As with most appliances, the more technical products are often more expensive. However, there are some thermostats out there which give you much more freedom and adaptability for not much more than the cheapest products.
Some are also only compatible with certain models of boiler or radiator, so check which you have first before you even consider things such as price and control.
Smart Central Heating Thermostats
These allow you to control your heating in terms of temperature and timings, through either a dedicated app or through a voice assistant such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomeKit.
They operate over WiFi, so you can control them from anywhere as long as you have internet, too. Most require a hub to be connected to your internet router, and then a receiver to be connected to the boiler.
Smart Radiator Thermostats
These allow you to control individual radiators and zones separately to the rest of the household. So, while your central heating thermostat will try to optimise the temperature throughout the house, an individual radiator control will override this.
They work with thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs), so check to see if your radiator can make the change first.
They are ideal if you have a certain room in the house you like to keep warmer than the others, or one which needs to be heated at a different time. Perhaps one room is a lot larger than any others, but as the heating stays on until this is warmed sufficiently, the others get too hot. Or maybe you’re on the early morning shifts so want your bedroom to warm up without the rest of the house doing the same. You may even have spare bedrooms which don’t need heating until somebody is in them, and then need an extra boost.
They often require the bridge and rest of the smart heating system to work, so are an add-on.
The price of smart thermostats doesn’t differ much between retailers, nor does it tend to vary much between items. If you do your comprehensive research, you could end up paying not much more for a high-end model over a basic one.
A lot of the overall cost can come from extras such as any requires hubs or bridges for connections. There may also be installation costs to consider, and it isn’t always best to avoid this to do it yourself – a lot could go wrong unless you’re handy with DIY.
Generally, you can control the times at which your heating turns on and off through a smart thermostat. However, some may limit you to only four settings, which isn’t great if you need upwards of six due to a particularly busy household.
Some also have GPS location tracking and can tell if someone in the house is coming home, preparing itself to turn on. Likewise, they can turn off if nobody is in. A lot of models will also pick up your general repeated habits (such as how you always set it to come on at 9 am on a Sunday) and act without you having to remember.
Some also can ‘learn’ about your home, working out how long it takes to heat certain rooms and turning on at the correct time to adequately heat the house by 6 pm when you return from work. They can also monitor the external weather and temperature and act accordingly.
Some of the thermostats are easier to install than others, but it is generally recommended that you get a plumber or official engineer to fit it on your behalf. This will ensure it is working correctly, as well as there being less risk of damage to your system.
The option to book installation is often available as an extra when buying a thermostat, or you can inquire with a local engineer before purchasing to see how much it would cost from them.
Aesthetics and Display
Not necessarily the most critical factor, but thermostats will be on show in your home so getting one which looks the part could be important for a lot of people.
Also, consider the screen display before you buy. Some have clearer information on-screen than others, some data is easier to see on some than others, and some have backlights for ease of use in the dark.
Motion Sensors and GPS Tracking
Thermostats with geolocation ability will detect the movements of anyone with the app installed on their phone, telling whether they have left the house or are returning. Some can also be paired with motion sensors to detect movement in the building.
It will then take the necessary action in lowering or increasing the heating, or notifying you if it is on, but nobody seems to be home so you can take the correct steps.
Most of the high-end thermostats have this feature, and it is good for any homes where the schedule is not regular (such as people on shifts or a busy house share). A lot of people will be perfectly okay with just the remote/timer control capabilities, so it isn’t essential.