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Nest vs Hive: Which is the Best Smart Thermostat?

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Hive vs Nest
Hive vs Nest

Nest vs Hive: What's the difference?

Nest and Hive are two of the best-known smart thermostat systems in the UK. However, at present it’s pretty hard to choose between the two.

They both cost a couple of hundred pounds to install, claim to be able to save you money in the long run and use a lot of the same tech. We’ve taken a look into each system to find out which you should think about buying.

Who makes these systems?
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Hive is run by British Gas while Nest operates in association with nPower, although in the US it's sold on its own on websites like Amazon. With Nest, you can get a free unit when you switch over to nPower – although this deal is not operational yet. You can sign up for updates at the Nest website.

Nest is actually owned by Google, though. It bought the company back in January 2014 for around £1.9 billion. Clearly Google sees a great deal of potential in the system, so we can expect tighter integration with Google services and apps in future.

Which is the most expensive?
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Nest - £249 (£179 without installation (free installation available until 8 April))
Hive - £199

Nest is a little more expensive than Hive. Nest costs £249, where Hive costs £199. It sounds like a lot, but this figure includes installation.

However, until 8 April, you can get the Nest unit with free installation, making it £179 all-in. Getting an installation will take a bit longer with one of these deals, though – the website currently suggests a time delay of about 10 days, where the paid installation package get you up and running within 3-4 days.


Which is harder to install?
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An engineer will do the hardest parts of the installation in both of these systems, but there are still other practical issues to consider – such as where you’ll put all the bits.

Nest and Hive come with roughly comparable components. There’s a replacement thermostat, a box that plugs into your router to let you control the thermostat over you home Wi-Fi network and another gadget that interfaces with your boiler to let it regulate its performance.

Nest has clearly put a little more effort into making its smart thermostat a lot more lounge-friendly than Hive’s. It’s a round control dial with a colour LCD screen. It looks great, and would make a conversation-starter among a geeky crowd. The Nest unit is also designed for flexibility. There’s a separate stand you can buy, letting you place the control box on a desk or mantelpiece, and it can be powered directly from a plug rather than more invasive in-wall wiring.
Nest

The Hive control box is much more conventional. It’s an anonymous white block with a monochrome blue-backlit display. You aren’t going to be showing it off to any guests during a dinner party.
Hive

How do you control these systems?
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The difference in the styling of the control boxes tells you a lot about the differing ways these systems operate. Hive is a system that you’ll use fairly traditionally when you’re at home, but you can still control it using an app for your phone or tablet while out and about. The most obvious use is switching the heating off entirely when no-one's in.

The Hive app works with Android and iOS devices – so that’s Android phones, Android tablets, iPads and iPhones. And iPod touches, whose popularity seems to have waned in recent years.

Nest is undoubtedly the ‘cooler’ system. Its control box wants to become a focal point of your living space, and the metal rotary controller you use to alter its settings has more than a whiff of the ‘next-gen’ living room about it.

You can, of course, control Nest remotely using an app too. It works with Android devices and Apple’s mobile tablets and phones.

Although quite different in design, and how they are operated, the Nest and Hive control interfaces share one core techy similarity – they are both wireless. What separates these systems from the one you’re (most likely) using at present is that the thermostat can be placed wherever you like.


Which will save me more money?
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It’s not easy to say which of these systems will save you more money. It’s still entirely dependent on how you use the system and the rates of your energy plan.

Although these systems are sold as a way to save money on your energy bills, they’re really just front-ends for an entirely regular heating system. They don’t make your boiler more effective, just your use of it.

British Gas offers a free quote system that’ll give you an estimate of your energy costs on its website.
 

Which boilers work with these systems?
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Hive and Nest cannot really be 100 per cent specific about every boiler they support – there are a whole lot of boilers out there. And some of them are o-old.

Hive’s official line on the matter is that it supports "gas, LPG and oil central heating systems." Nest says it will work with the following:
  • Combi and condensing boilers
  • System and heat-only boilers
  • Hydronic underfloor systems
  • Air source and ground source heat pumps
  • Switched live systems
  • Low voltage dry contact systems
We think compatibility is likely to be very similar between the two systems, as it all hinges on the one component that ‘talks to’ the boiler. Hive calls it a Receiver, Nest a Heat Link. This is the one part that really needs a qualified engineer to install.  

Here’s what the bits look like:
Nest vs Hive


What can they do?
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The remits of these systems are pretty similar, but the Nest tries to be a little more intelligent. It learns about your preferences and programmes itself once it has learned about your habits - it'll start doing this after about a week.

It also turns the heating off when it knows you’ve left the building. It does this by monitoring when your phone leaves the area and we’ll test this fully once we get setup with our review unit.

As you might expect of a British Gas product, Hive is a little more conservative. Its operation is based more around schedules that you can edit on the fly, rather than a TiVo-like system that tries to pre-empt your movements.

Which is better – Nest or Hive?

We haven’t yet done our full review on Nest so we’re only going to give some first impressions for now. However, if you want the next generation of smart home tech, Nest sounds like the more convincing system.

It learns, it’s location-aware and its control unit deserves to be seen, not hidden away like Hive’s. However, if all you want is a smart system that will save you some cash, and decrease your energy footprint, we recommend checking out the rates offered by the partner energy firms, British Gas and nPower.

Next, read our full Hive Active Heating review or our overview of smart thermostats in the UK

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