- Easy installation
- Nice design
- A smart thermostat isn’t essential
- Makes zoned heating easy
- Expensive to kit out your entire house
- No heating history in app
- Room temperature reading inaccurate
- Occasional confusing settings
- Review Price: £179.00
- Location-based radiator control using an app
- 2 x smart radiator thermostats
- 1 x internet bridge
- Compatible with both horizontal and vertical standard radiator fittings
- Can be used with or without a smart thermostat
- Compatible with any boiler
- IFTTT channel
What is the Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat?
German company Tado has a prestigious seat beside top players such as Hive and Nest in the UK’s smart thermostat market, but now it wants to take heating your home to a whole new level.
Its smart radiator thermostat replaces a regular radiator thermostat to let you customise the temperature in separate rooms of your home from an app on your phone. In smart home language this is known as “zoned heating”.
The Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit includes an internet bridge and two smart radiator thermostats; you can buy additional thermostats for £59 each if you want to kit out more than two radiators. I used the Starter Kit along with one additional smart radiator thermostat to control the three radiators in my small house.
So, is zoned heating with Tado the future of smart heating?
Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit – Features and Design
If you’re already using the company’s smart thermostat, you’ll be familiar with the simple, stripped-back approach that Tado favours.
This theme continues in the smart radiator thermostat: a minimalist white cylinder with a hidden dot-matrix LED display.
The display illuminates when you interact with the device – either via the app, or simply by twisting the upper half of the unit. It’s clean and simple, which is infinitely more attractive than the off-white old radiator thermostats I was previously using.
The smart radiator thermostat is nice and sturdy and feels incredibly secure when installed on a radiator. It’s compatible with all standard radiators with both vertically and horizontally positioned thermostats.
It’s powered by two AA batteries, which should give it around two years of power before the cells need to be replaced.
Related: Nest Thermostat Review
The internet bridge, which basically acts as the butter in your smart radiator thermostat and Tado phone app sandwich, is a small, inoffensive white plastic box. It plugs into your Wi-Fi router via an Ethernet cable, and then into the mains via a power cable. It’s small enough to hide from view behind most routers.
The Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit is designed to give you individual control of radiator heat in individual rooms or areas of your house.
With the Tado app on your phone, you have the power to toggle your home heating in numerous ways. You can create customised schedules for each smart radiator thermostat, use location-based control with home and away settings, use geolocation to adjust the heating based on your phone’s proximity to your house, and finely control the temperature of individual radiators by the degree.
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Related: Smart thermostats in the UK
There’s also a desktop dashboard called My Tado, which offers the same level of control from a web browser instead.
The beauty of the system is that you don’t necessarily need to have a smart thermostat installed to use it. Absolutely anyone with standard radiators can install the Starter Kit and dive into zoned heating.
This is great news for renters such as myself, who don’t have the go-ahead to get their boiler rewired with a smart thermostat.
It’s also fantastic news for the small percentage of people whose boiler isn’t compatible with a smart thermostat. The kit can also be used alongside a smart thermostat, affording even greater finesse over an already very smart and efficient heating setup.
Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit – Installation
This kit is incredibly easy to install, which is a result of both great design and Tado’s clear, step-by-step instructions on its website. You’ll need your phone, tablet or laptop to hand to complete the installation.
Note that turning your heating off isn’t essential while installing the system, but turning it down is advisable if you don’t want to scald your fingers on the hot pipes.
Related: Three-dozen dead useful IFTTT recipes
If you’re not an existing Tado customer, the first step is to create a free Tado account. You then plug the internet bridge into your router password to get the two devices communicating, and start adding devices to your account by simply clicking “Add Device”.
The website takes you through the entire process of installing each smart radiator thermostat, including how to remove your old radiator thermostats if you’re unsure.
In most cases, they just unscrew without the need for any tools.
There’s a serial number on each smart radiator thermostat, which you have to type in first, along with your preferred room name, such as “Bedroom” or “Living Room”.
Then, it’s pretty much a case of fixing them on to the rads and waiting for them to calibrate one by one – which is straightforward.
First, screw a thin base unit onto your radiator valve. There are plenty of extra screw-in extensions in the box in case your radiator valve has a different kind of fitting, but I didn’t need to use one – or, indeed, any of the spare screws and bolts also in the box.
The base units screwed on easily, and then the smart radiator thermostats snapped on pleasingly with a quick twist. It took a couple of minutes for each device to finish calibrating and finally display the current temperature on its LED display.
Existing Tado customers will already have the app installed; new users will need to download the app to their phone and log in. That’s it – you’re then ready to take smart control of your radiators.
Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat – Performance
My houseful of smart radiator thermostats has given me a sense of comfort and convenience that I never imagined I’d achieve on first setting eyes on the rattling 10-year-old combi-boiler in my rented house.
I can keep my spare room cooler than the rest of the house when it isn’t being used, cool the bedroom to a comfortable temperature before I hit the sack, and set my living room to be nice and toasty on the drive home from a winter ramble. All with just a quick tap of an app. It’s like having a smart thermostat in every room.
The Tado app is a well-designed and intuitive control panel. A dropdown menu in the top left provides access to a list of rooms with a smart radiator thermostat, and the room temperature of the currently selected room in large font at the top of the screen.
The set radiator temperature sits beneath, with access to more manual settings, and a calendar symbol in the top right takes you to the location-based scheduling settings.
There’s even a humidity percentage reading for each room. It’s very easy to navigate and runs quickly. It hasn’t once crashed.
If you’re on a mission to make big savings, there’s also an option to manually log your heating costs over time, allowing you to see a comparison between your spending both before and after you installed the Tado smart radiator thermostats.
Personally, I’d like the app to offer a history of my heating schedules and temperatures. I can live without it, but the capability to skip back a week or month to see my old schedules and try to iron out some bad heating habits would be useful.
It took a spot of trial and error to get to a point of feeling completely at ease with how the smart radiator thermostats work with my particular heating setup.
One of the initial difficulties I had was with the room temperature indicator in the app. I bought a cheap room thermometer and discovered that the displayed temperature in the app is about 6oC hotter than the actual room temperature – understandable, given the thermostats sit right next to radiators.
This is easily rectified by going into each room setting in the app and creating a temperature offset. I wouldn’t have actually known that it was wrong without the room thermometer, so I’d definitely advise others without a portable thermostat to grab a cheap room thermometer for super-accurate readings.
The maximum temperature setting for the smart radiator thermostat is 25oC, which I find brings my room temperature to a comfortable 21/22oC.
With my particular boiler, I have to turn the temperature halfway to achieve a maximum radiator heat of 25oC; if I turn the dial further, the radiators become hotter, even with the temperature in the Tado app set to 25oC.
It took some patient fiddling around with my boiler to figure this out. I imagine that anyone with a smart thermostat or a more advanced boiler should have a much easier time.
In the main, I stick solely to app control, rarely feeling the need to change temperature on the smart radiator thermostats themselves. However, they are easy to use, emitting a satisfying click with each degree increment.
They make a gentle mechanical whirring sound when a new stage of a heating schedule kicks in, which is particularly comforting when you’re tucked up in bed fearing the cold. The LED display also lights up when a new stage begins, but you can stop this happening in the app settings if you feel you don’t need it.
The location-based scheduling is where most users will turn for the majority of their smart heating control. It lets you create blocks of time with custom temperatures over a 24-hour period that automatically activate when the system detects you’re at home or away with your phone.
The scheduling works without fail, and can be programmed to override any manual temperature settings you might set throughout the day – such as a quick heating boost via the app or the smart radiator thermostats themselves.
You can activate an “Early Start” mode too, which will set your radiator to reach a desired heat by a specified time – a welcome feature that saves you having to guess what time your should set your heating to come on in the morning.
This feature also works to set the temperature lower the further you are away from home. It does this by determining your distance to cell towers, nearby Wi-Fi networks and, occasionally, GPS.
Frustratingly, I’ve found that the radiators in my house have dropped no more than 2oC, no matter how far away I am – which is way too warm when there’s nobody at home. I tend to use manual control or set a fixed “Away” temperature instead, which works well for me.
Just like with its smart thermostat, you can also let the app decide “Away” temperature in three modes: Eco, Balance and Comfort. The Eco mode delays a heat increase by a few minutes after you return home; Comfort makes sure the house is warmed up before you arrive home. Balance, meanwhile, allows Tado to judge the best trade-off between comfort and savings.
Something that tripped me up a few times in the first few days of use was a particular trio of sub-settings for setting the temperature manually in the app. You can choose to adjust the temperature “Until the next automatic change”, by “Timer”, or “Until ended by user”.
Leave it on that third option by accident when you boost the heating, and your schedule won’t kick in. And that’s how I once found myself awake at 1am in a hot sweat because my bedroom radiator was still a raging 25oC. I certainly didn’t make that mistake again.
One considerable advantage of having the smart radiator thermostats installed in every room of the house is that I can pretty much just leave my boiler alone.
The thermostats have a minimum temperature setting of 5oC, so the heating is as good as off when the smart radiator thermostats are cranked right down. This is the kind of convenience you’d benefit from owning a smart thermostat – which feels like a dream to a renter with an old boiler system.
Should I buy the Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit?
If you’re not in a position to install a smart thermostat because you’re in a rented property or your boiler isn’t compatible, the Tado Smart Radiator Thermostat Starter Kit is a trustworthy way to gain remote control of your heating and cut down on those energy bills.
The downside is that kitting out your entire house could prove costly, if you have numerous radiators you wish to control. However, monthly rental options are available to soften the blow. It costs £3.99 per month to rent the entire Starter Kit, and £2.49 per month for a single smart radiator thermostat.
You don’t have to install the thermostats on every radiator in your house, either – you can start with just couple on radiators in your main living areas and build from there.
An expensive yet effective way for both homeowners and renters to get started with zoned heating.