Update: Hive now supports IFTTT (If this then that). This means that Hive owners can now create recipes that trigger the Hive to behave in specific ways. For example, with BMW, you could trigger your heating to come on when you’re leaving work. Or with the Strava cycling and fitness app you can trigger your hot water to come on when you’re a couple of miles away from home.
It was cold, I was waiting at the airport on my way to tropical climes when I remembered I hadn’t turned off my heating. I was going to be away for two weeks and my boiler would keep warming an empty house, wasting energy and clocking up a high bill. After a few seconds in the Hive app, it was all sorted. And that was the moment I got the point of smart thermostats.
The Hive 2 is an evolution rather than a reinvention of British Gas’s original basic, but functional, smart thermostat. If you already have the first-gen Hive then you can upgrade to Hive 2 for £99 and continue using the exact same Hive mobile app you were using before. That means you get the same functionality – remote heating controls, scheduling and location tracking.
What the Hive 2 brings to the table is a much slicker thermostat brimming with pretty lights and a simplified interface. Well, in some ways at least.
This feels a lot more like a product I’d expect to see within a smart home, especially when compared to its rather ugly, white-plastic predecessor.
The new thermostat (right) is much prettier, huh?
If you don’t already have Hive installed then you need to pay £249 for the package and to have it connected to your boiler. There’s no subscription fee, though, and you don’t need to be a British Gas customer to take advantage of it. It’s also compatible with the vast majority of boilers used in the UK, but you can’t be sure until the installer arrives.
I have one boiler and one heating zone, so installation took just over an hour including a 10-minute tour of how to use the system.
The Hive 2 Active Heating can control multiple areas of your home via Hive Multizone. Each additional zone costs £99 and installation for Multizone homes could take longer. Unlike Honeywell’s Evohome, this doesn’t manage individual radiators via valve controls but instead looks after entire areas of the home.
Like most smart thermostat systems, the Hive 2 comes in three parts. The first is a small Wi-Fi controller attached to the boiler, the second a hub attached by Ethernet to your router, and the third is the thermostat itself. The Hive Hub lets the thermostat talk to the boiler and connects it to the internet for control via a smartphone or tablet. It also allows you to control the rest of the family of Hive products, such as the Hive Active Plug and sensor, if you want to buy into the whole ecosystem.
As with all things that require a Wi-Fi connection, you need to consider where your router is located in relation to the thermostat and boiler. If the distance is too great or the Wi-Fi signal too intermittent, you should consider getting a Wi-Fi booster – Hive sells one as an add-on, but we haven’t tested it yet.
I’ve found the system to be extremely robust. I used the first Hive system for more than a year and have spent the last three months using the new Hive 2. In all that time I haven’t experienced a single issue – it’s always been connected and accessible.
The upgrade installation was a doddle, too. The new thermostat arrived and I added four AA batteries and used the app to connect it. It took just a few minutes to get it working.
The Hive Hub and controller aren’t particularly pretty, but as they can be hidden away behind the router or by the boiler this doesn’t matter much. The thermostat, on the other hand, is stylish and comes with interchangeable edges so you can colour-code it to your home’s decor. The mirror-effect is pretty, although it does show up fingerprints.
As there are no cables needed you can place the Hive thermostat anywhere, and with looks like this you’ll want to give it pride of place.
You’ll need to screw the baseplate into the wall first, but, annoyingly, the holes don’t match up to the previous model. If you’re upgrading you'll be left with an unsightly hole in the wall. Time to get the Polyfilla and Dulux out of the shed...
A small hole remains where the previous Hive thermostat was placed
The Hive 2 is very intuitive to use. Press the dial and you get the current temperature, press it again and colourful lights give you a target temperature you can raise or lower by twisting the knob.
The Menu, Done and Back buttons will make it easy to handle for anyone who’s used an Android phone, and they enable you to tweak settings and the schedule. It’s not quite as easy to get to grips with for those not of a techy disposition. My 84-year-old father, who doesn’t own a smartphone, could just about use the first Hive thermostat but can’t get to grips with the Hive 2.
There are two additional buttons on the top edge of the thermostat. One gives quick access to the heating controls, and the other to the hot water settings. I have a combination boiler, but if you have a hot water tank you can have the Hive control that separately. Few other smart heating systems let you do this.
While the Hive 2 thermostat looks great, I hardly ever use it. I almost exclusively access my heating using the excellent Hive app.
This has evolved over the years into something simple to use, and it comes with some great one-touch features such as Holiday mode.
You can boost the heating for an hour from the app’s Heating Control homescreen or delve a little deeper to set up a schedule or adjust the geolocation settings.
The schedule lets you set up six time zones throughout the day. These can be tailored differently for every day of the week or you can set one and copy the times to the rest. It’s a simple system, but one with plenty of depth.
When Hive first launched it didn’t come with a location service. That was a major omission, but the feature has since been added and brings Hive a lot closer to the leading products from the likes of Nest, Tado and Honeywell.
Now Hive knows when you’re leaving or coming back home, thanks to location tracking via your phone. You can tweak the settings so that the heating turns down when you’re a certain number of miles away or turns up when you’re on the way home.
A year ago I'd have told you to opt for Nest or Tado, but British Gas has significantly improved its Hive Active Heating System. Additional features like location detection and Holiday mode put it on par with the competition, while the stylish thermostat and slick app mean it’s more attractive than ever.
Quite how much you save will depend entirely on the size of your home and how warm you like it. I’ve seen financial savings of around 10% since I’ve been using it, but my family likes a toasty house. Of course, using the heating less is also good for the environment.
There are other benefits to owning any smart thermostat, though. I find my house has a more uniform temperature – my family no longer gets too cold or too warm, and if we do it’s easy enough to sort out from the comfort of the bed or the sofa, thanks to the app.
Hive is both easy to use and powerful. It's come on leaps and bounds over the past year and is now a smart thermostat system we’d recommend, even though the Multizone aspect isn’t quite as nuanced as it is with Honeywell’s Evohome.