Smart heating - what is it and how does it work?

Take control of your home’s central heating and the money you spend on it by making it a 'smart' heating system

The clue’s in the name - smart heating is the most efficient way to have complete control over your home’s central heating and energy bills. It allows you to monitor your system wherever you are. It'll heat your home only when it needs it, rather than wasting energy unnecessarily.

Connecting your boiler to an app on your smartphone, smart heating systems allow you to create heating schedules. And depending on the one you choose, they will allow you to control the heating in each room manually.

What is smart heating?

smart heating wiser on table with plant

(Image credit: Wiser)

A smart heating system can be as compact or as wide-reaching as you choose (or your budget allows). It can be made up of at least one smart thermostat hub and a number of radiator valves.

There are so many ways in which you can benefit from a smart heating system. And it can, in turn, also work in tandem with a wider whole smart home system.

James Clark, Technical Training Manager at Wiser agrees. 'Warm the living room by 2°C and dim the lamps for movie night, or turn the heating down and the sound system on for when you’re working out.'

'By controlling each device in each room to suit the moment,' he adds, 'you can make your home smarter, more comfortable and save energy, too.'

You can just have one smart thermostat on its own. Or you can link up a number of them together along with a whole clutch of radiator valves. As everything is connected to your home’s WiFi, many systems can even be voice controlled. So you can turn your heating up or down without budging from the sofa and just ordering Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to do the job for you.

What is a smart thermostat?

bedroom with smart thermostat on white wall

(Image credit: Wiser)

Not to be confused with smart meters, which give readings of your energy usage, a smart thermostat is a far cleverer version of a bog-standard central heating thermostat.

Smart heating systems are usually made up of two devices. The main component is a wired relay that attaches to your boiler and a control hub. It will feature a display that shows your room's temperature. This links to your system via WiFi and you can control your heating either via the hub or using an app on a smart device.

As well as adjusting the temperature in a room, you can program it to turn your heating on when you’re close to home. It does this by tracking your phone’s location. You can switch it on holiday mode when you’re away to save energy. And you can protect your pipes or have alerts set up if you’ve left the heating on and no-one’s home.

Completely independent of energy suppliers, a smart heating system won’t be affected if you choose to switch a tariff or supplier for a better deal.

How does smart heating save you money?

notebook on table with smart phone and juice jar with glass

(Image credit: Wiser)

'Smart meters are brilliant for giving you insight into your usage,' explains James Clark from Wiser. 'But with the energy price cap rising, what everyone wants to know is how to get your consumption and bills down.'

'One of the most important areas to focus on is your heating and hot water,' says James. 'This typically accounts for around 80% of a household’s energy usage. New technology is now coming onto the market that takes the data from your smart meter and connects it with your heating system.'

'You can see in real-time exactly how much gas and electricity you’ve been using for heating and hot water. You can also see how much you are spending each month and even how many trees you would need to plant to offset your carbon emissions.'

'To help manage your money, you can access heating predictions that will forecast your spend.  There are also budgeting features too, which can be set to notify you when you’re nearing your preferred spend limit. If you’ve activated energy saving modes on your heating controls, you’ll be able to view the money you’ve saved for a feelgood boost.'

How do smart heating systems work in tandem with other smart home devices?

'Many of us now use smart technology to control different elements of our homes, ' explains James, 'whether it’s the heating, smart lighting or our electrical appliances. Chances are you will already have different schedules set for each device.

'But this technology is getting even smarter and more personalised. With some smart home systems, you can now link up your different devices to suit not only the time of day, but exactly what you and your family are doing.'

What extra devices can you invest in?

living room with heating thermostat and radiator valve

(Image credit: Netatmo)

As with most smart home systems, the more devices you link up to one network, the wider control you’ll have. Smart valves are devices that you attach to your existing radiators, effectively making them ‘smart’. These link up wirelessly to your smart thermostat, giving you the option of controlling a radiator independently of the rest of your heating system.

This is particularly useful for rooms like bedrooms that don’t need to be heated all day. But you can program the heating to switch on in the evenings to warm the room before bedtime.

What companies should I look for?

It all depends on how many smart home devices you have already. Wiser offers a wide array of clever smart home devices, like thermostats and valves, as well as smart plugs.  If you already have a number of Google devices at home, it’s worth choosing the Google-owned Nest thermostat for super easy integration.

The same goes for the British Gas-owned Hive, which also offers smart lighting and home security systems. Netatmo's Philippe Starck designed thermostat and valves are a good choice for the design conscious. As is the minimal look of the Tado thermostat too.

Expect to pay between £150 and £180 for a smart thermostat. Depending on the system you choose, you can either install the it yourself, or the company will do it for you for a fee. Valves will set you back a further £40-50 each.

Ginevra Benedetti
Deputy Editor (Print)

Ginevra Benedetti has been the Deputy Editor of Ideal Home magazine since 2021. With a career in magazines spanning nearly twenty years, she has worked for the majority of the UK’s interiors magazines, both as staff and as a freelancer. She first joined the Ideal Home team in 2011, initially as the Deputy Decorating Editor and has never left! She currently oversees the publication of the brand’s magazine each month, from planning through to publication, editing, writing or commissioning the majority of the content.