So how good are all these bells and whistles? In short – very, and the clever part (genius?) is how well they come together. The combination of zoned TRVs, movement sensors and genuinely intelligent software makes Heat Genius the most comprehensive smart heating system we’ve used to date.
Like all smart systems you will spend a week or two tweaking settings to your liking and family schedules, but after that you almost forget it is installed. Rooms are automatically at the right temperature not simply when you’re home but only when you’re in them and the whole heating adapts to the weather forecast (on warmer days it lets the sun bring the home up to temperature).
SEE ALSO: Tado smart thermostat review
Furthermore the savings were good. We long term test smart thermostats and after four months we’ve not only seen the system adapt as it moves from winter through spring, but also how it made consistent savings.
The result actually saw the energy provider to our test property cut our monthly payment from £87 to £66 based on a 25-30% drop in fuel consumption. Fuel pricing and annual weather differences are obvious variables, but it remains a notable reduction.
Of course savings will vary from property to property, but a key factor for us was the ability to only heat specific rooms (zones) such as the bedroom at night during the winter and only the living room area when we worked from home during the day. Note these benefits were in a 60m2 two bedroom flat, so the larger your home the more benefit such targeted heating should have.
Another key observation was the value of the room sensors. Presence-detecting rivals Tado and Nest actually only use the Wi-Fi connection on your phone – once their app is installed – to tell whether you are in or out (by whether your phone is connected to the Wi-Fi or not). Consequently if you left anyone home without a registered device and app the heating would turn off. By contrast the true presence detection of the Heat Genius sensors means any physical presence is counted.
Then again for all these plus points, we do have to come back to the software. It is powerful, fairly intuitive and reacts to the home in real time but, from a visual perspective, it is the real weak spot in the system. Even the undistinguished thermostat and hub hardware designs will fade into the background, but any time you show off the system the first reaction to the software is always: that’s an eyesore.
Heat Genius promises us that a full redesign is on its way for both web browser and desktop. And it is really needed – the likes of Tado, Nest, Honeywell and Hive all leave it trailing here and it betrays the small company roots.
If the brains of Heat Genius have you sold over its visual shortcomings, should you open your wallet? Yes, but only with the knowledge of two key factors.
Firstly all this tech doesn’t come cheap. The mandatory basics (Boiler control, wireless thermostat, Genius Hub) will set you back £249.99 (the same as the Honeywell Evohome), a further £49.99 if you want hot water control (£70 from Honeywell), £59.99 per TRV (identical to Honeywell) plus £34.99 per motion sensor.
Secondly the best savings from such granular control will be for larger properties. Granted we did achieve impressive savings on the flat we used, but the ROI will take much longer.
Does that mean smaller property owners should just buy a Tado or Nest for about £200/250 and be done? For the extra polish perhaps, but in reality you can spend the same figure on the Heat Genius basics then at least have the option to add zones and sensors later.
There is irony in the fact that the most technologically advanced smart thermostat system we’ve ever tested looks like the most basic, but don’t let the visuals put you off. In effect what Heat Genius delivers is the best of both worlds: it's automated and simple like Nest and Tado, but also modular so it can become zonal like the Honeywell Evohome and then step beyond it with real motion sensors for deep learning of your habits and schedule.
For many this final level will be a step too far and it is true the Heat Genius system can be priced beyond that of any rival. Then again its basic starting price is competitive and the potential unsurpassed. Yes both hardware and software design need to improve for a maximum score, but this ugly duckling is the most exciting smart heating system we’ve seen so far.