same login details as I successfully use on the web and on an iPad app results in an error indicating that the login details are not known. Customer Care and Technical Support are very confused by this (as am I), but worryingly can offer no advice: as far as they are concerned, once I have done sensible things like reinstall and update the software on my phone, then that's just the way it is and it must be a problem with my phone as it is a low spec! I cannot find anyone so far that will take responsibility for the app and correcting the situation. If considering a Hive, I suggest taking this experience into account.

David Baker

April 8, 2014, 1:49 pm

my mum and dad have just had this installed and its a nightmare if you are not up on pc's and smart phones. Have been passed from pillar to post on the help line. Now have to have time off work for an engineer to come round to explain how to have it run properly .if you are thinking of getting one think hard....

Pete01x

April 12, 2014, 5:15 pm

in all honesty, it is sold as a smart app controlled heating system, if you are not confident with smart phones and computers i would not even consider recomending it for my mum and dad as they would be ringing me every 5 minutes for them its a bit like buying a car if you cant drive

David Whitehead

May 22, 2014, 2:07 pm

Told could get an App to use on my smart phone - British Gas didnt ask what type of smart phone i have - now told no App for Blackberry. Not enough on off settings for each day. There is a one hour boost for hot water but no similar provision for heating. After three weeks having serious second thoughts

Gary Williams

July 6, 2014, 4:24 pm

Right now the system is out of action and attempting to get support on it is impossible as it's outsourced. Good luck if the system dies in the cold.

Also, just for a laugh, check the time on the system. Its out by about 12 minutes.

margarita

August 11, 2014, 9:18 am

HI
Can anyone tell me how deinstall it? British gas charge me ridiculous amount for that.
I'm moving home and want to take it with me. They said it can not be done by anyone else apart from a british gas engeneer.

Perthshire Scotland

October 3, 2014, 9:34 pm

I wouldn't recommend HIVE one bit.I didn't realise when installing it that it only has only two on/off settings for heating and hot water per day which is useless for most households. the heating and hot water can only be set in increments of 15 minutes which is bizarre given that its digital, theoretically it should allow any amount of time.the company are so slow in updating their app its a joke.

Robin Clark

October 17, 2014, 10:04 am

I can't agree- it does work perfectly well as a stand alone system. The problem is that the support team don't understand it very well if you use it this way. It is not a very sophisticated system with only 2 on and offs per day but it is better than a simple thermostat

Anon

October 17, 2014, 6:39 pm

Hive is terrible. The interface is designed by no-one with any experience in actual UI design, looks nice in adverts but completely impractical to actually use.

Geolocation doesn't work. Full stop. No support either.

The unit looks terrible, and has no integration with other services (even IFTTT).

On Android, the app closes every 2 or 3 minutes. Ridiculous

Peter

October 29, 2014, 12:35 pm

I find Hive extremely good but unfortunately today the app is not responding look ok from my end so only presume it's something on the gas boards side.. Can't get any information very frustrating!

Nick

October 30, 2014, 10:02 pm

was it anyone else charged the ridiculous amount of 350£ for the BT engineers work.If I knew about this charge I wouldn't ever install it. I've put a complaint and want it deinstalled

Manzil Patel

November 27, 2014, 6:34 pm

Really bad service by British Gas. Booked appointment for hive installation before 2 weeks and after waiting for 6 hours on the day of appointment, I receive a phone call stating appointment is cancelled as engineer has to attend emergency call.

Millicent Samuel

December 10, 2014, 3:06 pm

Rubbish. Never comes on when set to, then when comes on it stays on for ever. So now I switch it on manually, when house is reasonably warm take battery out
when I need to turn it off

Eleanor Farmer

December 23, 2014, 11:09 pm

I often get home early, or work from home for short periods during the day between appointments. My old heating controls allowed me to turn on the heating and then either turn it off again or allow it to switch off at its set time and return to auto. I find with hive I am always forgetting to switch back from manual and leaving the heating on all night. (Though at least I can switch it off via my phone without having to get out of bed!) I have never used the HW boost feature, but would use a heating boost feature loads, please add this asap. ( geolocation wouldn't work for me as I work quite close to home)
At the moment I don't think I am saving anything by having Hive, in fact it may be costing me more.

Mark Chalcroft

February 3, 2015, 11:27 pm

DONT BUY THE HIVE!!!! I decided to purchase the hive and booked my installation date... my installation time was between 8am - 1pm... The engineer arrives at 12:50pm, ok just in time... but not enough time to carry out the installation! But to be fair we didnt get that far... as the engineer then tells my partner that he could not install the hive as the programmers wires need to be checked by a GAS engineer and not the Electricain that British gas sent!!?? I then had to take time off of my work and ring british gas from my mobile.... after explaining to 4 different customer service personnel (I asked each of them that I wanted to speak about my installation of the hive!!) I finally spoke to someone after 1+hr... by this time I had enough and cancelled the installation. PLEASE BE WARNED AND POSSIBLY THINK OF GET NEST OR SOMETHING SIMILAR!!!

Mrs El

February 17, 2015, 3:11 pm

Just contacted Hive (yet again) because arrived home to cold house and hive system down , again.
Had installation in Dec. and have had no end of probs. with it. The installation took two days because it failed. Then in February system failed because batteries expired, yes the whole system is entirely dependent on two batteries!!!
Installed new batteries on 2nd feb as going away and didn't want problems only to arrive home to failed system and electronic message to say change batteries!
Phoned hive today and was told the problem is with the thermostat (this is the second thermostat installed) and that they would send a new one in two to three days. the rep. also advised that the hub should be on a table, not on the floor where the installer installed it. She also suggested that my problems could be because I have a poor internet system - I have a very fast internet system.
In the meantime, to control my heating and hot water I must press button next to boiler. This is all very well but I'm not here to keep doing this so my choice is to freeze or fry. If I choose the second option, it will cost me a fortune and I thought this system was supposed to save me money! I have spent way too much time writing emails, phoning hive and worrying if the system is working when I'm away from home.Not to mention shopping trips to feed the system with expensive new batteries. This is not what I expected.
DO NOT BUY THIS SYSTEM.

Martin Holland

April 12, 2015, 7:04 pm

I had BG install HIVE a few days ago and I am glad I got a professional installation because of a few teething problems. It took a couple of hours because of the requirement to have a separate switched spur for the CH. I had relied on the main breaker box to turn power off to the CH. A spur was installed for a moderate extra cost. The engineer showed me how to setup the system using the apps. Unfortunately the CH didn't come on the next morning. I called the HIVE help line for technical support. The answer was to send another engineer that afternoon to sort it out. Luckily the engineer they sent was a real whizz kid. He discovered that a previous modification to the system had installed a kludge to the wiring from the hall thermostat to the wiring centre. When the HIVE installer removed the hall thermostat the kludge stopped working. He rewired he HIVE box to wiring centre and it is all working now. I will not know if it is saving me gas until next winter as spring is now with us, so my usage will drop considerably.

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