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Heat Genius Smart Heating System review

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
HG TRVs and monitors

Summary

Our Score:

9

Heat Genius – Performance

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

Heat Genius app 1

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.

Heat Genius app 2

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.

Activity monitor

Should you buy Heat Genius?

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.

SEE ALSO: Honeywell Evohome smart thermostat review

Verdict

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.

Overall Score

9

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.

ghammond

January 23, 2017, 11:54 am

I've been running this for over a year now. It has resulted in very substantial savings on bills and is probably prolonging the life of my boiler. The smart plugs are also very useful. My home entertainment system turns off at the plug automatically at night. All good news for the planet.
This is the future of heating. However, the software has been buggy and is maturing.
I'm told that the problem with valves not always turning should be resolved in the latest software.
I'm yet to be convinced that a problem with the main boiler controller falling out of step with the hub is resolved (the fix right now is to reboot the system which takes > 45 minutes). I've had a very cold home on two occasions due to this. Hopefully this is now resolved.
There's also a system dependence on the "Whole House Thermostat". If it runs out of batteries or looses comms with the hub, the system stops. This is not ok and has taken me a while to figure out what's going on and report it. Again, I'm waiting to see if the latest software resolves this.
So, be aware that the platform is still settling. The problems have been infrequent but are very annoying if you're busy, have a young family and it's sub zero outside. The upsides are very good. The system is paying for itself in gas savings. The room level control from my phone is great. If you're willing to take a punt on an innovative UK business and take a bit of pain if the system doesn't work perfectly, go for it. Now's probably a better time to invest as punters like me have taken the pain shaking out the remaining bugs.

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