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Netatmo Smart Thermostat review

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Simple to install
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Easily expandable

Cons

  • Android app unresponsive on occasion
  • Geofencing isn't integrated

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Key Features

  • Wired and wireless thermostat installation
  • Always-on E Ink screen
  • Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo and IFTTT support
  • Integrates with Netatmo Weather Station
  • Android, iOS and web apps
  • Manufacturer: Netatmo
  • Review Price: £149.00

What is the Netatmo Smart Thermostat?

Smart thermostats can be rather complicated to set up, but Netatmo has designed its Smart Thermostat to be incredibly easy to install. It's also one of the most flexible, with support for Apple HomeKit and Amazon Echo, and expansion available via a range of additional Netatmo products.

RELATED: Smart thermostats explained

Netatmo Smart Thermostat – Design and Build

The Netatmo Smart Thermostat comes as two components: a relay and the thermostat. Both have been designed by Stark, and they're attractive and rather understated boxes, intended to blend into your home.

The relay is a small white box, with a light in the centre that glows when your heating is on. It's unobtrusive, although you're unlikely to see it, since the relay is most likely to be tucked away with your boiler. The relay also provides the wireless internet connection for the thermostat.

Netatmo Smart Thermostat

It's the battery-powered thermostat that's really attractive: this small cube (83x83mm) can either be wall-mounted or attached to a stand, so you can place it where you want or even move it around your home. Netatmo ships the thermostat with five colour "accent" strips: white, red, orange, green and blue, enabling you to match the thermostat to your decor.

Netatmo Smart Thermostat – Features

Cleverly, the Smart Thermostat has two modes of installation. First, and simplest, is replacing an existing two-wire thermostat, connecting the control cables to the Netatmo Smart Thermostat's built-in relay. In this mode, the relay unit isn't connected to your boiler and needs to be plugged into a wall socket via the provided adapter to provide the internet connection.

The second option is to wire the relay into the boiler via the bundled boiler connector kit. In this mode, the relay takes power from the boiler and uses its own relay to switch your heating on and off. The thermostat unit becomes completely wireless and communicates directly with the relay. Given that the relay has to be physically connected to your boiler using mains power, you may want to get this installed by a professional .

Once the relay and thermostat are in place, setup moves to the app (Android, iOS and Windows Phone), which takes you through connecting to your wireless network (2.4GHz only) and setting up a Netatmo account, if you don't already have one.

A simple questionnaire asks you when you get up, go to work, get back home and go to sleep, automatically setting a schedule for you. It's easy enough to change them manually on your phone, although my Android version would occasionally refuse to let me change the schedule until I restarted the app.

As with other smart heating systems, manual scheduling lets you establish different settings for each day. Scheduling lets you set time periods and, for each, which heating profile to use. By default, there are three profiles: Comfort (19C); Night (17C); and Eco (16C) – although you can create your own or modify the temperatures used for each.

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Profiles make setting and changing your schedule really quick. Plus, if you find your house too hot or too cold, you can adjust a profile and the new temperature is applied to every period that uses it.

In addition, there are two special modes: Away and Frost-Guard. Both set a constant temperature until you switch them off. Away is set to 12C by default and should be used when you're out, but want to stop your house from getting too cold. Frost-Guard is set to 7C, and is for use when you're away for longer periods. You can override the temperature setting for both modes.

The Netatmo Smart Thermostat is heating-only, so is ideally combined with a combi boiler. If you have a separate hot water tank, you'll need to leave your old controls in place, or use a different smart heating system, such as the Tado Smart Thermostat.

Netatmo is set to release its smart radiator valves soon, which offer room-by-room control. This lets you upgrade the system to give similar control to the Honeywell Evohome.

Netatmo Smart Thermostat – Performance

Using the mobile app or web app is simple, with the main interface aping the physical thermostat. From the app you can quickly dial the temperature up or down; doing this sets the change, known as a setpoint, to last for the default time – which is three hours by default.

When making a temperature change, you can also adjust the slider to make the change last for a longer or shorter period.

You can perform the same action from the thermostat by clicking the top to increase and the bottom to decrease temperature. You can place the thermostat horizontally, too: right-click is temperature up and left-click is temperature down.

However, since the thermostat doesn't have a touchscreen, temperature changes last for the default setpoint duration only. The Tado Smart Thermostat offers greater control; it can set thermostat changes to last for a set period, forever or until the next period.

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The thermostat's clear E Ink screen displays the current and set temperatures. Using E Ink means that this information is onscreen all of the time, using little power (the three AAA batteries should last one year). However, the display is hard to read in a dark room since it isn't illuminated.

A neat feature in the Netatmo app is the option to set a date and time for Away mode or Frost-Guard modes to end. If you're going on holiday, for example, you can pre-set your heating to turn back on when you return.

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Sadly, Netatmo doesn't have any geofencing built in, so the Smart Thermostat can't turn on and off automatically when you go out. However, there is IFTTT support, so you can implement this feature using the Location service (good for one user) or via the Life360 app (good for an entire house, since it tracks everyone's location).

Whichever option you go for, it makes configuring the thermostat a little more fiddly than with either the Honeywell Lyric T6 or Tado Smart Thermostat, both of which have geofencing built in.

The Smart Thermostat uses some advanced heating algorithms, designed to save money – up to a 37% cut in energy bills – to help keep your house from getting too hot or cold.

Netatmo could make the available options a little easier to understand, though: hysteresis algorithm and proportional-integral-derivative (PID) algorithm are hardly descriptive. While the manual explains what each one does, they're a bit wordy.

In short, hysteresis cuts the boiler off once your house is within the threshold of the set temperature (by default 0.2C). Even so, hot radiators can push your heating beyond the set point. PID is smarter, and learns how your home heats up and how long it takes, so it can cut off the heating at the right point so that your home doesn't exceed the set temperature. PID constantly updates and learns, making it better over time. In my tests, my house barely exceeded the set 19C when PID was used.

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To aid with heating, the Netatmo Smart Thermostat also takes into account the local outdoor temperature, so that it knows when to turn on the heating: earlier, when it's really cold; later, when it's warmer. The temperature can be pulled from the internet, using your home's location, although more accurate readings can be taken from a Netatmo Weather Station if you have one linked to the same account.

Netatmo Smart Thermostat – HomeKit, Siri and Echo

Netatmo's Smart Thermostat is one of the best connected. Setting up HomeKit and the Apple Home app is easy, since the pairing code required pops up on the thermostat's screen.

For other devices, the pairing code is printed on a sticker inside the box. Using Apple's Home app is clunky and Netatmo's own app is far better. However, voice control via Siri is neat, and you can ask for a set temperature or to increase or lower temperatures by a set amount. Results are almost instant, too.

Amazon Echo (Alexa) support is great to see, too. This offers the same voice commands as with HomeKit, and temperature changes happen just as quickly.

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Related: Amazon Echo review

Should I buy the Netatmo Smart Thermostat?

Netatmo's Smart Thermostat is one of the cheapest available, yet it has all of the features that I'd expect, plus Echo and HomeKit integration. An app that occasionally stops responding and the lack of integrated geofencing are a little disappointing.

The competition is also tough. The more expensive Tado Smart Thermostat has the same range of features, but I prefer its app, plus it has brilliant geofencing. For a more advanced, room-by-room system, the Honeywell Evohome is excellent.

Verdict

Easy to set up, with plenty of expansion options – the Netatmo Smart Thermostat offers excellent value.

Overall Score

8

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Philip B

November 24, 2016, 4:56 pm

How come no comparison with the excellent (and ever improving) Hive system which can control both CH and HW plus a growing list of other items?

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