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Smart thermostats vs smart meters — what’s the difference?

With an influx of smart tech to help manage your home’s energy and heating, here’s a look at a couple of the most popular

smart thermostat and smart meter

When the cold weather hits it becomes even more critical to be energy conscious.

With an abundance of smart tech options for the home, it can be quite appealing to imagine the transformation they could bring to your energy usage and efficiency; but the confusing similarities between some energy-related gadgets and installs can hold people back from giving them a try.

Smart thermostats

Smart thermostats are a smart technology that let you remotely control and programme your home’s temperature via a tablet, smartphone or desktop for greater control over your central heating — the interface is often more user-friendly than standard programmable thermostats too.

How they work: A component plugs directly into your boiler and can wirelessly talk to a second component (an in-home display device that acts as the thermostat and main control). The third component of a smart thermostat is an app that is downloaded to a smartphone (or tablet). Users can then remotely control the thermostat/main control device via the app, allowing them to adjust their heating from wherever they may be.

This is the basic makeup of most smart thermostats. Some smart thermostats offer more, such as ‘learning’ your schedule by detecting when you’re in the house, knowing when you’re likely to be on your way home, or using the internet and weather reports to adjust the usual temperature.

This is all to create the preferred environment for you in your home.

Some popular models of smart thermostat include Hive, Nest and Tado.

Smart meters

A smart meter is a new kind of gas and electricity meter that can digitally and automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier. These are set to replace the standard meters in most homes that require manual readings.

Under the government’s scheme to update the energy industry, all suppliers are required to offer all customers a smart meter by 2020. This is free for anyone who accepts one, and will be available for all meter types.

This can ensure more accurate energy bills, avoiding being in credit or debit with your supplier.

Smart meters further benefit users in other ways too. Not only do they eradicate manual readings, they also come with in home display monitors, so you can better understand your energy usage.

In home display monitors show your usage in near real time, and in pounds and pence relating to your current energy rates. You’ll be able to see how much a few degrees extra on the thermostat can cost, and how those pennies from appliances on standby eventually add up.

Is a smart home for you?

Recently, wholesale prices have risen sharply, forcing some suppliers to replace their cheapest tariffs with more expensive plans – is a smarter home a good complement to a fixed term energy deal in keeping better control over your energy spend?

With smart meters being free, you’ll never have to factor in a cost to break even with. In recent research by Smart Energy GB, almost 80% said they’d recommend a smart meter to others. However, others have noticed troubles switching to some suppliers after receiving them. Notably, a smart meter may have to return to working like a standard credit meter after switching.

For smart thermostats however, there are two costs involved but they continue working regardless of your supplier:

The well-known brands of smart thermostat can cost around £200, and that’s without installation: installation is recommended to be done by a professional, and would cost an extra £50 or so on top. However, Tado claim that their smart thermostat pays for itself in the first year, saving 31% off the average heating bill.

So if you think you’re wasting energy and have room to cut your costs further, a smart thermostat or a smart meter have the potential to be worthwhile for your household.



  • frank davidson

    Interesting. I don’t need a smart meter. I have meters and I am smart enough to read them. Smart thermostats, on the other hand give you control.

  • Ceri Pritchett

    If the government are wanting all possible meters to be changed to smart meters, your comment about the switching issues after having a smart meter fitted are moot. Interested in the smart thermostats though, shame they’re so expensive

  • lordjohn

    Well I have a smart meter and unless you are really wasting energy I think the advantages are oversold. Yes, you do get accurate bills, but if you turn off lights when not in a room, you can’t do a lot to save power.

    However the thing that is not mentioned often is that most current smart meters only work with their full functionality with the supplier that fitted them. There will be ones that work with all suppliers, but there has been a further delay to their roll-out of these SMETS2 meters, which finally started on 1st October. So may be waiting a while longer before installing one will allow you to change supplier in due course without losing some of the features.

  • lordjohn

    Smart thermostats – and all the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Make sure that you use a secure password on any system you use to control these, otherwise you could have someone else change things that you do not want. The IoT does present some risks here. Also there have been problems with software updates going wrong. Take care.

  • Sapmyster

    More government ……bullshite

  • Ben Widdowson

    I’ve had Tado since beta and I’m about to move to the third generation in a few weeks. It’s a great bit of kit. Living in a very energy efficient new build even in the depths of winter our gas bills were only £35 a month and during the summer it was below 10. The savings we have seen even with these small bills are noticeable so if you guys have average or higher bills you could save a packet.

  • Matt

    TLDR; They both manage energy, just in very different ways.

  • freddyh

    British Gas have tried twice to instal smart meters at my home and given up due to lack of space in my utility box. Despite this, they keep phoning to ask me if I want to instal them.

  • Henry Hall

    We have an old (dumb) wireless thermostat but in practice it needs to be sited close to the boiler to communicate. Therefore, if you want the smart thermostat to be located anywhere in the house, depending on which room(s) you are using, get a guarantee of wireless connection before purchasing.

  • Harri Grunitz

    I work for a company called HUB Controls and we have just launched a new state of the art smart thermostat called the HUB Controller. It’s the first smart thermostat that allows customers to monitor their energy consumption and actual spend in real time. Essentially combining a smart thermostat and a smart meter.

    Here’s a link to our website:

    It would be great to get your feedback on it!

  • WDanewood

    I have smart meters fitted and by watching my consumption fir the first month and making daily note of my gas and electric usage, this month (3rd month), I’ve managed to reduce my outgoings by £20 electric and £16 gas – if I can keep that up I will save £432 per year on my bills.