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

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

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.

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