Hands-on review: WundaSmart smart heating control
Image credit: Wunda
Intelligent heating can help you save money at the same time as cutting fuel consumption. This system promises to keep your home warm only when it needs to be and in the right places.
Gas prices are volatile and climate change is an existential threat. There has never been a better time to cut your fossil fuel use. Insulating your home is crucial. Dialling down one degree is great. Woolly jumpers are superb. Alternative heat sources are brilliant. And smart heating is part of the answer, at a domestic level.
Do you find yourself heating the whole house, even if you’re only using one room? Does your house heat up on a schedule, even when there’s no-one home? Smart heating promises to replace your boiler controls – buttons, timers, thermostats – with a high-tech alternative.
Basic smart heating controls give you app control of the boiler, to fix scheduling issues by putting whole-house heating controls at your fingertips. Systems like Wunda’s new WundaSmart add wireless sensors and controls in every room, so you can tailor the heating to fit your home life.
Most such smart heating systems put room thermostats in the radiator heads, so one gadget can do double duty: measuring the temperature and also physically controlling the radiator (a small motor in the radiator head turns the top of a standard thermostatic radiator valve). Unusually, WundaSmart also uses wireless thermostats positioned away from the radiators. Together, both devices measure room temperature more accurately (within 0.2°C), as well as humidity.
WundaSmart is designed to be professionally installed and consists of a SmartHub that connects to the boiler, smart radiator heads and room thermostats. There are two thermostat designs: a simple one that can be hidden from sight and the WundaSmart version with E-Ink display and heating controls.
I prefer the WundaSmart design for several reasons: it’s the same size as a standard light switch, so it looks great on the wall, and can be mounted simply using sticky pads. Its E-Ink display has a long battery life. And personally I like being able to glance somewhere in the room to see the temperature.
The plain white box of the screen-less room thermostat is handy in places where you don’t need a display, such as the bathroom or rooms that will be zoned with others. It’s also handy in younger children’s bedrooms where you want no tampering. I will never forget the day my then seven-year-old child came downstairs proudly having turned all the radiators up to max, certain that he’d done a good thing to make the house warm for everyone.
The system is professionally installed: the HubSwitch is connected to the radiator and the radiator heads fit onto conventional thermostatic valves. The technician who fitted mine directed me to the Wunda Smart app, in which all the rooms appeared with the names I had given him. It’s Wunda’s first smart heating control system, though the British company has a pedigree for underfloor heating. The system works with underfloor heating, heat pumps and both combi and conventional boilers, as well as radiators.
Setting up a schedule is simple and I like the way you can specify your favourite three room temperatures to choose with a quick tap. That could be your eco, normal and cosy temperatures, but would also work well if different members of the household have different preferences.
You can configure multiple smartphones to control the Wunda system, which comes into its own if you set up geofencing. That triggers the heating based on your smartphone location. For example, it can turn on automatically when you’re nearby (you set the radius, whether that’s 50m or 1km). If your teens have their own phones, it could ensure their rooms are only warm when they’re around, for example. The results are more accurate – and therefore energy-saving – than a schedule.
You can also control the system with your voice using Amazon Alexa or Google Home. I got it working well on Google Home, but I did find it hard to figure out the right voice commands to make the most of it.
Like many high-end smart heating systems, WundaSmart can learn. If you pick what times you’d like a room to be warm, its ‘Adaptive Start’ mode will experiment over the course of a few days to figure out what times to turn on and off to achieve that goal with no wasted energy.
Unlike rival systems, WundaSmart uses a separate (low-energy seeker signal RF) system to link devices, rather than Wi-Fi. This gives it a longer range with no need for signal repeaters, better battery life and more rooms. It supports up to 30 rooms and 50 radiators, more than any other system.
It also uniquely keeps your data offline, away from the cloud, with bank-level encryption when you access it remotely. That keeps your data private and means your system ticks along fine even if the home broadband internet connection goes down. The only facilities you’d lose would be remote features like the app control and geofencing. If you’re at home, everything works fine - your phone connects to the HubSwitch via Wi-Fi, which still works and doesn’t require the internet.
In all, I found WundaSmart to offer better, easier controls than rival smart heating systems I’ve tested. It put the controls at my fingertips and let me tailor them. I used the app more than voice control, but ultimately I would set up geofencing for all family members.
As more of us work from home - or at least work flexibly from home some of the time - and family life becomes ever-more complex, smart heating controls are brilliant. Without them, you’ll find yourself heating empty rooms – an awful waste of energy and money.
The system isn’t cheap (£199 buys a small starter kit, but Wunda quotes £729 for a house with eight radiators and thermostats) although the savings do add up. With fossil fuel prices volatile, the benefits of insulation, dialling down a degree, woolly jumpers and smart heating controls are real – for our pockets and for the planet.
From £199 wundamsart.co.uk
This has a central touchscreen control pad as well as app and voice control. Rooms can be zoned and controls are intelligent, but the thermostats are typically on the radiator heads. You can add separate room thermostats if you want. Uses Wi-Fi.
From £218.99 getconnected.honeywellhome.com
tado° Smart Radiator Thermostat V3+
You’ll need to buy a tado° Wireless Smart Thermostat to schedule the boiler, as well as one of these stylish smart valves for each room, to control the radiators. The valves are pricey but cheaper if you buy a four-pack. Features include voice control and geofencing.
This smart central heating thermostat doesn’t offer individual room controls, so you’ll need to add smart thermostatic radiator valves (£54 each; cheaper in multi-packs) to tailor the heating around your home. Features include voice control and geofencing.
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