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Heat Genius Smart Heating System review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 9

HG TRVs and monitors
  • HG TRVs and monitors
  • Activity monitor
  • Heat Genius components
  • Zoned heating
  • Heat Genius TRV
  • App layers
  • Heat Genius hub
  • Heat Genius app 1
  • Heat Genius app 2

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Smartest 'smart' thermostat currently available
  • Infinitely adjustable room-by-room control
  • Smart heating cut-off if a window is opened
  • Generated significant cost savings
  • Modular design allows you to build over time

Cons

  • Ugly hardware
  • Software UI needs updating (overhaul in the works)
  • Expensive with all components

Key Features

  • Modular, expansive smart home heating
  • Room-by-rooom (zone-by-zone) temperature control
  • Detects open windows to stop heating that room
  • Smartphone and web browser apps
  • Movement tracker detects room occupancy
  • Manufacturer: Heat Genius
  • Review Price: £249.99

What is Heat Genius?

On the surface it is the most arrogantly named new entrant into the crowded smart energy sector. But what is most interesting is Heat Genius may live up to its billing. The small UK company claims to take the simple, automated usability of popular systems like the Nest and Tado learning thermostats and combine them with the greater room-by-room/zonal control of the brilliant Honeywell Evohome.

Needless to say the risk is the Heat Genius system becomes a jack of all trades, yet the reality is rather different.

SEE ALSO: Nest thermostat review

Heat Genius components

Heat Genius – Design And Features

For a system which likes to boast, first impressions of the Heat Genius hardware doesn’t suggest greatness.

Like most smart heating systems Heat Genius has a trio of core parts: a rather square and uninspiring wireless thermostat which communicates with an equally bland boiler controller and a large, blocky ‘Genius Hub’ which provides the system with its online access via a wired connection into the back of your home router.

In all honesty the Genius Hub will likely be hidden, but the other two could look less 70s retro and means that Heat Genius joins all its rivals in playing catch-up with the aesthetics of Nest.

The same can also be said about the Heat Genius software which looks dated, while the Android and iOS apps are just web apps. Heat Genius tells me this will change, but for now they risk scaring off some users on first glance. But this would be a great shame, because what Heat Genius lacks superficially it makes up for with more substance than any other smart heating system we’ve seen to date.

App layers

You see the trick with Heat Genius is the whole system is modular. Once the ‘ugly trio’ are in place users can control and monitor their home heating remotely (like the British Gas Hive). Later they can add in smart TRVs (thermostatic radiator valves) for zone-by-zone control around the home (like Honeywell) and beyond that come discreet wireless motion sensors. These automatically adjust zone temperatures based on occupancy – a leap ahead of whole home on/off systems such as Nest and Tado and a level of automation beyond the Evohome.

It doesn’t stop there either. Like other systems Heat Genius uses its Internet connection to track the weather outside so it knows how aggressively to heat to any temperature and it recognises frost warnings and won’t let your pipes freeze. A final party trick is it detects when you open a window and automatically turns your heating off so you don’t waste energy.

Once it is closed the heating for that zone will come back on. I haven’t seen any other system which can do that and it solves the old parental lecture: “Are you trying to heat the whole street?!”

Furthermore throughout all this Heat Genius is learning your habits, schedules and needs, producing graphs and charts of your heating patterns and suggesting areas for potential further savings. So yes, now the name feels appropriate.

Zoned heating

Heat Genius – Setup

Of course this level of smarts would imply a complicated setup, but it’s actually not too bad.

We say this with a major caveat: Heat Genius sent an installer with our review sample so it wasn’t done ourselves. Then again, the only tricky part is removing your existing thermostat. Like all smart thermostats, the Heat Genius thermostat part requires power and if you have an old analogue thermostat that might mean you need to run an ugly cable to the mains, so bear that in mind. Thankfully we didn’t have this problem so it was just a case of matching up wires.

Next the Genius Hub plugs into a socket or the USB port of a router and it uses an Ethernet cable for Internet access so no password is required. The Hub pairs with the wireless thermostat automatically, as do the motion sensors and TRVs.

Heat Genius hub

The motion sensors and TRVs have replaceable batteries which last a few years on a single charge and the former simply sticks to the wall – temporary tape is wisely included so you can test where looks best near ‘high traffic’ areas.

As for fitting the TRVs, Heat Genius does an online compatibility check with you prior to ordering and you simply screw off the old TRVs and screw on the smart ones. It is worth noting the TRVs ‘exercise’ their springs for five seconds once a week, but they are barely audible and less intrusive than the daily exercising made by Honeywell’s TRVs (which are also more bulky).

HG TRVs and monitors

After this you simply go to the Heat Genius website or grab the iOS or Android app, register and set your initial preferences and its online nature means tech support can also be done by Heat Genius remotely.

SEE ALSO: Best wireless speakers: Sonos and other multiroom alternatives

Yes if you have any doubts I would suggest taking the professional install option (£129) – this is your home heating after all – but it remains remarkably painless.

mamoulian

June 4, 2015, 1:15 pm

The EvoHome system doesn't have internet or Wi-Fi access unless you buy the internet gateway which is another £50+. And, when I investigated last year, mobile app access went via it so if your broadband goes down you have no mobile app control over Wi-Fi.

Heat Genius say that the thermostat in the TRVs is not particularly reliable (sofas, curtains etc) so they recommend the room sensors which include IR thermometers. The TRVs don't feed back room temperature to the system so they will only shut off that radiator, it won't turn your boiler off without the room sensors.
I wonder how that compares to EvoHome, are their TRVs better? That could impact the overall price difference.

The wall mounted thermostat seems completely pointless in a fully TRV'd house but they don't sell without it.

I think there's a Raspberry Pi in that Genius box. All the hardware is off-the-shelf Z-Wave kit, it's their software that ties it together nicely. There's the potential to support or integrate with other Z-Wave modules in the future, whereas I suspect EvoHome is more proprietary and closed.

toboev

June 4, 2015, 5:29 pm

"The TRVs don't feed back room temperature to the system so they will only shut off that radiator, it won't turn your boiler off"
If the radiator valves close then your boiler will turn itself off - the feedback is automatic and inevtable, as the radiators stop dissipating heat the flow temp increases and this signals the boiler to shut down.

mamoulian

June 4, 2015, 11:35 pm

That makes sense, thanks.

Might be able to get away without the sensors then if you're prepared to compensate for TRVs hidden behind furniture.
I'm not sold on the occupancy detection, I'm happy to use the app to manually trigger should we be off-schedule.

toboev

June 5, 2015, 6:39 am

...however you would be better off with a room thermostat, even so. Even today's bog-standard systems will have a thermostat, usually somewhere 'neutral' in the house. You adjust that thermostat so such that when the house feels comfy it clicks off. Better systems will actually send the temperature reading back to the boiler controller, so that control is finer than a simple on/off. That is already fairly standard stuff, so these 'new' systems are not much further ahead.

I'm with you on not wanting to broadcast my home's occupancy status over the web (yeah, I'm sure security is bullet-proof, just like every other system). TBH, I tend to find that if I switch the heating on manually when I arrive home, that is perfect. By the time I have cooled off the house has warmed up - ideal.

Bob Reason

June 5, 2015, 10:04 pm

I have had this system installed for just over a year now with TRVs on all 14 rads and room sensors in half the rooms. You are right, the whole house room thermostat is pointless if you have TRVs everywhere. Regarding the TRVs not being reliable, I would disagree as they actually control the temperature very well indeed. The real need for the room sensors is to ensure the boiler is not short-cycling whilst there is no heat demand.

In a nutshell, the system maintains comfortable room temperatures very well and has saved me about 20% off my gas bill, BUT it is pretty fiddly to set up and maintain (not helped by features such as linked rooms not working properly), it is quite buggy (right now I can't set heating periods for sundays!), auto-preheat doesn't get it right and several times over the winter my system locked up and needed a power cycle (would not have been good if I'd been away during pipe-freezing conditions.)

Bob Reason

June 5, 2015, 10:06 pm

...until the circulating water cools enough for the boiler to cut back in and so on. Short cycling. Wasteful.

Bob Reason

June 5, 2015, 10:07 pm

I have tried the occupancy detection and it just doesn't do what I want.

Bob Reason

June 5, 2015, 10:09 pm

The whole point of a system like this is that you can control all the rooms individually, so you only heat the rooms that need heating, and only when you need them. So, no need for a thermostat trying to guess when the whole house is comfy.

mamoulian

June 6, 2015, 4:56 pm

So I think the gap with no sensors is the boiler re-kicking-in when the pipes get cold even if the rooms are all up to temp and radiators cut out?

As the TRVs are Z-wave and controllable by the Genius box I'm not sure why they can't send back their sensed temperature... Or at least that they've reached desired temp and cut out the radiator.

Maybe the EvoHome system's TRVs do this. The sensor-per-room savings quickly overtake the cost of EvoHome's Internet Gateway.

Bit worrying to hear about bugs @Bob Reason, thanks.

Always keen on new developments, if there's a better system out by September-ish I'll consider that too.

mamoulian

October 30, 2015, 12:38 pm

I'm back on this again. Honeywell have confirmed that EvoHome shuts off the boiler so no short-cycling. Costing up both - including room sensors for HeatGenius - Evohome is quite a bit cheaper.

Bob Reason

October 30, 2015, 6:23 pm

An update on where I am with Heat Genius now... The recently updated software addresses all the significant issues I had:

linked rooms not working properly -Now works as required which makes it a lot easier to change our set times between holiday and term time.

can't set heating periods for sundays -Now works OK!

auto-preheat doesn't get it right -Seems OK now as you can now configure the system to tell it if the room sensor and rad valves read a different temperature by entering an offset for the room.

several times over the winter my system locked up and needed a power cycle -It did this again just prior to the latest update, but the update is supposed to address this issue so I'll have to wait and see.

Overall I'm pretty happy right now. We are only heating rooms we are using, when we are using them and the temperature control is exceptionally good.

Graham

January 5, 2016, 12:42 pm

I have this system in a 6 bedroom house. It wasn't cheap as I went for TRVs and room sensors in each room.
I find it is very efficient and does what is says it will do. I must admit the room sensors look cheap but they work.
I look at it as an investment. It cost me shy of £1800 and I am saving around 20% on a £1800 p.a. heating bill.
If i was only to save 10% on a reduced priced energy and therefore only saved £180 a year it is giving me a 10% net return in my investment.....OK the capital is tied up but it adds value to the property. where else can I get that return in todays low interest climate.

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