Tado Smart Heating First Impressions & Tour
Now that we've had our Tado Smart Heating system installed for a little while, it's time to take a view on how the system works, and also have a bit of a tour round the user interface. Here, I'll explore how we're getting on.
In my last post- Tado Installation and Setup - we went through the process of getting up and running with Tado. This was fairly painless, the only final step that we didn't explore, was positioning the thermostat. This is now affixed to the wall on our first floor landing area. It's in the 'middle' of the house, where it isn't too hot, or too cold. We felt this would be the best place to put it, since it would get a fairly balanced temperature reading.
The physical thermostat itself isn't something you really interact with on a regular basis. It does have a user interface - of sorts. A single button in the bottom right brings up the current temperature when pushed, followed by the set temperature after a brief delay. Touch sensitive up and down arrows appear, allowing for temporary adjustment of the temperature.
Other than that, the thermostat simply sits there doing it's thing, constantly monitoring the current temperature (and humidity), and relaying instructions to the boiler. In our case, this is done wirelessly using the extension kit. It means we're free to reposition the thermostat in future. If however you use the device to replace and existing wired thermostat, then you might be tethered to a single location (but with the advantage that you don't need the extension kit).
Everything else happens in the Tado app. This is simply the main place where you interact with Tado. Indeed, for location based control to work with Tado (one of it's main features), you need the app, as does everyone else who lives in your home.
The main app screen changes colour depending on what mode Tado is in. Blue when set to low temperatures, yellow or orange for higher temperatures. Green is used for 'away' mode. The app shows you the current temperature in the top third of the screen, as well as the outdoor temperature, the humidity, and an icon depicting what mode the system is in (home, away, manual).
Beneath this are three wavy lines depicting the current heat request level. One line means low, three means high etc. This is either communicated directly to your boiler (if you have a fairly modern one), or defines how much of the time your boiler spends running (if you have an older boiler, as we do).
In the centre of the screen is a bar showing the current set temperature. Tapping this lets you enable manual control, temporarily adjusting the temperature, or even turning the heating off. You can define whether this change lasts until the next automatic event, for a set time period, or indefinitely until cancelled. If you do turn off the heating, Tado still enables 'frost protection' which ensures your pipes don't freeze.
On the lower section of the screen, Tado shows who's currently at home, and who's away - which is Tado's primary mechanism for deciding whether the system should be in 'away' mode. If everyone is out, away mode is activated. More on that later.
Tapping on the calendar icon in the top right lets you set Tado's schedule. You can decide whether you want a different schedule every day, or the same for every day of the week (with a third option if you want schedules different on working days vs weekend days). You can define as many time blocks per day as you wish, with a 'plus' button used to do this. For each time block, simply tap to enter the settings. Here, you set the temperature (or turn heating off), and the start and finish times. You can also disable location control for a time block, if you know a visitor (for example) will be at home and need the heating running.
These schedules only operate if Tado knows someone is at home. If no-ones home, you'll be in 'away' mode - one of the primary ways Tado has to reduce your energy consumption. In the Away tab, you can define the minimum temperature you want for your house, and also adjust a slider between 'eco', 'balanced' and 'comfort'. Comfort means that - when you're heading home - Tado will begin heating faster. In Eco mode, you'll need to be closer to home before the heating will fire up. Balanced is somewhere in the middle. There's a fourth option 'off'. This means you need to actually arrive home before the heating will begin.
Finally, via an additional settings screen there's a 'early start' feature. When enabled, it adjusts the way that the schedules in Tado operate. Early start means your time blocks are used as 'targets' for when the temperature should reach the set level. For example, say you have a time block starting at 6AM, with the heating set to 21C. Tado will figure out how far in advance of 6AM to begin heating, taking into account the current temperature, the outside temperature, and what it knows about how fast your home warms up. This means it only uses the minimum required energy each day to get your home to the right temperature, at the right time. With this feature turned off, Tado's time blocks work more like a regular boiler timer.
Back from the main screen, a 'bar chart' icon - when tapped, will take you to Tado's graph screen, showing you details of the heating throughout the day (and indeed previous days). You can see the temperature throughout the course of the day, the 'mode' the system was in (home, away etc), the heat level called for, and even whether the sun was shining (this can impact how warm your home stays). It's fascinating to be able to see all this, and has turned me into a bit of an information junkie!
There's a settings section, of course, where you can control things like how long manual control will last if activated from the physical Tado thermostat. You can also enable features like open-window detection, to have Tado turn off your heating if it detects a sudden drop in temperature - which could indicate an open window.
Enough about the functions and features. How well does it work? Well, so far, it's worked fairly well. I can't report any problems with it, and most of the functions seem to work as advertised. The geolocation function has worked fairly reliably. The only thing I'd appreciate is a bit more fine grained control over how quickly the heating comes on when you're returning home. I'm not saying it's unresponsive, it's not. However - I'd just appreciate more control here, as it sometimes only seems to activate when someone's already nearly at home, even when set to 'comfort'.
It's also true to say that by having the system controlled by a single, central thermostat, we're dependent on a sensor that can only measure the temperature in one location. That's of course fairly obvious, and isn't really a criticism of Tado; it would be true of any system where a single central thermostat was used (smart or otherwise). This is where thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) come in. They help give you room by room control of your heating. Tado have their own smart TRVs, and by adding these throughout my home, I'm hoping to improve the system greatly.
In every other respect I'm pretty happy with how Tado is working. It's running our heating effectively and with no drama. The big question though - is it saving us money? Tado has it's own climate report that gives an estimated saving month-by-month. It bases this on various factors like how often it's gone into away mode, it's weather adaptations, and other metrics. However, the real question is - is it saving money compared to not having it at all? That's difficult to measure, and we'll only really get a better picture of this once we've had the system in for much longer. Certainly it seems to be doing the job, turning off our heating when we've been away (especially at weekends visiting friends or family for example).
It's something I'm going to have to live with for much longer to get a better overview of how this is working, but so far I'm going to give it a generalised thumbs up, and then go back to pouring over the heating graphs - I just can't stop!